Updated: Jun 6, 2019
Iceland is like the new kid on the block! Many years ago nobody knew that much about this country, some people (including yours truly) thinking that the country is definitely cold and not worthy of a dream destination (owing mostly to it's confusing name!). However things have changed drastically over the past few years. As per a latest statistic , the number of tourists that visited Iceland last year was a whopping 2 million! which is almost thrice the population of this country!
PLACES OF INTEREST IN ICELAND - BEST PLACES TO VISIT
Iceland is place full of spectacular landscapes and tongue-twisting places (try saying Eyjafjallajökull or Djúpalónssandur!) that are guaranteed to leave you speechless and dumbfounded! It is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places on planet earth and one must truly experience it in person to understand just how beautiful the landscapes are!Iceland has a lot to offer - from beautiful waterfalls, geothermal hot springs, dramatic landscapes to the northern lights! In this blog I will be covering the list of places which I believer aren't to be missed when you are in this beautiful country! So, let's get started :)
Where better to start exploring Iceland than from the capital city of Reykjavik? Considered one of the smallest and beautiful capitals in the world , Reykjavik has so much to offer - from beautiful churches to colorful houses , from museums to shopping streets - you name it!My recommendation is that you keep one day aside for exploring downtown Reykjavik (as that is where most of the recommended places are ), but if you are on a time crunch then a half day also should be fine.
PLACES TO SEE:
Hallgrímskirkja is a church in the capital city of Reykjavik and is one of the tallest structures in the country. You can go up to the top of the church for a complete 360 degree view of Reykjavik. The entrance fee is about ~ $10, I would strongly advise that you don't miss this spot!
B. The Sun Voyager
The Sun Voyager is a steel sculpture and is described as a dreamboat, or an ode to the sun. If you are visiting in Summer then do stop by around midnight for spectacular views of the sunset! (see pic below). If not this is still a great location to relax and take good landscape photographs.
C. Parliament and Reykjavik City Hall
The Alþingi is the national parliament of Iceland. It is one of the oldest parliaments in the world. It's actually quite a very small building and you will probably not even notice given it's location and size.
D. Laugavegur - Shopping Street
Laugavegur is the name given to the popular shopping street in Reykjavik. If you are interested in shopping for local clothing or souvenirs then this is the place you wanna go to!
Harpa is a modern glass honeycomb concert hall & conference center, home to the national opera & symphony. Location: https://goo.gl/maps/Th1kap1S9yp
2. SELJALANDSFOSS WATERFALLS
Spectacular and picturesque, the Seljalandsfoss is one of most famous and photographed locations in Iceland. It is one of the few waterfalls where you can go behind the falls to get a unique perspective of the waterfalls and also get some good pictures!The cliffs behind the falls have a wide cavern, and rocks and paths allow guests to fully encircle it in summer. In winter time the path is closed when it gets too slippery and dangerous to walk behind the waterfall!
There is another waterfall very close to Seljalandsfoss called Gljúfrabúi, which is a hidden waterfall in a narrow canyon that cascades into a pool near the famous Seljalandsfoss. Don't forget to take time out and visit this waterfalls, you can get beautiful photographs here.
PRO TIP:Always wear a good rain coat or waterproof jacket when visiting any waterfall in Iceland, cause you will get totally soaked!
3. SKOGAFOSS WATERFALLS
The Skógafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in the country with a width of 15 meters (49 feet) and a drop of 60 m (200 ft). Due to the amount of spray the waterfall consistently produces, a single or double rainbow is normally visible on sunny days.You can also climb up to the observation deck from where you get a good view of the waterfalls from the top. There are around 500 steps leading up to an observation platform above Skógafoss, so if you have time and are one up to it, you should definitely check it out! However, the view is even better from the ground so even if you can't make it to the top don't worry!
PRO TIP:There is a campsite in the area if you wanted to camp the night out!
4. REYNISDRANGAR, THE BLACK SAND BEACH & DYRHOLAEY
Reynisdrangar are basalt sea stack columns situated in the village of Vik on the southern coast of Iceland, framed by the famous black sand beach of Reynisfjara. The black sand beach is one of the ten most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world.Another major landmark in the vicinity is the Dyrhólaey peninsula, which is famed for its staggering views of Iceland’s South Coast, as well as its historic lighthouse and wealth of bird life. It is home to a rock arch of the same name.
