Constant adventure seeker, Melissa fell in love with Icelandic landscapes and wildlife. Always looking for new outdoor experiences and the best photo spots around the island.
Iceland is no ordinary country. Did you know that Reykjavík is the northernmost capital on Earth? This country is full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences that will completely blow your mind. In Iceland, nothing is impossible - from exploring the inside of a volcano to swimming between two continents, and even the opportunity to attend a concert inside a glacier! Unique and dazzling experiences await you around every corner.
1. Kayak in a Glacier Lagoon
Kayaking in Glacier Lagoon amongst Icebergs
Kayaking among icebergs is something truly magical, a real once-in-a-lifetime experience that nobody could forget. Kayak tours are only available from May to September and are quite a popular experience, which means they can sell out quite fast. So if this is on your bucket list, it’s best to book some time in advance.
The tour allows you to explore Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest glacier, from all angles. During this amazing experience, you will navigate the waters in a stable kayak and take in the wonderful views that surround you. Once you are slowly moving forward on the calm lagoon, you feel a part of the quiet environment.
2. Walk behind a waterfall
Walking behind the falls of Seljalandsfoss Iceland
Located near the Ring Road on the South Coast of Iceland, Seljalandsfoss attracts many people. In addition to being a beautiful waterfall, the falls offer the opportunity to go behind the waterfall and see it from a totally different point of view. It is incredibly impressive to witness the powerful water cascading down just in front of you. When visiting, don’t forget to bring your raincoat as you can get a little bit wet, particularly if the Icelandic winds are blowing! During winter, it is highly recommended not to walk around the falls because the path can get dangerously slippery. However, just a five minute walk from Seljalandsfoss, you can find awell-hidden gemthat tourists often miss: Gljúfrabúi Waterfall. The 40-meter-high waterfall is partially hidden away between huge cliffs and you will have to walk into a canyon to be able to see it in all its glory.
Do you want to enjoy a guided South Coast tour, including a visit to Seljalandsfoss?Book your tour here
3. Enjoy a Beer Spa
Iceland’s famous Bjorbodin Beer Spa where you bathe in beer
About a 25-minute drive north of Akureyri in Árskógssandur, the Bjorbodin Beer Spa is another unique Icelandic attraction that opened in July 2017. There are a total of seven wooden tubs in private rooms. However, do not try to drink the beer in the tub as it is a mixture of young beer, hops, yeast and distilled water for a temperature of around 38 degrees. Bathing in this liquid is said to nourish the skin, make your hair stronger and relax your whole body.
Don’t panic if you want to taste some beer, there is a keg of fresh Kaldi lager with a tap right beside the tub so you will be able to enjoy a fresh brew in a hot beer tub with a view of the splendid Icelandic landscapes. Beer lovers’ paradise right? Plus, there is no age restriction to bathe in beer as the liquid is not drinkable, but children under 16 years old should be accompanied by an adult.
4. Take a dip in a Secret Hot Pool
Incredible outdoor swimming in Iceland
Seljavallalaug is one of Iceland’s true gems. There, you can bathe in a hot pool in the middle of nowhere, which is a unique experience. Located in a narrow valley belowEyjafjallajökull, the pool was built in 1923, making it one of the oldest pools in Iceland. The hot water comes directly from a natural hot spring nearby. Swimming in the stunning pool with spectacular surroundings is free of charge, but just remember to not leave anything behind. Seljavallalaug is 25 meters long and 10 meters wide.
This hot spring off the beaten track is located 10 kilometers east of Ásólfsskáli. To go there from Reykjavík, take Road 1 eastward and turn left on Road 242 marked Raufarfellsvegur. If you continue straight, you will find the parking lot and a pool right beside it, but this is not Seljavallalaug. To swim in the waters of Seljavallalaug, you will have to walk 15 to 20 minutes toward the bottom of the valley. Don’t forget to read theimportant rules you have to follow while going to a natural pool.
5. Witness some of the Game of Thrones backstages
Grjótagjá Cave which inspired Game of Throne ‘Love Cave’
Iceland has been a great place for film directors during the last decade. As every Game of Thrones fan knows,many scenes of the show were shot in Iceland.The country served as a setting for seasons 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7. For example, there is Svínafellsjökull, also called the Hollywood glacier because it has been featured in many famous movies such as Batman Begins and Interstellar. Another iconic location of Game of Thrones is Grjótagjá Cave, the Love Cave of Jon Snow and Ygritte from season 3. It was the inspiration for the cave you see in the show, which was actually built in a studio because the water there was too hot to take a dip. Grjótagjá is located in the North of Iceland, in the region of Mývatn.
