Reynisdrangar sunset, Iceland

8 Best Things to Do in Iceland

From lava fields to hot springs, glaciers and more...
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Written by
Murray Mitchell

Published on: September 18th, 2017

Last modified: July 28th, 2023

Known as the ‘Land of Fire and Ice’, Iceland is truly unlike any other place on earth. Located right on the edge of the Arctic Circle, this island abounds with jaw-dropping sights that you won’t soon forget. From vast lava fields of the Icelandic Highlands and steaming hot springs to the Blue Lagoon staggering glaciers in Southern Iceland and thundering waterfalls in the Golden Circle and Snaefellsnes Peninsula, there’s no shortage of natural wonders to discover.

Beyond its remote and rugged beauty, Iceland is also known for its impressive commitment to sustainability. Nearly 100% of its energy comes from renewable sources, and geothermal power is used to heat 90% of its homes. As a visitor, you can see what it’s like to exist in total harmony with nature at eco-friendly and luxurious lodges and retreats.

Restaurant scene
Gullfoss Waterfall
Thingvellir National Park
Geothermal spa
Blue Lagoon

1. See the Legendary Northern Lights

Iceland is one of the few places in the world where you can see the aurora borealis – or northern lights – a spectacular natural phenomenon that illuminates the sky with shimmering waves of colour. The best time to see them is from November to April, and the best place is the northern part of the country. 


Northern Iceland is an exceptionally enchanting destination, full of volcanoes, villages, waterfalls and even whales. When you’re not gazing upward for a glimpse of the greenish glow, you can explore the otherworldly landscapes and relax in geothermal pools. Deplar Farm provides the perfect home base for a trip to this incredibly scenic region.


2. Explore the Spectacular Golden Circle

If there’s one essential thing to do in Iceland, it’s the Golden Circle: a stunning route that takes you from Reykjavik into central Iceland and back. Along the way you’ll find three outstanding attractions. Thingvellir National Park is nestled into a rift valley between the North American and European tectonic plates – you can even snorkel through a narrow canyon that separates the two continents.

Silfra Snorkelling, Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

Next up are the breathtaking Gullfoss Falls and Haukadalur Valley, which is home to the Geysir and Strokkur geysers. You can see all three of these spots from above on an exhilarating helicopter ride, go snowmobiling or hike through the glaciers. We suggest settling in at Torfhús Retreat, one of the world’s best sustainable lodges.

3. Relax Among Volcanic Landscapes in the Reykjanes Peninsula

The Reykjanes Peninsula is a land of striking contrasts. It’s made up of vast lava fields and volcanoes that were dormant for centuries – until the dramatic eruption of Fagradalsfjall in 2021. The area’s geothermal properties also result in earthquakes, hot springs and crater lakes. This natural energy is put to good use at the iconic Blue Lagoon spa, where you can soak in geothermal seawater amid an astonishing landscape.

The best way to fully enjoy this region is to stay at the Blue Lagoon Retreat, one of the top sustainable hotels in the world. Here you can sink into the steaming waters and healing environment of a one-of-a-kind space, set in the centre of an 800-year-old lava flow. Every detail has been chosen with sustainability in mind, from geothermal power to pathways that allow you to explore the retreat’s surroundings without disturbing the local ecosystem.

4. Enjoy the Beaches and Peaks of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula

For a different sort of scenery, head west to the gorgeous Snaefellsnes Peninsula. It’s divided by a towering mountain range with the glacial stratovolcano of Snaefellsnes at its heart. Another iconic spot is the pointy peak of Kirkjufell, which you might recognise from Game of Thrones. It also happens to be the most photographed mountain in Iceland.

Iceland Landscape spring panorama at sunrise - kirkjufell

The Snaefellsnes Peninsula features a fascinating coastline, complete with windswept beaches and lovely fishing villages. You can visit a local farm for an authentic cooking class, or go on an excursion to the picturesque Hraunfossar waterfall. This region is often called ‘Iceland in miniature’ – a nickname that perfectly represents its wide variety of experiences. 

5. Discover Glaciers, Volcanoes and Vikings in Southern Iceland

Southern Iceland offers the perfect combination of natural attractions and cultural charm. Here you can hike among active volcanoes and geysers, and take in the majesty of the massive Vatnajökull glacier and the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon. There are also beautiful black sand beaches and rushing waterfalls like Skógafoss, which is nothing short of spectacular.

Iceland's incredible ice caves

This part of the country also has a rich cultural legacy and agricultural history. It’s full of traditional farms where you can get to know the locals, many of whom supply produce for the region’s world-class restaurants. You can also dive into the fascinating world of the Vikings at local museums, or even go whale-watching off the coast.

Church in Vik - Little Town in Southern Iceland

6. Visit the Vibrant Capital City of Reykjavik

There’s no doubt that Reykjavik is the perfect place to start and end your tour of Iceland – but it’s so much more than just a stopover. This is the world’s most northerly capital, a relatively small city that combines urban energy with the cosy atmosphere of a local village. Its colourful streets are packed with things to do, from museums and churches to nightlife and restaurants. 

Reykjavik serves up some of the country’s best cuisine at its many chic dining spots. This is the ideal place to get acquainted with Icelandic flavours, whether by taking a food tour or just popping into any of its inviting restaurants. In between meals, you can stroll the shores of Tjörnin Lake and take in the city’s postcard-worthy surroundings. 

Laugavegur street during a snowstorm in the late evening, Reykjavik, Iceland. Toned image

7. Uncover Your Inner Adventurer in the Icelandic Highlands

For a true taste of Iceland’s exhilarating wilderness, head toward its interior… and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime. The Icelandic Highlands have the kind of raw and untouched beauty that’s increasingly hard to find. This region is almost entirely uninhabited, allowing nature to flourish – from glacial rivers and ice caps to black lava fields and green oases. 

Due to the region’s lack of roads and bridges, you’ll journey through it on 4×4 vehicles, snowmobiles, snow scooters and Jeeps. The Highlands are a great destination for adventurous families and active explorers. But don’t worry; you’ll also have the chance to rest and recharge in its geothermal hot springs.

Snowmobiling in Midgard, Iceland

8. Visit Villages and Spot Puffins in the Eastern Fjords

Iceland’s east coast isn’t the most popular destination for travellers – but if you ask us, that makes it all the more charming. This relatively quiet region retains a rare feeling of peace and exclusivity, which is complemented by its unusually sunny weather. Here you’ll find quaint fishing villages tucked into harbours, jagged fjords, immense forests and secret waterfalls.

The town of Egilsstadir is a great starting point for exploring the Eastern Fjords, providing easy access to the area’s main attractions. You can visit the little island of Papey and spot wild puffins, or take a tour of the unique local architecture; Borgarfjordur Eystri is known for its turf houses, while Seydisfjordur features emblematic wooden buildings.

Iceland Accommodation

There are many incredible places to stay in Iceland. Here are some of our favourites, handpicked by our travel designers:

Trip Inspiration

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