With unique geology, dramatic landscapes, and charming towns the land of fire and ice is like no place else. Discover hidden hotspots and popular marvels in our guide to the best places to visit in Iceland.

By: Paul | Last Updated: 17 Dec 2023 | Jump to Comments & Questions

Down Arrow

Iceland is unlike anywhere else.

With a fragile crust, stretched across two tectonic plates, Iceland has a diverse and intriguing landscape.

Stand in a 45-kilometer caldera. Wander through steaming lava fields. Witness the northern lights dance across an open horizon.

In a country that’s no bigger than the state of Kentucky, there’s a greedy stash of stunning places to visit in Iceland.

Our first trip to Iceland was over 20 years ago. Four visits later, we’re still discovering exactly what this country has to offer.

MAP – PLACES TO VISIT IN ICELAND


You can find all our favorite places to visit in Iceland on the map below. They are color-coded for each of the different regions of Iceland. Our guide on the best places to stay in Iceland uses the same structure to help you plan.

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


SOUTH WEST

1. GOLDEN CIRCLE (THINGVELLIR, GEYSER, GULFOSS)

The Golden Circle is a driving loop that visits three of the most popular places to visit in Iceland. It is easily accessible from Reykjavík. The main stops on the Golden Circle are Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall, and Geysir.

THINGVELLIR NATIONAL PARK

The Icelandic parliament from the year 930 until 1798, Thingvellir is set in a dramatic location between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates with a clearly visible fault line. Þingvellir is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

GULLFOSS

Golden Falls – is a dramatic Iceland Waterfall, wedged into a crevice of the Hvítá canyon. It falls down a curved staircase in two stages creating a magnificent plume of spray.

GEYSIR

Geysir is the famous spouting hot spring that can reach up to 70 meters. It erupts around 3 times a day, but the nearby Strokkur is much more frequent throwing plumes of water into the air every ten to fifteen minutes.

Details: More details are on our guide to driving the Golden Circle Iceland.

SOUTH WEST

2. BLUE LAGOON

There are plenty of hot springs in Iceland, but none are more famous than the Blue Lagoon.

Although artificially pooled, the water in the Blue Lagoon is naturally heated from the nearby Svartsengi geothermal power station. The milky blue appearance is due to the high content of silica which you can rub on your face to rejuvenate the skin.

Soaking in the pools as steam drifts into the air gives it a magical, ethereal feel and it’s a highlight of any visit to Iceland.

Details: Advanced bookings are required at bluelagoon.com

SOUTH WEST

3. FAGRADALSFJALL VOLCANO

Dormant for over 800 years, Fagradalsfjall Volcano came to life in 2021. Spewing molten lava into the air it became Iceland’s latest eruption.

After 5 months the lava flows died down, but in August 20222 the fissure reopened, and lava flowed again for 2 weeks. Today, there is no more vivid illustration of Iceland’s continually changing landscape than Fagradalsfjall.

There are several hikes around the volcano area, each going to a different viewpoint. See the eruption site, the cone, and the long winding trail of black steaming lava from different vantage points.

Details: More information, plus our favorite walks are in our Fagradalsfjall Volcano guide.

SOUTH WEST

4. REYKJADALUR HOT SPRINGS

Meaning ‘Steam Valley’ the whole Reykjadalur area pulsates from the activity beneath the earth’s surface. There are bubbling mud pots & steaming vents surrounded by billowing reeds, succulents, and moss-covered rocks that thrive in the heated waters.

The highlight of visiting is the Reykjadalur Hot Springs, where you can soak in a series of beautiful hot pools set in a thermal river.

The water is a perfect 36°C – 40°C (96°F – 104°F) and the views over the surrounding mountains are wonderful. It’s one of our favorite geothermal pools in Iceland.

Reykjadalur is 45 minutes’ drive from Reykjavík. From the parking lot, it’s a 1-hour walk through a scenic valley to get to the bathing area.

Details: Information on visiting is in our Reykjadalur Hot Springs guide.

SOUTH WEST

5. REYKJAVÍK

Reykjavík is the capital and largest settlement in Iceland. While the country is blessed with unique natural landmarks, most vacations in Iceland start or end with a visit to the capital.

