DIY: Essential things to do in Iceland

essential things to do in Iceland

Essential things to do in Iceland


Iceland stands out for its great Viking experience and stories of huldufólk (hidden people) and for its ultimate Nordic Nirvana. Iceland has a unique cultural experience which has two weddings and a ceremony accepting to be an honorary Viking.

Iceland’s tourism boom is bringing explorers to popular routes like the Golden Circle. West Iceland remains off the beaten track.

Dettifoss waterfall, West Fjords and the glacier region of Jökulsárlón are some other essential things to do in Iceland.

Iceland’s locavore cuisine consists sampling sheep’s head, slátur (Icelandic tripe sausage) and hákarl (fermented shark meat) are must do. Hákarl is fermented flesh of Greenland shark. Brennivín liqueur is an aromatic schnapp served with hákarl. The same fermented version also comes for minke whale and puffin meat. Iceland has to offer the best hot dogs in the world and is a definitely a must do. Ice cream and cheese at Erpsstaðir dairy farm is a must do. Skyr-konfekt white chocolate filled with delectable skyr, a yogurt-like Icelandic treat.

Iceland is replete with ice caves, fjords, lava tubes, lava fields, caverns, geysers, beaches and glacial waterfalls and open sea with its petite towns walk trails connecting seaside hamlets offering super views into Icelandic life. Iceland has one main road called Route 1 or the Ring Road which goes around the island with inroads leading to main hotspots. Iceland is primeval and broadly can be referred to as untouched by man. Hiring a car and taking a circuit of Iceland’s famous Ring Road is the best way to travel in Iceland and is the starting points for adventures easy to reach from Route 1 and is definitely one of the essential things to do in Iceland. 

Keflavík is Iceland’s international airport. A perfect trip to Iceland starts from Reykjavik in the west to Borgarfjordur Eystri on the eastern side. Eastern Fjords provides the first glimpse of Iceland. West Iceland is easily accessible from Reykjavík and much can be seen as part of a Ring Road trip. A trip to Iceland will make you carry your personal raincoats, rubber boots, crampons, jackets and gloves. Iceland has a rich biodiversity of fauna with wild reindeer and colonies of seal colonies often spotted. Swan Fjord is the perfect namesake of swans in action.

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Jokulsarlon lagoon, Skogafoss waterfall and Seljalandsfoss waterfall which falls down from a height of 60 metres are other must dos. A day’s hike to Eyjafjallajokull volcano is another must do.

Image Credits: Seattle’s Travels

Reynisfjara is a black beach is an albatross black escapade with baslat columns continued with a hike to Svartifoss aka Black waterfall. Reynisfjara is a world famous black sand beach found on the South Coast of Iceland, just beside the fishing village of Vík í Mýrdal with basalt rocks and is the considered to be the most beautiful beach in the world and is one of the essential things to do in Iceland.

The glacier region around 400 km from Reykjavik is the jokulsarlon glacier lagoon at the base of of Europe’s biggest glacier Vatnajokull with chunks of icebergs fallen off glacier and flowing towards the sea.

Snæfellsnes Peninsula has been conserved as a national park. Snæfellsjökull ice cap is at the Center of the Earth. Stykkishólmur is a great base for seeing the West. The seafarers’ village of Stykkishólmur is in the flick The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Westfjords is replete with wildlife-watching boat tours and ferries. Horse farms of Lýsuhóll and Stóri Kambur are must dos.

Head to the north coast of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula to Stykkishólmur, Ólafsvík and Grundarfjörður to catch the whale- and puffin-watching tours that sail out into the broad Breiðafjörður. Basalt towers of Melrakkaey island is simply a wondrous. Kirkjufell is a multi-hued spire of a mountain backed by waterfalls. Langjökull Ice Cave in West Iceland is the ice cave drilled deep Langjökull glacier via the Kaldidalur Corridor lava fields, ice caps and hidden valleys. It connects near Þingvellir, part of the Golden Circle.The Ring Road has paved roads almost all the way to the glacier. Ice Explorer takes super-truck tours on top of the glacier.

