Iceland is one of those amazing countries to visit that’s totally filled with epic places to see. From the dramatic volcanic landscapes, incredible hiking routes, gorgeous little towns to the tastiest restaurants; Iceland has loads to experience. Not only that, but there is also are a heap of stunning experiences to have in Iceland that you really can’t miss.
This is exactly why I wanted to share some of the easiest places and experiences to have in Iceland on your next trip. Most are really easy to organise and perfect if it’s your first time trip to Iceland.
How to get around Iceland
Now, one thing that stood out to me when I initially planned our first-ever 1-week itinerary for Iceland was how big it felt. I created a list of the best places to see, which, all required an element of travel once we arrived.
So, for ease, chartered excursions and pre-arranged tours are probably the easiest way to see some key spots in Iceland. That being said, the costs for these can rack up quite quickly and you can be left with an eye-watering bill by the end of your trip.
For us, we found it most economical to drive. Yes, car hire is more expensive than some other countries but you’ll save a small fortune being able to drive everywhere yourself. Plus, it also gave us the flexibility to head wherever we wanted. Whoop! Whoop!!!
Oh yeah, and the car option works out really well to spot the Northern Lights. You see, you can drive out into the countryside and national parks, park up and spend a few hours watching them dance. This is what we did when we were staying in Reykjavik.
Experiences to have in Iceland
1.) Go Whale Watching
As soon as we landed, we took a 35-minute drive to the capital, Reykjavik and headed onboard a Whale Watching tour lasting around three hours. And it was epic!
Now, we found it really easy to grab our tickets and head off on one of the many excursions that Special Tours (by the harbour) offers every day. That being said, book them in advance if you’re worried that spaces might fill up. After all, it’s one of the experiences to have in Iceland that most people want to do.
We didn’t get to see ‘Moby Dick’ but we did catch a glimpse of some minke whales and dolphins. You can reserve your tickets in advance, just be prepared that there may be cancellations due to blustery or very windy weather.
Oh yeah, and keep a buffer of time after your tour as they can run over a little bit.
2.) Visit Vik & Dyrhólaey
Roughly a four-hour drive from Reykjavik, Reynisfjara & Dyrhólaey provides one of the most spectacular areas of coastline to explore in Southern Iceland. We totally loved it.
Take a short walk, or hike across the coastal paths that line this beautiful region. It is especially dramatic around sunset when the glow of the sun seems to stand in contrast to the volcanic rock and sand. Beautiful.
Oh, and be sure to see the Reynisdrangar (Reynisfjara Beach); the basalt sea stacks that call this area home.
3.) Try Icelandic Horse-riding
One of the best experiences to have in Iceland has to be horse-riding through the wind-blown tundra.
One of the best places to go to has to be Hestheimar, about 1.5 hours south of Reykjavik. Hestheimar is a family-owned horse farm lovingly run by Lea Helga Ólafsdóttir, her husband Marteinn Hjaltested and their three children, Ísak Freyr, Sunneva Eik and Hákon Snær. It’s a great place to stop and learn so much about Icelandic horses and actually venture out into the wilderness with a guided tour.
We had the best afternoon and was one of the nicest experiences to have in Iceland.
4.) Watch the Northern Lights
One of the most magical experiences to have in Iceland is to see the Northern Lights.
Much more visible in autumn and Spring, the Northern Lights are one of nature’s great wonders and a sight that will stay with you forever. We stayed in Hotel Laki, just south of Kirkjubæjarklaustur.
The hotel is beautiful, with amazing food; they even offer a nightly wake-up service to call your room if the northern lights appear. We spotted these around 3 am and ‘hot-footed’ it straight out into the wilderness that surrounds the hotel.
5.) Drive the Golden Circle
Roughly a 300km round-trip – the golden circle is one of the best routes to follow if you want to see some of the dramatic landscapes of Southern Iceland.
Places like Storkkur, Gullfoss waterfall, the Geysir Hot-spring area and Thingvellir National Park that literally shows the point where two tectonic plates are pulling the island apart.
Honestly, it’s one of the best ways to get a good taste of what Iceland is really like and is probably the most popular driving route to follow.
6.) See the Geyser
Perched on the Golden Circle, Strokkura and the Geysir can’t be missed, erupting every eight minutes or so; you are guaranteed a great opportunity to see geothermal activity in action. It’s one of the best experiences to have in Iceland, especially if you’ve not seen geothermal activity before.
Just don’t get drenched as that water is boiling! Always act responsibly with nature here; no one likes a reckless visitor.
7.) Visit Gulfoss Waterfall
A short 15-minute drive west from Strokkur is the Gulfoss Waterfall that’s totally epic to see.
Here you will find a dramatic, and beautiful landscape has been carved out by the powerful forces of the River Hvítá.
Now, if you want to avoid most of the crowds, pop over first thing in the morning or late in the evening in Summer. It will still be light and most visitors will have left.
8.) Visit Laugarvatn Fontana
Head to the geyser hot spring area (on the golden circle) for a truly ‘warming’ experience in the naturally sourced hot baths of Laugarvatn Fontana.
If you arrive around lunchtime, you can even watch and learn how to bake geo-thermal bread in the warm soils surrounding the baths. It doesn’t have the same ‘natural’ look that the Blue Lagoon has but it’s still a lovely experience if you’re already in this area of Iceland.
9.) The Blue Lagoon
Around 20 minutes from Keflavik airport, The Blue Lagoon is a beautiful place to relax, unwind and enjoy a day of pampering.
Head here first thing in the morning if you want a quieter experience as at peak times and around lunch, the lagoon can become pretty busy. Though that doesn’t detract from the experience, it’s still one of the most iconic and stunning experiences to have in Iceland when you pop over.
We decided to stay in their hotel, too. Yes, it can be a bit pricey but it was a total treat and we loved it. Plus, you get a hotel lagoon just for guests. It was bliss.
10.) Walk-behind Skogafoss
Skógafoss & Seljalandsfoss both provide the most dramatic opportunities to get ’up-close-and-personal’ with natures power showers. S
Seljalandsfoss provides a great opportunity to actually walk behind the waterfall and if you’re lucky, Skógafoss might even showcase one of the famous rainbows that it creates. It’s one of the easiest experiences to have in Iceland when your driving on the southerly route.
Just be aware, in the winter months, the paths can get slippy due to ice. Sometimes these are closed for your own safety.
11.) Explore Reykjavik
Reykjavik is such a great city for so many reasons including; hallgrímskirkja, the Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall, Laugavegur and many live music venues.
On a Saturday night, there is an opportunity to explore some of Iceland’s best gigs! Take a wander down the main streets and enjoy the vibrancy that their music scene has to offer.