Top 40 fun things to do in Iceland
When you visit Iceland you might wonder what things to do in Iceland. Here are a few suggestions. Some of them are family friendly, others traditional and we also added a few crazy ideas to the list. So everyone should find something to their liking!
1. Go for a swim in the North Atlantic ocean.
It is getting more and more popular for visitors to take a dive on the cold sea. Icelanders have done it for hundred of years and still do. Oer the summertime the heat of the sea is about 12 – 15°C but in winter it can go down below zero. Swimming in the sea isn´t just invigorating and adventurous, some say it strengthens the immune system. One of the main spots to go for a swim is Nautholsvik geothermal beach. They have great facilities there and after a dive in the Atlantic Ocean you can relax in an hot tub and enjoy the view. Just check the opening hours before you head to the beach.
2. Enjoy New Years in Iceland.
If you are looking for a true party over New Years, Iceland is the place to be. Icelanders simply love fireworks that time of year and there aren´t many places in the world that allow fireworks as freey as Iceland does. Every New Year Icelanders shoot around 1300 tons of fireworks into the sky to welcome the New Year. Find a good spot to enjoy the view and you are up for a feast! Most profit of the firework sales goes to the national rescue squad and that plays a big part in why Icelanders spend so much money on buying fireworks. I you are goig to get in on the fun, wear safety glasses, avoid wearing flammable clothing and you might even need a set of earplugs. If you only want to enjoy the view, then sites like Perlan and Hallgrimskirkja church will give you a VIP seat of the show!
3. Stay awake for 24 hours.
In summer day and night merge into one and it literally doesn´t get dark. The Icelandic summer nights are truly amazing and give you endless opportunities to explore and enjoy being outdoors. All sorts of activities are popular over summer like midnight golf. Icelandic summer nights leave you with endless opportunities and the only limits really are those of your own imagination.
4. Walk between continents.
The earth´s crust is composed of 6 large and several smaller plates that drift around and cause sea-floor spreading. Two of those plates meet under Iceland, the Eurasian plate and the North-American plate. It is very unusual to be able to see this ever-widerning rift on the surface ground but Iceland is one of the few places where you can. In Reykjanes a 18 meter bridge has been built of the rift and everyone is welcome to cross it and for free! It is very cool to cross the bridge and walk between two continents. If you are interested you can buy for a low price a certificate of proof that you have crossed the bridge at a nearby information center.
5. Go horse back riding
The Icelandic horse is at the size of a pony but as strong as a mountain horse. You can find a tour that suits you perfectly, from a few hours of horse back riding to a multi day tour. These horses are very well secured by the Icelanders and they prohibit importation of horses. It is a must for all animal lovers to get to know the Icelandic horse.
6. Watch the Whales
The whales around Iceland surface and shows off their tricks. They often come very close to the boats and you also often spot dolphins jumping. In summer you can go whale watching both on the north and south coast of Iceland, but in winter tours only run from the Old harbor in Reykjavik. Both locations are great for whale watching. It is truly amazing to see these gigantic animals in their natural environment and so up close!
7. Visit The Pearl
Perlan is a famous landmark in Reykjavík where you can see a massive glass dome. The building stands 84.3 feet in height. You can go watch concerts in the winter garden and visit the viewing deck, visit the shops and enjoy the magnificent view at the café. On the balcony you can find telescopes if you want to enjoy the view to the fullest!
8. Go fishing!
The fishing industry has been Iceland´s main industry for centuries and is still a big part of the culture. You can either go on a tour to catch your own fish or go down to the harbor in the morning and offer our help to the fishermen who work on the day boats. A freshly caught fish is simply the best and even better if you caught it yourself!
9. Try Diving and Snorkeling
One of the best thing to do in Iceland actually. Needless to say that there are plenty of spots where you can enjoy such activity. Surprisingly, you can also go surfing in Iceland! The most popular place to go snorkeling is Silfra at Thingvellir National Park.
10. Check out the view from the bell tower
If you want to do this then do this at the highest ever built church in Iceland, the Hallgrímskirkja church. It measures up 244 feet in height! Just make sure you aren’t afraid of heights before going. The view is magnificent and don´t forget to bring your camera with you! The church itself is beautiful so we can easily recommend you pay it a visit!