Borgarnes is a must for its Settlement Centre with the arrival of the original settlers to Iceland. Iceland’s largest facility, the Laugardalslaug in Reykjavik, is a massive complex. Blue Lagoon, just outside of Reykjavik is a must do. Blue Lagoon It’s hard not to adore a soak in this steaming silica soup surrounded by dramatic flourishes of frozen lava. Blue Lagoon is in a black-lava field in hue of milky-teal fed with water from futuristic Svartsengi geothermal plant. The white mud is extremely therapeutic. Product line of authentic moisturisers is a must take away souvenir. Borgarnes is a little town in a rocky peninsula with a population of less than 2,000 and is one of the busiest tourist towns in Iceland and has to be in essential things to do in Iceland.

Reykjanes Peninsula has Mývatn Nature Baths. Mývatn baths are on the edge of Lake Mývatn is a popular geothermal area, 105 km from Akureyri and is one of the essential things to do in Iceland. Hot springs at Lake Kleifarvatn has underwater springs popular with cave divers. Hveravellir has multi-colored ponds.

Iceland’s Penis Museum is located a couple dozen miles south of the Arctic Circle in Iceland in Húsavik, Iceland features one ‘specimen’ for all 276 Icelandic species.

The Icelandic Phallological Museum is probably the only museum in the world to contain a collection of phallic specimens and is definitely to do in one of the essential things to do in Iceland.

The land of fire and ice: touring Iceland’s Golden Circle

Three of Iceland’s most popular destinations are within easy reach of Reykjavík – Gullfoss (Golden Falls), Geysir (Geyser) and Thingvellir (Þingvellir) form what’s known as the Golden Circle. Strokkur geyser is a must do.

Iceland is the only place in the world where you can directly enter into a volcano’s magma chamber of Thrihnukagigur. Open cable lift takes you deep inside dormant Thrihnukagigur at the meeting point of two tectonic plates. A coach ride to Bláfjöll mountain and Bláfjöll’s lava fields is a must do.

Sólheimajökull – only an hour’s drive from the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Sólheimajökull glacier is still streaked with ash from the infamous 2010 eruptions of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano.

Akureyri is a city at the base of Eyjafjörður Fjord in Northern Iceland with hotspots like Akureyri Art Museum displays contemporary art from Iceland and Akureyri Church with stained glass windows portraying scenes from Icelandic Christian history and the most essential things to do in Iceland.

Northern capital Akureyri country offers horse rides being Iceland’s second city has some especially scenic routes. Eyjafjörður are ash-coloured beaches lining Iceland’s longest fjord.

Húsavík is Iceland’s premier whale watching destination at the convergence of Skjálfandi bay. Minke, humpback and the blue whale are spotted from Húsavík’s boats on a schooner excursion. Caldera at Krafla volcano is Iceland’s most active volcano and is a short drive northeast from the Lake Mývatn area famous for its rock formations. A trek to the Leirhnjúkur caldera lava fields is in the same setting. Krafla craters is an active volcanic region 7km north of the Ring Road.

The most famous landmark of Husavik is the wooden church Húsavíkurkirkja and is definitely one of the essential things to do in Iceland.

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Seyðisfjörður fjord, Höfn and Egilsstaðir are hub towns with vantage points from route 93 joins the Ring Road route 1 which circumnavigates Iceland. Landmannalaugar is known for its multi-coloured rhyolite mountains and moss-covered lava fields. Vestmannaeyjar archipelago is where the largest puffin colony in the world lives.

Hornstrandir’s Arctic foxes are Iceland’s only native mammal. The Hornstrandir hiking reserve is a must do. Hornstrandir Pristine nature is the hiking paradise orbiting the Arctic Circle. Lake Mývatn’s birds are twitchers and all kinds of waterfowl. Vatnsnes Peninsula has hordes of seals. Take a seal-spotting cruise from Hvammstangi or drive the peninsula to scout for sunbaking pinnipeds.