It is an attractive city with charming old streets, museums, and a decidedly cool attitude. Here are some of the best things to in Reykjavík:

  • Take the elevator to the top of Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavík’s magnificent 74-meter-high church steeple.
  • Visit the extraordinary Harpa Concert Hall with its honeycomb-like design.
  • Understand Iceland’s environment at the Perlan Museum of Icelandic Natural Wonders.
  • Stroll around the Old Harbour for a taste of Icelandic culture.

Details: To see the best of Reykjavík, read our 3 day Iceland itinerary.

SOUTH WEST

6. SECRET LAGOON

The Secret Lagoon is the oldest swimming pool in the country and another of our favorite geothermal pools in Iceland.

An active nearby geyser provides resource-rich water at just the right temperature to enjoy a hot soak. Consistently between 38-40°C (100 – 104°F), soaking in the Secret Lagoon is a wonderful summer or winter activity in Iceland.

Traditional Icelandic showers are available for use before using the pool and there’s a small café area to buy snacks and drinks. Otherwise, the Secret Lagoon has been kept delightfully natural. It’s the perfect place to relax in Iceland.

Secret Lagoon is located in the town of Flúðir, a 5-mile (8-kilometer) detour from the Golden Circle. It’s around 1 hour 40 minutes’ drive from Reykjavík.

Details: Advanced bookings at secretlagoon.is are recommended but not required.

SOUTH CENTRAL

7. SELJALANDSFOSS

Seljalandsfoss was once the sea cliff and from behind the car park it’s easy to make out the coastal formation

A trail allows you to walk behind Seljalandsfoss for a unique perspective. The waterfall is lit at night, creating a moody atmosphere. Visit at night to experience Seljalandsfoss without the crowds.

After doing the trail behind the falls, continue the short distance to Gljúfrabúi, another waterfall flickering behind a narrow canyon cavity.

Details: Read our guide to the most stunning waterfalls in Iceland.

SOUTH CENTRAL

8. SKÓGAFOSS

Skógafoss is one of the most recognizable waterfalls in Iceland with a 25-meter-wide cascade dropping 60 meters over a rocky moss-covered cliff face. The walls surrounding the waterfall were once the coastline before it receded to its present location. 

It’s the classic single drop waterfall that has appeared on everything from Marvel to Walter Mitty movies.

Located right by the Ring Road, it’s an unmissable Iceland attractions that is very easy to get to.

SOUTH CENTRAL

9. DYRHÓLAEY ARCH & REYNISFJARA BLACK SAND BEACH

The Dyrhólaey Peninsula is the southernmost point of mainland Iceland and a picturesque stretch of coastline. It’s a popular stop on the Ring Road with excellent views along the coast and out towards the Mýrdalsjökull Glacier as it slowly creeps towards the coast.

It’s most famous for Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, one of Iceland’s most picturesque locations.

Details: Further information is in our guide to visiting Dyrhólaey.

SOUTH CENTRAL

10. FJAÐRÁRGLJÚFUR CANYON

Fjaðrárgljúfur is an un-pronounceable canyon in southern Iceland and one of the most scenic places to visit.

The canyon is 100 meters deep and over 2 kilometers long. Its sheer walls are twisted into jagged shapes with moss-covered rocks formed into mini-side canyons from years of erosion.

There are several lookout points a short distance from the car park along an easy path that follows the canyon edge.   

Fjaðrárgljúfur is 154 miles from Reykjavík, just off the Ring Road on Road 206.

SOUTHEAST

11. SKAFTAFELL NATIONAL PARK

Skaftafell is a wilderness area on the south coast within Vatnajökull National Park with a host of hiking trails that explore the mountainous edges of Vatnajökull, the largest ice cap in Iceland.

There are two highlights in the park well worth hiking to.

1 – Sjónarnípa viewpoint – This is a breathtaking rocky peninsula overlooking an immense tongue of the glacier. It’s a 1-hour hike from the parking lot.

2 – Svartifoss – The second hike is to Svartifoss Waterfall, a beautiful cascade dropping between black basalt columns. It takes 2 hours, and 30 minutes to complete the loop of both Sjónarnípa and Svartifoss.

SOUTHEAST

12. FJALLSÁRLÓN, JÖKULSÁRLÓN & BLACK DIAMOND BEACH

Fjallsárlón is a glacial lake fed by the Vatnajökull ice cap and one of the unmissable attractions in Iceland. The slow march of the glacier ends at a lagoon pool where icebergs drift on the stillness of the surface.

Nearby, Fjallsárlón’s more famous big brother, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is fed from the mouth of Breiðamerkurjökull, a tiny section of the much larger Vatnajökull ice cap.