Kirkjufellin Snæfellsnes Peninsula can be seen in seasons 6 & 7 when the heroes go North of the Wall. It is described as Arrowhead Mountain when the children of the forest created the first White Walker. Another beautiful Icelandic place shown in GoT isThingvellir National Park, where Brienne and the Hound fought in season 4. Join aGame of Thrones tourto see some amazing locations featured in your favorite show!
View of the famous Kirkjufell where Game of Thrones was filmed
Meet wild (and cute) friends
Whether brought to Iceland by early settlers or native to the country, the animals you might meet in Iceland are, for the most part, friendly and also adorably cute! Most of them are wild and living freely in nature so be aware that they can be quite shy when it comes to human interactions. Here are some of the animals you may spot on your trip. Check out our Guide to Iceland’s wildlife for further details about the creatures you might meet on your travels.
6. Spot Puffins
Puffins seen on the coast of Iceland
Iceland is one of the best places in the world to see puffins. You can get extra close to them duringpuffin toursas the expert guides know exactly where to find them. If you are going to see them by yourself, it is vital you do not touch them. Human touch can be really harmful to these little guys, as their feathers have special properties that deflect water. Petting them can ruin the coating so be careful and responsible when up close and personal with puffins. Feeding them is also a bad idea because these animals are wild and they are able to feed themselves.
Arctic foxes, or Polar foxes, are Iceland’s only native mammals as horses, sheep, and cattle were deliberately brought to the island by early settlers. The foxes’ fur color changes throughout the year from white in winter to brown in summer, which makes the perfect camouflage to hunt and not be hunted. You can see Arctic foxes wherever there is a big birdlife, as birds are their main prey. The little furry cuties are located mostly around theWestfjords, more particularly in Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. Other good spots to see arctic foxes are ÞórsmörkandSnæfellsjökull National Park. However, be armed with patience and perseverance if you want to have the chance to see one. For more information, read our guide to Arctic Foxes.
8. RIDE ICELANDIC HORSES
Icelandic horse outside in the snow
Despite their small size (80-120cm), Icelandic horses are notoriously strong; they can cross rough terrain and are often used for farm work. Never call them “ponies” in front of an Icelander if you want to stay on good terms: Icelandic people are proud of their friendly, cute and powerful horses. All along the Ring Road and many of the main roads around Iceland, you will be able to see the horses and sometimes get really close to them. There are also manyhorseback riding toursto explore Iceland with a faithful companion.
9. SEEK SEALS AND WHALES
Although you could see seals and whales in other countries, Iceland is one of the easiest places to observe these wonders of the sea.
Whaleslove swimming around Iceland because of the plentiful food supply as the cold Arctic Sea mixes with the warmer North Atlantic Ocean on the Icelandic coasts. The north of Iceland has the best success rate for seeing these giants up close while on aboat trip from Dalvík, but it is also possible to spot them during a boat tour from Reykjavík.
Pod of whales tails diving in the waters off Iceland
Delight your taste buds
If you are an adventure seeker who likes to explore different food cultures or someone who prefers simple dishes, Iceland has it all. Along with all thegreat restaurants and cafés around Reykjavík and the rest of the country, there are a few things Iceland is famous for.
Hot dogs are a big deal to Icelanders.Bæjarins Beztu was named “The best hot dog stand in Europe” by The Guardian. Celebrities such as the Clintons as well as the Kardashians were spotted queuing so they could order the famous hot dog called, “One with Everything”. This specialty includes ketchup, sweet mustard, remoulade, fried and raw onions and of course lamb meat. Trust me, once you try one you will want another one!
11. TRY SOME OF ICELAND'S SPECIALTIES
Would you prefer to eat sour ram testicles (Súrsaðir Hrútspungar) or a whole sheep head (Svið)? Icelandic cuisine is not usual and can shock many people. But these long-established specialties helped people survive back in ancient times. It was such a waste of food to slaughter an animal and just throw some parts of the body away when everything can be eaten.
In Downtown Reykjavík, you can also taste fermented shark (hákarl). Greenland shark meat is toxic to humans if fresh, so people had to discover a safe way to eat it. The traditional way of fermenting a shark is to bury it and urinate on it before letting it ferment for some months. Fortunately, the fermentation process improved over the years and now they just bury and hang the meat to dry for about 5 months.
Of course, nowadays Iceland has many “regular” specialties. Icelandic cuisine is being recognized worldwide and there are a huge variety of gastronomic restaurants where you can eat fresh food more suited to less adventurous taste buds or other dietary requirements. Join aLocal Food Tourto know more about Icelandic cuisine.