11. Enjoy a geothermal bath
You can find many different places in Iceland to bathe in a naturally hot water. Landmannalaugar is one, the Blue lagoon is classic, the nature baths at Lake Mývatn are wonderful, floating in the Secret lagoon is superb and list continues. To relax in a naturally warm water out in the nature is definitely a must and should be on your to-do list for sure!
12. Snowmobiling on a glacier
Get your adrenaline pumping, jump on a snowmobile and tell all your friends you´ve been on a glacier. Most snowmobile rides take place on Langjökull glacier and Mývatnsjökull glacier. There are various tours to choose from and many like to combine the snowmobiling adventure to another tour like the Golden Circle. How cool is it to have a profile picture taken on a glacier!
13. Get married in the Blue lagoon
The Blue lagoon is one of the most popular destinations in Iceland. Its not just beautiful, it is also a very relaxing and peaceful place with unique surroundings. The warm turquoise blue water is truly beautiful and surrounded with lava fields. The lagoon is known for its healing powers for the skin but you can do many other things there, like get married. Couples who are interested in tying the knot in this unusual location can get assistance from the personnel at the lagoon.
14. Be a chef in nature´s kitchen.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to Iceland´s geothermal energy. Hot springs are for instance used not only for heating homes, but are very handy when traveling. You can use them for almost everything, from washing laundry to boiling eggs. It is also possible and very delicious to bake bread in the earth of the geothermal areas. The dough is simply placed in a container, such as a milk carton, and buried a little way down in the hot ground. If you don´t have time to wait for many hours for the bread to get ready, you can always buy a loaf of geothermal bread in places like Hveragerði and Mývatnssveit.
15. Get hot.
Unlike other countries, in Iceland you can stand in the shower as long as you like without expecting a water bill for hundreds of pounds. Due to the island´s volcanic activity the hot water is both plentiful and inexpensive, making it perfect for heating homes and greenhouses, melting snow and filling up all the swimming pools and hot tubs. So enjoy it while you are in Iceland and take a looooong hot shower without feeling guilty.
16. Eat fermented shark.
Some of the traditional Icelandic food might seem a bit odd to foreigners. Sheep´s head, dried fish and fermented shark are just examples. When you visit Iceland it is almost a must to try fermented shark. It has a strong smell and taste but if you want to make a good impression for the locals, try one bite!
17. Go lava caving.
If you are the adventurous type, go lava caving! There are various tours offered and you often don´t even need to go far away from Reykjavik to find a lava tube. Leiðarendi for instance is within 30 min drive from the capital. Here is a good article about caves, pick the one you like to visit!
18. See the northern lights.
The northern lights are a magical phenomenon that everyone should see at least once in a lifetime. Whether you decide to do a tour or a self-drive, the experience seeing the lights dancing above your head will stay with you forever. All sorts of tours are available for aurora hunting: Evening tours, combo tours, bus tours, super jeep tours, multi day tours, floating tours, boat tours…. the list is long so you should find at least one that suits your needs.
19. Go floating.
Floating is one of the best ways possible to relax. With the underground speakers you are able to relax fully with the tones of SigurRos in your ears. The floating kit enables you to float in the warm Secret Lagoon and let every muscle in your body rest. There are many extra treats on the tours as well, such as hunting for the northern lights in winter.
20. Go swimming and relax in the hot tubs.
Swimming is a big part of Icelandic culture. It is obligatory for all Icelanders to learn how to swim so you can say we are raised in the pools to a great extent. Most pools are outdoors but the water is always nicely warm so people go for a swim without freezing in winter. The hot tubs are a must after a refreshing swim and an ideal way to blend with the locals.
21. Have a hot dog.
It is almost obligatory to have a hot dog when you visit Iceland. The most popular hot dog booth in Reykjavik is opposite Kolaportið flea market, not far from the Old Harbor. As for “ein með öllu” (one with everything) and blend in with the locals by the booth while you enjoy your delicious hot dog. When you are travelling around Iceland you can buy a hot dog almost everywhere so there is no excuse not to have one!
22. Go inside a volcano.
Thrihnukagigur Volcano has retired by being an erupting prowess 4,000 years ago, so exploring the magma chamber from the inside is as safe as exploring a museum. But unlike a museum with just parts or relics of a volcano closed in a casket, a tour inside the volanco will take you to the actual inside of a volcano. Something you shouldn´t miss and do at least once in a lifetime!
