Iceland is a beautiful country to visit and one of the most unique when it comes to things to see and do! A first-time visit to Iceland is an exciting prospect, with lots to plan, see and not forgetting eat! The whole country is as diverse as you can imagine, with volcanic activity, thermal pools, dramatic landscapes and glaciers all within one beautiful country.

With so much to do, it can be pretty tough to whittle it down to a special few, especially if you’re short on time. As it’s your first visit, you’ll probably be thinking about starting in the south-west of the island, where most flights arrive. Whether you’ve a few days, a week or even longer – you must consider seeing some of these impressive sights that are within a 5-hour drive from the Iceland’s international airport, Keflavik and easily reached by main arterial roads. 

12 Amazing Things To Do On A First Time Visit To Iceland

🇮🇸 Take a look at 12 of the best things to do on your first visit to Iceland 🇮🇸

1.) Bathe in the Blue Lagoon

11 Dramatic Experiences You Must Have In Iceland (24)

Iceland is known the world over for its famous geothermal heated pools. Head across to the Blue Lagoon (around 10 minutes drive from the airport) and spend a good few hours relaxing in these piping hot pools. bliss! 💦

If you arrive in winter, you can actually head to the Blue Lagoon and watch the sunrise, a magical experience that is well worth doing!

Read more on visiting the Blue Lagoon, in our post, right here.

2.) Watch the northern lights dance

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No visit to Iceland is complete without (at least looking for) the Northern Lights. If you’ve rented a car, it’s best to head out of the towns and head for some of the darker rural areas. We drove about 20 minutes out or Reykjavik to see them clearly in the dark. The months around March and September are the brightest for the northern lights but you can be lucky and see them at any time of the night.

When the lights are really strong, you’ll be able to watch them prance overhead regardless of the (small amounts of) light pollution from the towns. Always keep your eyes peeled for those dancing swirls! 

This is where we saw the Northern Lights on our last visit.

3.) Go Whale Watching

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There is an abundance of whales that call the shores of Iceland home. Head onto one of the whale watching tours that depart from Reykjavik and try your luck at spotting some of these majestic animals in the wild. Taking roughly 3-4 hours, it’s the perfect way to see whales in their natural habitat. 🐳

Read more whale watching in Iceland, right here.

4.) Eat typical Icelandic cuisine

5 Unique Restaurants To Eat In Reykjavik, Iceland (4)

Traditional Icelandic cuisine is little unknown outside of Iceland but that doesn’t mean it’s not yummy! Head to one of the delicious restaurants in Reykjavik and try some local dishes like; Harðfiskur which consists of dried fish is a firm favourite! 

If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, chow down on Svið a baked sheep head – I can’t say I’ve tried the latter, but you know what, as they say, ‘when in Rome’ you might want to give it a try? 🐑

Eat at some of these top restaurants in Reykjavik, right here.

5.) Bake Hot Spring Rye Bread in the earth

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There are few places where the heat of geothermal activity can actually bake bread in the ground. Iceland is one of these places! Head over to the Fontana Hot Springs, or even at some hotels and restaurants, where they will help you prep, make and (the best bit) eat the baked rye bread. 🍞

Work up an appetite and spread with lashings of butter!

See more on how we baked bread at Fontana, right here.

6.) Watch the sunset at Go To Vik & Dyrhólaey

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One of the best places to watch the sunset is Vik and Dyrhólaey. Head here to see the sun slowly descend over the horizon, all whilst standing on the iconic black beach that Iceland has become so famous for…

…It really is a beautiful place. 😎

See our map on what to see and do whilst you visit Iceland, right here.

7.) Drive the Golden Circle

The Northern Lights in Iceland and Hotel Laki - www.HandLuggageOnly.co.uk (40)

One of the main ‘routes’ visitors to Iceland take, the Golden Circle encompasses quite a few incredible sites you’ll not want to miss. Including the iconic Strokkur geyser (that erupts every few minutes) and Gullfoss, that looks stunning in both winter and summer.

The golden circle can take about 4-5 hours to complete but I’d always give a little extra to relax and enjoy this stunning route.

See more on the dramatic sights to see in Iceland, right here.

8.) Visit the capital city, Reykjavik

The capital city of Iceland,  Reykjavik is one place you’ll likely spend an evening or two. Head here on weekends when the bars are filled with live music, friendly local’s and an amazing atmosphere. 🎶

In the days, explore the city itself, visit the Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral or head over to the Harpa concert hall which is home to the national opera and symphony.

Here’s what you need to pack for your trip to Iceland.

