Iceland, with its unique location north of the Atlantic Ocean, is home to various natural wonders and landscapes, including 269 named glaciers, 130 active and inactive volcanoes, more than 10,000 waterfalls and numerous geothermal fields and lakes. Iceland offers some of the most amazing activities and epic places to visit, some of which are exclusive to Iceland and can’t be found in any other country.
In this post, my fellow travel bloggers and I share the list of the most unique things to do in Iceland to help you plan an unforgettable trip.
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1. Go Snorkelling or Scuba Diving in Silfra Fissure
Recommended by Mansoureh (myself)
Silfra is a fissure filled with glacial meltwater between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, which was formed after a major earthquake in 1789. There is no place like Silfra on planet Earth, where you can swim between continental plates. If this reason is not enough to convince you to jump into the water, you should know that Silfra has the clearest freshwater in the world and the visibility exceeds 100 meters.
The water temperature at Silfra is a constant 2-4°C all year round, which is pretty cold. This is why you need to wear a drysuit to be able to dive or snorkel here. To be able to scuba dive in Silfra you need to be dry suit certified, if you are not, you can take the course in Iceland or go snorkelling instead.
During our trip to Iceland, we couldn’t book the drysuit course because it was fully booked. This is why we went for snorkelling with dive.is and it was an epic experience. Diving and snorkelling in Silfra are getting more popular and it is better to book a few weeks in advance before your trip.
2. Quad Biking on a Volcano
One of the most thrilling activities to do in Iceland is to enjoy an ATV ride. There are plenty of different trails available but one of the best is the 3 to 4 hour "Trip to the Moon". Riding through the Reykjanes peninsula, this quad biking tour will take you past the oldest lighthouse in Iceland through the tectonic plates between the North America and European continents, and onto the black sand beach of Sandvík.
The half-day activity also includes a stop for refreshments, including hot chocolate and homemade Iceland doughnuts (called Kleinur). The tour includes gloves, boots, jumpsuit, and helmet, and if you want to capture the day then Go Pros are available to rent for extra. This tour is located an hour outside of Reykjavik and if needed then transport can be included when booking the tour here.
This activity is available for anyone over 6 years old but all drivers need to have a driving license.
3. Taking a Bath in a Hot River in Reykjadalur
Recommended by Mansoureh (myself)
Reykjadalur Valley in the south of Iceland with its long hot spring river offers one of the most unique river bathing experiences in the world.
There is no entrance fee to the valley nor for taking a bath in the hot springs, but you need to hike 3 kilometres from the car park to reach it. The hike usually takes around an hour, but if you have kids or you are not used to hiking, you might need more time. Some parts of the path are pretty steep and can make the hike a bit difficult.
While hiking you will see a beautiful waterfall, some boiling pools and steam rising from the earth. None of the hot pools on the way are suitable for bathing, their temperature can reach 100°C, so don’t get too close.
The bathing section of the river is signed and has a wood footpath alongside it. There are some wooden partitions, but not proper changing rooms, which means there is not much privacy. So at least bring a big towel which you can cover yourself with while getting changed.
4. Hiking to Kerlingarfjôll
Recommended by Mark and Paul from Anywhere We Roam
Kerlingarfjöll is a remote area in the central highlands and a thoroughly unique thing to do in Iceland. Bubbling blue rivers carve their way around imposing red rhyolite mountains and vibrant green moss clings to a rusty rock.
Yellow scars in the earth pump steam into the air and boiling pots splutter grey mud, tarnishing the rusty earth around them. The whole valley is filled with a mystic vibe and hiking in Kerlingarfjöll is the best way to see it.
There are several different hiking trails in the area, but the best one is a relatively easy 7-kilometre hike from the Kerlingarfjöll Mountain Resort at Ásgarðu. This hike crosses snow-covered mountains and descends a spectacular view of this unique bubbling valley. Allow at least 2.5 hours to complete the hike and spend some time photographing interesting vantage points of this unique phenomena.
The best way to get to Kerlingafjöll is by self-driving over the highlands, however, a 4x4 is required. The easiest route to drive is from Blönduós which will take 2 hours and 45 minutes.
5. See the second most powerful waterfalls in Europe
Recommended by Mansoureh (myself)
Dettifoss Waterfall, located in the north of Iceland, is the second most powerful waterfall in Europe after Rhine Falls in Switzerland.
There are two different roads which take you to the waterfall, one goes to the east side and the other brings you to the west side. On the east side, you can have a better view while being away from the splashing water.
