Fjallsarlon glacier lagoon is one of the must see places in Iceland

My Top-10 Places Not to be Missed in Iceland

In Europe, Iceland by Jurga27 Comments

Today I was contacted by someone who is planning a trip to Iceland and is looking for suggestions as to what are the nicest places to visit. So here is my top-10 of what to see in Iceland.

Many locations in Iceland are only accessible in summer and since we had winter weather during both of our trips (June 2006 and November 2015), we never reached some of them (like Detifoss or Papey island) . There are also many other places that might be worth a detour if you are in the neighbourhood or passing by. I am thinking about the coast and the fjords of the Eastern Iceland, the turf churches of Hof or Nupskadur, Thingvellir National Park, doing a glacier walk, etc, etc.

These are my TOP-10 places to see in Iceland based on our experience and our interests. Feel free to use this list as an inspiration. It can help you if you don’t know where to start so that you can create your travel itinerary based on your own interests and depending on the time of the year you are planning to go and how much time you have. Keep in mind that the days are endless from June to August and you can obviously do much more sightseeing on any given day than in winter. You may need just 4 days in order to see the same places in summer that would take you 6-7 days in winter.

Places you should definitely see in Iceland

Top 3 is actually my top 3. The rest is random, I really like them all.

1. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is not coincidentally the first one I mention. If there is one place in Iceland you don’t want to miss, then it’s this one. The lagoon itself is just amazing, the scenery changes all the time. If you are lucky as we were in November, you can see extraordinary ice formations on the beach at the coast just across the road from the parking of the lagoon. For me, this beach was even more special than the lagoon itself.
You may want to check out the nearby Fjalljökull glacial lagoon as well – it’s smaller and less touristic than Jökulsárlón, and it’s very nice too.

Hiker at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Iceland

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon on a sunny winter day

 

2. Tractor excursion to Ingólfshöfði puffins

Ingólfshöfði is a small headland and private nature reserve on the south coast of Iceland, and it’s one of the best places to see puffins in Iceland (only in summer). The coastal landscape and black sand landscape are just amazing as well. Driving a tractor- drawn hay car in order to get there certainly adds to the experience. We did the excursion 10 years ago and loved every second of it. Apparently the owners still do it the same way today, and I can highly recommend it!

Puffin on a cliff at a coast in Southern Iceland

Ingólfshöfði is one of the best places to see puffins in Iceland

 

3. Skaftafell National Park 

You shouldn’t miss the Svartifoss – a waterfall surrounded by black basalt columns, but make sure you do some other hikes in the park as well. The first time we did the Svartifoss – Sjónarsker – Sel walk and the walk to the glacier Skaftafellsjökull. The second time – the Svartifoss and Sjónarnípa walk. There are many hiking trails in the park and they are all really nice.

Svartifoss waterfall in Skaftafell National Park in winter

Svartifoss waterfall in winter

 

4. Gullfoss waterfall

Gullfoss, or The Golden Waterfalls, is probably the most beautiful waterfall in Iceland. A must see!

Gullfoss waterfall in Iceland in winter

Gullfoss waterfall in winter

 

5. Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls

Seljalandsfoss is the only waterfall I know where you can walk behind it. It was frozen and therefore closed in November, but we did it on our first trip to Iceland, and it was a very special experience. Prepare to get soaking wet!
Skogafoss is really majestic. You can also climb the stairs all the way to the top of the waterfall for some great views of the area.

Skógafoss waterfall

Skógafoss waterfall

 

6. Myvatn area, Northern Iceland

Myvatn area in the North of Iceland is well worth exploring and you should plan at least two days here.

