22 Best Things to Do in Iceland, Including Rejkjavik and the Blue Lagoon

22 Best Things to Do in Iceland on Your First Visit

Welcome to the Land of Fire and Ice!

I think it’s safe to say that visiting Iceland is a top priority on the bucket list of most travellers. I mean, we’ve all seen the wonderful pictures and otherworldly videos on Facebook, haven’t we? We’ve heard and seen so much of this magical place but just what are the great things to do in Iceland — apart from chasing the Northern Lights?

This country certainly isn’t an easy destination to explore on your own, especially if it’s your first time. Keep in mind that these arctic wonders are best explored in summer, with almost 24 hours of sunlight to maximise your holiday and mild climate. However, wintertime in Iceland can be just as fun: from the magical aurora borealis to spectacular sights like frozen waterfalls and glacier lagoons.

If you’re feeling adventurous and prefer planning your own Icelandic adventure, this list is just for you because here are some of the best things to do in Iceland on your very first trip. Enjoy!

Also read: 12 Airbnbs in Iceland for When You Finally Make That Trip

Best things to do in Iceland for first-time explorers

1. Explore the charming city of Reykjavik

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The charming capital city of Reykjavik is probably one of the first noteworthy destinations you’ll visit in Iceland. Unlike most capital cities around the world, Reykjavik exudes a quaint, relaxing atmosphere and is perfect to explore on foot.

This photogenic city is home to quite a few interesting attractions, like the iconic Hallgrimskirkja Church, which is a must-see whenever you’re in the city. What’s more, being so close to the coast, you can also hop aboard a boat and go whale-watching whenever you fancy! Now that’s the way to kick off your stay in Iceland.

2. Marvel at the majestic Hekla Volcano

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Thrill-seekers, this one’s right up your alley. Climbing a volcano is one thing, after all; climbing the most active volcano in Iceland is another thing altogether! Locals even call it the “Gateway to Hell” for good measure. If a bit of a risk is something you’re after, then trekking Mount Hekla should be on your personal list of things to do in Iceland. Besides, travellers can rest assured that the mountain hasn’t erupted since 2000. 

Of course, it’s not just the threat of eruption that’s attracting tourists to this popular hiking destination. For one, it only takes a few hours to walk the trail to the summit, which makes it a convenient day trip option for anyone with limited time to spare in Iceland. If you’re looking for fun things to do in Iceland during summer, mountaineering is a great activity. On the other hand, adventurers will get the opportunity to ski around the crater’s rim during springtime. 

3. Trek through Hornstrandir Nature Reserve

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Lying on the tip of Iceland’s isolated Westfjords is the wonderfully wild Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. A land that feels borne right out of a Tolkien fantasy, the uninhabited reserve makes perfect sense for explorers looking for their great adventure. 

As soon as you arrive at this pristine wilderness, you’ll see: Hornstrandir is home to a wealth of natural treasures, including wildlife such as rare Arctic foxes, seals, and whales. Hiking trails promise a heady challenge to adventurers, too! Surreal landscapes lie in wait for travellers, from strangely shaped cliffs to thundering waterfalls crashing down the mountainside. For outdoorsy folks, few things are better to do in Iceland than wandering this rugged nature reserve.

4. Immerse yourself in nature at Thingvellir National Park

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Located 45 minutes away from Reykjavik, Thingvellir National Park is an important historical, cultural, and geological attraction. It is also one of the most popular destinations in the country.

The park is home to Iceland’s largest natural lake, Þingvallavatn, and the Silfra Fissure, one of the most alluring diving spots in the world. Here, you will also find the site of a rift valley. That, my friend, is the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge which separates America and Europe. And so, when you dive or snorkel in the fissure, you’ll be swimming between two continents!

5. Soak in the sights of Iceland’s natural beauty at Snaefellsjokull National Park

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As the only national park in Iceland stretching out to the sea, Snaefellsjokull National Park definitely makes our list of top things to do in the country. There are plenty of noteworthy sites scattered across the peninsula: the black-sand Djúpalón Beach; the clifftop Malarrif lighthouses; Saxhöll Crater by the roadside; the Kirkjufell Mountain as seen on Game of Thrones; and of course, the glacier-capped Snæfellsjökull volcano. 

Trust us: you could spend the entirety of your Iceland vacation just wandering Snaefellsjokull and never run out of things to do, whether you’re here in summer or winter. 

6. Enjoy the tranquillity of Asbyrgi Canyon

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Truly, you’ll never run out of awe-inspiring natural spectacles in Iceland! A part of the beautiful Vatnajökull National Park, the horseshoe-shaped Asbyrgi Canyon promises another dramatic landscape to put on your bucket list. Hundred-metre cliffs rise to form a kilometre-wide fortress around rich and flourishing forests — like many places in Iceland, it’s almost too stunning to be real. 