Dotted with icebergs that can be several stories high and stained with the volcanic activities of centuries past, Jökulsárlón flows to the nearby Black Diamond Beach where nature serves up a spectacular sight.

SOUTHEAST

13. VESTRAHORN

Vestrahorn is a dramatic saw-tooth mountain ridge surrounded by a tidal lagoon offering some of the best landscape photography in Iceland.

The mountains were formed 8-11 million years ago by the cooling of magnesium and iron-rich magma. This mineral combination has given Vestrahorn its distinctive and foreboding green-black appearance.

It’s still slightly off the tourist trail and it was one of our favourite places in Iceland.

Details: All the information you need is in our guide to visiting Vestrahorn.

EASTFJORDS

14. SEYÐISFJÖRÐUR

Seyðisfjörður is a colorful town in the east of Iceland, known for its collection of early 19th-century wooden houses. Occupying a picturesque setting on the edge of a lagoon, Seyðisfjörður is located at the innermost point of the fjord of the same name and is accessed by a scenic drive over the Fjarðarheiði mountain.

The town has a vibrant, welcoming culture with a cool local art scene, some great cafes, and several festivals throughout the year.

EASTFJORDS

15. HENGIFOSS

Hengifoss is one of the most striking waterfalls in Iceland due to the red clay and back basalt rings formed on the backdrop to the slender 128-meter falls. In a slightly remote part of the east of the country, it’s an adventurous but scenic place to visit in Iceland.

The falls are a 2.5-kilometer (1.5 mile) walk from the car park which should take around 1 hour each way. Don’t miss the smaller waterfall, Litlanesfoss around halfway along the walk which is framed by a parade of basalt columns.

There are toilets at the car park (free) and a food truck serving delicious vegan soup and homemade ice cream.

EASTFJORDS

16. STUÐLAGIL CANYON

After the Kárahnjúkar Hydropower Plant was built in 2009, the water levels of the Jökulsá á Brú River dropped revealing one of Iceland’s most incredible natural formations, the basalt columns of Stuðlagil Canyon.

Rising on either side of a river that changes color with the seasons, Stuðlagil is a steep-sided narrow canyon that has become an Instagram favorite. Perfectly vertical columns eventually twist to gnarled shapes pointing down the river.

Stuðlagil Canyon is in the Jokuldalur Valley in eastern Iceland. It’s 70 kilometers (43 miles) from the town of Egilsstaðir and 140 kilometers (87 miles) from the popular tourist destination of Myvatn

Details: All the details are in our guide to visiting Stuðlagil Canyon.

NORTHERN ICELAND

17. MÝVATN

Mývatn is an active volcanic area in central north Iceland with a large array of geological features that make it an interesting pitstop to get a taste of the diverse things to do in Iceland.

With steaming lava fields, bubbling mud pots, a huge fissure in the earth’s crust, and excellent geothermal hot springs, Mývatn is an interesting Iceland destination.

With no specific town, just a collection of outdoor experiences, the highlights of Mývatn are spread over a wide area, but it’s one of our favorite locations in the country.

Details: Read our guide to visiting Mývatn Iceland for more details.

NORTHERN ICELAND

18. HÚSAVÍK

Húsavík is a fishing village on the north coast of Iceland with a collection of charming colorful houses centered around a small marina.

It’s a great place to visit in Iceland, but the main reason for visiting Húsavík is for whale watching.

From May to September, whales can often be seen from the coast, but to increase your chances take a Traditional Whale Watching Tour with a specialized guide. In July humpback whale sightings are almost guaranteed.

NORTHERN ICELAND

19. DETTIFOSS

Dropping 44 meters into a narrow canyon, Dettifoss is the largest waterfall by volume in Iceland. It’s estimated that over 3 million US gallons per minute thunder over the falls.

Surrounded by a lunar-like landscape in the Vatnajökul National Park, the falls are fed from the Jökulsá á Fjöllum River which flows from icecap and feeds several other waterfalls in the area.

Dettifoss is a remote waterfall in the north of Iceland around 45 minutes from Myvatn. The west side of Dettifoss is the easiest access point with a paved road from the Ring Road and a large car park that is accessible throughout the year.

Dettifoss from the east bank
DETTIFOSS, EAST BANK

NORTHERN ICELAND

20. GOÐAFOSS

Goðafoss is another popular waterfall in Iceland, more renowned for its beauty than sheer power.