12. PARTY FOR 96 HOURS OF DAYLIGHT AT THE SECRET SOLSTICE FESTIVAL
Celebrating the music on a friends shoulder at a festival in Reykjavik
The Secret Solstice Festivalis one of the biggest festivals of the year in Reykjavík. For the duration of the festival (96 hours), the sun will never set and people will party under the midnight sun. Each year over 150 foreign and local artists perform at the festival in the park at Laugardalur.
What makes this festival an even more unique thing to do is the three main side events: the Lava Tunnel, Into The Glacier and the Geothermal Pool Party. Neither of these is included in the ticket price of the festival and each can accommodate a limited number of participants.
The Lava Tunnel is a magical music experience in a 5,200-year-old lava tunnel. The Raufarhólshellir cave is a breathtaking phenomenon of nature as the lava walls display many different colors. The event allows 50 guests to enjoy a guided tour of the cave, and to witness one of the most unique concerts on the planet inside the lava tunnel.
Into The Glacier is the world’s only party inside a glacier, where just 120 guests will get a chance to experience a unique party within the ice of majestic Langjökull, Iceland’s second-largest glacier. If you consider going to this concert, don’t forget to pack warm and water-resistant items alongside your summer clothes for the festival.
A new special event has recently popped up on the program - the Geothermal Pool Party. K. Only 82 tickets will be sold for this party at a geothermal pool out in the countryside. The experience will be amazing and a great privilege. This is such an incredible and unique event you won’t want to miss out on it!
13. EXPLORE ONE OF MANY ICE CAVES
Incredible Ice Cave in Iceland
Iceland has many natural ice caves with wonderful ice formations and colors. The most famous is the Crystal Ice Cavein Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest glacier. What makes it one of the best is the jewel-blue crystal ice with great swirls of strong turquoise. You can visit this natural wonder from November to March due to safety reasons.
Each ice cave is different from each others and the same ice cave can even change through the seasons: new stalactites, stalagmites or other ice features can appear.
There are, of course, other ice caves around Iceland. Vatnajökull Glacier provides ice caves that can only be reached by a 20-minute glacier hike. There, pale blue ice contrasts with darker, anthracite gray ice which makes a perfect photo spot! An ice cave was recently discovered in Langjökull, Iceland’s second largest glacier, with a very deep blue “ice river” tracing its way across the roof. It also has layers of white ice and zebra-like gray stripes from the ash deposits of volcanic eruptions. Completely mesmerizing!
14. Glacier Hiking and Ice Climbing
Hiking on a Glacier Iceland
Hiking on a glacieris definitely among the most amazing and unforgettable adventures you can have in Iceland. But there is an even better experience to be had: climbing on the glacier to the top of a crevasse! This unique experience is possible on Sólheimajökull, an outlet glacier of the Mýrdalsjökull ice cap, home to the tremendous Katla volcano. The volcanic eruptions formed the glacier with ash and crevasses, making the contrasting landscape amazingly photogenic. Never try to venture onto a glacier by yourself without a certified guide, it can get really dangerous.
15. Inside a Volcano
Inside Þríhnúkagígur Volcano Iceland
Iceland is known to have many active and inactive volcanoes(about 130 in total). Everyone knows what a volcano looks like, but do you know how it looks inside?
Þríhnjúkagígur volcanoin the South of Iceland is the only place in the world where you can actually go inside a volcano. Inactive since the second century BC (so basically inactive for about 4,000 years), Þríhnjúkagígur is totally safe to enter. This volcano offers the possibility to go inside the magma chamber, which is 213 meters (700 feet) deep. To get to the chamber, you will have to board a specially constructed elevator that will take you all the way down to the bottom.
Þríhnjúkagígur isa true wonderand a must-see while visiting the country, for some authentic adventures. It is the second-largest lava chamber in the world. And the best part is that inside the volcano, there is another chamber about 80 extra meters. If we combine the two chambers, Þríhnjúkagígur becomes the deepest lava chamber in the world. This unique experience should be on your list of things to do while in Iceland.
16. Let your imagination speak with weirdly shaped rock formations
Iceland’s unique rock formation Hvítserkur
Sometimes your mind can play tricks on you when you see a familiar shape in clouds and rock formations. Or does it?
Many mysterious places across Iceland are host to weirdly shaped rock formations.
