Iceland has recently experienced a huge tourism boom. In fact, in 2018, over 2.3 million people visited Iceland, which was a 5.5% increase from the year before.
When you take into consideration that the population of Iceland is only 360,390, you get a sense of how big of a number 2.3 million really is for a tiny island nation.
If you plan to visit Iceland soon, then there’s no doubt that you’re going to love your experience there. The people are incredibly friendly and speak perfect English, there are natural wonders galore, and the country is incredibly easy to navigate.
But, if you only have a short time there, what should you see and do?
Check out this guide to learn about the best things to do in Iceland.
1. Take a Dip in the Blue Lagoon
One of your first stops in Iceland needs to be the Blue Lagoon. This geothermal pool is so popular in fact, that there are many visiting packages available for those who are on a layover in this country.
This world-famous pool is just a 10-minute drive from the airport. If you come here in the winter, we recommend heading to the Blue Lagoon in the early morning hours to catch the sunrise.
In addition to bathing in the pool, you can also head to the luxury spa for a massage or pedicure.
And, if the crowds at the Blue Lagoon are too much for you, don’t worry. Iceland has dozens of other geothermal pools that you can explore.
2. See the Northern Lights
If you leave Iceland without having seen the Northern Lights, then you’ve really missed out.
One of the best ways to see the Northern Lights is to rent a car and head out of town to a darker, rural area. Even just driving 20 minutes outside of Reykjavik will allow you to get a clear view of the Northern Lights.
Or, if you don’t want to tackle the planning on your own, you can join a Northern Lights tour. On a Northern Lights tour, a local guide will take you to a remote location outside of the city to view the lights. And, if you don’t see them on the first night, most tours allow you to join on for another night free of charge for another chance at seeing them.
Generally, the lights are active one night per week, but you’ll need a clear night sky to be able to see them. The months of March and September are usually the best for seeing the Northern Lights at their brightest.
3. Hike in Skaftafell Park
Without a doubt, you need to leave some room on your trip for Skaftafell Park. This is a 4,800 square kilometer park that offers some of the most unique landscapes in the world.
Here you can camp among the greens of the birchwood forest next to a glacial stream, while still being just a few minutes walk from black deserts and lava fields.
Throughout this natural reserve, you can also find glacial reserves and tongues, which all originated from the largest glacier in Europe, the Vatnajökull.
If you’re not keen on hiking the park yourself, there are many glacial hiking tour companies that you can book a hike within Reykjavik.
4. Go Whale Watching
If you’ve always dreamed about seeing a whale in its natural habitat, then Iceland is the place to do it.
While many people embark on whale watching tours right out of Reykjavik, one of the best places to go whale watching is in Northern Iceland. The capital of Northern Iceland and Iceland’s second-largest city, Akuyeri, offers a great base for whale watching.
Another great place to go whale watching is in Husavik, another small town in the north of Iceland.
In addition to spotting whales on these tours, you can also expect to see dolphins, puffers, and a wide variety of sea birds. The best time to go whale watching is between May and September.
5. Indulge in Typical Icelandic Cuisine
Chances are, you’ve never been to an Icelandic restaurant in your life. But, just because Icelandic cuisine isn’t world-famous, doesn’t mean it isn’t delicious.
Here are come Icelandic foods and drinks that you have to try:
- Skyr: This is a dairy product that is similar to yogurt. It’s typically topped with berries and served with milk
- Fermented Shark: Also known as Hakari, this is the national dish of Iceland
- Hot Spring Rye Bread: You haven’t had bread until you’ve had hot spring rye bread, which is, you guessed it, bread that is baked by burying it near a hot spring. If you wish, you can even do a tour where you learn how to bake some of this bread yourself
- Hot dogs: Americans aren’t the only ones who know how to cook a great hot dog. This food has been an Icelandic favorite for many years and is typically made from lamb
- Puffer: This is a seabird that is usually boiled in milk or smoked
- Brennivin: This is a local spirit that is similar to unsweetened Schnapps
- Coffee: Icelanders take their coffee very seriously, with the latter being the beverage of choice here
6. Drive the Golden Circle
Iceland is home to one of the greatest road trips in the world, the Golden Circle.
This is a 4 to 5-hour road trip that encompasses a number of beautiful sites, including the Strokkur Geyser (which erupts every few minutes), Þingvellir National Park (where you can go horseback riding and even scuba diving), Gullfoss Waterfall, Kerið Crater Lake, and Bruarfoss Waterfall.
Renting a car out of Reykjavik is incredibly easy, so we definitely recommend adding this road trip to your itinerary. Just make sure you allow a couple of days at each stop to fully enjoy the sites.
7. Take an Ice Cave Tour
Last but not least, you need to make sure you take an ice cave tour while in Iceland.
While there are many caves that are worth seeing, one we strongly recommend is the Leidarendi Lava Caves. These caves are famous for their colorful interiors and interesting rock formations.
You can check out Katla Ice Cave Tour in Iceland to learn about booking one of these amazing tours.
Things to Do in Iceland: Are You Ready to Explore?
As you can see, there are plenty of amazing things to do in Iceland. Now, all you need to do is book your flight to this amazing country.
And, if you enjoyed reading this post, be sure to check back in with our blog for more travel-related tips and tricks.