The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your First Trip to Iceland

Seydisfjordur, Iceland

Iceland, often referred to as the land of fire and ice, offers a stunning array of natural wonders spanning from volcanoes to glaciers, making it a unique destination for travelers seeking both adventure and tranquility. This comprehensive guide aims to answer frequently asked questions about Iceland, from its geographical location and cultural aspects to practical travel advice. Whether you're curious about the time zone, official language, population size, or the best places to stay and things to do, we've got you covered.

Looking for something specific? Jump to a section using the links below.

Iceland F.A.Q.

How to get to Iceland

What to expect of the weather in Iceland

Where to stay in Iceland

What to do in Iceland

What to pack for Iceland

Checkout our other Iceland travel guides and Youtube travel vlogs!

Fjaðrárgljúfur, Iceland on a rainy day
Fjaðrárgljúfur, Iceland

Iceland F.A.Q.

Where is Iceland?

Iceland is a Nordic island country situated in the North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of mainland Europe. It's known for its dramatic landscapes, including volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, and lava fields.

Is Iceland its own country?

Yes, Iceland is an independent republic and its own sovereign state.

Is Iceland a part of Europe?

Yes, geographically, Iceland is considered part of Europe.

Is Iceland a part of the EU?

No, Iceland is not a member of the European Union (EU), but it is a part of the European Economic Area (EEA) and a member of the Shengen Area since 2001.

What is the capital of Iceland?

Reykjavik, located in the southwest, is the capital and largest city, serving as a hub for most travellers to the country.

What time is it in Iceland?

Currently the time in Iceland is:

What time zone is Iceland located in?

Iceland is located in the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) zone throughout the year, without observing daylight saving time. This means that Iceland is always 0 hours ahead of London during the UK's daylight saving time (BST), and 1 hour behind London during the rest of the year. Compared to New York, Iceland is generally 5 hours ahead, and with respect to Los Angeles, it is 8 hours ahead, recognizing the time differences adjust slightly with daylight saving time observed in the United States.

What language is spoken in Iceland?

The official language of Iceland is Icelandic, a North Germanic language derived from Old Norse. It has changed little over the centuries, and Icelanders take great pride in their linguistic heritage. English is also widely spoken, especially within the tourism industry, and many Icelanders speak additional languages, including Danish, due to their educational system.

In our experience, nearly everyone spoke perfect English with the small exception of some of the older folks in the more rural areas. That being said, it's always polite to try and learn to say hello, please, and thank you in the local language.

How big is Iceland?

Iceland has a total area of about 103,000 square kilometers, making it the 18th largest island in the world. To put this in perspective for those familiar with the United States, Iceland is slightly larger than the state of Kentucky, which covers an area of approximately 104,656 square kilometers, but smaller than the state of Ohio. This comparison highlights Iceland's considerable size, especially considering its population and geographic location in the North Atlantic.

How many people live in Iceland?

As of the latest estimates, Iceland has a population of around 366,000 people. Despite its large landmass, this makes it one of the least densely populated countries in Europe, with most of the population residing in or around the capital city of Reykjavik.

What is Iceland most famous for?

Iceland is most famous for its stunning natural wonders, including the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis), natural geothermal pools, massive glaciers, active volcanoes, and breathtaking waterfalls. It's also renowned for its vibrant capital city, Reykjavik, which is known for its rich Viking history, colorful houses, and the Hallgrímskirkja church. The country's unique landscapes and geological features make it a popular location for outdoor activities, such as hiking, whale watching, and ice cave exploring, drawing adventurers and nature lovers from around the globe.

Is Iceland safe?

Yes, Iceland is known to be one of the safest countries in the world. It is regularly ranked at the top in global safety indices, thanks to its low crime rate, stable political situation, and strong sense of community and trust among its residents. For solo travelers, female travelers, or indeed anyone concerned about safety while exploring new destinations, Iceland represents an ideal location. The country’s commitment to safety, combined with its friendly locals and the ease of getting around, makes it a worry-free destination for all kinds of adventurers.

Does Iceland have a digital nomad visa?

Yes, Iceland does offer a digital nomad visa. However, unlike many countries that offer a digital nomad visa for a year or longer, Iceland's digital nomad visa is only good for up to 180 days.