First, there is Hvítserkur, offshore Vatnsnes Peninsula in North-West Iceland. The 15-meter high monolith or sea stack looks like an animal drinking in the sea. Some people think that it is an elephant, while others guarantee that it is a dinosaur or a rhino. During the summertime, a lot of fulmars are nesting on the majestic rock which makes it really look alive. The legend says that Hvítserkur is a petrified troll who lived in the Westfjordsand wanted to tear down the bells at Þingeyrakirkja church, as trolls are not Christian and don’t like the sound of church bells. However, the troll didn’t have time to do so because he got caught by daylight and as we all know, trolls turn into stone when this happens. Actually, Hvítserkur was a volcano back in the day and has been eroded by the sea. The base of the plug had to be strengthened with concrete to save it from the erosion.
Elephant Rock is a natural rock formation in Vestmannaeyjar, approximately 7.4 kilometers off Iceland’s South coast. As the name indicates, this giant rock just looks like the head of a huge elephant trying to quench its thirst in the Atlantic Ocean. However, some people claim that it looks like the face of the cosmic daemon Cthulhu, a monstrous sea creature with an octopus face. The rock is entirely made of basalt, making the elephant’s “skin” look wrinkled. It is believed to have been formed during one of Mt. Eldfell eruptions.
17. Learn About Trolls
Troll statues in Akureyri
Iceland is a country rich in folklore, trolls are really part of the local culture as well as the landscape.
Álfhóll (Elf Hill) is located in the suburb of Kópavogur and is considered an elf settlement according to Terry Gunnell, a professor in folkloristics at the National University. In the 1930s, workers were trying to build a road through Álfhóll but the equipment kept breaking down. They decided to build it around the hill rather than through it and the equipment worked again. They tried again in the 1980s but the same thing happened and the workers didn’t want to go back near the hill.
In 1978, roadworks were also disturbed by several accidents at Tröllaskarð, in the north of Iceland. The Icelandic Road Administration attempted to negotiate with the elves, helped by a noted seer. Later on, plans to detonate part of a rock-belt were abandoned because it was believed that elves lived there.
Examples of such magical stories are numerous around Iceland. The Road Administration takes the Hidden People issue really seriously to avoid accidents and other unfortunate events.
Watching the Midnight Sun from top of a mountain in Iceland
One of the best experiences in Iceland happens during the summer. TheMidnight Sunis a natural phenomenon occurring between May and August, with a peak around the Summer Solstice, the 21st of June. This surprising phenomenon is due to the tilt of the Earth’s axis towards the sun during Icelandic summer. This tilt, along with the Earth revolving around the sun, is also responsible for the different seasons during the year. In fact, each year the northern part of the Earth tilts towards the sun between April and September and vice versa for the south between September and April. As a result, the season is reversed between the Northern hemisphere and the Southern one. The closer you are to the North or South Pole, the more drastic the change is between summer and winter.
Although the midnight sun can be seen in all countries near the Arctic or Antarctic Circle, in Iceland you can enjoy those additional hours of daylight to party all night longin the Northernmost capital of the world: Reykjavík. The Icelandic capital is the closest to the Arctic Circle, making the city the most accessible location to see the midnight sun.
Other people like to spend their nights of daylight exploring the unique landscapes Iceland has to offer, with fewer people. During this time of the year, there is also the famous Secret Solstice festival, with performers from all around the world. There, you can party all day and all night long, dancing and singing your favorite songs.
19. SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
Northern Lights over Iceland
If you are looking for the most unique experience that Iceland has to offer, then you’ve stumbled upon it. Northern Lightsare caused by collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the Earth’s atmosphere. The lights can be seen above the magnetic poles of the Northern and Southern hemispheres. They are also called Aurora Borealis in the North and Aurora Australis in the South. Pale green and pink are the most common colors you can observe, the variations of colors depend on the type of gas particles that are colliding.
In Iceland, Northern Lights are visible for 8 months a year, from September to April. Other Nordic countries have to face more challenging issues when it comes to watching auroras such as cloud cover. Iceland is the ideal destination to observe those magnificent lights dancing in the sky. While it’s not guaranteed that you will see them on your visit to Iceland, the island’s conditions make it a lot more likely that you will!
During this wonderful time of the year, many northern lights toursare organized so that you have a better chance of enjoying this natural phenomenon and making the most out of your trip to Iceland. Therefore, you can join a Super Jeep excursionto track the lights down. While you are enjoying a hot chocolate, the guide will make sure to find the best spots to take pictures of the magical wonders. A good way to see the Northern Lights is to go offshore, as there is no artificial “light pollution”. That is why northern lights boat tours are popular, as you are able to see strong and bright auroras. Note that Iceland is the best place to see pink and red auroras. What an extraordinary gift of nature!