Both the black sand beach and the Dyrhólaey peninsula are known for it's bird life, especially in the months between May-September and is one of the best places in Iceland to see the Puffins :)
Black Sand beach : https://goo.gl/maps/5YTKjTuPoLB2
Dyrhólaey lighthouse : https://goo.gl/maps/oj4Z1WyZBso
PRO TIP: If you are visiting this region make sure you cover both the Black sand beach and Dyrholaey peninsula together, you don't want to miss out on either of them!
5. FOSS A SIDU
This is a very nice waterfall which is located en route to the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon , so if you are on the way make sure to stop here. There is a small parking lot on the right. Location : https://goo.gl/maps/n4L26RryiK12
6. SVARTIFOSS WATERFALLS OR THE BLACK FALLS
Svartifoss is a waterfall in Skaftafell in Vatnajökull National Park in Iceland, and is one of the most popular sights in the park. It is surrounded by dark black basalt lava columns, thus giving rise to the name "Black Falls".From the parking lot/visitor center , you have to hike uphill for about 1.5kms to get to the waterfalls.
Parking is NOT free and it costs about 600 ISK per car.
Location : https://goo.gl/maps/5MzmHMUHju22
PRO TIP:There is a campsite located here in case you wanted to camp the night out in this area.
7. FJALLSARLON GLACIER LAGOON
The Fjallsárlón is an iceberg lagoon at the south end of the glacier Vatnajökull. On the lagoon, you can see floating icebergs that calve from the edge of the glacier. There are boat tours offered here which take you on a boat ride of the glacier lagoon, but if you are really interested in a boat ride I would suggest you check out the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon boat tour which is described below
Location : https://goo.gl/maps/9UEdMx5gW5S2
8. JOKULSARLON GLACIER LAGOON & BOAT TOUR
Jökulsárlón is a glacial lagoon in the Vatnajökull National Park in southeastern Iceland. Still blue waters with huge icebergs framed by snow capped mountains make this place one of the most picturesque and photographed locations in Iceland.
This place is a must-visit if you are on a South Coast tour or a Ring Road trip.While it is obvious that you can pretty much just walk around the glacier lagoon and enjoy the scenery, there is an activity that I would recommend you do here and that is the Amphibian Boat Tour, where you sail among the huge icebergs in the picturesque scenery of Jökulsárlón.
Location : https://goo.gl/maps/PgRLgfbwwXH2
9. DIAMOND BEACH - BLACK SAND BEACH
Towards the east of Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon , just about a 10 min walk , is a Black sand beach termed by many tourists as the "Diamond Beach" due to huge chunks of Ice lying around the beach which makes it look like a diamond!
If you are visiting Jokulsarlon, I would suggest you take some timeout and visit the Diamond beach as well. There are two locations you can visit, basically they are on either sides of the beach and for most part offer the same views.
Location 1: https://goo.gl/maps/gEGuMP7x5Nw
Location 2: https://goo.gl/maps/8c4a9cp3BHm
10. DETIFOSS WATERFALLS
If you continue to drive east along the Ring Road you will come across a few waterfalls, the most prominent one among them being Detifoss and Godafoss.
For Detifoss you have two options- either driving to the West side or the East side and honestly many people have their own views, but I would suggest you look at both locations on Google maps and decide which one looks better or if you have time check both of them out!
The western side is easiest to get to because of the asphalt road 862 and it has the best golden hour light during summer and winter. To get to Detifoss waterfalls east lot you need to find the road 864, which is a very, very long gravel road. When you get close to Dettifoss you’ll have to descent down a side road from 864, but don’t worry there are signs to follow here too.
Detifoss Parking Lot East : https://goo.gl/maps/LoK5tqhMGas
Detifoss Parking Lot West : https://goo.gl/maps/k2c7tHafZKE2
11. LAKE MYVATN & NATURE BATHS
If you are interested in taking a hot bath in a natural Geothermal hot spring then the Myvatn Nature baths should definitely be on your list of places. This location is different than the Blue Lagoon in that it is a Natural Hot Spring unlike the Blue Lagoon which is man made.
