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15 best places to visit in Iceland

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From gazing on the northern lights to soaking in a geothermal pool surrounded by volcanic landscapes, Iceland demonstrates the unbelievable energy of nature at each flip. With glaciers, waterfalls, geysers, wildlife-watching alternatives and the midnight solar, it is no shock this astonishing place is close to the highest of so many individuals’s bucket lists. Listed below are 15 highlights of a go to to Iceland.

Comply with the Ring Highway proper round Iceland © Dennis Fischer Images / Getty Pictures

The Ring Highway (Route 1)

There’s no higher strategy to discover Iceland than to rent a set of wheels and road-trip Route 1, affectionately often called the Ring Highway. This 832-mile (1340km) tarmac path loops across the island, passing by way of verdant dales decked with waterfalls (make sure to cease at Goðafoss), glacier tongues dripping from ice caps like frosting from a cake, desert-like plains of gray outwash sands, and velvety, moss-covered lava fields. It is supremely spectacular – however don’t overlook to observe different roads as they splinter off into the wilderness. Enable round ten days to take all of it in, longer to benefit from these detours.

A huge spurt of water shoots straight up into the sky, dwarfing the crowd of people below.
Geysir is a high sight on the Golden Circle route © Anna Dunlop / Shutterstock

The Golden Circle: Þingvellir, Geysir and Gullfoss

On a faster go to to Iceland, you possibly can soak up some main sights on a shorter driving route, all inside a few hours’ drive from the capital. It may really feel extra industrial than different areas, however regardless of the hordes, the Golden Circle stays one of the crucial memorable routes on the planet. It spans roughly 185 miles (300km) and takes in three foremost sights, that are all true knockouts: Þingvellir the place tectonic plates meet, Geysir the place water erupts greater than 100 occasions a day, and the roaring and staggeringly voluminous waterfall Gullfoss. It takes about 4 hours to drive the loop with none add-on stops. If in case you have time, although, take a look at close by actions: rock-climbing, rafting and soaking in geo-pools, plus visiting a hydropower museum, fishing and exploring a 6500-year-old explosion crater. 

A huge white concrete church photographed against a blue sky. In front of the church is a statue of a man on a plinth
Reykjavík’s Hallgrímskirkja has a viewing platform providing excellent views over town © Westend61 / Getty Pictures


Petite Reykjavík boasts all of the treats you’d anticipate of a European capital – similar to wonderful museums and nice buying – however the metropolis’s ratio of espresso homes to residents is nothing wanting staggering. In actual fact, the native social tradition is constructed round such low-key hang-outs that crank up the depth after-hours, when tea is swapped for tipples and the dance strikes are damaged out. Once you’re not swigging handcrafted caffeine or microbrews, you could be wandering the Previous Harbour and neighbouring Grandi, which have blossomed into scorching spots for vacationers, with key artwork galleries, and several other museums. Different metropolis attracts are Hallgrímskirkja, the white concrete church with a viewing deck within the 74m-high tower, and the Icelandic Phallological Museum, with its big assortment of penises.

Aerial drone view of azure water streams and reddish-yellow sand
The sands of Rauðasandur have a pink and pink hue © Perszing1982 / Getty Pictures


Iceland’s sweeping spectrum of superlative nature involves a dramatic climax within the Westfjords, the place mass tourism disappears – solely about 10% of Iceland’s guests ever see the area. Hornstrandir Nature Reserve is considered one of Europe’s final true wilderness areas. It’s a unbelievable vacation spot for mountain climbing, with difficult terrain and wonderful alternatives for recognizing Arctic foxes, seals, whales and teeming hen life. At Rauðasandur on the Látrabjarg Peninsula, you’ll find a shocking seaside with shades of pink and pink sands stretching out forward of you. Dynjandi is probably the most dramatic waterfall within the Westfjords. The bumpy drive to it’s well-known for unbelievable views; you may see how the falls are the catchment space for run-off from the peaks and inland valleys throughout.

