Iceland Activities and Things to See

Lighthouse Reykjavik Harbor

Iceland activities and things to see vary depending on when you visit. There are plenty of reasons why Iceland is a great travel destination, it is home to some 30 active volcanoes, steaming hot springs, and bubbling geysers, to name a few of its natural attractions. Watching the Northern Lights is a major attraction from late August to mid-April. Depending on the length of your trip, here are our recommended priorities.

Best Time to Visit Iceland

Iceland offers nearly 21 hours of daylight in the summer. Moderate temperatures can be enjoyed from May until September. July and August are the peak tourist months in the country. From June through August, days are long, and the weather is at its best.

godafoss-waterfall
Godafoss Waterfall – Waterfall of The Gods

Iceland in The Winter

Despite its name, Iceland does not get unbearably cold. Temperatures will hover around freezing, or 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The lack of daylight can be troublesome, especially for travelers venturing far away from Reykjavik. From mid-October to mid-February, the sun light diminishes to less than 5 hours during December. Driving the Ring Road in winter is inadvisable at best, and impossible at worst.

When to See the Northern Lights

Northern Lights In Iceland
Northern Lights In Iceland

But the winter’s impermeable darkness also means excellent conditions for viewing the Aurora Borealis, and major savings. Airfare can drop by a third during the off-season, and discounts can be found on lodging, food, and activities, too. You will also find much thinner crowds at some of the country’s most popular attractions.

Flying to Iceland

U.S.-based travelers do not need a visa to visit Iceland, as it is a part of the Schengen Agreement (a group of 26 European countries with visa and passport-free borders). You will, however, need a passport that is valid for at least three months after the date of your departure. All international flights land at Keflavík International Airport, which is a 40-minute drive from the capital, Reykjavik.

Aerial View of Reykjavik
Aerial View of Reykjavik

Delta is launching new routes from several major US cities to Iceland. All flights will arrive at Iceland’s Keflavík International Airport just outside the capital of Reykjavik. To enter Iceland, travelers must prove that they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Boston Logan International Airport, New York City’s John Fitzgerald Kennedy International Airport, and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, flights begin in May 2021. Orlando International Airport also offers direct flights to Keflavík International Airport.

Getting Around in Iceland

Driving is on the right side of the road in Iceland, but travelers should note that the speed limit is in kilometers, and gas is an extremely expensive import. Regardless of the time of year, travelers should spend more for a sturdy vehicle with four- or all-wheel drive. While the winter brings ice and snow (and the need for studded snow tires) summer can bring sandstorms. Drivers should be aware that, year-round, the wind can be incredibly forceful.

Iceland Driving Tips
Iceland Driving and Exploring Tips

Exploring Iceland

A great way to explore Iceland, if your stay is on your own with a rental car, from several days to a week, including a trip along the Ring Road that runs in a complete circle around the country. Another way to plot your adventure is with tours that can take you to the best options to see the Northern Lights, ATV trekking over lava fields, and on day trips from Reykjavik to see some of Iceland’s most stunning natural beauty, like the Blue Lagoon and waterfalls.

Reykjavík

The capital and largest city of Iceland and with an urban area population of around 200,000, it is the home of most Iceland’s inhabitants. The city center, however, is a small area characterized by eclectic and colorful houses, with good shopping, dining, and drinking. Reykjavík’s old town is small and easy to walk around.

Sunset over Reykjavik Harbor
Sunset Over Reykjavik Harbor

During the warmer months, whale watching trips run day and night. Tour operators say there is an 80-95 percent chance of seeing these magnificent creatures. Tours are convenient since there are several types available, and they depart from Reykjavik’s Old Harbor. Stop for a dinner of fresh cod after you return in one of the many small, rustic restaurants in the harbor area.

The South Coast and Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon Day Tour from Reykjavik is a popular tour for visitors who want to set up a home base for their visit in Reykjavik and do a day trip to this top attraction. The tour also includes visits to two beautiful waterfalls and spectacular views of mountains and glacial rivers along the south coast.

jokulsarlon-glacier-lagoon-and-icebergs
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and Icebergs

Golden Circle

the glacier-fed waterfall, Gullfoss
The Glacier-fed Waterfall, Gullfoss

The loop is a 190-mile tourist route in southwestern Iceland, from Reykjavík into the southern uplands of Iceland and back. This area contains the most tours and travel-related activities in Iceland. Primary stops on the route are the sulfurous hot springs of Geysir (it is the Stokkur geyser that erupts with a 90-foot plume like clockwork); the glacier-fed waterfall, Gullfoss; and the volcanic Kerid crater, which is filled with electric blue water and best seen in summer, when the snow melts to reveal red volcanic rock.

The Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon Iceland
Blue Lagoon Iceland

In Grindavík is a must-see tourist attraction. The water from the underground hot springs reaches 108 degrees Fahrenheit. Aside from bathing in a unique setting, there’s a shop selling skincare products, a range of spa treatments, and places to eat and drink. Don’t visit Iceland without coming here. Rub on a mask of natural mud in minerals from one of the tubs located on the edges of the lagoon. You can even take a day trip with an ATV trek to the Blue Lagoon from Reykjavik with a coach ride back after your visit.

South Coast & Westman Islands

Head all the way southeast to see the impossibly blue Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, where icebergs float and break up on the black-sand shores like glittering diamonds. Visitors can also explore the famous ice caves and trek along one of Europe’s largest glaciers in Vatnajokull National Park.

The Westman Islands
The Westman Islands

The Westman Islands off the coast of South Iceland are considered the windiest place on Earth. Consider making the trip in the spring or summer when the island’s famous puffin colonies will be nesting. Take a walk on the most recent lava field, many feet high above street level and buildings that used to be, where you will find signposts to mark their former place.

Reykjavik to Isafjordur

The drive from Reykjavik to Isafjordur takes about 5-6 hours depending on your driving and how many stops you make. There is plenty to see on the way so take your time! There are also daily flights, more than one day from the domestic airport in Reykjavík to Isafjordur airport. The flight only takes about 35 minutes, so it is an excellent choice for those looking to do a day trip to the Westfjords. The fare is relatively cheap if you just want to go from A to B, and you are treated to a grand view of the fjords on the descent into the Isafjordur airport.

Isafjordur in Westfjords region Iceland
The Town of Isafjordur in The Westfjords Region

Isafjordur is the largest town in the Westfjords. Isafjordur is known as the Capital of the Westfjords and is a center for trade, fishing, and tourism. Explore remote Icelandic nature in one of the most stunning towns in the country. Isafjordur is a vibrant town in the central Westfjords in Iceland with a population of about 3000. It is the perfect destination for anyone looking to explore the beauty of Icelandic nature but keeping the comforts of a small-town life. The mountains in the Westfjords offer the most splendid views, taste the local cuisine in amazing restaurants many of them offering authentic dishes from local ingredients.

Ring Road Requires Enough Driving Time

The Ring Road Iceland
The Ring Road Iceland

Keep detours from the Ring Road to a minimum for a more relaxed and rewarding trip around Iceland. With a 10-day itinerary, rental car (or campervan), a quick driving pace, several long days in a row, it is possible to see Reykjavík, drive the entire 800-mile route of the Ring Road circling the entire island, side-trip to the Westman Islands, and hit the Golden Circle highlights.

For another small European Island to discover check out, Ireland

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Iceland Activities and Things to See

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