What is the currency in Iceland?

The currency in Iceland is the Icelandic króna (ISK). It's the only currency used for all transactions within the country. Given its unique financial system, visitors are encouraged to exchange their home currency to ISK or use credit and debit cards, which are widely accepted throughout Iceland.

Is the water in Iceland safe to drink?

Yes, the water in Iceland is among the cleanest and safest in the world to drink. The tap water comes directly from natural springs and is both pure and highly refreshing. Visitors are encouraged to bring a refillable water bottle to not only enjoy Iceland's pristine water but also help reduce plastic waste. Bottled water is unnecessary in Iceland, as tap water meets and often exceeds the quality of commercial bottled water.

What electrical outlets do they have in Iceland?

In Iceland, the standard voltage is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. The power sockets that are used are of type F, which is the same type used in many European countries. This means that travelers from Europe will generally not need an adapter, but those from North America, the UK, and other regions will require a plug adapter to use their electronic devices in Iceland.

What is the cell phone and wi-fi coverage like in Iceland?

Cell phone and Wi-Fi coverage in Iceland is extensive, especially in urban areas and along the main routes around the country. Most towns and villages have reliable cell phone service and public Wi-Fi availability, including many remote locations. Tourists can easily purchase local SIM cards for broader coverage. However, in some of the more isolated areas in the highlands, coverage may be limited. Overall, staying connected in Iceland is generally convenient for both residents and visitors.

We use Google Fi and had excellent coverage along the main roads and in towns the entire trip. If you travel a lot, we highly recommend looking into Google Fi!

Girl in yellow rain jacket at basalt columns at the black sand beach, Iceland
Basalt columns at the black sand beach, Iceland

How to get to Iceland

Getting to Iceland is a straightforward affair for travelers from around the globe, thanks primarily to Keflavík International Airport (KEF), located about 50 kilometers southwest of Reykjavik. This airport stands as Iceland's largest and primary international gateway, welcoming flights from over 20 major airlines inclucing Delta, British Airways, Icelandair, and Lufthansa. These airlines collectively offer routes connecting Iceland to numerous cities across Europe, North America, and beyond. However, it's important for travelers to note that some of these routes are seasonal, with airlines adjusting their schedules typically during the summer or winter months to match demand and weather conditions.

DID YOU KNOW? Icelandair offers free stopovers in Iceland for up to seven days! This means if you purchase a ticket on Iceland air from one destination to another that you can add a stop in Iceland for up to seven days without an additional charge.

What to expect of the weather in Iceland

The weather in Iceland is as varied as its landscapes, with each season offering a distinct experience.

  • Winter (December to February) is characterized by short days and limited daylight, with only about 4-5 hours of sunlight around the winter solstice. Despite the darkness, this season provides the unique opportunity to witness the magical Northern Lights, while temperatures hover around 0°C (32°F), sometimes dropping lower.
  • Spring (March to May) marks a period of transition, with the country slowly awakening from its winter slumber. Daylight begins to increase dramatically, offering around 13-20 hours of light by late May. Temperatures are cool, ranging from 0°C to 10°C (32°F to 50°F), and the landscape starts to bloom with vibrant colors.
  • Summer (June to August) is the season of the midnight sun, with almost 24 hours of daylight in June, particularly in the north, allowing for long days of exploration and adventure. Average temperatures are mild, usually between 10°C and 15°C (50°F to 59°F), but can occasionally reach up to 20°C (68°F). It's the ideal time for hiking and experiencing Iceland's lush wildlife.
  • Autumn (September to November) sees diminishing daylight hours, with around 11-13 hours of light in September, reducing to about 5-6 by November. Temperatures start to cool down, ranging from 0°C to 10°C (32°F to 50°F), and the landscape turns a beautiful golden-brown, offering stunning photographic opportunities.

In Iceland, the dramatic variation in daylight throughout the year greatly influences your travel experience, adding a unique aspect to the adventure — whether it's the endless day of summer or the dark, mystical winters.

Girl in yellow rain jacket walking on black sand in Iceland
Be sure to bring a rain coat to Iceland!
Girl with blue umbrella on a rainy day in Iceland
Umbrellas are also handy in Iceland, especially if you're planning to carry around a camera and want to keep it dry!

