Iceland – the land of fire and ice – is one of the most fascinating European destinations. We have been curating our Iceland bucket list, long before we visited the country; and after having explored it once, we are constantly adding more of the best places to visit in Iceland.
In this post, we are sharing some epic experiences, attractions, and places that you must consider exploring on your next trip to Iceland!
Ultimate Iceland Bucket list: 51 Best places to visit in Iceland
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Here are the top items for your Iceland Bucket list. For a detailed description of each activity and experience, keep on reading!
- Explore the Golden Circle Route
- Soak in the thermal waters of Blue Lagoon
- Climb to the top of the tallest church in Iceland – Hallgrímskirkja
- Wander the lanes of Reykjavik
- Chase Northern Lights in Iceland
- Walk behind the Seljalandsfoss waterfall in South Iceland
- Play with Icelandic horses
- Visit the smallest town of Vik in south Iceland
- See where the ‘Instagram’ famous Sólheimasandur airplane wreckage is
- Explore an ice cave in the winter
- Check off the highlights of South Coast of Iceland
- Swim where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet – Þingvellir National Park
- Stay in a transparent bubble in Iceland
- Chase waterfalls in Iceland
- Go on a viking tour
- Eat traditional lamp soup
- Visit Landmannalaugar
- Ice Climb on Solheimajokull Glacier
- Swim in the Secret Lagoon
- Photograph the Blue Church Seyðisfjarðarkirkja
- Go whale watching
- Check out Mývatn in North Iceland
- Soak in dramatic landscapes at the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West Iceland
- Walk on a glacier
- Visit the Diamond Beach
- Check out Stuðlagil Canyon in East Iceland
- See puffins in Iceland
- Enter inside a Volcano
- Take a trip to see the Kerid Crater
- Helicopter Sightseeing Over the Glacial Lagoon
- Experience midnight sun in Iceland
- View geysers in action
- Take photographs at a Black sand beach
- Soak in the views of Goðafoss (one of the amazing waterfalls in Iceland)
- Explore Stokksnes Peninsula
- Swim in the Seljavallalaug pool
- Capture the beauty of Kirkjufell Mountain
- Check the majestic Aldeyjarfoss
- Game of Thrones Locations tour
- Hike Through Skaftafell Nature Reserve
- Admire the cute town of Höfn
- Explore the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve
- Check off the canyon of Ásbyrgi
- Get up close and personal to the Dettifoss
- Admire Skálholt Cathedral
- Visit the Hekla Center
- Admire the Garður lighthouse
- Check out the Sun Voyager sculpture in Reykjavik
- Visit and eat at Friðheimar farm/restaurant
- Capture the beauty of Hvítserkur
- Walk the red sandy beach – Rauðasandur
So here you go! These are 51 Iceland bucket list items to add
Explore the Golden Circle Route
The Golden Circle Route must be on every first timer Iceland bucket list. A perfectly packaged day trip from Reykjavik, you can explore the Golden Circle Route in less than 8 hours.
In this route, check off the Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park (where the two continental tectonic plates meet), geyser, and the beautiful Gullfoss (waterfalls).
Geysir Hot Spring Area with its boiling mud pits, exploding geysers and the lively Strokkur will blow your mind.
The Gullfoss or the Golden Falls is a waterfall located in the canyon of the Hvítá river. This river travels from the glacier Langjökull and then cascades at 32 meters (105 feet) down Gullfoss’ in two stages. It is not uncommon to see foam and splashes rising above the falls, and not to forget it is SUPER windy out there!
Get trip inspiration: Read our 3 days in Iceland itinerary
Soak in the thermal waters of Blue Lagoon
Thanks to Instagram, Blue Lagoon is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland. Located close to the Keflavík International Airport, you must add a stop to the Blue Lagoon on your way out or in, to the country.
Trip duration from the airport to Blue Lagoon is about 20 minutes.
Blue Lagoon is not a natural spring but is a geothermal spa, which receives water from the Svartsengi geothermal power station nearby. You must book your time at the Blue Lagoon Iceland prior to your trip (online and on their website). They have different time slots for you to choose from.