Cascading over a wide horseshoe shape, the falls are between 9 meters and 17 meters high.

The low-lying lava fields that surround the area give the water a blue-green pattern, making Goðafoss one of the most picturesque places in Iceland.

Goðafoss is on the Ring Road in the north of Iceland. It’s a 30-minute drive from Akureyri, the capital of the north, and 40 minutes from Mývatn.

HIGHLANDS

21. ASKJA

Askja is a large volcano situated in the Dyngjufjöll Mountain Range which is part of the Vatnajökull Glacier National Park in the highlands.

The main caldera was formed over 10,000 years ago when the roof of the large magma chamber collapsed in on itself. This caused a whopping 45 square kilometer caldera.

It’s a fascinating place to visit with two interlinking calderas. A volcanic eruption in 2014 at nearby Holuhraun left behind an 85-square-kilometer lava field.

It’s a difficult place to get to, but it’s well worth making the effort.

Details: Read more in our complete guide to visiting Askja.  

HIGHLANDS

22. KERLINGARFJÖLL

Kerlingarfjöll is a small but stunning mountain range wedged between two glaciers in Iceland’s highlands. Tucked into the snowy peaks around Kerlingarfjöll, the geothermal area of Hveradalir is a fascinating thing to do in Iceland.

The valley with rust-colored rhyolite hills features steaming vents, bubbling mud pots, and boiling rivers coursing through a colorful area devoid of vegetation.

The best road to Kerlingarfjöll is the 35 Kjölur Road from Blönduós in north Iceland. This is an unpaved F-road so a 4×4 vehicle is required. The drive should take around 2 hours, 45 minutes one way.

Details: All the information you need is in our guide to visiting Kerlingarfjöll.

HIGHLANDS

23. LANDMANNALAUGAR

Landmannalaugar is a wilderness area on the edge of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, situated within a massive caldera. Striking colorful mountains, huge rusty craters, and steaming lava fields combine to create a wild and scenic area that’s an unmissable place to visit in Iceland.

It’s one of the most accessible sights in the highlands thanks to a relatively easy F-road and tours from several different locations in the area.

Landmannalaugar is in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve in the southern part of the highlands, about 180 kilometers (111 miles) from Reykjavík. The F26/F208 route from the north is the easiest way to drive to Landmannalaugar.

Details: Read more in our complete guide to visiting Landmannalaugar.

HIGHLANDS

24. SIGÖLDUGLJÚFUR CANYON

Sigöldugljúfur Canyon is a stunning sheer-sided gorge with a turquoise river running along its base. Several waterfalls cascade over the moss-covered edges creating a scene straight out of a fairy-tale.

It’s an easy 5-minute detour off the F208 on the way to Landmannalaugar, and well worth a visit.

There’s a car park on the right-hand side of the road from where it’s a 10-minute walk up to the falls. Alternatively, you can now drive along a new track to the left that takes you directly to the falls, however, there is limited parking in this location.

HIGHLANDS

25. LJÓTIPOLLUR

Ljótipollur means ‘ugly pond’ but don’t let the name fool you. The shimmering blue lake that sits in the red-stained 4-kilometer diameter crater is nothing short of stunning. 

Stop off at the new car park just off the F208 and walk up to the rim (about 5 minutes). The blue waters under the red rim of Ljótipollur Crater from the viewpoint are a great sight, as are the views of the Landmannalaugar mountains behind it.

There are no facilities at the car park but the short walk along the section of the rim near the car park will deliver some of the finest views in Iceland.

Details: Hike to Ljótipollur using our guide to the best hikes in Landmannalaugar.

HIGHLANDS

26. HAIFOSS

In our opinion, Haifoss is one of the most scenic waterfalls in Iceland. The River Fossá drops 120 meters as a slender cascade down a sheer rockface layered in multiple colors of orange, brown, and green.

A second waterfall, Granni, drops just beside it, creating a magnificent dual waterfall in a massive, deep canyon. With green fields on the top and several tributaries of the river charging toward the falls, it’s a spectacular sight.

Haifoss is 20 minutes along Route 332 (off Route 32) near the Golden Circle. It’s an excellent stop on the way to Landmannalaugar.

HIGHLANDS

27. THÓRSMÖRK

Three mighty rivers all converge on a thin slither of land called Thórsmörk.