20. SWIM BETWEEN TWO CONTINENTS
Snorkeling in the clear water of Silfra Fissure, Iceland
Silfra Fissure is the only place in the world where you cansnorkel between two continental plates, and it is located in Iceland!This unique experienceinside Þhingvellir National Park is unforgettable and magical. The water is so clear that it feels like you are flying between two huge rocky walls, while you are floating and slowly moving forward with the current. It is also possible to scuba divethere if you have a dry suit certificate.
Iceland was formed as the result of a strong movement between two tectonic plates drifting apart continually: The Eurasian and the North American. Silfra is a newly opened rift that appeared after a big earthquake in 1789. The plates keep moving farther apart by about 2 centimeters (0,80 inches) per year.
Swimming at Silfra is a special experience with unique geological and hydrological features. It has the clearest fresh water with the longest underwater visibility on Earth. Plus, Silfra is easily accessible to anyone.
21. Cross a bridge between North America and Eurasia
It might seem crazy, but it is possible. Thanks to the Bridge Between Continents at Sandvík, in Reykjanes Peninsula, you can leave Europe and go to North America (or reverse) in only a few seconds!
This bridge was built as a symbol of the connection between Europe and North America, the new world and the old one. It is called Midlina, Leif the Lucky Bridge but is more commonly known as The Bridge Between Continents. It is possible to ask for a personalized certificate after crossing the bridge at Reykjanes Information Center to prove that you went all the way from Europe to North America, or vice versa. In the middle of the bridge, there is a plaque that serves as the borderline between Europe and North America. The two sides are marked ″Welcome to America″ and ″Welcome to Europe″, so basically you can step on both continents at the same time. The bridge is about one hour drive from Reykjavík.
22. Ride a Super Jeep
Super Jeep stopped at the top of an Icelandic Mountain
Coming to Iceland, you will be really surprised about how many of these monster trucks there are. Super jeeps and their huge tires have been invading the country over the years as it is the best way to drive safely during winter, especially when you want to go to the countryside. It is not possible with any other cars to take mountain roads during the tough winter time.
If you don’t feel comfortable with driving one, you can simply join a super jeep tourand have fun safely with expert guides. The tours are for everyone as it is really secure. Thanks to your certified guide, you will be able to discover Iceland’s most remote places, adventuring on a glacier or far away in theHighlands.
23. Cruise an Icelandic River at High Speeds
A view from Europe’s only white water jet boat company in Iceland
There is just one whitewater jet boat company in Europe, and it is in Iceland. Let your experienced guide take you on a River Jet tour through the whitewater rapids of Hvítá River as you will fly and jump on waves. This is a great opportunity to discover the wonderful rugged Gullfoss Canyon if you like high speed and adrenaline. The basalt-cliff canyon beneath Gullfoss waterfall is surrounding the Hvítá River, which literally means the “White River”. The water directly comes from Langjökull Glacier and has sculpted some magnificent rock formations. It is possible to join a tour from May to October, the best time period to observe the rich local birdlife which is present there.
24. Relax in one of the 25 wonders of the world
Blue Lagoon, Iceland’s best experiences
There are so many hot pools in Iceland that you could never try them all.
Blue Lagoonis the single most popular tourist attraction in all of Iceland, and if you see the color of the water, you will definitely know why. As it is only a 20-minute drive away from Keflavík International Airport, people often go there right after their arrival in Iceland or just before leaving the country. It is worth taking a look to see if aBlue Lagoon tours suits your schedule.
Blue Lagoon was formed in 1976 during operation at the nearby geothermal power plant Svartsengi, which now provides about 90% of the electricity in the Reykjanes peninsula. One day, Valur Margeirsson, a man with a severe case of psoriasis (a skin inflammation disease) working at the power plant, noticed some change on his skin while handling the water and steam. He wanted to bathe in the water and was the first one to do so. After some days he saw a real difference in his skin and dermatologists started to address the issue. Special clinics for this disease were created and still today doctors give prescriptions for their patients to go to the Blue Lagoon.
Later on, the owners of Blue Lagoon decided to create a line of skincare so that everyone from the entire world can purchase what is known as the best treatment for psoriasis in Iceland.
It’s a strange way to part, but we’re going to conclude this post by talking about male genitals. The Icelandic Phallological Museum in Reykjavík is the world’s only museum dedicated to phalluses. There, you can observe a huge collection of phallic specimens belonging to all the various types of mammals found in Iceland. In total, the museum has 282 specimens from 93 different species of animals, as well as one human phallus. No, this is not a joke. If you feel generous, you can sign a paper to donate your sexual organ when you die. An American man is even currently fighting to be the first donor alive. Isn’t that tempting? Iceland is far from boring.