At the Spa, there is a restaurant, change rooms, lockers, and mineral treatments that you can access. You can book entry tickets here
Climb to the top of the tallest church in Iceland – Hallgrímskirkja
It is hard to pronounce the name, ‘Hallgrímskirkja’, but super easy to visit and climb to the top. Located in the heart of the capital city of Reykjavik, Hallgrímskirkja is the tallest church in the whole of Iceland.
It is a Lutheran Church. The church interiors are free to visit (and you will be delighted to see the huge pipe organs inside).
For 900 ISK, you can take a lift to the top of the Hallgrímskirkja Church, and soak in the colorful city views of Reykjavik. This is your perfect spot for Instagram photos as well!
Right outside the church is the statue of explorer Leif Erikson, which was gifted by the United States commemorating the 1000th anniversary of the convening of Iceland’s parliament.
Wander the lanes of Reykjavik
The capital city of Iceland is Reykjavik. Many travelers heading to Iceland make a quick stop over at the city and then they start their Iceland road trip into the countryside.
We highly recommend spending at least one day in Reykjavik. There are so many epic things that you can enjoy in the capital city, and many of them even free.
Wander the cute lanes, check out street art, stop at Icelandic cafes and enjoy their hot dogs, soups, pastries, and more. Visit the tallest church in the country, Perlan – Wonder of Iceland, Tjörnin (pond), Höfdi House, Sun Voyager, Harpa Concert House, and more.
Reykjavik is a perfect base to venture on day trips to explore more of the south coast of Iceland.
Chase Northern Lights in Iceland
If visiting Iceland in October or fall through the winter months, you can sight the northern lights. There are many Northern Lights tours that depart from Reykjavik. Other places where you can chase the dancing Aurora Borealis are Skógar, Höfn, Snaefellsnes (west).
Here is a Northern Lights tour from Reykjavik
Apart from tours, you can also book an Aurora Alarm hotel to view Northern Lights (without a drive or staying up at night!).
- Hotel Ranga: This is one of the best Northern Lights Hotels in Iceland. The hotel also has a sky observatory, and with low light at night, you can capture and see the beautiful green lights at night!
- Reykjavik Domes: This is a great way to spend a night in Reykjavik, and sleep under starry nights.
Walk behind the Seljalandsfoss waterfall in South Iceland
Seljalandsfoss is one of the must visit waterfalls in Iceland. And guess what you can walk behind this waterfall.
You can easily check out Seljalandsfoss on South Coast Tours. It is one of the most breathtaking waterfalls, and it has a whopping 196 ft (60 m) cascading fall.
So c’,mon, step behind the falls – just remember to wear waterproof clothing and shoes!
Play with Icelandic horses
Icelandic Horses are the cutest. They are a unique horse breed, you can play/pet them at family owned stables near Reykjavik.
Visit the smallest town of Vik in south Iceland
Vík í Mýrdal or Vik is a seafront village, located in south Iceland. You can easily visit Vik as part of the South Coast tour, or via road tripping on the Ring Road or Route One.
Vik is home to the cute Reyniskirkja, a wooden church dating to 1929. The Reynisfjara beach is also located here, which is full of black sand and pebbles, basalt columns and of course the iconic Reynisdrangar offshore rock formations.
The Dyrhólaey peninsula with the large rock arch is also located near Vik.
See where the ‘Instagram’ famous Sólheimasandur airplane wreckage is
Located in Sólheimasandur, on the South Coast of Iceland is the abandoned United States Navy DC plane. The plane ran out of fuel and crashed on the black beach here. It can be found between Skógafoss waterfall and the town of Vik. (From Skógafoss going east on Route 1, you’ll cross a bridge and a dirt access road to Sólheimajökull Glacier.)
Explore an ice cave in the winter
Exploring ice caves should be on every Iceland bucket list. We highly recommend adding an ice cave tour in the winter. (Don’t forget your camera!)