The falls are 100 metres wide and have a drop of 44 metres down into Jokulsargljufur Canyon. You can get close to the waterfall and sit on a rock to experience its power. Here, you can sit and listen to the sound of the waterfall for hours.
By hiking the walking path next to the Dettifoss waterfall for 1.4 km you will reach the Selfoss waterfalls, another natural wonder.
6. Visit Vestmannaeyjar
Recommended by Maartje & Sebastiaan from The Orange Backpack
Vestmannaeyjar is one of the most unique places in Iceland to visit. This off the beaten track island group is the perfect place for bird watching, hiking and exploring the Icelandic nature. The Vestmannaeyjar group of islands – or easier to pronounce: Westman Islands – are in the south of Iceland.
Take the ferry from Landeyjahöfn – close to the stunning Seljalandsfoss waterfall – for a short boat trip to the main island.
The main island is called Heimaey. It’s the only one that’s inhabited and it’s the one you can visit. It’s famous for its enormous colony of puffins from May to August, so that’s also the best time to go. But even without the puffins, Heimaey has plenty to offer.
The islands were formed by volcanic eruptions you can still clearly see that today. Heimaey consists of two volcanoes, the Eldfell and Helgafell. One of the highlights of your trip should be conquering the Eldfell. The views from the top are amazing. It’s hard to imagine this volcano erupted in 1973, covering part of the Heimaey village.
You can visit the islands as a day trip, but I would recommend spending the night to make the most out of your visit.
7. Visit Kerid Volcanic Crater Lake
Recommended by Mansoureh (myself)
Iceland has a long history of volcanic eruptions and it is one of the reasons why it is known as the land of fire and ice.
Visiting one of the volcanic craters is a must-do when you are in Iceland. One of the most famous and beautiful carters is Kerid, which is located in the south. Getting here is very convenient as it is right off the Ring Road and on the main road from the Golden Circle to Selfoss. It is only an hour drive from Reykjavík and a car park is situated right next to the crater. If you are on a self-drive tour, you need to pay only a 400 ISK fee (2 Euros, 3 Dollars) to walk to the crater lake. This small amount will be used for the maintenance of the crater and the parking lot.
The walk to the lake is pretty easy and enjoyable since you have an amazing view of the lake. The depth of the lake is something between 7 and 14 meters depending on the season. Some interesting facts about Kerid Lake: it is only 3000 years old and the lake can be frozen during the winter.
8.Kayaking on the glacier lagoon
Recommended by Mansoureh (myself)
The Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, located on the south coast of Iceland, is considered as one of the Icelandic natural wonders. It is also one of the most popular destinations in the country as it is on the famous Ring Road.
During the Little Ice Age, this place was covered with ice, but after the industrial revolution, the glaciers began melting and this lagoon gradually formed.
Visiting the lagoon is a must-do and already an unforgettable experience, but you can also go the extra mile and make your experience more fun and exciting by taking a kayaking tour or a boat trip on the lagoon. This way, you can get closer to the floating icebergs or even the glacier walls. While on the lagoon, you might see seals swimming around and through the icebergs or you might even catch them hunting for fish on camera.
9. Explore an Ice Cave
Recommended by Michelle from The Wandering Queen
One of the most unique and fun things to do in Iceland is to visit an Ice Cave! The bright blue colours make it an extraordinary place to experience.
You can only see the ice caves in the winter because they become unpredictable and dangerous in the summertime. It is also required to visit the Ice Caves with a professional tour guide and the tour can be around three hours long.
Every year the ice caves melt and reform, so you have a chance to see a completely different formation then last year. The colourful blue caves are such a beautiful and fantastic place to visit.
The best area to see the Ice Caves is Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. You can rent a car and drive to this area for a tour. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a picturesque place, so make sure to account for time to explore and eat some yummy lobster rolls from the Heimahumar "Local Langoustine" Food Truck.
10. Visit the Arctic Henge
Recommended by Suzanne from Meandering Wild
The Arctic Henge is a unique structure in the far northeast of Iceland just outside the village of Raufarhöfn. This is one of the northernmost villages in Iceland and one of the most remote ones and just a short distance from the Arctic Circle. You can stay at Raufarhöfn, which is 130km from Húsavík and the roads are good for most of the journey.
The Henge is a huge structure made up of a number of triangular archways and is still being constructed. In a similar way to many ancient structures, it is aligned to the sun to capture the rays at certain times of the year and cast shadows in specific places.