Location : https://goo.gl/maps/CxWeSR9s1uv
12. GODAFOSS WATERFALLS
Goðafoss or "waterfall of the gods" is one the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland, and falls from a height of 12 meters over a width of 30 meters
Parking Lot : https://goo.gl/maps/SVUYCTFXd372
13. SNAEFELLSNES PENINSULA
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is located on the western side of Iceland and is known for it's dramatic landscapes , most notably the Snæfellsjökull volcano, regarded as one of the symbols of Iceland , and also for it's appearance in the Jules Verne novel Journey to the Center of the Earth. The peninsula is only about a two hour drive from the capital Reykjavik, making it easily accessible for those on short trips.
A. Kirkjufell, the 'Church Mountain'Kirkjufell is one of the most photographed locations in Iceland, not only in summer but also in winter as you have a great show of the northern lights in these areas when conditions are perfect! Just across from the mountain you have the beautiful waterfall Kirkjufellsfoss , and after about a walking for few mins you get good vantage points for taking photographs of the waterfall framed by Kirkjufell!
B. Saxholl Crater : Saxholl is a volcanic crater that is now accessbile with a short hike upto a viewpoint that offers incredible views from the top! This should be a really short pitstop since there is nothing else much to do here, so if you are short of time , then you can definitely skip this place
C. Djúpalónssandur Black Sand Beach : Djúpalónssandur is a black sand beach (one of the many in Iceland!) that is just a few mins walk from the parking lot. On a beautiful clear day the views here are amazing and you can also get great views of the Lóndrangar which are two giant natural towers made of basalt volcanic materials
D. Lóndrangar: If you didn't get a good view of the Lóndrangar from Djúpalónssandur black sand beach then you can drive further for a few kms and then stop at a parking lot where you can get spectacular views of the sea towers up close.
E. Arnarstapi : Arnarstapi is a small fishing village with picturesque coastal cliffs framed by snow capped mountains! There are a few places of interest here like the Bárðar Saga Snæfellsáss Statue or you can just walk around to viewpoints overlooking the cliffs.
F. Búðakirkja – Búðir Church : One of the main reasons I wanted to visit the Snæfellsnes peninsula is an opportunity to photograph the tiny black church called the Búðakirkja that sits alone among a field of lava rocks. I don't know exactly what it is , but just the location and the scenery surrounding it makes me really excited about photographing it and I wasn't disappointed :)If you love landscapes then definitely don't miss this spot!
14. GOLDEN CIRCLE
If you did your research right, you probably know by now that the Golden Circle is one of the most popular tourist routes in Iceland! The reason behind it is mostly because this region covers most tours and travel related activities in Iceland. It's a popular tourist route in southern Iceland, covering about 300 kilometers looping from Reykjavik into the southern uplands of Iceland and back.
Thórsmörk, named after the norse god Thor , is a mountain ridge in the south highlands of Iceland, is one of the most popular hiking areas in the country. Nicknamed "The Valley of Thor" , this entire region consists of dramatic landscapes with contrasting colors of lush green meadows and snow capped mountains which makes it one of the best locations for photographing the unique landscapes of Iceland!
You need to have 4x4 vehicle to reach Thórsmörk as you will have to go through rough roads and also cross the river Krossa! (yes , you heard it right). A 4 x 4 vehicle with river crossing insurance cover is therefore essential.
One of the most popular hiking trails here is the Laugavegur, which ideally takes around 4 days to complete and stretches for around 55 km. It is considered to be one of the best hiking trails in the world, so if you have the time and the determination to do a hike of this sorts then you should definitely give it a try!
Remember this hike is only available from mid June till mid September so plan accordingly. If you are not up for this or just don't have the time to do it, then don't worry you can still explore Thórsmörk and I would suggest you do what I did, take a highland bus from Reykjavik (check out trex.is), they basically pick you up from Reykjavik and drop you off at Langidalur, from where you can hike to the top of the mountain for breathtaking views of the valley. DO NOT MISS THIS!