Things to see and do in Iceland
Attractions in Iceland
Bathe in the Blue Lagoon
The milky turquoise waters of the Blue Lagoon are perfect for a good, long soak. Located in a lunar-like landscape of lava fields, the lagoon is renowned for its health benefits and mineral-rich, geothermal seawater, which have made it one of the most visited locations in Iceland.
Cast out for trout
Iceland’s pristine streams and rivers are well-stocked with fish of all kinds. Salmon, in particular, is abundant though licences for popular salmon rivers are extremely expensive. Opt to fish for trout or arctic char for a fraction of the price.
Celebrate New Year's Eve
The Gamlarskvold (New Year's Eve celebrations) are a sight to behold; hundreds of bonfires blaze across Reykjavík and Icelanders start the New Year with a literal bang at the stroke of midnight, when thousands of fireworks go off simultaneously, setting ablaze the crystal clear sky.
Climb to the top of Hallgrímskirkja
Visible from much of Reykjavík, the eye-catching white church of Hallgrímskirkja, whose design was inspired by the Icelandic landscape, is not easily overlooked. The interior, by contrast, is surprisingly plain though the views from the top of its tower are spectacular.
Dine at Reykjavík's restaurants
Reykjavík's restaurants are the best place to experience superb Icelandic cuisine. Home-grown organic lamb, salmon and lobster are perennial favourites, and offerings from the sea are second to none. For the adventurous, traditional Icelandic food, which could include anything from grilled puffin and seabird's eggs to boiled sheep's head, has made a resurgence, but it's not for the faint-hearted.
Discover the wonders of Lake Myvatn
Brave the midges and discover an eerie landscape of bubbling mud flats, volcanic craters, fumaroles, lava fields and grassy shoals teeming with waterfowl at Lake Myvatn ('Lake Midge'), one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. The Myvatn Nature Baths nearby are northern Iceland's equivalent to the Blue Lagoon, a natural geothermally-heated outdoor lagoon.
Escape to the Westfjords
This spectacular setting of rugged coastline, known as the Westfjords, is home to some of the most isolated villages in the country. Of particular note is Latrabjarg, the westernmost point of Europe and at 400m (1,312ft) high, the largest known bird cliff on Earth.
Lace up your boots for hikes
Iceland's hiking is incredible. From Skaftafell National Park to the Westfjords, from the highlands to the Snæfellnes Peninsula, breathtaking vistas lurk round every bend. The Laugavegurinn, from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk, is the country’s most famous long-distance hike, taking you through glaciers and valleys to an area of hot springs.
Learn about Icelandic life
Check out the excellent folk museum in the tiny village of Skogar, where historic buildings, crafts, tools and equipment recall an older way of life on the island. Follow it up with a stroll on one of the nearby black sand beaches on the south coast near Vik.
Marvel at otherworldly landscapes
Jokulsarlon, a glacial lagoon is a favourite with photographers and film crews (the film Die Another Day was shot here). Little wonder why; giant floating icebergs make for a surreal landscape and crowds of seals can be seen fishing at the mouth of the lagoon in winter.
Ride a snowmobile over a glacier
Few things can elicit more of a heart-thumping thrill than a skidoo (snowmobile) ride across a glacier. An unbeatable adrenaline rush is guaranteed when speeding through the immaculate white wilderness, which stretches as far as the eye can see - a highlight of any trip to Iceland.
Search for the Northern Lights
One of nature's most awesome spectacles, the Northern Lights are visible from September to mid-April. The ever-shifting, glowing patterns of light that twist and turn restlessly in the sky are created by electrically-charged particles that make the thin air shine with a rainbow of colours.
See the Golden Waterfall (Gullfoss)
Located just a few kilometres from Geysir, Gullfoss is the most dramatic section of the Hvita River. In the midst of lush vegetation, white water thunders down a 32m (105ft) drop into a narrow canyon 70m (230ft) deep and 2.5km (1.6 miles) long. When the sun shines, the sediment in the glacial water causes it to glow, hence its name.
The waters around Iceland are home to a variety of cetaceans and are among the best whale-watching destinations in the world. Embark on a boat trip out to sea and look for minke, blue, fin, humpback, sperm and killer whales; all are frequently sighted just off the coast.
Spy feathered fliers
Birdwatchers and nature lovers flock to the Westman Islands every spring to view the returning puffins who come here to nest after a long winter at sea. In August, millions of baby puffins leave their nests for the very first time to test their wings.
Trek colourful Landmannalaugar
Landmannalaugar is the pearl of the central highlands region. This eerily colourful landscape of green, yellow, red and orange rhyolite hills is dotted with many hot pools and trickling streams, making this a definite must for walkers and artists alike.
Trot across Icelandic landscapes
The Icelandic horse may look fluffy and cute, but these spirited steeds are hardy and powerful, perfectly adapted to the rugged terrain. Riding them over lava fields or deserted beaches is a rewarding experience. Call them ponies and be prepared to face the wrath of the locals.
Venture north to Akureyri and the Arctic Circle
The buzzy city of Akureyri, 60km (37 miles) south of the Arctic Circle, enjoys a superb setting at the head of Eyjafjörður, the longest fjord in the country. A bit further north and well worth exploring is the island of Grimsey, the only bit of Iceland, strictly speaking, in the Arctic Circle.
Watch geysers spurt
Until 1916, Geysir, located 125km (78 miles) northeast of Reykjavik spouted boiling water and steam high up into the air at regular intervals. Mysteriously, it fell dormant and rarely comes to life since then. A man-made tunnel in 1935 and an earthquake in 2000 have brought it to life. Head to the smaller Strokkur geyser nearby, which makes up for its big brother's silence by erupting every five to ten minutes.
Icelandic Tourist Board in the USAAddress: c/o The Scandinavian Tourist Board, 655 Third Avenue, New York, 10017
Telephone: (212) 885 9700.