Here are some of the options for ice caves in Iceland,
- Katla Ice Cave (Location is Kötlujökull Glacier. Accessible all year)
- Langjokull Ice Cave (Location is Langjökull Glacier, accessible all year)
- Skaftafell Ice Caves (Location is Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier, accessible October to March)
Check off the highlights of South Coast of Iceland
Highlights of South Coast of Iceland tour consists of the 2 waterfalls – Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss stops at the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano and Sólheimajökull Glacier, and Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach (in Vik).
Just like the Golden Circle Route, the South Coast tour can be explored in one day, and it showcases Iceland’s finest landscapes from waterfalls, glaciers, lava fields, and black sand beaches.
Swim/Dive where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet
Iceland is located in a unique spot, where you can see those two tectonic plates and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge above ground. It sits on the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, and this is where you can go diving and snorkeling.
Silfra, as it’s called, is a fissure between the two tectonic plates, found in Thingvellir National Park (part of the Golden Circle Route). The rift was formed in 1789 by earthquakes.
You can easily book a tour to experience snorkeling or diving here.
Stay in a transparent bubble in Iceland
Iceland Buubble Hotel is one of the unique hotels in the world. It is a transparent ‘bubble style’ accommodation, where you sleep under the blanket of stars, surrounded by nature but with comfort and coziest ambiance inside.
It is a one of a kind experience!
Chase waterfalls in Iceland
‘Foss’ means waterfall in Icelandic, and unofficial records say there are over 10,000 waterfalls in the country. We already mentioned a few of them, that you can explore on the Golden Circle and the South Coast Tour!
But there are many more (keep reading to add them to your Iceland bucket list)
Go on a viking tour
Go on an educational and entertaining Viking tour, and learn about their fascinating history and their stories as Iceland’s earliest settlers. If you are a history buff like us, you will love this tour!
The Norwegian Vikings arrived in Iceland with the hope of settling down as farmers. They came in open Viking ships in the 9th century and settled on this cold volcanic island in the north.
Eat traditional lamp soup
Not a destination, but you must try traditional lamp soup in Iceland. You can easily find cafes, bistros and restaurants across Reykjavik and Iceland serving this delicious soup!
We highly recommend it! In Reykjavik, try it at the Icelandic Street Food Cafe.
Landmannalaugar is located in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve in the Highlands of Iceland. What is unique about this place is that it is at the edge of Laugahraun lava field, and is known for its colorful landscape and natural geothermal hot springs.
You can visit Landmannalaugar from Reykjavík. It is about a 3 hour drive. There are signs on the way but do bring a map. Or join a group tour.
Ice Climb on Solheimajokull Glacier
Solheimajokull Glacier is one of the fastest shrinking glaciers in Iceland, and you must include a tour of glacier hiking and ice climbing with an experienced guide.
It is one of the most thrilling experiences to go hiking on the top of Solheimajokull Glacier and ice climbing, navigating through deep blue crevasses, steep ridges, and ice sheets!
Even if you are not into adventure, this one can be experienced any most fit adults (and will be a rewarding experience!)
Swim in the Secret Lagoon
The Secret Lagoon or Gamla Laugin is the oldest swimming pool in Iceland. Built in 1891 (close to a geothermal area), the Secret Lagoon is located along the Golden Circle Route.
It is often overlooked by the commercial and ever-popular Blue Lagoon, but we highly recommend taking a dip at the natural thermal waters here (and it is a cheaper alternative too!).
Photograph the Blue Church Seyðisfjarðarkirkja
The lovely blue church of Seyðisfjörður is one of the iconic landmarks of Iceland. It is a Lutheran church, and is beautifully decorated with colorful street art. This Rainbow Street pulls tourists to the town, and the church itself!
Don’t miss this beautiful church and street on your next trip to Iceland!
Go whale watching
Icelandic waters are great for sighting whales. You can opt for day tours from Reykjavík, or in North Iceland in Húsavík. Typically April to October are the best time to spot different species of whales.
During peak summer months, you can witness humpback whales; sei, fin, and blue whales (if lucky).
Check out Mývatn in North Iceland
Myvatn is known for the lake located in North Iceland, near a very active volcanic zone. From Reykjavik, you can head to Myvatn (do set aside a couple of days to explore the area).
