Iceland is a magical place, with wild landscapes, picture-perfect fjords and unbelievable natural surroundings. It’s a place where you can lose yourself in wonder and rediscover who you are. But it’s not just the landscape that’s unique – Icelandic culture and traditions are also like nothing you’ll find anywhere else.
Iceland has some of the most breathtaking sights in the world: the striking geyser region, the spectacular waterfalls, the rugged cliffs along the coast and the untamed landscapes of the inland areas. There are many incredible places to explore during a trip to this exceptional island.
But where should you start and what’s the best way to travel around Iceland?
Where are the hidden gems and what do you absolutely have to see?
Our guide will help you to see it all a little more clearly.
Hiring a car
A road trip around Iceland is one of the best options for exploring and experiencing the wild north. The Icelandic landscape is characterised by rugged mountains, impressive fjords and unique, untouched nature. So it’s advisable to book a rental car so you not only have flexibility, but you can also get to remote spots much more easily. You should also factor enough time into your trip to properly explore all of the beautiful sights and natural wonders. We recommend allowing 10 to 14 days to discover the island so you can fully immerse yourself in Icelandic clarity. The route will take you along the famous Ring Road.
A trip to Reykjavik is always an adventure. Iceland’s capital city is a place that’s brimming with variety and entertainment. Visitors can expect a pulsating metropolis full of culture, beautiful nature and all kinds of exciting activities. From breathtaking natural delights and cultural sights to a vibrant art scene and countless leisure options, Reykjavik is not somewhere you’ll ever get bored.
Top tip: Don’t miss out on taking a look at the street art on a walk through the three main roads, Laugavegur Street, Grettisgata Street and Skólavörðustígur, and pay a visit to the imposing Hallgrimskirkja!
Thingvellir National Park and the Gullfoss waterfall
Thingvellir National Park is one of the most famous conservation areas in Iceland. It is located in the Golden Circle region, which is one of the most popular tourist areas in the country. The park is renowned for its unparalleled landscape, which is made up of lava fields, geothermally active areas and distinctive flora and fauna. Once you’re there, you’ll come across the first waterfall of your road trip. The Gullfoss waterfall is one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls and perhaps even one of the most popular attractions in the country. The waterfall is an impressive combination of two waterfalls that span 32 metres in width with an impressive 11-metre drop. It’s hard to imagine if you haven’t seen it for yourself.
Top tip: Between October and March, you can observe the incredible Northern Lights from the Thingvellir National Park, lighting up the night sky in a truly magical way.
Skogafoss and Kvernufoss
From the National Park, you can go right on to the next natural spectacle – the Skogafoss waterfall. It’s a fantastic spot to experience the beauty of nature and the power of the elements. With its 80-metre-high rock face and width of 25 metres, it is one of the largest waterfalls in Iceland and makes for a stunning backdrop. Just five minutes further on you’ll find a hidden gem: the Kvernufoss waterfall. Just as you can with the Seljalandsfoss, you can walk behind the waterfall and take in the beautiful sight in peace – away from the 300 other tourists.
Top tip: Stop by at sunset to make the most of the Golden Hour.
Green and rugged. Wide fields and deep canyons. A mix of The Shire and Mordor – that’s the best way to describe Thakgil. It’s the perfect location to take a breather after the first stops, unwind and simply take a walk. The beautiful scenery is of course never out of sight.
Top tip: Camp one night in the wilderness and watch the starry sky. Maybe a few northern lights can be found here as well.
Dyrholaey Peninsula is an unbelievable location on Iceland’s south coast. From the viewpoint, visitors can enjoy a breathtaking view of the rugged cliffs and the pounding surf. The many puffins you’ll come across on this coastline lend Dyrholaey Peninsula a certain sense of flair, and not far away you can take a stroll on the black sand beach at Reynisfjara.
Top tip: Spend a night in Vik, “the bay of the valley of the swamp”, and watch the sunrise in the morning from the parish church.
This glacier lagoon in Iceland is one of the most spectacular natural wonders in the world. With its glittering icebergs, impressive waterfalls and unique landscape, it’s a truly one-of-a-kind experience. But it’s not just the natural surroundings that appeal – the animal life is also a particular point of interest. Marine birds, seals and even penguins turn the Jokulsarlon lagoon into something quite special.
Top tip: You can also walk from here to the nearest black sand beach – Diamond Beach – in just five minutes.
Iceland’s East Fjords are a wonderful destination for anyone wanting to experience a sense of vastness. The East Fjords stretch along the southeast coast of Iceland. No matter whether you go for a hike through the glacier, a kayak tour of the fjords, a boat trip along the coast or a tour of the geysers, Iceland’s East Fjords make for an unforgettable experience.
Top tip: Discover the small town of Seydisfjordur and its handicrafts.
This canyon, deep in the Jökuldalur glacial valley, wasn’t known about just a few years ago because it was still flooded. Thanks to a major dam project, the once grey and wild glacial river is now clear and serene. Surrounded by towering reddish basalt columns, the river shimmers in turquoise blue.
Top tip: Stop by in summer, as the river is made cloudy by the rain and the hiking trail is also easier to complete.
Nestled amid Iceland’s wild beauty lies the charming town of Husavik. With its picturesque streets, traditional timber houses and breathtaking views, Husavik is a veritable gem that simply has to be explored – from the expansive landscapes to the local shops and restaurants.
Top tip: Go whale watching! Just book a boat tour in Husevik and you’ll be guaranteed an unforgettable experience.
The final stop, not far from where we started in Reykjavik, is the place to unwind after a long road trip. The artificial lagoon was opened in April 2021 and is located just outside the city centre. In comparison to the popular Blue Lagoon, everything is smaller and quieter, and it also boasts a spectacular view of the sea.
Top tip: A must-try is the seven-step Sky Lagoon ritual – for the ultimate relaxation.
Photocredits: Adobe Stock