  • A walk to the caldera of Krafla volcano and the lava fields
  • Short walk to the pseudocraters at Myvatn lake
  • Leirhnjukur hiking trail
  • Dimmuborgir area of remarkable lava formations and the 45-minute walk to Kirkjan (‘the Curch’) lava tube structure
  • Myvatn Nature Baths. If I were to choose between Myvatn Nature Baths and the Blue Lagoon, I would definitely vote for Myvatn. It’s less crowded, has beautiful views, and it’s cheaper. We went there every evening we were in the area. The best way to end your day!
Volcanic landscape Myvatn area

Volcanic landscape Myvatn area

 

7. Námaskarð geothermal area, Northern Iceland

It’s an easily reachable compact area that can be visited in just a few minutes, but it’s a fascinating place and is really worth it. You have to love the smell though.

 

Namaskard geothermal area in Northern Iceland

Námaskarð geothermal area

 

8. Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon

Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon near Kirkjubaejarklaustur is also one of my favourite places in Iceland. A bit difficult to find, but don’t let that discourage you!

Hiker in Fjadrargljufur canyon Iceland

Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon

 

9. Geysir area

You just cannot go to Iceland and not see a geyser erupt. Although the old Geysir (the mother of all geysers –  English word geyser derives from Geysir) is ‘sleeping’, the nearby Strokkur geyser erupts every 5-10 minutes. Not to be missed!

Erupting Strokkur Geyser in Iceland

Strokkur Geyser

 

10. Coastine near Vik, Southern Iceland

Vik and Reynisdrangar beaches and impressive coastline is certainly worth a short visit. Reynisdrangar black sand beach was once ranked as one of the ten most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world.

Reynisdrangar Basalt Cliffs and Beach in Southern Iceland

Reynisdrangar Basalt Cliffs and Beach

 

Hope this helps to get you started with your itinerary for Iceland. If you found this post useful, please share it and pin this image!

10 must-see places in Iceland. Don't miss!

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My Top-10 Places Not to be Missed in Iceland was last modified: January 9th, 2017 by Jurga

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Comments

  1. I’m going to Iceland for the first time next month. Thanks for the information! Incidentally, there are lots of waterfalls in Oregon that you can walk behind. Off the top of my head there are two waterfalls in Silver Falls state park and one above punch bowl falls (tower falls?) in the Gorge.

    1. Author

      I just googled the falls you mentioned. Looks nice! Have a good trip to Iceland. March is supposedly a very good month for the Northern Lights.

  2. I just came home from Iceland and saw the Northern Lights! They were very active and we saw them immediately after arriving in the area.

    1. Author

      Thanks for sharing, JJ! Northern Lights were also the main reason why I went to Iceland in winter and it was so worth it. It’s one of those things you have to see with your own eyes to truly appreciate how amazing it is!

  3. I’m sorry, did you just say winter weather in June? And I thought Canada was bad.
    I’m heading over May/June 2017. What weather can I expect. I’m lost on packing wise

  4. Author

    Hi Christine, I wouldn’t worry too much about the weather – you can’t influence it and it changes all the time. I think we just had really bad luck in June, and in November it was just beautiful- but that is not ‘normal’.
    As for packing, check my post for Iceland Packing essentials for summer.
    Basically, dress in layers (waterproof layer on top) and wear sturdy shoes and you’ll be fine. You’ll love Iceland!

    1. Author

      That’s the problem with the bucket lists, isn’t it – they just keep getting longer and longer and you can’t choose where to go first. I know the feeling, Nuria.

  5. Omigosh, your pictures are amazing! We are torn between going to Iceland during the winter to see the Northern lights or during the summer because it is obviously warmer. I’ve heard there is a better chance of seeing them in the winter months. What season would you recommend visiting in? I read that you still had winter weather in JUNE so maybe I should just accept the fact that I will be cold regardless of the season. :/

    1. Author

      Tough choice, Melissa! I’d say whatever you choose, go to Iceland right in the middle of the season – in late July or early August for the summer trip or November-February for the winter trip. That way at least you know what to expect. If you are not sure about when to go, my post Iceland: summer versus winter might help a bit.

  6. Iceland just looks absolutely stunning! It is one place i have to go. Your photos are amazing and i never knew there were so many things to see there. Great post!