The sun sets over a waterway dotted with large blocks of ice, given a sense of perspective only by the single person silhouetted on the beach
Watch icebergs drift by at Jökulsárlón’s icefield © Matt Munro / Lonely Planet


A ghostly procession of luminous-blue icebergs drifts serenely by way of the ten-sq-mile (25-sq-km) Jökulsárlón lagoon earlier than floating out to sea. This surreal scene (handily, proper subsequent to the Ring Highway) is a pure movie set; in reality, you might need seen it in Batman Begins and the James Bond movie Die One other Day. The ice caves come from Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, an offshoot of the mighty Vatnajökull ice cap. Boat journeys and kayaking among the many bergs are well-liked, or you possibly can merely wander the lakeshore, scout for seals and exhaust your digital camera’s reminiscence card.

A huge outdoor swimming pool complex with very blue water and steam evaporating from it. It's surrounded by black volcanic rocks
The Blue Lagoon is among the most visited sights in Iceland © Puripat Lertpunyaroj / Shutterstock

Blue Lagoon

Iceland’s unofficial pastime is splashing round in its surplus of geothermal water. You will discover “hot-pots” all over the place, from downtown Reykjavík to the remoted peninsular ideas of the Westfjords. Not solely are they extremely enjoyable, they’re the right antidote to a hangover and a good way to satisfy the locals (that is their social hub, the equal of the native pub or city sq.). The Blue Lagoon is the massive cheese: in an impressive black-lava subject, the cyan Blue Lagoon spa is fed water from the futuristic Svartsengi geothermal plant; with its silver towers, roiling clouds of steam, and folks daubed in white silica mud, it is an otherworldly place. Those that say it’s too industrial and too crowded aren’t improper, however you’ll be lacking one thing particular if you happen to don’t go. Pre-booking is important. It is conveniently near Keflavík airport, making it the right send-off earlier than flying house.

A man in climbing gear hangs off an ice-pick in an icy crevasse
There are countless actions in Vatnajökull Nationwide Park © Matt Munro / Lonely Planet

Vatnajökull Nationwide Park

Europe’s largest nationwide park – created by the mix of two previously-established nationwide parks: Skaftafell in southeast Iceland and Jökulsárgljúfur within the northeast – covers round 14% of Iceland and safeguards mighty Vatnajökull, the most important ice cap outdoors the poles (it is thrice the scale of Luxembourg). Scores of outlet glaciers circulate down from its frosty bulk, whereas beneath it are energetic volcanoes and mountain peaks. That is floor zero for these “hearth and ice” clichés. You’ll be spellbound by the variety of landscapes, strolling trails and actions inside this supersized park. Given its dimensions, entry factors are quite a few – begin at Skaftafell within the south or Ásbyrgi within the north.

A rainbow brick path leading to a small blue church
Rainbow Avenue in Seyðisfjörður is a well-liked spot with photographers © Matteo Provendola / Shutterstock

Seyðisfjörður and Borgarfjörður Eystri

A story of two east-side fjords. Gorgeous, art-fuelled Seyðisfjörður garners a lot of the consideration – it is solely 17 miles (27km) from the Ring Highway, and it welcomes the weekly ferry from Europe into its mountain-lined, waterfall-studded embrace. The city’s Rainbow Avenue is a favourite with photographers and Instagrammers for its rainbow-painted pathway resulting in a quaint church. Lovely Borgarfjörður Eystri, alternatively, is 43 miles (70km) from the Ring Highway, and far of that stretch is bumpy and unsealed. Its promoting factors are understated: puffins, legendary elves, rugged rhyolite peaks. Each fjords have pure splendor and bumper mountain climbing trails in spades, and many individuals can’t assist however love ’em equally.

A bright-blue swimming pool on the edge of the sea, providing an infinity pool vibe
Hofsós on the Troll Peninsula is house to a shocking swimming pool, proper on the sting of the fjord © Horst Gerlach / Getty Pictures


Touring Tröllaskagi, or Troll Peninsula, is a pleasure, particularly now that street tunnels hyperlink the spectacularly-sited townships of Siglufjörður and Ólafsfjörður, as soon as end-of-the-road settlements. The peninsula’s dramatic surroundings contrasts with the light hills that roll by way of most of northern Iceland. Pit stops with pulling energy embrace Hofsós’ good fjord-side swimming pool, Lónkot’s plates of high-quality native produce and Siglufjörður’s excellent herring museum. Plus you may discover wonderful panoramas, high quality mountain climbing, ski fields (together with a rising commerce in heliskiing), microbreweries and beer baths, whale-watching excursions, and ferries to offshore islands Grímsey and Hrísey.