Where to stay in Iceland

Iceland offers a wide range of accommodation options, ensuring travelers can find a wonderful place to stay regardless of which region or parts of the country they plan to explore. From luxurious hotels in Reykjavik to quaint guesthouses in the countryside, there’s something to meet everyone’s needs and preferences. However, it's important to note that the more remote locations, while offering breathtaking views and a chance to escape the hustle and bustle, generally provide fewer options. These accommodations tend to lean towards the basic side, offering a more rustic experience compared to the luxury found in more populous areas.

Keep in mind that camping is widely available all over the island but the hotels and Airbnb options are the ones that tend to be a bit more limited. We enjoyed a week of mostly camping when we were driving Iceland's famous Ring Road and then spent another week between Reykjavik and southern Iceland where we stayed in a variety of hotels.


Iceland boasts a wide variety of hotels catering to every type of traveler, from luxury seekers to budget-conscious adventurers. In the heart of Reykjavik, you'll find a range of accommodations from high-end hotels offering panoramic views of the city and the surrounding landscapes, to cozy, boutique hotels that provide a more intimate experience with unique Icelandic design and hospitality. Outside of the capital, hotels and lodges are strategically placed near some of Iceland's most breathtaking natural wonders, allowing guests to wake up to views of glaciers, mountains, or the ocean. For those venturing into the more remote areas, there are comfortable accommodations that focus on sustainability and give visitors a closer connection to nature.

Whether it's a spa hotel equipped with its own geothermal pools or a simple, comfortable room that serves as a base for outdoor adventures, Iceland's hotels are designed to enhance your experience of this unique country. The thing that most stood out to me about Iceland's hotels is the level of cleanliness of each accommodation that we stayed at. From budget accommodations to luxury, every single hotel we booked was impeccably clean.

The Reykjavík Edition

The Reykjavík Edition stands as a beacon of modern luxury and design in the heart of Iceland's capital. This hotel masterfully combines the unique Icelandic cultural heritage with contemporary elegance, featuring meticulously designed rooms that offer stunning views of the city or the sea. Guests can indulge in world-class dining, experience the vibrant nightlife of Reykjavík without leaving the hotel, or simply relax in the stylish comfort that The Reykjavík Edition provides, making it an unforgettable part of any Icelandic adventure.

Address: Austurbakki 2, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland | Google Maps


The Retreat Hotel at Blue Lagoon

The Retreat Hotel at Blue Lagoon is not just a hotel; it's a sanctuary for the soul nestled amidst one of Iceland's most iconic natural wonders. This luxurious escape offers guests the unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the rejuvenating waters of the Blue Lagoon, with exclusive, direct access to its mineral-rich warmth. From the modern, minimalist design of its rooms that harmonize with the natural landscape, to the unparalleled spa treatments available, a stay at The Retreat Hotel is an epitome of relaxation and indulgence in Iceland's otherworldly beauty.

Address: Norðurljósavegur, 241, Iceland | Google Maps


Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon

Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon is an exceptional hotel that serves as a perfect base for exploring the South of Iceland, including the nearby Vatnajökull Glacier. Its location makes it an ideal stop for those seeking adventure amidst Iceland's stunning natural landscapes. The hotel offers modern, Nordic-designed rooms with awe-inspiring views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers. Guests can enjoy a range of amenities including a restaurant that serves local Icelandic cuisine, a cozy bar, and a lounge area perfect for relaxing after a day of exploration. Whether you're here to visit the National Park, take a glacier hike, or simply to unwind in the tranquil setting, Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon provides a memorable stay in one of Iceland’s most picturesque locations.

Address: Hnappavellir, 785 Öræfi, Iceland | Google Maps


Eleven Deplar Farm

Deplar Farm is one of the number one hotels I want to stay at in the world! Nestled in the remote Fljot Valley on the Troll Peninsula, Deplar Farm is a luxury adventure retreat far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life. This converted sheep farm, now an exclusive lodge, sits amidst stunning Icelandic wilderness, offering an extraordinary blend of comfort, elegance, and outdoor activities. With amenities like a geothermal heated outdoor pool, a state-of-the-art spa, and custom-tailored adventures ranging from heli-skiing in winter to salmon fishing in summer, Deplar Farm provides a unique Icelandic experience. Its isolated location ensures not just tranquility and peace, but also a night sky free from light pollution, perfect for viewing the Northern Lights during the right season.