It has a 50-metre diameter and the 6 metre high main gates face the four main points of the compass with a central pillar reaching 10 metres into the sky with four pillars. This will eventually be topped with a glass prism that will split the light into primary colours. In its current stage of construction, it is spectacular when it is seen with the northern lights above in the sky.
11. Hiking in colourful mountains of Landmannalaugar
The colourful mountains of Landmannalaugar in the highlands of Iceland create a surreal setting and a unique hiking experience. Located 3 hours east of Reykjavik in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve this area is known for its dramatic colours. The rhyolite mountains, formed by mineral deposits, appear red, pink, green, yellow and blue.
Scenic hiking trails wind their way around the mountains and lava fields. The routes vary from easy to challenging, from short day hikes to overnight treks - and they're all equally stunning. A geothermal pool located near the visitor centre provides relaxation after a day of hiking.
If you plan to stay overnight in Landmannalaugar, you can pitch a tent in the campground or reserve a room in the Landmannalaugar hut, operated by the Iceland Touring Association. Be sure to bring plenty of food and water since they only sell a handful of items on-site.
Driving to Landmannalaugar requires a bit of caution. Gravel mountain roads (called F roads) and river crossings mean you’ll need a 4x4 vehicle to make the trip. Or you can always take a bus ride or a jeep tour, too.
Summer is the best time to visit Landmannalaugar since the F roads are closed to the public during the winter months. While it may take a little work to get to Landmannalaugar, the unique colour-saturated landscape makes it definitely worth the trip.
12. Experience the midnight sun
Recommended by Melissa from Parenthood and Passports
There aren’t many places in the world where you can experience daylight in the middle of the night, but if visiting Iceland in summer, you will witness the natural phenomenon known as the midnight sun.
In the peak of summer, during the months of June and July, the sun doesn't set in Iceland. Even as early as May and as late as August, sunlight is visible even at midnight.
This is because Iceland is north of the Arctic Circle. There are only eight countries that are partially located in the Arctic Circle. Because the sun is still visible during summer, you can explore Iceland's natural beauty at any hour of the day or night. Additionally, many attractions, like the Blue Lagoon, are open very late. So, if you don't mind staying up late, Iceland is one of the only places in the world where you'll be able to sightsee at midnight, and possibly need sunglasses to do so.
13. Swimming in Myvatn geothermal baths
Recommended by Tegan & Alex from Why Not Walk
A lot of people have heard of Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, but did you know that Iceland has dozens of other geothermal pools and hot springs to explore?
As you're driving along the Ring Road in the north of Iceland, set aside some time to stop for a cosy, cottage-style geothermal experience surrounded by breathtaking mountain peaks at Myvatn Nature Baths, or Jarðböðin við Mývatn!
This place has to be seen to be believed. The baths are located in a gorgeous nature reserve in the town of Myvatn and surrounded by the eerie Icelandic landscape. When you get there, you pay the entrance fee (tip: they have student discounts!) and go to the locker room to change. You can also book online.
You should know that in order to enter these baths (and most of the baths in Iceland), you must strip totally naked in the locker room and rinse off, and then change into your swimsuit and proceed outside.
If you visit in winter, it is definitely an experience to remember to run barefoot through the snow to get to the pools, but at least you’re jumping right into steaming water! You can spend as much time as you’d like there, but we’d recommend setting aside at least an hour or two. One last tip is to bring your own towel so that you don’t have to pay to rent one.
14. Ice Climbing
Recommended by Lauren from Always Find Adventure
Explore new heights and become really adventurous by ice-pick climbing a glacier (ice climbing for short). One of the most popular glaciers for ice climbing is Sólheimajökull, the 4th largest in Iceland.
This activity requires some physical strength. First, you hike to the location with crampons (a metal plate with spikes that attach to your shoes to help you walk across slippery surfaces).
Next, your guide sets you up on the harness (safety first) and shows you how to scale the side of a glacier with your crampons and ice axes. If you're lucky, you'll be able to hike, ice-pick climb and explore an ice cave all in the same day.
You can book online through one of many tour offerings, and the trip is usually half a day. The tour company usually provides all the equipment you need and will train you, as well as be there to support and guide you through the activity.
A word of advice, bring hand warmers, clothing, and snacks. Your feet get very cold from your shoes being attached to metal all day, and the activity burns a ton of calories so you'll be really hungry afterwards.
15. Secret Solstice Music Festival
Recommended by Lora from Explore with Lora
Iceland is home to many unique things to do but one to put on your list if you're visiting Iceland in June is the Secret Solstice Music Festival.