The popular Mývatn Nature Baths is also located here. It is a man-made lagoon, filled with mineral-rich waters known for their health-giving properties. Also pay a visit to Hverir, a hot-springs area with boiling mud pots and fumaroles (situated near Myvatn).
Soak in dramatic landscapes at the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West Iceland
Often called, ‘Iceland in a nutshell’, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is a must add to every Iceland bucket list. It is located in western Iceland. Visit Snæfellsnes Peninsula on a day trip from Reykjavik here.
In Iceland’s western most tip is the Snæfellsjökull National Park, with the Snæfellsjökull Volcano, lava fields, and black-pebble Djúpalónssandur Beach.
This image of Snæfellsnes Peninsula is one of the MOST popular from Iceland, and really defines the beauty of the Icelandic landscapes with falls/foss and volcanic mountains.
Walk on a glacier
If you ever fancied walking (or even getting near a glacier), Iceland is perfect for that. There are a plethora of glacier tours available – from walking, hiking to snowmobiling.
Each glacier tour is done under expert guidance who will walk you through and will provide safety lessons and gear.
Here are the best places to explore glaciers in Iceland for your bucket list.
- Breiðamerkurjökull, Mýrdalsjökull (Kötlujökull) Falljökull, Langjökull for cool ice cave tours inside glacier
- Sólheimajökull, Falljökull, Svínafellsjökull for hiking
- Svínafellsjökull, Sólheimajökull for climbing
- Langjökull, Vatnajökull for snowmobiling
Visit the Diamond Beach
You can capture the beautiful diamond like glittering icebergs at the Diamond Beach, located in south Iceland.
Diamond Beach is also known as Breiðamerkursandur in Icelandic. The ice pieces are part of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, which broke away (also found in and around Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon) and ended up at the Diamond Beach.
Check out Stuðlagil Canyon in East Iceland
Located in east Iceland are the stunning basalt columns at the Stuðlagil canyon, aka the Column Basalt Canyon. In order to access the canyons you have to get to a farm – Grund, park there and then walk about 5 minutes to view this marvelous spectacle.
If you didn’t know, Iceland rocks consist of 90% of basalt, a dark grey or black rock.
See puffins in Iceland
Puffins belong to the family of seabirds. And Iceland is home to one of the world’s largest colonies of puffins. The total population of puffins in Iceland is estimated to be between 8 and 10 million birds.
You can go on puffin watching tours from Reykjavik. The best months to sight puffins are from late April to August, particularly from June and July.
Read our guide on the best Iceland guided tours here
Enter inside a Volcano
Iceland is a great place to learn about volcanoes and even to witness them in person.
Snæfellsjökull National Park in West Iceland is one such spot. You can visit the national park that looks as though it belongs to prehistoric times.
Another spot is located on Iceland’s south coast, which is the Eldheimar Volcano Museum in Heimaey. This is also known as the “Pompeii of the North”.
For an easy day trip from Reykjavik, join the Volcano day tour. In this tour, you get to travel into the centre of the earth, into the ancient magma chamber of the Thrihnukagigur volcano.
With an expert guide in tow, you get to marvel the colorful lava-rock walls inside of the dormant volcano. You are provided with round trip transportation, with safety gear, and a nice warm soup (plus refreshments) as part of the day tour.
Take a trip to see the Kerid Crater Lake
One of the must add Iceland bucket list attractions on the south coast is the Kerið crater lake. It is a volcanic lake located in the Grímsnes area, along the Golden Circle route.
Many tour operators will include a stop at the Kerið crater lake as part of the Golden Circle Tour, like this one.
Helicopter Sightseeing Over the Glacial Lagoon
One of the coolest ways to explore Iceland’s best is to hop on a helicopter, and soak in volcanic black sand beaches of South Iceland, the glacial lagoon and more from the sky. Note that many of these tours are weather dependent, and may not be available in the winter months from mid November to mid February.