Address: 570 Fljót, Iceland | Google Maps


ION Adventure Hotel

The ION Adventure Hotel is a marvel for those seeking a blend of luxury and adventure in Iceland's rugged landscape. Perched on the edge of the Icelandic highlands, it offers guests unparalleled views of the northern lights and the surrounding pristine wilderness. This sustainable hotel is known for its modern Nordic design, eco-friendly practices, and access to outdoor activities like hiking, hot springs, and horseback riding, making it an ideal retreat for nature enthusiasts and eco-conscious travelers alike.

Address: 805, Iceland | Google Maps


Hotel Egilsen

Hotel Egilsen is a charming boutique hotel located in the heart of Stykkishólmur, a picturesque fishing town on Iceland's Snæfellsnes Peninsula. This cozy hotel encapsulates the essence of Icelandic hospitality, blending traditional and modern elements to create a warm, inviting atmosphere. With a focus on comfort and personalized service, Hotel Egilsen is perfect for those seeking a more intimate experience of Iceland. Each room is tastefully decorated, reflecting the natural beauty of the surrounding area, and guests are treated to locally sourced breakfasts, offering a true taste of Icelandic cuisine.

Address: Aðalgata 2, 340 Stykkishólmur, Iceland | Google Maps



Camping in Iceland is an exceptionally accessible and convenient option for those looking to immerse themselves in the island's natural beauty. With an extensive network of campgrounds spread across the country, finding a spot to set up tent is typically straightforward, and most campgrounds don’t require a reservation, allowing for a high degree of spontaneity in your travel plans. This ease of access makes camping a popular choice among both solo travelers and families. For individuals seeking a blend of flexibility and comfort, renting a campervan or RV emerges as an appealing alternative. This option not only provides a cozy bed and cooking facilities but also the freedom to explore Iceland’s stunning landscapes at your own pace, ensuring a memorable and comfortable adventure in the great outdoors.

Checkout our complete travel guide to camping in Iceland which includes where to stay, what to expect, what to pack, and more!

Unique accommodations (VRBO)

Booking a unique accommodation through VRBO in Iceland invites travelers to a novel experience, allowing them to stay in locations that are as distinctive and memorable as the island itself. From quaint cottages nestled in the heart of the Icelandic countryside to modern apartments offering stunning views of the Northern Lights, VRBO provides an array of options that go beyond the conventional hotel stay. These accommodations often feature unique Icelandic architecture and design, immersing guests in the culture and natural beauty of the country. Opting for a VRBO rental can also provide a more personalized and intimate experience, giving travelers the chance to live like a local and explore less tourist-trodden paths. This unique blend of comfort, authenticity, and adventure makes choosing VRBO a perfect way to enhance your Icelandic adventure.

Cabin with Hot Tub, Projector, Fireplace, and Magical Surroundings

This cabin comfortably sleeps up to six people across three bedrooms and one bathroom. The cabin is also equipped with a full kitchen and a washer which is perfect for long term travelers who want to pack less and cook for themselves.


Modern Apartment in the Heart of Reykjavík

You can't visit Iceland without a visit to the country's capital city, Reykjavík. This newly renovated one bedroom, one bathroom apartment is just 10 minutes from the city center and features a clean and comfortable modern design with amenities to make your time in Reykjavík comfortable and easy.


Modern Design Cottage in West Iceland

This cottage located in western Iceland is a destination in and of itself. Design lovers will instantly be attracted to its unique interior and exterior design that inspires without distracting from the real centerpiece: the Iceland landscape right outside the window. This two bedroom, one bathroom home features a sauna, full kitchen, washer and dryer, mountain views, and lots of privacy for a truly relaxing vacation in one of Europe's most beautiful places.


What to do in Iceland

Iceland is full of incredible things to do. Honestly, you could spend a lifetime here and still feel like there is more to explore! Iceland is the perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure lovers since most of what we'd recommend doing is in the great outdoors.