Every year around the summer solstice (June 21st) Iceland celebrates with a 3-day music festival that takes place in the capital city of Reykjavik. It features artists from all over the world including many local artists.
Secret Solstice is one of the most unique music festivals I've ever attended. Iceland has almost 24 hours of daylight during this time, so you will be dancing all night under the midnight sun. What's nice about it is that unlike most music festivals in Europe during the summer, you don't have to worry about getting too hot. The weather is cool in Iceland even during the summer so you can dance up a storm without sweating!
Secret Solstice music festival takes place in Reykjavik every June around the summer solstice (June 21st). You can buy tickets and find more information out here.
16. Snowmobiling on Langjökull Glacier
Recommended by Amanda from Fly Stay Luxe
Snowmobiling on Iceland’s second-largest glacier (Langjökull) is not only one of the most unique things to do in Iceland but also one of the most action-packed adventures!
There are so many things to do in Iceland during winter, but snowmobiling on a glacier should be top of every adrenaline-seekers Iceland Bucket List! And thanks to the abundance of glaciers and snow in Iceland, it’s actually possible to experience the thrill of gliding along an endless sea of snow at 100km/hr all year round.
To experience this activity, you’ll have to pre-book with a licensed tour operator. There are plenty that operates out of Reykjavík and the tour generally includes bus transfers to/from your hotel. Allow a full day for this activity and be sure to take something to keep you occupied on the bus, as the drive to the glacier is at least 3 hours. Most tours also stop at the stunning Gullfoss waterfall along the way.
After a few hours’ drive along the main Golden Circle route and then onto a snow-covered off-road track, you’ll find yourself on an enormous sea of snow with a few ‘“island” mountains rising up in the distance.
The tour includes a few hours driving along a set route and if you’re lucky, you might be able to see inside a glacial ice cave! Don’t count of the weather being perfect though - it’s notoriously fickle in Iceland. But if you are blessed with a clear day, it’ll make this the best experience of your entire trip!
17. Take Photos with the DC-3 Plane Wreck
Recommended by Mansoureh (myself)
One of the most unique attractions in Iceland is an American plane wreck which lies on the remote black sand beach of Sólheimasandur.
The cause of the crash is somewhat unclear, but what is clear is that the crash took place on November 1973 and all five crew members survived.
You have probably seen the photos of this wreck before as it has been featured in many travel photos, several TV commercials, a Bollywood movie and various music videos.
Vik is the closest town to the plane, just a 20 minutes drive away. If you don’t have a car you can book the South Coast tour from Reykjavik.
You need to walk around 4 kilometres from the car park to get to the plane wreck. The walk is quite long and can be boring since the path is flat and deserted, and you won’t see the plane until the very last part of this walk, but the site is both beautiful and special.
18. Walk behind the Kvernufoss waterfall
Recommended By Brianna of Curious Travel Bug
Kvernufoss is one of Iceland’s prettiest waterfalls with a bonus, that you can walk behind. Located not far from the very-popular Skogafoss, Kvernufoss is hidden from view, so many visitors to this part of Iceland aren’t even aware that it exists.
To visit Kvernufoss, you have to take a trail that starts behind the Skogafoss Museum and that goes alongside a river. It is located on private property so make sure to stay on the trail and be extra respectful so that access isn’t restricted in the future.
It’s only about 20 minutes of walking each way so you will need an hour to visit this waterfall. The walk is easy in good weather but some sections are a bit steep and would be slippery if there was snow or rain. The short walk gives you a great view of this 40 m tall waterfall.
One of the best things about it is that because it’s off the beaten path, there’s a good chance you will have this waterfall to yourself. You can walk behind this waterfall also to get a view out towards the valley and ocean. It's super misty behind Kvernufoss so be prepared to get wet!
19. Glacier Hiking
Recommended by Constance from The Adventures of Panda Bear
Iceland’s adventurous nature and vast remoteness lend to some of the most unique things to do. One of the coolest things to do in Iceland is to go glacier hiking. There are a few glacier hiking spots in Iceland, including Sólheimajökull and Svínafellsjökull.
Glacier hiking can be a dangerous activity without a guide and people have definitely gone missing, disappearing through the cracks, never to be seen again until global warming melts the glaciers and their bodies reappear. We took the glacier hiking tour with Extreme Iceland, one of the top tour companies in Iceland.