In fact, the Asbyrgi vistas are so surreal that Viking lore even says that the canyon is a hoof-print by Odin’s eight-legged flying horse Sleipnir. There’s nothing like Norse mythology to sprinkle a little magic into our sightseeing trip! 

7. Embark on a once-in-a-lifetime glacier walk at Vatnjökull National Park

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What’s an Iceland getaway without your fair share of ice? Don’t miss Vatnajokull National Park, where you can make your icy dreams a reality. It’s home to the Vatnajokull glacier — the largest glacier in the entire European continent! Layer up and embark on glacier walks over the massive frozen landscapes, then try your hand at other must-do snowy activities in Iceland such as ice climbing and ice caving.

8. Journey through Skaftafell Nature Reserve

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Glacier hiking and ice caving are two of the best things to do in Vatnajokull National Park, but there’s more than just ice and snow here. Make your way to Skaftafell Nature Reserve, a nature lover’s favourite in this national park. The lush reserve comes brimming with jaw-dropping natural sights, including glacier tongues and lagoons flowing from the waters of the Vatnajokull glacier. 

Hiking trails are plentiful, even less icy ones for travellers who aren’t keen to walk on frozen ground. We recommend going on a quick hike to Svartifoss waterfall, an eye-catching cascade flanked by towering black basalt columns.

9. Take a dip in the Blue Lagoon or Lake Myvatn Geothermal Area

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The iconic Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s most well-known geothermal spa. The therapeutic water here contains silica and other minerals said to be able to aid in the treatment of skin ailments and various other medical conditions.

Even if you’re not looking for any healing in particular, swimming in the beautiful turquoise water is still a must-do activity in Iceland. If you have the time, you can check out Lake Myvatn as well, a volcanic geothermal area which is said to be the spot where Satan fell after being banished from Heaven in Christian lore.

10. Swim in the warm mountain waters of Seljavallalaug Pool





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Even a good old pool is a bit more special in Iceland! For example, peep the Seljavallalaug outdoor pool. Nestled at the foot of the mountains in southern Iceland, this natural hot spring was built in the 1920s to encourage locals to learn how to swim. You’ll have to hike about half an hour or less to the Seljavallalaug, but the soothing warm waters and enchanting views are absolutely worth the effort!

10. Walk behind Seljalandsfoss Waterfall and other cascades

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It goes without saying that Iceland is home to tons of beautiful natural wonders. This is especially true given the number of alluring waterfalls in the country. And while the cascading waters of Dynjandi and Gullfoss are just as popular, nothing beats a visit to Seljalandsfoss Waterfall.

Apart from being able to admire the gushing torrents from afar, visitors can actually go for a stroll behind the waterfall, leading to some truly magical experiences! However, take note that this is only possible when weather conditions are ideal.

12. Chill out on the black sands of Reynisfjara Beach

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You might imagine Iceland as being an extremely cold, chilly country. So, it might come as a surprise to some that the country is also home to some fantastic beaches for coastal hangouts!

One such pristine location is Reynisfjara Beach, famous for its silky smooth black sand and surrounding mountains. Here, you’ll also want to see the natural basalt columns called Reynisdrangar. Other viable Icelandic beaches for some fun in the sun include Djupalon and Raudasandur Beach.

13. Ride Icelandic horses through lush fields

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Small yet mighty and friendly, Icelandic horses are a rare breed that live completely isolated from other horse breeds. That’s right: For more than a thousand years, Iceland hasn’t allowed the importation of other horses into the island. Even Icelandic horses that have left aren’t allowed to come back!

Guided horse riding tours are one of the best things to do in Iceland, especially in the summer. Travellers will also spot more horses running free in the boundless fields during the warmer months. These graceful steeds are a little different from the conventional horses we see from other parts of the world and make for unique companions on your excursions in Iceland. If getting to know and riding these beautiful creatures sound like a dream, then you can definitely make it happen!

Visit Húsey, an area in East Iceland that is sandwiched between two glacial rivers and surrounded by rocky mountains. With a wide plethora of flora and fauna calling this place home, Húsey is an ideal location to get up close and personal with Iceland’s untouched natural beauty.

14. Melt at the sight of adorable puffins on Akurey Island

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Say hello to what’s possibly the cutest bird in existence — these seabirds look more like cartoon characters than real-life animals. Puffins are a species of birds that only live in Northern Europe, in the far-reaching areas of Norway and Iceland. Akurey Island is one of the places where you will find these adorable, feathery friends in abundance. As tempting as it might be, don’t try to smuggle one home!

15. Travel the iconic Golden Circle Route

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The Golden Circle (no relation to Kingsman) is one of Iceland’s most popular road trip routes — a must-see trail with plenty of scenic attractions. Along the way, you’ll be able to visit the aforementioned Thingvellir National Park and Iceland’s famous Strokkur Geyser. The previously mentioned Gullfoss Waterfall is also a must-visit! The Golden Circle road trip counts as one of the best things to do in Iceland — and it can be completed in a single day, making it ideal for tourists with limited time on their itinerary. 

