Iceland Hidden Beauty Gems - Off the Beaten Track
In 2017, 2.1 million tourists were drawn to Iceland to experience its mythical landscapes and breath-taking scenery.
With popular sites like the Blue Lagoon, Gullfoss Waterfall and Jökulsárlón inundated with tourists all year round, we thought we’d showcase some of Iceland’s lesser-known beauty spots and natural attractions.
Boasting the same awe-inspiring views and scenery, but without the crowds, here our Iceland’s best lesser-known scenic areas.
Photo by Antonio Caiazzo
The first in our series of off-the-beaten attractions is Gjáin. Situated about two hours from Reykjavik, this beauty spot is home to waterfalls, canyons, caves and scenic treks –everything you could ever want in a hidden paradise!
The secluded beauty spot that is Gjáin is said to be home to numerous elves, which isn’t surprising when you witness how mystical and romantic the surrounding landscape looks. The river Rauðá cascades and flows into the valley, before falling from the picture-perfect Gjárfoss Waterfall.
How to Get to Gjáin:
- Coordinates: 64.149364, -19.738076
- Gjáin on Google Maps
Hidden gems like Gjáin are always more difficult to get to, but that’s what makes them so special! To get to Gjáin, visitors need to take the Ring Road towards Selfoss, drive through the town and take the number 30 road.
Next, drive for 10 minutes, before turning right on the number 32. Drive for 25 minutes and then turn onto road number 327. From there, it’s about a 30-minute drive to Stöng. From here, your travels are by foot. A short hike across Iceland’s beautiful landscape brings you to the Gjáin valley, where you can enjoy the site’s unspoiled landscape.
Brúarfoss Waterfall is often considered to be one of Iceland’s greatest hidden gems. Although not the biggest waterfall in the country, its icy blue waters, and picturesque surroundings are what makes it worth seeking out.
However, the waterfall is so off-the-beaten-track that even locals have never heard of it! Because of this, it is important to have the correct directions.
How to Get to Brúarfoss Waterfall:
- Coordinates: 64.264429, -20.515685
- Brúarfoss Waterfall on Google Maps
The waterfall is an easy stop to make, especially if you’re doing a tour of the Golden Circle. If driving from Reykjavik, take the road number 1 northbound. After Mosfellsbaer, you’ll come to a roundabout, take the first exit onto road number 36. Continue straight for 30 minutes.
After Laugarvatn, take road number 355, on your right-hand side and continue straight. Eventually, you’ll come to a junction in the road, take the left turn, signposted Bi ALDAN, and continue straight. You’ll spot a red gate on your left-hand side, park near here.
Next, it’s time to continue your mission on foot. Head north towards the access bridge and follow the tiny trail, which leads you through the fields. After about five minutes you’ll arrive at a barbwire gate, go through and cross the bridge.
Continue walking through the countryside until you see an arrow sign (which has nothing written on it), then turn right. Continue walking along the path for about 10 minutes until you arrive at the waterfall. Make sure to pack a camera and capture some amazing pictures of what is, arguably, Iceland’s most breath-taking waterfall.
Situated close to Seljalandsfoss, Gljúfrabúi Waterfall is a spectacular sight, which is often overshadowed by its more famous neighbor. Partially hidden away behind a huge cliff, visitors need to walk into the canyon to get the full experience.
The waterfall’s true beauty and force can be felt as soon as you walk into the canyon. Mist and the sound of water crashing onto the rocks below fill the air. The waterfall itself is 40 meters high is simply mesmerizing to behold, but be careful not to venture too close for safety reasons!
How to Get to Gljúfrabúi Waterfall
Coordinates: 63.621255, -19.986337
Gljúfrabúi Waterfall on Google Maps
From Reykjavik, take road number 1 eastwards towards Vik. Drive for one hour before taking a left turn onto road 449. Seljalandsfoss is the first waterfall on the right, while Gljúfrabúi is the second.
Found between Vik and Hof in southern Iceland, Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is comparable to something out of a J.R.R Tolkien novel. 2 kilometers long and 100 meters deep, the canyon boasts an otherworldly appearance, with its sheer cliffs, lush greenery, and meandering river.
Created at the end of the last Ice Age, when a glacier retreated to form a valley, Fjaðrárgljúfur is the perfect day-trip for hikers. Walkers have two trail options when they arrive at the site. The first is to follow the well-worn trail at the top of the canyon, which allows for spectacular views. The second requires some waterproof clothing, as you’ll be walking down the base of the canyon and navigating many water crossings.
How to Get to Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon
Coordinates: 63.781429, -18.173261
Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon on Google Maps
Visitors will be glad to know that it’s surprisingly easy to get to Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. If you’re traveling eastwards on the Ring Road towards Skaftafell, take a left turn onto road 206 – it’s just before Kirkjubæjarklaustur village – and continue for two kilometers. You’ll come to a small intersection, continue left to reach the canyon. The final stretch of the road is gravel, so drive with caution.
Hornstrandir Nature Reserve
No visit to the Westfjords would be complete without a stopover in the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. Home to Iceland’s only native mammal, the beautiful Arctic Fox, the nature reserve boasts picturesque fjords, rolling lush green fields, dramatic cliffs and an array of unique flora and fauna. The region is only open during the summer months, which is ideal for visitors looking to truly enjoy the scenery in temperate climes.
Walkers are in luck, as the region offers lots of hiking options. However, the most popular route culminates in a visit to the reserve’s iconic towering cliff. Visitors should know that the reserve is mostly uninhabited, so they should pack everything they need for a hiking trip, including tents if they plan on staying overnight.
How to Get to Hornstrandir Nature Reserve
Coordinates: 66.394956, -22.572893
Hornstrandir Nature Reserve on Google Maps
Unsurprisingly, it’s quite difficult to get to Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. Because of this, the region is only accessible via organized tours.
Arctic Adventures offers a six-day Lost Fjords tour, which takes in the nature reserve, as well as other spectacular sites in the Westfjords. Make sure to book your place before your next visit!
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