Picture Iceland and you may imagine thundering waterfalls, fizzing geysers, and cinematic landscapes that could be used as a backdrop for a sci-fi film as much as an epic adventure movie or nature documentary. Iceland’s scenery deserves its stellar reputation and is worthy of deep exploration, whether you want to experience it in the extreme dark of an Icelandic winter or the never-quite-fading light of the Midnight Sun.
Whether you’ve got less than a week to blitz as much of Iceland as possible on a short break, time to cover off the big-ticket sights with some lesser-discovered gems, or you’re the type of adventurer that likes to wrap a personal challenge up with your travels, there are plenty of ways to tackle Iceland.
We’ve rounded up five of the most incredible things to do in Iceland – but be warned: you’ll need to go twice to experience the whole list!
1. Bask in the glow of the Northern Lights
The Northern Lights, the ethereal aurora borealis, is a spectacle that justifiably features on many travellers’ bucket lists. Sightings need an alignment of conditions – the right location, solar activity, and clear skies. When these elements combine, the result can be electrifying. Swirls of neon green and grey dance across the night sky in an eerie, otherworldly display that’s sparked myth and legend over the centuries.
Spotting the Northern Lights isn’t an experience that’s exclusive to Iceland, but we can think of few better places to witness the aurora. When you’re not gazing skyward after nightfall, you can walk over glaciers, hear the thunder and feel the power of mighty waterfalls, and get to know why the capricious and creative Reykavik is so beloved.
To be in with a chance of seeing Iceland’s Northern Lights (remembering that sightings can never be guaranteed), visit in the winter on one of our Iceland Northern Lights departures. It’s a five-day trip carefully created to make the most of your time there, including visiting Reykjavik and completing the Golden Circle. You’ve just about got time to squeeze in a winter 2022 trip to see the Northern Lights in Iceland… if you hurry!
2. Hike and camp along the Laugavegur Trail
For experienced walkers, the opportunity to trek the four-day Laugavegur Trail is a thrilling proposition. It’s a clearly defined trail known for leading adventurers to incredible panoramas across Iceland, but one that poses an achievable challenge. The trail concludes with a hike on Solheimajokull, a glacier that extends from the Myrdalsjokull icecap. You’ll strap on crampons and brandish ice axes to ascend this massive ice flow, exploring an icy wonderworld of crevasses and long narrow ridges.
Our seven-day Iceland Laugavegur Trek involves four days of camping along the route, pitching in with cooking and setting up the camp for a hands-on experience in the Icelandic wilderness. The trip is bookended with nights in hotels in Reykjavik, allowing time to get to know Iceland’s urban side, too.
3. Watch eruptions from the world-famous Strokkur
The sheer power of geysers is a marvel, although relatively rare, with around 600 worldwide, mainly found in Yellowstone, USA, Chile, New Zealand and Iceland. The word geyser was taken from Iceland’s largest – Geysir. This impressive geyser once shot water up to 80 metres into the air, and although it has retained its fame, it’s quieter these days. Geysir’s sister geyser, Strokkur, is in the same geothermal area and has the most reliable eruptions. Every five to ten minutes, Strokkur sends a jet of water and steam skywards in a fantastic display of natural power.
Our ten-day Iceland Explorer trip visits the geysers on the second day, followed by a viewing of the Gullfoss waterfall – certainly a day to remember on an action-packed itinerary that completes an entire loop around the country.
4. Enjoy never-ending sunlight in the summer
Visit Iceland in the summer, and you can enjoy incredibly long and sunlight-filled days. On the summer solstice on 21 June, sunrise is at around 3am, and sunset is around midnight, but it never gets truly dark as the sun sits just below the horizon, and a lingering light remains. For six weeks on either side of the summer solstice, you can make the most of the bright nights, extending your hikes into the evenings and visiting waterfalls at unusual times to savour the never-ending days.
Join a summer departure of our Iceland Explorer trip, and you’ll see some of Iceland’s highlights under twilight skies that cast a mystical light across the landscapes. It’s an incredibly varied trip that covers the nation’s must-see locations, from its most famous spots like the Golden Circle, geysers, and waterfalls, to lesser-explored vistas and villages on the Icelandic coastline.
5. Walk alongside the Jokulsarlon Lagoon and see the sparkle of Diamond Beach
At the Glacier Lagoon at Jokulsarlon, thousands of icebergs are separating from the country’s largest glacier and float in the pale green water. A walk beside the lagoon is a memorable experience to see the icy water leading to a black sand beach where chunks of ice are washed onto the shore by the sea, strewing the beach with ice that looks like diamonds glinting in the sun.
A visit to Jokulsarlon features on the third day of an action-packed ten-day Iceland Explorer itinerary that takes an anticlockwise circuit around Iceland, checking off the highlights along the way. You’ll see the nation’s star attractions, from the prettiest fjords to the most dramatic displays of nature’s forces in the geysers and waterfalls, the unmissable Golden Circle, and the dramatic scenery of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
If this has inspired you to book a trip to Iceland, check out our adventures here.