16. Trek through thick ice at the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

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Up for more frozen fun? There are endless opportunities in Iceland indeed — some of the best things to do in the country involve chasing glaciers. So, bundle up and head out: Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon certainly makes the cold worth it! Striking blue waters and gigantic chunks of icebergs make for an otherworldly sight that you won’t soon forget. A boat tour will take you up close to Iceland’s largest glacier, then you’ll have to strap on crampons for a hike on the scenic ice. 

17. Explore mysterious lava caves like Grjotagja Cave

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There’s a reason Iceland bears the nickname the Land of Fire and Ice — it’s home to a bounty of literal hot spots! Volcanoes, hot springs, and geysers are a given, but winding lava caves are also a treat to explore. A definite tourist favourite is the Grjotagja Lava Cave, famous for the enchanting hot spring hidden in its depths. Tourists are no longer allowed to swim here due to the unpredictable temperature of the waters, but the lava cave is still just as worthwhile to visit. Fun fact: Grjotagja is also famous for appearing in a popular episode of Game of Thrones!

Prefer to dive into the inside of a volcano? Thrihnukagigur Volcano Cave promises a unique experience of exploring a cave inside a dormant crater. It hasn’t erupted in thousands of years — but you never know, right? 

18. Marvel at the sublime Diamond Beach

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White sand, black sand, pink sand, pebbled — we’ve seen, heard of, and all sorts of beaches by now. But Iceland has a way of surprising travellers; when it comes to beaches, Diamond Beach is one-of-a-kind. Icebergs from the nearby Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon drift into the beach and wash up on the shore. At any given time, Diamond Beach will be filled with massive chunks of ice sitting on black sand and glistening like diamonds under the sun. 

19. Visit Husavik for a whale-watching expedition

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Ever seen a whale? The sheer majesty of this sea creature will take your breath away in the same way the most beautiful vistas would. Whale watching is one of the best things to do in Iceland, especially during summer; so, hop on a boat for your turn ASAP. The northeastern village of Husavik is arguably the best place in the country for whale spotting. Travellers will usually come across humpback whales and minke whales, but lucky wildlife lovers may spot the rare blue whale, too.

20. Dive into Norse mythology and viking history at Viking World

As you might have guessed by now, Viking World is a museum in the town of Keflavik that showcases the proud history of the Vikings in Iceland. You’ll find a famous replica of a Viking ship from the 9th century called the Icelander. Despite being only a replica, this ship is famous for having sailed across the Atlantic in the year 2000.

Have fun exploring the ship as well as venturing into the section on Norse mythology and learning about the story of the Asgardians. Spoiler: Thor doesn’t look nearly as handsome as Marvel makes him out to be!

21. Sample authentic Icelandic cuisine

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Food in Iceland is pretty rustic. Don’t expect fancy-smancy plating or anything like that. Rather, Icelandic cuisine is all about tradition and flavour. Popular must try dishes include skyr (which is basically Icelandic yogurt), Klenät (fried pastry) and Þorramatur, a traditional Icelandic buffet consisting of traditionally cured meat and fish, dark rye bread, and butter.

There are sometimes less conventional ingredients too like lamb testicles, fermented shark meat, liver sausage, and boiled sheep’s head.

22. Chase the awe-inspiring Northern Lights

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Of course, how could anyone ever pass up the opportunity to catch the Northern Lights in Iceland? While this fascinating light show (known also as aurora borealis) can be seen from many parts of the world, the best location to view it from is Iceland.

While it’s possible to catch it from Reykjavik itself, you’ll want to head to more rural areas like Seltjarnarnes to increase your chances. The best time to do this is between March and September, and during the winter season. Don’t forget your camera and tripod now!

Also read: How to Capture The Northern Lights in Iceland

And that’s the end of the list! If you really read through, you’ll realise there is more than just this list of fun things to do in Iceland. And that perfectly sums up this country as a travel destination, I think. If you’re the type who expects a certain “wow” factor in your travels, Iceland not only meets that expectation, it gives you even more!

So, with all that said and done, it’s time to start planning that adventure of a lifetime now!

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About Authors

Darren Yeoh
Darren Yeoh

Darren enjoys the finer things in life and loves exploring unfamiliar places on foot, guided with nothing but instinct and a good-old fashioned map. He enjoys cultural experiences and exciting adventures and is not a stranger to travelling alone. When he's not putting his travel experiences into words, he's probably sitting behind his laptop, planning his upcoming adventure.


Celia Grace Nachura
Celia Grace Nachura

There are very few things Celia won’t do for a good story, but her favourite ones always involve the beach, animals, or any type of outdoor activity. She’s been writing for as long as she can remember, and can usually be found typing away at home with her cute dogs at her feet. Away from work, she spends most of her time trying out every hobby she can get her hands on, from running to crocheting to baking (she’s pretty okay at most things that don't involve cooking).