Hornstrandir Nature Reserve is protected under some of the strictest preservation and is one of the essential things to do in Iceland.

The Westfjords is where Iceland’s dramatic landscapes. The icebergs from Breiðamerkurjökull extension of Vatnajökull crash down towards the Atlantic Ocean.

Svartifoss is the right spot under the midnight sun against the backdrop of rugged rhyolite peaks on one side and Dyrfjöll mountains on the other with one of the best the hiking areas.

Skógar nestles under the Eyjafjallajökull ice cap just off the Ring Road is the settlement and the start of the hike over the Fimmvörðuháls Pass to Þórsmörk in the Southwest. At its western edge is Skógafoss waterfall. Tröllaskagi or Troll Peninsula is between Skagafjörður and Eyjafjörður.

The townships of Siglufjörður and Ólafsfjörður are some of the scenic routes. The Askja route or Öskjuleið runs across the highlands to Herðubreið is the Icelanders’ beloved ‘Queen of the Mountains’ and desert Askja caldera. Vestmannaeyjar or Westman Islands are black silhouettes off the southern shore formed by submarine volcanoes.

Heimaey is the only inhabited island and sheltered harbour between klettur escarpments and volcanoes of Eldfell and Helgafell. Heimaey is famous for its puffins which are around 10 million birds that come here to breed. Þjóðhátíð is Iceland’s biggest outdoor festival held in August.

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The 100km-long Snæfellsnes Peninsula has diverse landscape. The ice cap of Snæfellsjökull is immortalised in Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

Stykkishólmur on the populated northern coast is the region’s largest town. On the western part of the peninsula is Snæfellsjökull National Park.

Dettifoss has the greatest volume of any waterfall in Europe. Goðafoss is the ‘Waterfall of the Gods’ with spiritual connotation. Skógafoss highlands is a famous hike up into the for 20 more waterfalls just beyond. Dynjandi Veins of Arctic water cascade 100m over terraces of stone.

Seljalandsfoss & Gljúfurárbui are rocky scenic rapids. Hengifoss is Iceland’s second-highest fall that plummets into gorges. Breiðamerkurjökull lagoon is since the last ice age retreating rapidly up to a staggering 500m per year. Flúðir Víti is secret lagoon beside the crater Askja caldera in the remote interior highland. Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk are realms of endless hikes.

Kerlingarfjöll is a remote highland massif with geothermal activity. Borgarfjörður Eystri is the base for a series of trails. Breiðafjörður has islets across the bay as rainbows soar overhead in summertime sun showers.

West Iceland Skaftafell (Vatnajökull National Park – South)
Skaftafell to Höfn Glittering glaciers, brooding mountains and an iceberg-filled lagoon line this stretch along the Ring Road’s southeast coast. Skaftafell has trails through woods as you put on crampons to tackle offshoots of mammoth Vatnajökull ice cap. Skaftafell in Vatnajökull National Park is Iceland’s much revered treasure. Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon has luminous icebergs right beside the Ring Road between Höfn and Skaftafell.

Jökulsárgljúfur (Vatnajökull National Park – North)
Jökulsárgljúfur is a geological wonder including Iceland’s ‘Grand Canyon’. Eastfjords Seyðisfjörður is one of the scenic fjords. Askja is sapphire-blue lake at the Askja caldera accessed across lava fields. Tröllaskagi Peninsula is a scenic route with tunnels and vistas of vast waters.
Reykjavík is the world’s most northerly capital.

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  1. I was in Iceland last year … I was able to cover almost everything on your list. It is such a unique and beautiful country. The land of waterfalls. I cannot wait to go back. Loved all your pictures, btw!