9.) See the roaring Skógafoss

Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss Waterfalls in Iceland plus Icelandic Lamb and rainbows (43)

Skógafoss is approximately 2 hours east of the airport, with it being one of Iceland’s most popular waterfalls to visit. Entry is free to Skógafoss and if you arrive early in the morning, or late afternoon, you’ll notice the crowds dissipate, leaving the waterfall just for you! ⛰

10.) Explore the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

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The glacier lake of Jökulsárlón is probably the furthest east you’ll travel out of all these places (it’s about 5.5 hours from Keflavik airport) but well worth seeing if you’ve made it as far as Vik. ❄️

Lloyd and Yaya at Jökulsárlón - The Glacier Lagoon in Iceland

Head over to Jökulsárlón and see the incredible landscape that surrounds this region. It really is an impressive sight (just don’t fall whilst taking a selfie, like Yaya did) 🙊

11.) Go troll spotting on horseback

This Is One Experience You Definitely Have To Do In Iceland! (And We Finally Did It!!!) (5)

Horseback riding is a beautiful experience in Iceland, especially with the friendly Icelandic horses that are so full of character. Head out onto the tundra and keep your eyes peeled for Icelandic trolls! Legend has it that they live in the little grassy humps you’ll spot all over the country. 🐴

12.) Walk behind a waterfall at Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss Waterfalls in Iceland plus Icelandic Lamb and rainbows (9)

Seljalandsfoss waterfall is approximately a 10-minute drive from Skógafoss, so it’s well worth doing these at the same time. One of the best things about Seljalandsfoss is that you can actually walk behind the falls themselves, which is incredible to do! When conditions get really dicey, the path behind the waterfall is closed off – so don’t be too disappointed, it’s for your own safety.

🇮🇸 See our full map on planning your first trip to Iceland, right here. 🇮🇸


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  • oh my gosh, this looks to die for!!! I can’t wait to visit!!
    http://www.emmaphilpott.com

    • HandLuggageOnly

      Iceland is an amazing country, isn’t it, Emma 🇮🇸 ❤️

      Lloyd & Yaya xx

  • Hahahaha that picture of Yaya falling in the background is priceless XD Though I *am* concerned for his well-being, I can’t help but giggle every time I see it xx

    • HandLuggageOnly

      Haha! He had a proper wallop on the floor… serves him right for all that jumping around and trying to pose for the selfie! 🤣

      Lloyd xx

  • Hayley Rubery

    Guys I am NEVER over your photography – it’s such a pleasure to watch your talents grow, you just get better and better and are a HUGE inspiration! I adored Iceland when I went last February and this post is making me want to go back so badly!

    Hayley xo
    http://www.frockmeimfamous.com

    • HandLuggageOnly

      Ahhhh, thanks so much, Hayley – you’re too kind! Iceland is such a beautiful place isn’t it! We ❤️ it!

      Lloyd & Yaya xx

  • Iceland is on my list mainly because of the northern lights, however I’m so happy I found this post because there’s so much that I didn’t even know about!

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Kelsey x | http://www.seaofwanderlust.com

    • HandLuggageOnly

      Yay! You’re going to love it, Kelsey – it really is a beautiful country! 🇮🇸

      Lloyd & Yaya xx

  • Miss Pippi

    Fantastic things to do. I love ideas 1,2 and 12.

    http://misspippisstyle.blogspot.hu/

    • HandLuggageOnly

      Thanks so much! 🤗

      Lloyd & Yaya xx

  • Kim

    Great pictures and very convincing post.

    • HandLuggageOnly

      Thanks so much, Kim 🤗

      Lloyd & Yaya xx

  • George Markovsky

    Many thanks for the useful information! Iceland is my love.

    I invite you to join us in St. Petersburg: http://www.bestguides-spb.com/cruise.html

    • HandLuggageOnly

      Iceland is gorgeous isn’t it! 🇮🇸

      Lloyd & Yaya 🤗

  • These are all amazing tips! Iceland has been on my bucket list for forever now and my dream is to one day see the northern lights!

    • HandLuggageOnly

      The northern lights are incredible, Raya – you won’t be disappointed! 💫

      Lloyd & Yaya xx

  • Danielle Theriault

    So many bucketlist items on here for me! Looks amazing! | http://ourpassportpages.com/

    • HandLuggageOnly

      You’ll love Iceland, Danielle – it really is an amazing country!

      🤗 Lloyd & Yaya xx

  • Iceland looks stunning! We have nonstop flights starting this fall so I’m hoping to make a trip happen!

    • HandLuggageOnly

      Ahhhh! You do, with Iceland Air, right? It’s an amazing country… You’ll love it, Rachel! 🇮🇸

      Lloyd & Yaya xx

  • I’m headed here in December this year and am so overwhelmed at attempting to plan.. I just can’t decide what I want to do while I’m there. I only have about a week so I’m thinking about just renting on of the camper vans and making my own road trip out of it. Looks like you guys had a blast! The only thing I’m a bit apprehensive about is the food… I’m pretty adventurous when it comes to food but I don’t know… I might sit this one out!

    • HandLuggageOnly

      Ahhhhh, you’re really going to ❤️ Iceland – it’s such an incredible country. A plan is a good idea but with a week, I don’t think you’ll have much of a problem in seeing all of southern Iceland. We really did have a blast, it’s such an incredible place. Definitely do get a car/camper though, it’s so much easier and you’ll end up saving lots of 💰 than arranging tours… most of the natural sites are completely free.

      The food is great, though, I can’t say we tried the Svið! 🤣

      If you need any tips, just let us know, Kayti – always happy to help!

      Lloyd & Yaya xx