A black sand beach with pounding surf. Several huge rocky stacks stand tall out at sea.
Djúpalónssandur is a wild seaside with black sand and rocky sea stacks © Robert Postma / Design Pics / Getty Pictures

Snæfellsnes Peninsula

With its cache of untamed seashores, hen sanctuaries, horse farms and lava fields, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is considered one of Iceland’s finest escapes – both as a day journey from the capital or as a calming lengthy weekend. It is little marvel it is referred to as “Iceland in miniature” – it even hosts a nationwide park and glacier-topped stratovolcano. Jules Verne was undoubtedly onto one thing when he used Snæfellsjökull’s icy crown as his magical doorway in Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Go to the black sands at Djúpalón Seaside, the place a collection of rocky sea stacks emerge from the ocean. Stykkishólmur, on the populated northern coast, is the area’s largest city and a logical base.

Purple flowers and greenery growing on a rocky landscape. In the distance is a series of colorful low-rise buildings near the sea
See seabirds on a ship tour across the islets close to Vestmannaeyjar © silky / Shutterstock


An offshore archipelago of craggy peaks, Vestmannaeyjar is a mere 30-minute ferry trip from the mainland, however feels miles away in sentiment. A ship tour of the scattered islets unveils squawking seabirds, towering cliffs and postcard-worthy vistas of lonely looking cabins perched atop rocky outcrops. The islands’ 4000-plus inhabitants is concentrated on Heimaey, a small city of windswept bungalows with a scarring curl of lava that flows straight by way of its heart – a poignant reminder of Iceland’s unstable panorama.

A bright turquoise pool of water surrounded by an orange-yellow crater
The mineral-rich waters of Víti explosion crater are heat sufficient for swimming. © Steve Oldham / Getty Pictures


Accessible for only some months annually, storied Askja is a mammoth caldera ringed by mountains and enclosing a sapphire-blue lake often called Víti crater. To entry this wonderful, otherworldly place, you may want a strong 4WD, just a few days for mountain climbing, or passage on a tour. Highlands excursions usually incorporate river crossings, impossibly huge lava fields, regal mountain vistas and outlaw hideouts – and presumably a unadorned soak in geothermal waters. Whilst you’re within the space, head simply south of Askja for Iceland’s freshest lava subject at Holuhraun.

Aerial view of a high waterfall falling down into a crater with red layers of clay between the basaltic layers of rock
Hengifoss waterfall drops right into a dramatic gorge lined with pink clay © miroslav_1 / Getty Pictures


Crossing the bridge throughout Lagarfljót on Rte 931, you’ll attain the parking space for beautiful Hengifoss, Iceland’s second-highest waterfall. The falls plummet 128m right into a photogenic brown-and-red-striped boulder-strewn gorge. Attending to Hengifoss requires a return stroll of one-to-two hours (1.5 miles/2.5km every means). From the automobile park, a staircase and path lead up the hillside – Hengifoss is quickly seen within the distance. It’s a steep climb in locations however flattens out as you enter the canyon. Midway to Hengifoss is a noteworthy smaller waterfall, Litlanesfoss, surrounded by vertical basalt columns in a honeycomb formation.

A black and white bird with a colorful beak and bright orange feet stands on the edge of a cliff in a fjord
Puffins will be noticed in Iceland from mid-April to mid-August © Simon Dannhauer / Shutterstock


The photogenic small-boat harbor and islet of Hafnarhólmi is house to a big puffin colony. A staircase and viewing platforms mean you can get shut to those cute, clumsy creatures (and different seabirds). The puffins arrive by mid-April and are passed by early to mid-August, however different species (together with kittiwakes, fulmars and customary eiders) could linger longer. In summer time’s peak, from the islet you possibly can get pleasure from midnight solar viewings within the firm of puffins and with an evocative soundtrack of hen calls. 

A black whale breaches in front of a tourist boat
Húsavík is the preferred spot for whale-watching in Iceland © Tatonka / Shutterstock


Húsavík, Iceland’s whale-watching capital, has turn out to be a agency favourite on vacationers’ itineraries – and with its colourful homes, distinctive museums and gorgeous snow-capped peaks throughout the bay, it is simply the northeast’s prettiest fishing city. The wonderful Whale Museum gives all that you must know concerning the spectacular creatures that go to Skjálfandi bay. Húsavíkurkirkja, the city’s beloved church, has an Alpine type and is nothing like another church you may see in Iceland.

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