There are many things Iceland is known for, like its incredible natural landscape that includes cascading waterfalls, glacier lakes, and black-sand beaches. Visiting these beautiful natural attractions is one of the best free things to do in Iceland. As for things to do in Iceland with a car, you’ll be kept busy driving along the popular Golden Circle tourist route and stopping at its top sights.
For alternative things to do in Iceland outside of Reykjavik, head to the remote Western Fjords region. Meanwhile, top things to do in Iceland in June include soaking up the Midnight Sun and enjoying exclusive summer experiences, like guided boat tours. Here is a comprehensive list of things to do in Iceland in winter and summer. Add these attractions to your Iceland must-see map.
1. Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa and one of the country’s top tourist attractions. Its soothing milky-blue water, which sits at 102 degrees year-round, features rich skin nutrients. The water looks striking contrasted against the surrounding black lava fields. Consistently named one of the world’s top spas, book in advance if you’d like to visit the overwhelmingly popular Blue Lagoon. It’s conveniently located a 15-minute drive from Keflavik International Airport and a 30-minute drive from Reykjavik.
2. Thingvellir National Park
The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Thingvellir National Park is located on the country’s iconic Golden Circle tourist route. It’s known for both its historical and geological significance, as it was where the Icelandic parliament first assembled in the 10th century. Thingvellir National Park is also where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. Besides hiking and visiting its plethora of waterfalls, the most popular thing to do here is snorkeling or scuba diving at Silfra Gorge, where you can literally swim between continents in clear glacier-fed waters.
3. Gullfoss Falls
Another attraction not to be missed along the Golden Circle route is the powerful Gullfoss (Golden Falls). Known as one of the world’s most beautiful waterfalls, it’s located along the Hvita (White) River, which flows directly from Langjokull (Long) Glacier. The two-tiered Gullfoss runs through a rugged canyon and drops a total of 104 feet. In winter, Gullfoss freezes into waves of ice, while on a sunny summer’s day visitors will be treated to plenty of rainbows.
One of the country’s most beautiful scenes is seeing the icebergs floating on Jökulsárlón, a glacier lagoon. The icebergs originate from Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier, which is a part of Vatnajökull Glacier – Europe’s largest glacier. The lagoon is teeming with seals, fish, and birdlife as well. The best way to see Jökulsárlón is on a Glacier Lagoon Boat Tour. Offering a selection of tours, hop onboard their zodiac tour to get up close to both icebergs and the glacier.
One of the top things to do in Iceland is definitely to visit as many epic waterfalls as possible. Seljalandsfoss is one such waterfall. It’s a part of the Seljalands River, which originates from Eyjafjallajökull, a volcanic glacier. Seljalandsfoss plunges nearly 200 feet over an open cliff face into a lake. The best part is, there’s a path that leads you behind Seljalandsfoss so you can capture the waterfall from all angles. Hiking shoes and raincoats are recommended.
Located about 20 miles from Seljalandsfoss along the country’s southern coastline, Skogafoss is another beautiful Icelandic waterfall and one of its largest. Situated along the Skoga River, the waterfall – surrounded by moss-covered cliffs and boulders – plunges 200 feet over an 80-ft wide cliff. You can get right up close to Skogafoss’s powerful force from the bottom or climb over 500 steps to see the waterfall from above. Expect lots of rainbows on sunny days.
The country’s fourth-largest lake, Lake Mývatn is a shallow volcanic lake known for its diverse natural environment. You will find jagged lava fields and volcanic rock formations on one side. and lush green wetlands on the other. The lake is also home to coves, islets, and an abundance of bird species. Unfortunately, the lake gets its name from the midges (tiny flies) that swarm the area in summer. But this is a small price to pay to visit this incredible natural landscape.
Geysir is in fact a geyser sometimes called The Great Geysir. As it happens, the English word geyser is derived from Geysir, as this was the first geyser mentioned in print. Although The Great Geysir itself is rarely active these days, the Geysir Hot Spring Area is home to the infamous Strokkur, which shoots boiling water an average of 100 feet into the air every five to 10 minutes. The Geysir Center is also open year-round and features exhibits and regular presentations.
A Lutheran parish church that’s nearly 250 feet high, Hallgrimskirkja is Reykjavik’s most prominent landmark. Towering over the city, the church is named in honor of Icelandic poet Hallgrimur Petursson. With a design uniquely inspired by lava cooling on basalt rock, construction on the church began in 1945 but it wasn’t completed until 1986. While it’s free for people to visit Hallgrimskirkja to see its stunning interior, there is a fee to pay prior to climbing its tower for sweeping city views.
10. Snæfellsjökull National Park
One of the country’s three national parks, Snæfellsjökull National Park is located on the tip of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Its most famous landmark is also its namesake – Snæfellsjökull Glacier, a twin-peaked glacier-topped volcano. The national park’s other popular attractions include Buðahraun, a lava field that encircles the glacier; Budirkirkja, the black church that looks striking against its mossy surroundings; the black-sand beach that is Djúpalónssandur; Vatnshellir’s lava tube system; and Lóndrangar, the set of stone towers featured on Game of Thrones.
