All about ICELAND Insider info to adventuring in Iceland

By Emma Friedlander

August 8, 2019

Top 10 Things to Do in Iceland Year-Round

What to do in Iceland all year-round?

Iceland is a small country that packs a big punch. On just one trip, you can walk on sparkling beaches, hike enormous glaciers, climb through lava caves, watch geysers erupt, explore primeval forests, and much more. 

With so much to do in Iceland, you may not know where to start. But by choosing the most exciting and diverse activities, you’re sure to get the most out of your vacation. 

Adding any of these activities to your itinerary is sure to bring adventure to your travels. Better yet, check off all these spots on our award-winning 6-Day Adventure around Iceland!

Here are the 10 Best Things to Do in Iceland Year-Round

1. Step Back in Time at Thingvellir National Park

Church Thingvellir National Park

The church at Thingvellir National Park

Þingvellir National Park is incredibly important for Iceland’s history and geography. In 2014, UNESCO deemed the park a World Heritage Site because of its global significance. 

In 930 CE, one of the world’s earliest democracies was formed in Þingvellir. Amid the dramatic rocky cliffside, Icelanders formed their first democratic parliament. As far as birthplaces of democracy go, Þingvellir gives Athens a run for its money! 

Þingvellir is not only a center of human history, but also of geology. The Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet in the center of the park. This is one of the only places in the world where you can actually see the continents come together. 

2. Blow Off Steam at Geysir Geothermal Area

The Great Geysir erupting in spring, Iceland

Iceland’s Geysir is the grandfather of all geysers. After all, the English word “geyser” derives from the name of this Icelandic hot spring. The name “Geysir” comes from the Icelandic verb geysa, meaning “to gush.” The sky-high spurts of water that shoot out of the ground leave no question as to why. 

The Geysir Geothermal Area is made up of many different hot springs and pools. The king of them all, the Great Geysir, doesn’t erupt very often these days, though scientists suspect a comeback soon. Only 300 feet from the Great Geysir, Strokkur Hot Spring delights visitors with an outburst of water every 4-10 minutes. Many other spouting geysers populate the area, as well as bubbling mud pots and hot pools. 

3. Marvel at Iceland’s Rockstar Waterfalls

People by Skogafoss waterfall on Iceland golden circle. Couple visiting famous tourist attractions and landmarks in Icelandic nature landscape.

Embrace Skogafoss Waterfall

Iceland is home to thousands of waterfalls, but the true legends of the falls are found on the South Coast. 

Gullfoss Waterfall on the Golden Circle is one of Iceland’s most beautiful wonders. The name means “golden falls,” a reference to how the water shines like gold on sunny days. While this waterfall is not Iceland’s tallest, it is one of the most impressive. The bubbling waters plummet down two drops and then disappear into Hvítá River Canyon. 

Just off the Golden Circle are Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss Waterfalls. Seljalandsfoss is renowned as the waterfall you can walk behind. Grab your raincoat and follow the walking paths behind the cascade to appreciate nature from a whole new angle.

A 25-minute drive from Seljalandsfoss brings you to Skógafoss, one of the largest waterfalls in Iceland. If you’re up for a hike, you can climb to the top of Skógafoss. The summit offers incredible views of South Iceland’s sea cliffs and mountains. The spray from the falls forms lucky double rainbows. 

4. Go Whale Watching in North Iceland

Whale watching from Dalvik

Whale watching from Dalvik

There’s no better place to spot the country’s most majestic creatures than Dalvík, the whale watching hub of Iceland. Whale watching tours from Dalvík offer a 99.5% chance of seeing a whale. The odds don’t get better than that!

Iceland’s northern waters are home to humpback whales, minke whales, white-beaked dolphins, and porpoises. Lucky visitors might even see a blue whale.

The area around Dalvík is full of fascinating sights. Nearby lies the town of Akureyri, the cultural capital of the North. From there you can drive through the dramatic mountain scenery of Eyjafjörður and the stunning coastline of Tröllaskagi Peninsula. While you’re up north, be sure to grab a bite of the freshest fish you’ll ever taste.

5. Climb the Largest Glacier in Europe

Ice climbing at Vatnajokull National Park

Ice climbing at Vatnajokull National Park

You can’t leave Iceland without spending some time on the ice. The largest glacier in Europe, Vatnajökull, covers 8% of Iceland’s total area and has over 30 outlet glaciers. Visitors to Vatnajökull can crawl through ice caves, take a boat ride in the lagoon below, or go snowmobiling. However, we believe the best way to appreciate this glacier is to hike it.

Plus it’s now Iceland’s latest UNESCO World Heritage Site!

With the assistance of a hiking guide, almost anybody can trek up the slopes of Europe’s greatest ice caps. Reaching the summit of Vatnajökull’s outlet glaciers, you’ll feel like a true mountaineer.