Explore the vibrant streets of Reykjavík

Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland, is a city brimming with cultural and natural attractions that cater to a wide range of interests. From its vibrant street art and bustling markets to the serene beauty of its coastline, Reykjavík offers visitors an eclectic mix of activities. One of the city’s most iconic landmarks is the Hallgrímskirkja church, whose towering presence and unique architectural design make it a must-visit. Besides its remarkable churches, the city is home to museums showcasing Iceland’s rich Viking history and contemporary art scenes. Additionally, Reykjavík’s compact size makes it perfect for exploring on foot, allowing visitors to absorb the charming atmosphere, and sample traditional Icelandic cuisine at the local restaurants. Whether you're immersing yourself in the city's vibrant culture or using it as a base to explore nearby natural wonders, Reykjavík promises a memorable experience.

Reykjavik viewed across the water in Iceland
Reykjavik viewed across the water in Iceland
Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik, Iceland

Experience the wonder of the Northern Lights

One of the most awe-inspiring natural phenomena that Iceland has to offer is the dazzling display of the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis. This celestial spectacle lights up the night sky with vibrant hues of green, purple, and pink, creating a mesmerizing dance of colors. The best time to witness this natural wonder is during the colder months, from September to April, when the nights are darkest. Various tours are available that take visitors to the best viewing spots, away from city lights, providing an unforgettable experience. Witnessing the Northern Lights in the tranquility of Iceland’s stunning landscapes is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Note: Many hotels in Iceland offer a northern lights wake up call. Check with your hotel to see if this is a service they offer and if they do, they'll give you a call in the middle of the night if northern lights are spotted.

Northern lights in Iceland
Northern lights in Iceland

Relax in geothermally heated waters

Iceland's unique geography offers the luxury of unwinding in geothermally heated waters amidst breathtaking landscapes. Among these, Sky Lagoon presents a serene escape with its infinity-edge design blending into the Atlantic horizon, offering a panoramic vista of the sky and sea. Meanwhile, the Secret Lagoon, nestled in the quaint village of Flúðir, provides a more secluded and authentically Icelandic experience, its tranquil waters surrounded by natural beauty. The iconic Blue Lagoon is perhaps the most famous, attracting visitors from around the world with its milky-blue waters rich in minerals, known for their skin-healing properties. Last but not least, the Forest Lagoon, a newer addition, invites guests to immerse themselves in warm waters while being enveloped by the serene Icelandic woodland, embodying a harmonious blend of relaxation and nature. Each of these lagoons offers a unique way to experience the natural wonders of Iceland, making them a must-visit for anyone seeking tranquility and rejuvenation.

Checkout our entire travel guide to Iceland's Sky Lagoon here!

Girl at Sky Lagoon, Iceland
Sky Lagoon, Iceland
Sauna at Sky Lagoon, Iceland
Sauna at Sky Lagoon, Iceland
Girl soaking in infinity pool at Sky Lagoon, Iceland
Sara soaking in the infinity pool at Sky Lagoon

Take a road trip along the Ring Road

Taking a road trip along Iceland's iconic Ring Road, known as Route 1, is an epic adventure that showcases the country's diverse and breathtaking landscapes. This 1,332-kilometer (828-mile) circular route circumnavigates the island, offering travelers the chance to experience its majestic glaciers, towering volcanoes, cascading waterfalls, and picturesque coastal villages. The road is well-maintained and presents an ideal way for visitors to explore Iceland at their own pace, providing flexibility to stop and marvel at the natural wonders or immerse themselves in the local culture found in the towns along the way. A road trip on the Ring Road is undeniably the best way to capture the essence of Iceland's incomparable beauty and adventurous spirit, just be sure to allow for plenty of time to drive the route and check the weather in advance. We do not recommend driving this route in the winter due to Iceland's crazy weather conditions!

Mountain views seen from the Ring Road, Iceland
Mountain views seen from the Ring Road
Ring Road, Iceland
Ring Road, Iceland

Hike to the top of a glacier in Vatnajökull National Park

Vatnajökull National Park, a realm of unparalleled natural grandeur, offers adventurous visitors the extraordinary opportunity to hike atop one of its most majestic features, a glacier. Within this park, the area of Skaftafell stands out as a gateway to some of the most awe-inspiring glacier hikes available. These guided tours allow intrepid explorers to traverse ancient ice while basking in the breathtaking views of crevasses, ice formations, and the surrounding landscapes that are so unique to this part of the world. Hiking in Skaftafell offers not just a chance to experience the raw power of nature up close but also provides a palpable sense of the dynamic forces that shape our planet.

