If you’re a lover of nature and beautiful scenery, then Iceland is a destination that should top your bucket list. But with so many wonderful things to do in this beautiful country, it can be difficult to make sure you’re doing and seeing the best bits. To help you prioritise your itinerary, I’ve rounded up some of the best things to do in Iceland.
The Golden Circle
If you pick just one of the Iceland tourist attractions in this guide to do, I would put the Golden Circle at the top of your list. It is by far one of the best things to do in Iceland. If you’re a little confused (like I was) about what it actually is, the Golden Circle is a scenic route that usually comprises of three stunning locations in southwest Iceland: Þingvellir National Park, the Great Geysir, and the Gullfoss Waterfall.
I’m a sucker for organised “let’s see lots of things in a day” kind of trips, and the Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon tour offered by Nicetravel was perfect for that. The tour offers free pickup and drop off from hotels from Reykjavik with first stop being the Þingvellir National Park just in time for sunrise. The scenery here is breath-takingly beautiful so you won’t be short of photo opportunities (even your iPhone camera can’t ruin these views!). The tour includes free admission to the park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site listed for its stunning nature and rich history.
The next stop on the tour is to visit the world famous Geysir hot spring and Strokkur, which erupts up 30m high every few minutes. I must have stood and waited for it to shoot up about twelve times and the experience still didn’t get old! At this point of the tour you can buy food and drinks and enjoy some lunch after your exciting morning.
Next up? The Gullfoss Waterfall in all its enormity. In winter, some of the viewing platforms aren’t open due to them being icy and too dangerous but that doesn’t mean you can’t experience it to the max. I was blown away by the sheer power and beauty of this incredible work of nature and I can guarantee you will be too!
As we headed to the next stop on the tour, we stopped off at the Kerid Volcanic Crater. Not officially part of the Golden Circle but on the route, most tours will visit this 3,000 year old crater which is 55m deep!
Nature honestly amazes me sometimes but it was on a whole other level in Iceland so brace yourself, you’re in for a treat!
No trip to Iceland (especially one that’s going all over Instagram) would be complete without a dip in the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa located in southwestern Iceland and is arguably the most popular of the many Iceland tourist attractions. The Golden Circle tour I mentioned above includes the Blue Lagoon Comfort Admission ticket, which in addition to access offers free use of a locker, towel, a Silica Mud mask, and a drink of your choice.
The whole experience was so soothing and there’s nothing quite like immersing yourself into the healing waters of a hot lagoon when it’s -5 degrees outside! As this was the last stop on the tour, I had the pleasure of experiencing the Blue Lagoon as the sun set and night rolled in, making it all the more beautiful. The tour I chose allowed for two hours at the Blue Lagoon and it was definitely enough time to relax and enjoy the experience.
However if you have the time, it would also be a fantastic experience to spend a full day here and take advantage of all the facilities including the restaurants and their gourmet cuisine offering!
The Northern Lights
The Northern Lights are one of the world’s most spectacular natural phenomenon, and Iceland is one of few places in the world where it’s possible to view the elusive Aurora borealis. But seeing the Northern Lights isn’t as easy as booking a tour and showing up. I booked the tour through Viator with the company Reykjavik Excursions. The policy with the tour means that if the trip is cancelled due to unfavourable weather conditions, or if you don’t get to see the lights during your trip, you are entitled to go on the tour again the next evening. And so I did. Three times to be exact! For this reason, I would recommend booking your Northern Lights tour for early-on in your trip, in case it needs to be rescheduled.
By booking to see the Norther Lights with our companies like Reykjavik Excursions , you maximize your chances of witnessing nature’s lightshow as they know the best viewing spots around the city, are very informative and knowledgeable, and genuinely care that you get to be witness to this amazing experience.
Another of the best things to do in Iceland is to book a whale watching tour. Peak season for whales to flock to the North Atlantic is from April through October so unfortunately when I went I didn’t get to see any which was quite disappointing but alas, you can’t control nature! A cute family of dolphins did grace our presence however and came really close to the boat!
Whilst the trip was lovely, it’s quite long and the waters can be very choppy! The crew were lovely and knowledgeable and even offered motion sickness tablets before we set off. And although the scenery was stunning in winter, I would definitely advise to do this trip in the summer season when hopefully the water is calmer and there’s more chance of getting to seeing some whales!
Icelandic Horse Riding
Whilst unfortunately I didn’t have enough days left to do any actual horse riding, I did manage to visit a farm, thanks to our guide on the Nicetravel Golden Circle tour, and meet some unbelievably cute Icelandic horses. There are so many tours which allow you to spend a couple of hours enjoying countryside views atop of a beautiful small yet sturdy, Icelandic horse, a breed originally brought to the country by the Vikings! This tour by Ishestar offers a relaxing ride through lava-laden scenery, matched to your ability, and led by an instructor, so no need to worry if you’re not an avid horse rider!
Another option is to embark upon a combination tour of the Golden Circle with a horseback riding adventure, a great option if you’re short on time in Iceland and want to fit in as many activities as possible into a singular day.
Of course, there are so many other things to do in Iceland but since I was only there for a short stay, I have given you a very brief overview of what tours are available out there for you. The next time I have the chance to go to Iceland again, I would love to visit the Secret Lagoon in Fludir, the Lava Caves and, of course, ride the Icelandic horses.