6. Explore Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Glacier Lagoon

Glacier Lagoon

Not far from Vatnajokull lies Jökulsárlón, the largest glacier lagoon in Iceland. The bright turquoise waters of Jökulsárlón glitter with blue and crystal icebergs. The cinematic lagoon has been featured in two James Bond movies, a Tomb Raider movie, and “Batman Begins.”

Jökulsárlón is well worth visiting in all seasons. In the summer, adorable seals flip in the water and sunbathe on the icebergs. In winter, snow transforms the lagoon into a frozen fantasyland. On especially dark nights, the Northern Lights reflect off the ice.

From Jökulsárlón you can easily walk to the famous Diamond Beach. This black sand beach sparkles with colorful icebergs that wash up on the beach as they flow from the lagoon to the Atlantic Ocean. Photographers agree that Diamond Beach is one of the most photogenic places on Earth.  

7. Go Hiking in Skaftafell Nature Reserve

Group Glacier Hike

Hiking the Glacier

Skaftafell Nature Reserve is an idyllic oasis within Vatnajökull National Park. Skaftafell was its own park until it merged with Vatnajökull in 2008, forming the largest national park in Europe. 

Skaftafell is filled with forests, glaciers, volcanoes, and mountains, all surrounded by black sand deserts. This incredible environmental diversity makes Skaftafell a hiker’s paradise. No matter your experience level, a walk through these emerald birch forests will transport you to a land before time. Keep an eye out for fluffy arctic foxes and minks. 

8. Visit an Eastfjords Fishing Village

Waterfalls Eastfjords Iceland

Waterfall in the Eastfjords

The remote peninsulas and rocky coastlines of East Iceland contain the country’s most unspoiled scenery. Since tourists don’t often go to the East Coast, the land is peaceful and pristine. If you want to experience Iceland at its most authentic, venture eastward.

The East Coast is dotted with charming fishing villages that have populated the region for centuries. In villages such as Djúpivogur, you can sample traditional Icelandic seafood and appreciate the slow pace of life. Near Djúpivogur, be sure to see the quirky outdoor installation Eggin í Gleðivík (“The Eggs of Merry Bay”).

While in the East, make a stop at Hengifoss Waterfall. This natural wonder is one of the tallest waterfalls in Iceland and is set in a dramatic basalt cliffside. 

9. Take a Dip in Lake Mývatn

Lake Myvatn volcano plumes

Magical Myvatn volcanic area

The mystical Lake Mývatn area looks like it’s from another planet. This mystical corner of North Iceland is spotted with volcano craters, lava islands, sandy black mountains, and electric blue hot springs. It’s no wonder two Star Wars movies were filmed on the moonlike location!

The lake was formed by a lava fissure thousands of years ago. Today it is a hotbed of geothermal activity. Fiery must-see destinations include the Námaskarð hot springs, Hverfjall volcano crater, and the Mývatn Nature Baths. 

The Mývatn Nature Baths are often referred to as the Blue Lagoon of the North. However, the baths have a big advantage over the Blue Lagoon. Fewer tourists come to Lake Mývatn, guaranteeing visitors a peaceful soak. 

In the Nature Baths, the water shoots directly out of the ground. The geothermal water is rich with minerals that are great for your health and spirits. 

10. Trek Through West Iceland

Hraunfossar Lava Falls Iceland

Hraunfossar, the Lava Falls

Finally, no ultimate trip to Iceland is complete without the grand nature of the West. This is a land of giant craters, lava fields, strange rock formations, and snaking fjords. The best way to explore the area is on foot. 

When in West Iceland, don’t miss the short hike up to Grábrók volcano crater. The view of the surrounding lava field and fjord from the top of the crater is nothing short of breathtaking. 

You can also hike around ghostly Barnafoss Waterfall (“The Children’s Falls”), an icy blue waterfall immersed in dark folklore, and Hraunfossar Waterfall (“The Lava Falls”), where thousands of white rapids shoot out of a lava field.

Also nestled in the West of Iceland is Reykjavik, the capital city. Visitors can explore the mystical landscapes of West Iceland and still return to Reykjavik before nightfall. 

The Best Tour of the Top Things to Do in Iceland

Iceland Crater Volcano Snow

Bird’s Eye View

The best way to experience Iceland’s greatest sites is our 6-Day Tour around the Ring Road. This guided adventure brings you directly to these top 10 activities and much more, ensuring you make the most of your week in Iceland. This ultimate tour of Iceland was awarded Tour of the Year by Tourradar in 2017 and 2018. 

Our tour guides are experts on Iceland’s history and culture, as well as on outdoor activities. Small tour groups allow you to learn as much from the guides as possible.

Arctic Adventures is the biggest and oldest tour operator in Iceland. Through decades of experience, we’ve has mastered the art of creating a diverse, activity-packed tour while still giving visitors time to enjoy the view.

Book a 6-Day Tour of the Ring Road for the Ultimate Tour of the Year around Iceland!

Top 10 Things-to Do in Iceland Year Round

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