23. Try glacier hiking.
For an adventurous day, try glacier hiking. At Sólheimajökull glacier you can explore the crevasse riddle outlet glacier with amazing ice formations, sinkholes and indented ridges. Some tours even offer you ice climbing as well. Never go glacier hiking on your own though as it simply is too dangerous but with guides and the right equipment you are off to an adventure.
24. See the puffins.
Puffins are unique and beautiful birds. Over half of the world´s population of the Atlantic puffin roost in Iceland. These birds are unique in many ways, like how they can paddle along the surface of the sea and dive underwater on spotting prey. Half of Icelandic puffins are in the Westmann Island where they both harvested and conserved. Other sites are for instance Hornbjarg and Hornstrandir and on many whale watching tours you see puffins. It is to be noted that puffins aren´t in Iceland during winter. This is one of our favorite things to do in Iceland because the puffins are just great:)
25. Check out the Imagine Peace Tower
The Imagine Peace Tower stands for joy, wisdom, hope and healing. It is a memorial tower of John Lennon by his wife Yoko Ono. The tower is lighted up from 9th October, which is John Lennon´s birthday, up to 8th December. There are also some additional dates for the tower to be lit up and that includes for instance 31st December. The tower is located in Viðey but you can see the light from a far.
26. Go for a bike ride in the nature
If you want to get the adrenaline pumping and get a real exercise then go biking! There are various tours offered, like in Heiðmörk and Skaftafell, where you can enjoy a great bike ride away from the city lights and noise.
27. Visit the Westman Islands
The Westman islands (Vestmannaeyjar) are located just off the south coast of Iceland. One of the most famous volcanic eruptions in Iceland took place there in 1973. There is a museum about the eruption that you must visit. The largest island is Heimaey but the other islands are uninhabitable. More than 30 bird species nest in their millions in the cliffs, including puffins. Sail around the islands and enjoy the peacefulness and nature the islands have to offer.
28. Try the Icelandic skyr
Skyr is a dairy product that is very popular in Iceland. You can buy skyr with various flavours, like blueberry and strawberry, but also just plain skyr. It is healthy and something Icelanders have eaten for decades. It is similar to thick yogurt but the taste is unique and delicious. Be like an Icelander and eat skyr!
29. Visit the Arctic Circle on Grímsey island
Grímsey is a small island abour 40 km (25 mi) off the north coast of Iceland and straddling the Arctic Circle. Grímsey is the northernmost inhabited Icelandic territory. The Arctic Circle runs through the island and it is an optimal photo opportunity to take a photo there. You can either fly or take a ferry to the island and spend a day or two.
30. Mount Esja
When you are in Reykjavik you see a beautiful mountain not too far away. This is Esjan, an outdoor paradise. If you want to go for a hike it is an ideal place to so do, either on your own or with a tour. You don´t need to go to the top unless you want to but the view from the hills, and of course the top, is magnificent. Here you can enjoy nature to the fullest and within an hour drive from the capital.
31. The Pond
In Reykjavík´s city center you will see a pond. In summer you can see there different kinds of birds swimming with their newborns. All around the pond you can see various sculptures and artwork and also city hall where you can sit down and have a nice cup of coffee while enjoying the view of the pond. In winter the pond often freezes and then you people either walking across the ice or skating. Try it too, just make sure the ice is really frozen!
32. Enjoy Christmas
Icelanders love Christmas. They decorate their houses, trees and the city center is always very festive. There is a Christmas market in Hafnarfjordur, Christmas shop on the main shopping street in Reykjavik (Laugavegur) and there is always something going on. Don´t forget the Icelandic santas – they are 13!
33. Attend a sports event
Icelanders love sports. In summer football is very popular and in winter it is handball and basketball. If you are a sports fan then you should definitely go to a game and blend in with the locals!
34. Get a City Pass
The City Pass opens doors to many great activities. You can buy one for 1,2 or 3 days. With the City Pass you can visit all the museums in Reykjavik, go swimming, visit the domestic zoo, take the ferry over to Videy island (where the Imagine Peace Tower is located) and much more. Spend time and money wisely and grab a City Pass.
