21 Highlights to Add to Your Iceland Itinerary

With breathtaking landscapes, invigorating hot springs and vibrant towns, there's no shortage of things to experience in Iceland. Consider these highlights when planning your own trip to this popular destination.

Photo By: Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Rustic White Photography

Getting Started

Iceland, located just below the Arctic Circle, is a unique destination where there's so much to see and do that it's hard to know where to start. Its capital city, Reykjavik is an excellent place to kick off your trip. You'll like the friendly vibe, colorful architecture, vibrant art scene and lively nightlife. When you're ready to get back to nature, a few hours from Reykjavik you'll discover breathtaking waterfalls, soaring cliffs, invigorating hot springs and stunning ice-capped volcanoes. There's no shortage of things to experience in Iceland.

Northern Lights

If you're traveling to Iceland, experiencing the Northern Lights should be a top priority. This natural phenomenon, also known as the Aurora Borealis, can be seen from almost anywhere in Iceland between September and April. It's truly an awesome sight with surreal swathes of light ranging from emerald green to combinations of purple, pink, red and yellow. The Aurora can be forecasted to a certain extent, but there's no guarantee, which makes it all the more magical.

Krysuvik Cliffs

Located on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwestern Iceland, the massive and beautifully striated Krysuvik Cliffs are a short car ride from Reykjavik. If you're into bird watching, make sure to visit during the spring and summer months.

Geothermal Hot Spot

The Geysir Geothermal Area within the valley of Haukadalur is about a 90-minute drive northeast of Reykjavik and where you'll find the Strokkur geyser. This tourist hot spot jettisons water 90 feet into the air several times an hour. For obvious reasons, tour guides recommend waterproof clothing!

Rare Phenomenon

There's a very specific set of hydro-geological conditions that need to occur for a geyser to form. Even more so for one to be as active as the Strokkur geyser. Hot magma near the earth's surface heats up water in an underground reservoir lined with impervious rock and this builds up pressure over time. The eruptions of water and steam relieve that pressure.

Highlands Beauty

Rich in natural beauty, the interior central Highlands rise around 1,600 feet above sea level and cover about 40 percent of the country. What makes the Highlands so special is that it's home to some truly stunning and extremely diverse geography — from lush mountains to black sand deserts.

Highlands Wildlife

There's a remote serenity to the Highlands, whether you explore it on foot or via a 4-wheel drive SUV or helicopter tour.

Highlands in Summer

The heavy snow and high winds of winter make the Highlands virtually impossible to navigate, so if they're on your bucket list make sure you visit during the summertime.

Landmannalaugar

This mountain range is located within the Fjallabak Nature Reserve in the Highlands region. Landmannalaugar is thought to have formed over 500 years ago from a volcanic eruption. You'll enjoy spectacular surroundings while relaxing in the hot springs, riding Icelandic horses or fishing near the area's campsite — just be sure to bring your own tent and fishing pole!

Sea Arch at Arnarstapi

The lovely arch at Arnarstapi is an incredible example of Mother Nature's force and fury. This soaring arch is located on the western coast of Iceland on the Snaefellsnes peninsula. It's especially popular during the summer months.

Black Church of Budir

Originally built in 1703 by a merchant from Budir, the historic Black Church was rebuilt in 1848 on the western tip of the Snaefullsnes peninsula and is currently owned by the National Museum of Iceland. One look and you understand why it's an extremely popular venue for weddings and photo shoots.

Kirkjufell Mountain

A majestic landmark, Kirkjufell (aka Church Mountain) is situated on the western coast of Iceland. It's often photographed for its unique shape, resembling a church steeple. Do a guided hike up the mountain to enjoy magnificent views of the adjacent waterfalls and beaches.

Enjoy the Drive

In the northwest, driving along the Ring Road (aka Route 1) you'll see plenty of snow-capped mountains, as well as the occasional farmhouse. Many of these charming homes are nestled among lush pastures, rolling hills and meandering creeks. If you crave an epic road trip, the Ring Road is 800-miles of highway that circles Iceland. If you do the whole trek, give yourself several days to take in all the sites along the way.

Icelandic Horses

Bred exclusively in Iceland, these gorgeous horses are pony-size when full grown. They're also versatile, super healthy and one of the oldest horse breeds in the world. With five distinctive gates and a truly majestic beauty, they are as fun to ride as they are to photograph.

West Fjords

Located in northwestern Iceland, this large peninsula is less populated than other areas of the country and home to a variety of beautiful landscapes. It's also home to Isafjordur, a small town that’s considered the capital of western Iceland.

Icelandic Turf House

Long ago, harsh winters and limited building materials necessitated the Icelandic turf house. Growing grass on the roof provided natural insulation for the home, far better than wood or stone alone. Now these original "green" homes serve as a lovely reminder of a resourceful people that lived on and with the land.

Akureyri Attractions

This picturesque town in northern Iceland is considered the capital of the northern region and is the second largest urban area behind Reykjavik. There are museums, cafes and a lovely botanical garden to be explored, as well as some of the best ski slopes in the country. It's also a great spot to take in the Northern Lights!

Northern Port

Akureyri is also an important fishing center and port for northern Iceland. Many cruise ships stop here, too — providing a nice boost for tourism and the area's economy.

Southern Coast of Iceland

If there’s one area you'll want to do a deep dive on, it's the southern coast. There's plenty of great sightseeing, and the drive itself is quite beautiful with a dynamic range of landscapes to enjoy along the way. From soaring waterfalls and steaming lagoons to ice caves and rocky seaside cliffs, at every turn there is something breathtaking to explore.

Whale Watching

Northern Iceland has become quite the hub for whale watching. The magnificent humpback whale is spotted quite frequently near Akureyri, so the odds are in your favor that you'll come face to face with one of these spellbinding creatures. Just don’t forget your camera!

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

This magical turquoise lagoon is relatively new to Iceland — forming during the last century. Situated along the southeast coast, it's less than a 5-hour drive from Reykjavik. Filled by a melting glacier, the lake has many icebergs — some several stories high. The blue and black streaks of ash are remnants of previous volcanic activity.

Epic Reynisfjara

The black sand beaches and jagged cliffs of Reynisfjara are quite dramatic. HBO's "Game of Thrones" shot scenes on this picturesque beach and it's easy to see why.

Raw Power

While at Reynisfjara, don't plan on swimming! Powerful, unpredictable currents create rogue waves that can be incredibly dangerous, so getting too close to the water's edge is strictly prohibited.

Seljalandsfoss

One of the country's most striking waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss is an extremely popular stop for tourists in the south. With a drop of over 200-feet, it's part of the beautiful Seljalandsa River and easily accessible via the Ring Road. Don't forget to pack a rain poncho!

Solheimasandur Plane Crash

In 1973 a U.S. Navy DC-3 made a crash landing on Solheimasandur beach, along the southern coast of Iceland. Everyone survived, but the plane was left as a haunting reminder of that fateful day.

Farm to Table Destination

While you're cruising along the southern coastline, don't forget to stop into Efstidalur for some of the country's best ice cream. This charming family-owned dairy farm and hotel is a delicious pit stop along what's known as the Golden Circle sightseeing tour. Efstidalur has plenty of furry friends to interact with and it’s an ideal "home base" if you're visiting the area for a few days.

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