11. Dynjandi Waterfall
Renowned as the “favorite front-page model” of the remote West Fjords region, Dynjandi is a large majestic waterfall that cascades nearly 330 feet over a cliff. Often called Fjallfoss, the waterfall resembles a bridal veil. It takes approximately 15 minutes to hike to Dynjandi, but along the way, you will pass six other smaller, but nonetheless picturesque, waterfalls. With locals calling it the country’s most beautiful waterfall, don’t miss Dynjandi on your visit to the Land of Fire and Ice.
Another day, another spectacular waterfall to visit. A part of the river Skjálfandafljót, Godafoss falls from a height of 39 feet but has a width of nearly 100 feet. It’s nicknamed the Waterfall of the Gods, but it’s unknown whether this is related to its ethereal beauty or the legend that Viking leader Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði threw his Pagan statues into the waterfall. Nonetheless, Godafoss is conveniently located just off the Ring Road in the country’s northernmost part.
13. LAVA Centre
Sitting between five of the country’s greatest volcanoes, the LAVA Centre is a state-of-the-art educational museum featuring interactive and high-tech exhibits that focus on Iceland’s volcanic activity, its frequent earthquakes, and how it was created over millions of years. There is live volcano monitoring, displays featuring artifacts and films from volcanic eruptions over the past century, an earthquake simulator, and education movie screenings. A visit to the LAVA Centre is one of the most family-friendly things to do in Iceland.
14. Laugarvatn Fontana
Located along the aforementioned Golden Circle route, Laugarvatn Fontana offers a luxurious lakefront spa experience. Since 1929, locals have enjoyed these lakeside natural steam baths, where healing steam rises directly from the ground through openings in the cabin floor. It’s a unique experience listening to the bubbling natural hot spring underneath. Laugarvatn Fontana is also home to a selection of natural outdoor mineral baths, a hot tub, and a Finnish-style sauna. Adventurous spa-goers can finish with a refreshing dip in the cool lake too.
15. Sun Voyager
Created by Jon Gunnar Arnason and unveiled in 1990, the Sun Voyager is a unique steel sculpture located on a small waterfront headland near Reykjavik. People often believe it resembles a Viking ship (a nod to the country’s Viking heritage) or a fish skeleton. However, the artist says it’s a dreamboat or an ode to the sun. The Sun Voyager is intended to “represent the dream of hope, progress, and freedom, as well as undiscovered territory.”
16. Kerid Crater
Kerid Crater is a 3000-year-old volcanic crater lake that’s known for its aquamarine water and surrounding sloping walls of moss-covered red volcanic rock. It’s one of many crater lakes in the country’s Western Volcanic Zone. When you visit Kerid Crater, you can walk down to the crater lake itself or stick to the above-ground trail around its circumference. Kerid Crater is also famous for hosting occasional music concerts, where performers have been known to float on a raft on the lake’s surface.
Situated on a hill overlooking Reykjavik is Perlan, a prominent landmark that’s also the city’s number one attraction. The museum features the Perlan Planetarium and state-of-the-art exhibits, including Glaciers and Ice Cave (real ice cave included), Underwater Journey, and Forces of Nature, where guests can see, hear, and feel the power of volcanoes, earthquakes, and geothermal energy. Not only a world-class museum, Perlan’s rotating glass dome also has a restaurant that offers traditional Icelandic food experience.
18. National Museum of Iceland
Located in the capital, the National Museum of Iceland was established in 1863. Its main permanent exhibition is entitled Making of a Nation: Heritage and History in Iceland. As the name suggests, the exhibition is set out to act as a journey through time – starting with medieval Viking settlers in the Settlement Age and ending in the present day. The permanent exhibition includes approximately 2000 objects, including the Valthjófsstadur door, which features ornate medieval engravings.
19. See the Northern Lights
Seeing the Northern Lights is a bucket list item for many people and fortunately, you can view the magical lights dancing across the sky in Iceland from September to mid-April. Caused by electrically-charged solar particles hitting the Earth’s magnetic field, the Northern Lights’ colors can vary from white to purple to green. They can be seen at night across the country, but for optimal viewing head away from the city’s light pollution. There are many local companies offering Northern Lights tours.
20. Olgerdin Brewery
Established in 1913, Olgerdin Brewery is the country’s oldest brewery. Their beer is renowned around the world, as only crystal-clear lava-filtered Icelandic water and carefully selected local ingredients are used to produce the award-winning beer. Visitors are welcome to join a one-hour guided tour of Olgerdin Brewery in Reykjavik, where you can learn more about the country’s unique drinking culture and history and sample their beers. The same company also produces Brennivín schnapps and Egils Appelsín soft drinks.
21. The Arctic Henge
Located in Raufarhöfn – one of the country’s most remote and northernmost villages – the 21st-century Arctic Henge acts as a huge sundial. Reminiscent of its ancient predecessor, Stonehenge, the Arctic Henge consists of several stone arches and statues that are arranged as a monument to Norse pagan beliefs. It aims to harness the Midnight Sun at the Arctic Circle and capture sun rays that cast shadows in precise locations. The Arctic Henge is inspired by the Eddic poem, Völuspá.