The Hvalfjörður Tunnel (Hvalfjarðargöng) is a road tunel under Hvalfjördur fjord and is a part of the ring road. It is 5770 meter longs and reaches a depth of 165 meters below sea level. It shortens the distance from Reykjavík to the western and northern parts of Iceland by 45 km as it takes around an hour to drive the Hvalfjörður fjord itself. The fjord is around 30 km long and 5 km wide. The fjord has a history. During World War II a naval base of the British and American navies could be found there. The name of the fjord is derived from the large number of whales that could be found and caught there. In summer, if you have plenty of extra time, it is a lovely route to drive the fjord itself. Lovely scenery, waterfalls, interesting mixture of volcanic mountains and green vegetation, rivers and unspoiled nature. In winter we recommend the tunnel!
36. Visit churches
It doesn´t matter whether you are religious or not, visiting the many lovely churches is a wonderful experience. It doesn´t matter whether it is the great Hallgrimskirkja church or a small country church, all of them have their own unique style and history. If you visit the Hallgrimskirkja church, try to be there when they play the massive organ. The sound and the experience is amazing! The small country churches are worth visiting but you can find them all over the country.
37. Check out the bars and cafés
If you long for a nice cup of coffee there are various cafés in the city center in Reykjavík. Try also some local delicacies like kleina or vaffla. If you want to have a beer the pub Kaldi is ideal and try out the local beers. If you want something special, the Kex hostel has an extra ordinary bar/restaurant. The possibilities are endless and do not hesitate to try as many as you can find. You will have a nice experience wherever you go and blend with the locals!
38. Botanical garden
If you are a fan of trees and flowers, you need to check out the Botanical Garden in Laugardalur. In summer it is gorgeous but it is also charming in winter. Small pond, fountain and peaceful with birdlife. You also find Café Flora there, an ideal place to sit down, relax and enjoy a meal.
39. Mývatn nature baths
The Blue lagoon is always very popular but not too many know that there is another lagoon on the northern coast by lake Mývatn. The Mývatn nature baths are natural, peaceful and worth visiting if you are traveling in the area.
40. Cultural Night is a great things to do in Iceland
Every year in August Cultural night is celebrated in Reykjavik. It starts in the morning and eds around midnight with fireworks. Stroll around town and participate in various events – such as the marathon – and enjoy the shows, concerts and all the other sites offering something exciting. In the evening, enjoy the concert in the city center and then the wonderful fireworks just before midnight. This is one of our favorite things to do in Iceland because the fireworks are just great:)
41. Visit the black sand beach in Vík
On the south coast of Iceland you will find many nature gems. One of them is the black sand beach close to Vík, called Reynisfjara. The black sand is crushed lava rock and it also features an amazing cliff of regular basalt columns, called Garðar. Out in the sea you will see the beautifully shaped basalt sea stacks Reynisdrangar. The ocean there is very powerful so don´t go too close!! Half way down the beach is a large vaulted cavern, a beautiful site but again, don´t go too close. Otherwise you might end up in the Atlantic Ocean! The area is rich in birdlife and in summer you can spot puffins for instance.
42. Visit the abandoned plane.
On Sólheimasandur beach in the south of Iceland you will find something unusual. An epic plane wreck! In 1973 a United States Navy airplane ran out of fuel and was forced to land on the black beach at Sólheimasandur. Thankfully everyone on board survived. Later it turned out that the pilot had simply switched over to the wrong fuel tank. The remains are still at the crash site, on the sand very close to the sea. The scenery is quite amazing and unreal, it is actually like from a science fiction move. A site worth visiting!
43. Visit the Glacial Lagoon
The Glacial lagoon is one of many wonders of nature that you will find in Iceland. The lagoon first appeared in 1934-1935 and has been growing ever since. It is the deepest lake in Iceland, located on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park. During summer you can take a boat tour on the lake and sail among the magnificent icebergs. In winter it is a popular location to hunt for the northern lights. The lagoon has been a setting for several Hollywood films, such as James Bond.
44. Drive through the national park, Thingvellir
Thingvellir National Park is a wonderful place worth visiting. It is very historical and special in so many ways. It is where you can see the Mid-Atlantic Ridge that splits Iceland further apart each year. The scenery is one of a kind and it doesn´t matter whether it is in summer, spring, fall or winter. Thingvallavatn lake is breathtaking, the trees, the lava, the waterfalls…. the list is endless. Thingvellir is a site of historical and cultural importance. It is where the Icelandic Parliament was established in 930 and in 2004 Thingvellir became a World Heritage Site. All off road driving is of course prohibited and please show the park and its surroundings full respect.