Chris standing in front of a glacier in Iceland
Chris standing in front of a glacier in Iceland

Visit the black sand beach of Reynisfjara near Vík

The black sand beach of Reynisfjara, near Vík, is renowned for its dramatic beauty and unique landscapes, featuring towering basalt columns and the roaring Atlantic waves. However, visitors should be acutely aware of the dangerous and potentially deadly waters that characterize this shoreline. The beach is notorious for its powerful "sneaker waves" - unexpectedly large waves that can quickly pull unaware individuals into the turbulent and frigid ocean. Due to these hazardous conditions, it is imperative that visitors never attempt to enter the water or even get too close to the tide. Safety warnings and guidelines are posted around the area to remind tourists to maintain a safe distance, ensuring that their experience at Reynisfjara remains a memorable and safe one.

Sara walking on black sand beach in Iceland near Vík
Sara walking on black sand beach in Iceland near Vík

Go whale watching

Whale watching in Iceland offers an unparalleled opportunity to witness these majestic creatures in their natural habitat. The waters surrounding the island serve as a feeding ground for a variety of whale species, including the humpback whale, minke whale, and sometimes even the elusive blue whale. The best time to go whale watching is during the summer months, from April to September, when the sea is calmer and the whales are more abundant. Tours depart from multiple locations, including Reykjavík and Húsavík, known as the whale watching capital of Iceland. Embarking on a whale watching adventure provides not just the thrill of seeing these magnificent animals up close but also highlights the importance of marine conservation efforts.

Delve into viking history at the National Museum of Iceland

The National Museum of Iceland offers a fascinating exploration into the rich and storied past of this island nation, with a particular focus on its Viking heritage. The museum houses an extensive collection of artifacts that span the history of Iceland, from its early settlement by Norsemen in the 9th century to the modern era. Highlights include meticulously crafted Viking weapons and tools, exquisite jewelry, and ruins that hold the mysteries of ancient Icelandic sagas. Visiting the museum provides a comprehensive overview of Icelandic history, culture, and the profound impact of Viking legacy on its societal development. It's an essential stop for anyone looking to immerse themselves in the depths of Iceland's historical and cultural identity.

Witness the raw power of Iceland's waterfalls

Iceland is home to an astonishing number of waterfalls, with over 10,000 cascades found throughout the country. These natural wonders vary from towering falls hundreds of meters high to smaller, more intimate cascades nestled in serene landscapes. Among the most iconic is Gullfoss ("Golden Falls"), part of the famous Golden Circle route, which enchants visitors with its immense power and beauty. Seljalandsfoss, another renowned waterfall, offers a unique experience by allowing visitors to walk behind its cascading waters for a different perspective. Then there's Skógafoss, known for its wide curtain of water and the rainbow that often appears on sunny days. Each waterfall in Iceland holds its own charm, making them a must-see for nature lovers and photographers alike.

Checkout our entire travel guide to our three favorite waterfalls in Iceland here!

Svartifoss, Iceland
Svartifoss, Iceland
Skókafoss, Iceland
Skókafoss, Iceland

Stroll around Lake Myvatn

Strolling around Lake Myvatn offers an exceptional outdoor experience, immersing visitors in one of Iceland's most diverse ecological areas. The lake, its surrounding wetlands, and the volcanic craters provide a habitat for an astonishing variety of bird species, making it a paradise for birdwatchers. The landscape around Myvatn is equally famous for its geothermal activity, including bubbling mud pots, steaming fumaroles, and the naturally heated waters of the Myvatn Nature Baths, often referred to as the north's answer to the Blue Lagoon. The area's unique geological formations, such as Dimmuborgir's lava fields and the pseudo-craters at Skútustaðir, offer a glimpse into the earth's raw, creative power.