  2. My husband lived in Iceland for almost 2 years while stationed there in the Navy. We are planning on a trip next December to see one of his friends there. I was wondering what we would do while his friend was working during the week. I’ll see if I cannot scratch whale watching off my bucket list while I’m there

  3. This place is exceptional and I must say one of the best travel destination. I always wanted to visit Iceland. Thank you for introducing it to me atleast I already have the idea what to do and where to go when I visit Iceland.

  4. Oh my goodness. Such beautiful scenery. What a super place to visit

  5. How incredibly beautiful. I never imagined Iceland to be so green, silly I know, but I honestly thought it would be white and snowy as far as the eye could see. Silly I know 😀 I’d love to go one day, but I think I’ll skip the fermented local cuisine and watch the whales instead.

  6. I love all your photos.How I wish I could be there and do the things that you wrote is essential in Iceland..

  7. I have traveled to Iceland but not to the extent that I would have liked. I think I haven’t explored much of it! This is such a helpful post for me!

  8. Iceland looks so gorgeous! It’s literally like a scenario taken out of a movie! I’d love to go there but I’m not sure If I could handle the cold cold cold weather!

  9. Iceland is such a fascinating country with so many things to see and do, both in summer and in winter. I would love to go there and do a road trip, visiting as many waterfalls as possible.

  10. It is because of blogs like yours that Iceland was added to my bucket list years ago. It’s exquisite natural beauties.

  11. I’ve been in Iceland last year and I say Iceland is one of the beautiful places that I visited. The beautiful scenery is so fulfilling. I hope someday I can revisit Iceland.

  12. My sister-in-law recently traveled there. she raises Icelandic horses!!

  13. I always thought Iceland was a fascinating place. the landscapes are gorgeous in all the photography I’ve seen and it’s such a unique experience to see those arctic viewpoints.

  14. I really love to visit Iceland someday. I want to see personal the beautiful and stunning scenery there. Such a fulfilling and worth it feeling.

  15. Wow there was so much information here that I didn’t already know, always fun to learn new things! Iceland truly does look like a beautiful country!

  16. This is a great list of things to do in iceland. I would love to visit Iceland once day as it looks beautiful!

  17. We definitely need to add Iceland to our bucket list. I might try everything except the tripe. I had andouiellette (sp) in France & probably won’t be trying anything like that again. Will have to pin this to my Traveling page.

  18. I’ve been wanting to go to Iceland to see the Northern Lights. There are so many other beautiful places to see! I want to go to the Blue Lagoon as well. I think I’ll skip eating the sheep’s head and shark meat.

  19. that black beach looks stunning! would love to go visit one day!

  20. I have never been to Island but that is definitely a country on my travel list! the landscapes are amazing! and there are so many things to see and do it seems!

  21. I have always wanted to visit Iceland, it looks absolutely gorgeous. I will definitely be adding this to my bucket list.

  22. I used to think Iceland is called Iceland because it’s covered with Ice. I mean, I thought so when I’m 10. Haha… I never knew how beautiful Iceland is until looking at your photos!

  23. Iceland would be amazing to visit! The culture is so rich and would be a fantastic trip to take someday. It’s definitely on my list of to-go places!

  24. Iceland is so beautiful! So many beautiful attractions to visit! I really want to see the northern lights one day!

  25. Beautiful! I did many of these things on my trip to Iceland, except the whale watching! Got to go back to do that!

  26. Candy Rachelle : December 13, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    Iceland is one of the best places where many are dreaming of to visit. Those gorgeous are the testimonies why. Hopefully,visitors do those essentials.

  27. I definitely need to visit Iceland. It’s such an interesting and magical country! And their nature is just wow!

  28. The Vikings have always fascinated me so Iceland is on the bucket list! Stunning photos and a very informative post!

  29. LavandaMichelle : December 14, 2017 at 12:15 am

    Iceland is one of the cool places I have been dreaming of visiting. Your post and great photo make me want my dream to become a reality.

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