The hike itself takes a couple of hours. Your guide will help you suit up in your helmet, crampons, and pickaxe and then take you up the tongue of the glacier. Along the way, you’ll learn to use the crampons, climb over giant cracks in the glacier, and even see streams full of glacial water flowing underneath your feet. Glacier hiking is truly a unique experience and definitely worth the time and money.
20. Get Up Close with an Icelandic Horse
Recommended by James from Team Aj Travels
With the majority of Iceland being very regional you can turn off the main roads and find yourself in large paddocks that often do not have fences around them. You will see many of your typical farm animals scattered around these paddocks - all with slightly thicker coat than you may see elsewhere - but there is one, in particular, that takes on a very unique Icelandic form.
The Icelandic horse is a unique breed that is short and stocky with a mane that is longer and thicker than your average horse. Or at least it appears that way due to their limited height.
They are placid animals that are not shy at all. You can walk up to most and they will not budge. We came across this little fella on the south coast of Iceland when driving down a series of dirt roads looking for the Haukafell Campground.
As we pulled up alongside him in a van he didn’t budge. He just stared at us… Then the next morning when we were leaving he was in virtually the same spot as we waved goodbye.
21. Visit Dyrholaey Lighthouse
Recommended by Mark from Wyld Family Travel
Dyrholaey Lighthouse sits on a popular outlook in southern Iceland near the village of Vik. Breathtaking views are afforded in all directions. Gazing to the north you will see the big glacier Mýrdalsjökull, while to the east there is Reynisdrangar.
Reynisdranger features the amazing black lava formations that rise out of the Atlantic ocean. It was a total WOW moment. On a good day, you can see all the way to Selfoss. Black sand and sunlight made this spot look magical.
A visit to Dyrholaey lighthouse is all about the views afforded of the amazing Icelandic coastline. Dyrholaey is best visited as part of a trip from Reykjavik down the south coast to the popular Reynisfjara beach and beyond.
Dyrholaey is 180 kilometres from Reykjavik on National Route 1, be prepared for the drive to take you well over two and a half hours.
22. Visit the Picturesque Town of Seydisfjordur
Recommended by Paula from Paula Pins the Planet
During my 10-days self-drive in Iceland, I got the chance to visit some very unique places and the most picturesque town in Iceland is Seydisfjordur, located in East Iceland at the inner corner of a fjord of the same name, only a 30-minutes drive from the Ring Road. The driving to get there is scenic, and the town is very remote, especially when you take into account that the road ends there.
This former fishing village has around 668 people and just recently has become popular amongst tourists who visit the town to enjoy the stunning nature and peaceful atmosphere.
Seydisfjordur is surrounded by incredible nature, including mountains, waterfalls, and beautiful sea views. It is a unique town with multi-coloured wooden buildings, and it has a very vibrant culture, considered Iceland’s cultural centre. Another thing you can not miss in Seydisfjordur is the iconic Blue Church. The town is really small, so you do not have to worry you would miss it.
The tranquil town of Seydisfjordur has a relaxed atmosphere and offers a range of cultural and outdoor activities with unique dining experiences.
23. Explore Reykjavik’s Modern Architecture
Recommended by Kenny from Knycx Journeying
Iceland is known for its extra-terrestrial landscape, ranging from volcanoes, geysers, lagoons, glaciers, fjords, lava fields to many waterfalls around the island. While most tourists generally explore the outskirt of the cities, taking in the stunning sceneries of nature, they have to enter the country via Reykjavik – the capital city of Iceland. Why don’t take the opportunity to have a self-designed walking tour and discover modern architecture?
Reykjavik is one of the least populated capital cities in Europe, yet it is highly developed with world-class infrastructure and facilities. The Harpa concert hall, for example, is an eye-catching showpiece at the waterfront of the city that is home to the Icelandic symphony orchestra and opera.
The Supreme Court is a short walk away from Harpa. Made predominantly from basalt stones and green copper, its design has set new rules for buildings of it's kind. The Ásmundarsafn Museum is about three kilometres away from the city centre and it is a unique space designed by modern art sculptor Ásmundur Sveinsson, the museum features a number of Sveinsson’s sculptures in an elegant garden.
Finish the day at Hallgrimskirkja, one of the most recognizable architectures in Europe is a must-see cathedral. Some think the cathedral shaped like a rocket, but it was designed as a resemblance of the trap-rocks, mountains, and glaciers of Iceland’s landscape. Climb up the 74.5-meter high tower as it offers a panoramic view of Reykjavik’s cityscape with colourful houses to the ocean beyond.