Located beneath huge moss-covered mountains and dwarfed by the mighty glaciers of Mýrdalsjökull, Tindfjallajökull, and Eyjafjallajökull, the rivers have carved sweeping shapes through the valley floor.

It’s an incredible place to visit in Iceland with breathtaking scenery and some of the best hiking in the country.

Details: All the information about visiting is in our guide to Thórsmörk.

HIGHLANDS

28. MAELIFELL

The green cone-shaped volcano of Maelifell rises out of a massive expanse of black sands called Maelifellsandur. The contrast of the huge green cone surrounded by the flat expanse is one of the most awesome spectacles of the desolate beauty of Iceland.

The best view of Maelifell is from the summit of Rauðibotn, a colorful crater with walls a deep shade of rust. From here the green cone rises above the black sands with the aqua swathe of the Hólmsá River in the foreground and the Mýrdalsjökull glacier behind you.

The easiest route to get to Maelifell is the F232 from the south which leaves the 209 road near Hrífunes in south Iceland. It takes around 3.5 hours to drive there and back and involves a few small river crossings so a 4×4 vehicle is required.

Details: Further information is in our guide to visiting Maelifell Iceland.

HIGHLANDS

29. HAFRAHVAMMAGLJÚFUR

Hafrahvammagljúfur is an 8-kilometer canyon in a remote part of the highlands. It drops 200 meters below the barren landscape that surrounds it creating an awe-inspiring scene and a rewarding place to visit in Iceland.   

The gorge starts from the Kárahnjúkavirkjun Dam, one of the largest hydroelectric power plants in Iceland.

The best viewing point is from a recently constructed viewing platform which is a short walk from the Hafrahvammagljúfur car park.

HIGHLANDS

30. LAUGAVALLALAUG THERMAL SPRINGS

Just nearby, Laugavallalaug (sometimes referred to as Laugavellir)‏ is one of our favorite hot springs in Iceland.

Quite literally in the middle of nowhere, soaking under the naturally heated waterfall as it drops into a small pool overlooking a wide valley, is a rejuvenating secret experience in Iceland.  

Laugavallalaug is down a rugged but scenic track off the west side of the F910, around 1 hours drive from Stuðlagil Canyon. The track is easy to drive but bumpy. Both Hafrahvammagljúfur and Laugavallalaug and free parking lots.

HIGHLANDS

31. LANGJÖKULL GLACIER

Langjökull is the second largest ice cap in Iceland, after Vatnajökull, stretching about 50 kilometers long and 20 kilometers wide. In some places, the ice is up to 580 meters thick.

The glacier is in a very active geothermal area with two volcanic systems stretching out in opposite directions underneath the massive expansive of ice, one of which feeds the hot springs at Geysir.

To see the best of the glacier you’ll need to join a snowmobile tour, but it is possible to drive to one of the tongues of the glacier in a 4×4 using the 551 and 550 Kaldidalur roads.

Langjökull glacier things to do in iceland
THE DRIVE TO LANGJÖKULL GLACIER

WEST ICELAND

32. WESTFJORDS

The Westfjords is a rugged peninsula of mountains cut by massive fjords stretching out to the Atlantic Ocean in the northwest corner of Iceland. It’s a wild landscape, isolated from the rest of the country by large inlets.

The remoteness of the Westfjords gives it a local charm and a slower pace that can be hard to find in some of the more tourist-focused areas of Iceland.

The highlights are Látrabjarg Cliffs, one of the most important bird habitats in the world; Rauðisandur, a 10-kilometre black sand beach; and Dynjandi and spectacular waterfall.

Details: Further information is in our guide to the best things to do in the Westfjords.

WEST ICELAND

33. SNAEFELLSNES & KIRKJUFELL

The Snaefellsnes Peninsula is often described as a mini-Iceland.

A large glacier, red craters, basalt columns, dramatic coastal roads, and beautifully shaped mountains all combine to provide a compact version of all the interesting things to do in Iceland.

See the amazing Gerðuberg Basalt Cliffs, visit the Búðir Black Church and admire the Lóndrangar Rock Pinnacles.

The popular highlight at Snaefellsnes however is Kirkjufell, the waterfall featured in Game of Thrones.

MORE ICELAND READING

paul mark 1
ANYWHERE WE ROAM IS
READER-SUPPORTED

When you buy through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission at no extra cost to you.

Thanks for your support.

You can also buy us a coffee, and follow us on Instagram or Facebook.

- Paul & Mark.