Popular helicopter rides/tours include
- Helicopter Flight from Reykjavik: Thingvellir National Park and Thórisjökull Glacier
- Helicopter Flight from Reykjavik: Eyjafjallajokull Glacier and Volcanoes
- Fire and Ice Helicopter Tour from Reykjavik
- Helicopter Tour from Reykjavik
Experience midnight sun in Iceland
Just like the northern lights in Iceland in the winter, you can witness the Midnight Sun in the country. From May to August (especially after summer solstice), you can experience daylight even at night. The sun sets around midnight, so you get a lot of daylight hours for photos and sightseeing.
Many travelers may not be used to these long days, so it is important to take care of your sleep/rest hours.
View geysers in action
Iceland is home to about 20 to 30 active geysers. One of them, called the Great Geysir, can be easily explored on the Golden Circle Tour in southwestern Iceland. Strokkur is the most active geyser in this belt.
Take photographs at the Black sand beach
Add a black sand beach to your bucket list. Reynisfjara is located on the south coast of Iceland and it can be explored on a day tour quite easily.
You will love the Icelandic black sand, with the enormous columns of basalt painting an epic picture! The massive waves here are crazy, so be careful when you are exploring the beaches and wandering the shoreline.
Soak in the views of Goðafoss (one of the amazing waterfalls in Iceland)
When tired of chasing waterfalls or foss in the south coast of Iceland, head to the ‘Waterfalls of Gods’ in north Iceland. It is located along the country’s main ring road at the junction with the Sprengisandur highland road.
Legend has it that in the 9th and 10th Centuries, a vast majority of the residents were Norwegians who followed the Old Norse religion. In the later part of the 10th century, there was pressure to adopt Christianity.
After discussion (and meditation), the leader (a goði) decided that Christianity would be the official religion, and his decision was immortalized by throwing idols of the Old Gods (pagan/Old Norse religion) into the waterfall, and became known as Goðafoss.
Explore Stokksnes Peninsula
With views of the dramatic and breathtaking Vestrahorn, you must add the Stokksnes peninsula to your Iceland bucket list. The peaks reach up to 454 meters (1490 ft), rising from the very flat, black sand beach.
To access from Reykjavík, head to Höfn, and take the signposted road heading South to Stokksnes radar station. You’ll soon see the stunning mountains come into view.
Swim in the Seljavallalaug pool
Seljavallalaug pool is one of the oldest swimming pools in Iceland. It is located in south Iceland.
It is an outdoor pool, dating back to 1923. Unlike the vast majority of Iceland’s swimming pools, there is no admission fee to enter Seljavallalaug. Being a public pool you got to share the space with others. Note that there are no lifeguards on duty or other measures to ensure your safety.
The pool was originally built for the fishing community, and later in 2010 when the volcano erupted it filled the pool with ashes (which was cleaned up by volunteers). It is not the cleanest pool in the country for a swim, but to check it out for an Insta photo – its great!
Capture the beauty of Kirkjufell Mountain
You won’t miss this mountain when you visit West Iceland. Kirkjufell is located in Iceland’s Snæfellsnes peninsula, near the town of Grundarfjörður.
Did you know it is the most photographed mountain in the country? Get your camera’s out!
Check the majestic Aldeyjarfoss
Aldeyjarfoss is a beautiful waterfall, located in the northern part of the Highlands of Iceland. The river Skjálfandafljót drops here from a height of 20 metres. You can hear the water gushing from a distance.
To access the waterfalls, you can either book a tour by IG tours, or rent a 4×4 vehicle to visit.
Game of Thrones Locations tour
Game of Thrones lover? Join a full day tour to check out all the GoT locations.
Sightseeing stops include the gorge at Þingvellir National Park (stomping ground of White Walkers and “north of the Wall.)”, Þjorsárdalur and the “Settlement Era Viking Lodge,” to name a few.
You also get to explore the Þórufoss waterfall, and experience the footsteps of the young boy who witnessed Dragon attacking the goats he was looking after. Plus meet special characters from the series and Icelandic horses, as you embark on the tour from Reykjavík.
Hike Through Skaftafell Nature Reserve
We admit we are not into hiking, but pictures from Skaftafell Nature Reserve are absolutely breathtaking, so we are adding this to our Iceland bucket list for a hike to soak in snowy views!