    1. Author

      I think you are not alone here, Laura. Most people have no idea that Iceland has so much to offer. It seems to be changing though – Iceland is extremely popular at the moment.

  7. Yes! Exactly what I’ve been looking for. We’re going to Iceland and I’m even more excited about it after reading your post. You’ve got some great information here. Cheers, Jacqui

  8. I’ve visited Iceland twice now and I want to go back again! I have been to many of the places mentioned above, but haven’t been on the Tractor excursion. I love puffins and it would be awesome to see them. I need to plan on going during the summer months next time 🙂

    1. Author

      There are several places where you can see puffins in Iceland. But the scenery is out-of-this world at Ingólfshöfði: grey sand landscapes and high sea cliffs full of puffins. So yes, really worth it. And the tractor just makes even more special. 😉

  9. It seriously all looks so breathtaking!!! I can’t wait to visit Iceland (hopefully when a lot of things are accessible! Lol) definitely saving this list!! Thanks for sharing!!

  10. Iceland is high on my bucket list and the list of things I really want to see there is getting longer and longer and your post has added some more. Iceland sounds so amazing.

  11. Beautiful photos! I just visited Greenland, so Iceland is up on my list next! There’s so many stunning things to see. I especially want to see the waterfalls!

  12. Spent just 4 days in Iceland (on my way to Ireland) about 7 years ago. It was amazing! I had so much fun and plan on returning this summer with my 91 year old mother. I will be using info gathered here from all of you that shared your experiences!

  13. My husband and I are seniors. I have some difficulties with walking and balance. That being said I do not want to cancel our long time plans to visit Iceland. Can we still be able to enjoy the many beautiful country sites with my limitations? My husband is very able and we (I) have no problem with him doing things I cannot.
    Thanks for you suggestions.

    1. Author

      Hi Susan, I had this question asked several times (see also the article about the best Iceland itinerary for one week and the comment section there). Iceland is actually very easy to visit, even if you can’t walk a lot. Most highlights along the South Coast are really close to the car park. That being said, you will not often find paved paths, but if your are able to walk a few minutes, you can see a lot.
      Here is what I told someone else with similar concerns: Most of the highlights from this itinerary do not require much hiking at all as they are very close to the car park. For example, all the waterfalls are just a few steps away from the car, but if you want to you can hike a bit more. At Skogafoss or Gullfoss you can climb up for different views, but the nicest view is at the bottom anyway. The geyser is just a short flat walk of 2-3 minutes. The Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon – you can see a lot from the car park, or you can walk around a bit, but it’s not difficult either, same with the beach across the road. Vik beach – it’s a stroll on the beach, you can choose how far you walk, the basalt columns are just 2-3 minutes from the car park, if you go all the way to the back it will maybe be another 10min max. The Canyon – you can walk along it, but you can see the canyon without doing the walk just as well. Most other stops along the way are just short walks of 100-200m, sometimes even less. At Thingvellir NP you can walk to the Oxararfoss waterfall, that would be 10-15min from the car and then back. You can also leave your parents at the bottom and let them cross the bridge to the other car park and then go get your car and pick them up there (you’ll figure it out once you get there). Svinafellsjokull which I described here was also 5 min from the car, and so was the Fjallsarlon glacier lagoon. The only place where you really have to hike is Skaftafell NP. Not sure how much hiking you can do in February anyway, but you can always stop at the visitor centre and see what the possibilities are. When we did the glacier hike in Iceland, there were people of over 70 in the group and they were also a bit worried, but they managed just fine.
      Hope this helps! Don’t hesitate to ask if you want to know more about a specific location. Also, check this post with Iceland itinerary suggestions for any trip from 1 day to 2 weeks. And also make sure you pack wisely as wrong clothing can ruin the trip completely – read this guide for the summer packing for Iceland.
      Just do it! You’ll love Iceland.

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