Bread being cooked in the sand at Lake Mývatn
Bread being cooked in the sand at Lake Mývatn

Snorkel or scuba dive between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates

The opportunity to snorkel or scuba dive between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates in Iceland's Silfra fissure is a unique and exhilarating experience that beckons adventure seekers from around the world. This remarkable activity takes place in Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where the clarity of the water is unparalleled, offering visibility up to 100 meters. Diving or snorkeling in Silfra is not only a breathtaking adventure but also a rare opportunity to physically float between two continents. The chill of the glacier water is easily forgotten amidst the awe-inspiring underwater landscapes, making this a must-do activity for those looking to explore Iceland’s remarkable natural phenomena up close.

Take a hike

Iceland's rugged and diverse landscape makes it an ideal destination for hikers of all skill levels, offering an abundance of incredible routes that traverse through some of the country's most breathtaking scenery. From leisurely walks that wind through verdant valleys and along scenic coastlines to challenging treks up volcanic slopes and across glacial rivers, Iceland caters to every type of outdoor enthusiast. For those seeking a multiday adventure, the iconic Laugavegur trail is a must. This 55-kilometer trek connects Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk, taking hikers through a remarkable variety of landscapes, including colorful rhyolite mountains, vast lava fields, and pristine highland tundras.

Chris hiking in Iceland
Chris hiking in Iceland

Visit the stunning Stuðlagil Canyon

One of Iceland's lesser-known gems, Stuðlagil Canyon, astonishes visitors with its towering basalt columns and a serene river that carves through the heart of the canyon. This relatively hidden wonder became accessible only after the construction of the Kárahnjúkar Dam, which significantly lowered the water level, revealing the breathtaking basalt formations. The hike to the canyon is an easy to moderate 2 kilometers (approximately 1.24 miles) trek that offers stunning views of the unique geological structures and the vibrant blue river running between them. Whether you're an avid photographer or simply a lover of natural beauty, Stuðlagil Canyon is a must-visit for an unforgettable experience of Iceland's incredible landscapes.

Visit the charming village of Seyðisfjörður

Nestled in a breathtaking fjord in the East of Iceland, Seyðisfjörður is a charming village known for its vibrant wooden houses and artistic community. The allure of Seyðisfjörður is not just in its picturesque setting and cultural vibrancy but also in the journey to reach it. The drive into the valley is nothing short of spectacular, weaving through majestic mountains and scenic landscapes that capture the essence of Iceland's raw beauty. Many visitors will recognize the serpentine road leading into Seyðisfjörður as the same hill Walter Mitty audaciously skateboarded down in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, further immortalizing the town's enchanting appeal. Getting to Seyðisfjörður is indeed half the charm, enticing travelers with promises of stunning vistas and an unforgettable adventure.

Note: Looking for another adventure? Did you know you can take a ferry from Iceland to the Faroe Islands out of the port in Seyðisfjörður? This is a wonderful adventure for those looking to visit the remote islands in the north Atlantic.

Seyðisfjörður with reflection on water, Iceland
Seyðisfjörður, Iceland
Church in Seyðisfjörður, Iceland
Church in Seyðisfjörður, Iceland

Take a boat tour of the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

A boat tour of the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon offers a surreal and enchanting experience, transporting visitors into a dream-like landscape of floating icebergs. This glacial lagoon, located in southeastern Iceland, is a natural marvel where one can witness the ancient ice of the Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier breaking away and drifting out to sea. The contrasting hues of the icebergs, ranging from the deepest blues to radiant whites, are a photographer's paradise. The lagoon is also home to a variety of marine life, including seals, which can often be seen sunbathing on the ice. Taking a boat tour allows for up-close encounters with the icebergs, providing a unique perspective on the majestic power of nature.

Posing in front of Glacier Lagoon in Iceland at sunrise
Posing in front of Glacier Lagoon in Iceland at sunrise
Boat tour on Glacier Lagoon, Iceland
Boat tour on Glacier Lagoon, Iceland
Chris and Sara on a boat tour on Glacier Lagoon in Iceland on a very foggy morning
The glacier was hidden in fog during our boat tour but we still had so much fun!

Walk through history at the UNESCO World Heritage site at Þingvellir National Park

Þingvellir National Park is not just a site of geological wonder, but it's also steeped in historical significance. It served as the location for Iceland's Alþingi, one of the earliest known parliaments in the world, established around the year 930. This site, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates visibly diverge, showcases both the natural beauty and the cultural heritage of Iceland. Visitors to Þingvellir can walk through the Almannagjá fault, a testament to the Earth's constantly changing surface, while reflecting on the democratic traditions that have shaped the nation. This blending of natural grandeur and historical legacy makes Þingvellir National Park a symbolic and must-visit location for anyone traveling to Iceland.