Admire the cute town of Höfn
Hofn is one of the cutest towns in Iceland. Known for its lobster restaurants, and stunning coastal views, Hofn welcomes you to the Vatnajökull, hot springs, waterfalls, and mountains and more!
Explore Hornstrandir Nature Reserve
Hornstrandir Nature Reserve also known as the Arctic Foxes Territory is located in the remote interiors of Iceland (in Westfjords, in the north-west of Iceland). We have never been here, and it is on our Iceland bucket list.
When we head there, we are planning to go on an immersive 2 day tour.
Check off the canyon of Ásbyrgi
Another Iceland bucket list item to add, is to visit the horseshoe-shaped canyon of Ásbyrgi. The photos of the canyon, the cliffs and the plateau that rises from the center, makes for one of the most dramatic captures in Iceland.
It is located about 80.4 km (50 miles) east of Húsavík on the Diamond Circle route.
Get up close and personal to the Dettifoss
Dettifoss is a waterfall located in Vatnajökull National Park in Iceland. It is said to be one of the most powerful waterfalls in Europe. Just like most walls in the country, you can soak in the views of Dettifoss up close and personal.
Dettifoss is situated on the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river, which flows from the glacier itself.
Admire Skálholt Cathedral
Admire the cute Skálholt Cathedral, which is steeped in Viking history. The church dates back to the 12th century, with timber shipped from Norway. Located in south Iceland, Skálholt is said to be one of the most historically important sites in the country.
For more than 700 years it remained as the episcopal seat and a center of culture and education – this is where the first school of Iceland was also founded.
Visit the Hekla Center
To learn more about volcanoes, especially of the Hekla, you must visit the Hekla Center. In this center, there are multimedia exhibitions about the volcano Hekla and her history (with remnants dating back to 1100 years old).
Locate this center on the south coast of Iceland.
Admire the Garður lighthouse
Snap a photo of the Garður lighthouse in southwestern Iceland. It is located on the far tip of Reykjanes Peninsula, and is home to a restaurant, which is housed inside the 120 year old lighthouse.
If you are like most travelers to Iceland, your time is spent around the ring road and Reykjavik. For those with extra time to spare and seeking solitude not far from the city, the old lighthouses of Gardur are a great place to spend a sunset.
Check out the Sun Voyager sculpture in Reykjavik
The Sun Voyager is located in the capital city of Iceland. It is a beautiful sculpture, designed by Jón Gunnar Árnason.
The Sun Voyager showcases a sign of promise, hope, progress and freedom. And it is an ode to the Sun.
Visit and eat at Friðheimar farm/restaurant
If you love tomatoes, you must eat at the Friðheimar restaurant. Their cuisine combines the best tomato meals in town.
Fridheimar Tomato farm is located on the Golden Circle Route. The restaurant is located inside the green shouse. We paid a visit on our first trip, but didnt get a chance to eat, so it’s on our Iceland bucket list for next time!
Capture the beauty of Hvítserkur
Hvítserkur is a basalt stack (about 15 metres high), located along the eastern shore of the Vatnsnes peninsula (in northwest Iceland). Hvítserkur is also known as the Troll of Northwest Iceland.
The shape of the rock is unique with two holes at the base, and it gives a unique sight of a dragon who is drinking, as it protrudes from the Húnaflói Bay.
Walk the red sandy beach – Rauðasandur
Often known for black sandy beaches, Iceland is also home to red beaches, which you can find in Westfjords. The Rauðasandur beach is usually quiet, and it’s nice for a walk or wander.
Depending on when you visit, the red beaches might appear white, orange, yellow, or very red – don’t forget your camera to capture the beach!
So, that’s a wrap!
Iceland is a wonderful destination worthy of adding to your travel bucket list. It has something for everyone from casual hikers to adrenaline junkies. Most of these attractions are natural (or natural phenomenon), and depending on the weather and ecological changes it might change in no time. Plus Iceland weather still stays very unpredictable.
So visit, and check it off when you can. Have you been to Iceland? What do you have left on your Iceland bucket list?