Þingvellir National Park
Þingvellir National Park
Church and autumn colors in Þingvellir National Park
Þingvellir National Park

Explore the volcanic landscape of the Reykjanes Peninsula

The Reykjanes Peninsula, with its moon-like landscape, offers a stunning exploration of Iceland's volcanic roots. This area, marked by its rugged terrain, is home to numerous geothermal features, including hot springs, mud pools, and the iconic Blue Lagoon, renowned for its therapeutic waters. The peninsula's volcanic craters, lava fields, and the dramatic coastline provide a stark, yet beautiful backdrop for visitors. It serves as an ideal spot for those interested in geology, as well as tourists seeking the unparalleled beauty of Iceland's raw, natural environments. The Reykjanes Peninsula encapsulates the dynamic forces that have shaped Iceland, making it a fascinating destination for all who visit.

Experience the midnight sun during summer

Experiencing the midnight sun during the Icelandic summer is an enchanting phenomenon that captivates all who witness it. This extraordinary event occurs when the sun remains visible at the local midnight, thanks to Iceland's high latitude. During this period, the country bathes in continuous daylight, allowing tourists and locals alike to explore the breathtaking landscapes without the constraint of nightfall. Activities such as hiking, photography, and sightseeing take on a new dimension under the ethereal glow of the never-setting sun. The midnight sun offers a unique opportunity to experience Iceland's natural beauty in an endless day, creating memorable moments that last a lifetime.

Experiencing the midnight sun at Glacier Lagoon in Iceland
Experiencing the midnight sun at Glacier Lagoon in Iceland

Visit Iceland's famous puffin colonies

Visiting Iceland's famous puffin colonies is a highlight for wildlife enthusiasts and photographers alike. These charming birds, known for their colorful beaks and comical waddles, are most commonly spotted nesting on the coastal cliffs during the breeding season. The best time to observe puffins in Iceland is from late April through August, when they come ashore to breed and raise their young before heading back to the sea. The Westman Islands, in particular, are renowned for hosting one of the largest puffin colonies in the world, offering unparalleled opportunities to watch these birds in their natural habitat.

What to pack for Iceland

When packing for Iceland, it's essential to prepare for its unpredictable weather and unique activities. Here’s a quick list to help you get started:

  • Thermal Layers: Lightweight and breathable base layers are ideal for managing body temperature.
  • Waterproof Jacket and Pants: Essential for sudden rain and waterfall mist.
  • Sturdy Walking Boots: Waterproof and comfortable for hiking across varied terrains.
  • Swimwear: For visiting geothermal pools and the Blue Lagoon.
  • Sunglasses and Sunscreen: Protection against sun glare, especially during the midnight sun.
  • Warm Hat, Gloves, and Scarf: Necessary for cooler temperatures and windy conditions.
  • Camera and Binoculars: Don’t miss capturing the stunning landscapes and wildlife sightings.
  • Daypack: For carrying essentials during day trips.
  • Reusable Water Bottle: Tap water in Iceland is pure and drinkable.
  • Portable Charger: Ensure you’re always ready to capture the moment.

Remember, the key to enjoying Iceland to the fullest is staying comfortable in its dynamic climate.

Final thoughts

Iceland stands as a beacon of natural wonder, weaving together the fabric of history, culture, and breathtaking landscapes into a tapestry that captivates every traveler. From the ethereal glow of the midnight sun to the rich biodiversity found in its puffin colonies, the country offers a multitude of experiences that promise a trip you'll never forget. Whether you're navigating the ancient terrains of Þingvellir National Park, exploring the volcanic thrills of the Reykjanes Peninsula, or immersing yourself in the icy serenity of the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, Iceland delivers an adventure around every corner.

Like this article? Checkout our other Iceland travel guides!

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Hi! We're Chris and Sara a husband and wife video making, storytelling, travel loving duo with a passion for sharing travel tips, tricks, and inspiration with others.
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