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Iceland Attractions: Reviews & Suggestions

Updated on March 13, 2016

Entertaining the thought of going to Iceland? Go get yourself that plane ticket right now - you won't regret it.


Already purchased the ticket? Woohoo! Now you can begin planning how you're going to spend your time in what is arguably the most beautiful and unique place on the planet.


Below is a summary of some of the country's most popular tourist attractions, and some tips and tricks to guarantee you have the best time possible.

Gullfoss
Gullfoss

Gullfoss

Gullfoss ("Golden Falls") is Iceland's most talked about and visited waterfall. It makes up a part of the Golden Circle, which is the name given to the 'ring' of popular attractions in the southern part of the country. Gullfoss is about 90 minutes outside of Reykjavik and pretty simple to navigate to.


The falls cascade into the beautiful Hvítá river, which is nestled between classic Iceland rock walls. It's a powerful and beautiful sight, and most definitely worth seeing. There's an adorable little restaurant/cafe/store right next to the falls. The coffee is a bit pricey but delicious, and the store has a bunch of really gorgeous and unique items that you can only find in Iceland.


There have long been talks of using Gullfoss' power for hydroelectricity but as of now the falls remain untouched and pure as ever.

Seljalandsfoss

It's not the biggest or most dazzling waterfall you'll ever see, but it's worth stopping at if you're driving past. It's right along the highway, so easy to spot and easy to pull over for some quick exploration. It's unique in that you can walk behind the falls for a new perspective (but be prepared to get wet!). The surrounding area is green, quiet, and beautiful, just like most of rural Iceland.

Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss
Path to the top of Skógafoss
Path to the top of Skógafoss

Skógafoss

Yes, another waterfall! This one is, in my opinion, the waterfall to see. Gullfoss gets all the hype, and while it is spectacular, Skógafoss is so unique and special. It has some serious Icelandic character and I could not have loved it any more. You get a real feel for how magnificent it is as you climb to the top and look down to see how far up you really are (about 60 metres). It's a bit of a hike to get to the top, but it's well worth it once you get the view. Looking down over the falls is breathtaking, and looking out into rural Iceland is truly remarkable.


Legend has it that a settler has buried his treasure under the waterfall - but it's powerful enough that you're not going to want to go looking for it.

 Skógafoss
Skógafoss
Sea stacks at Vík
Sea stacks at Vík

The Town of Vík

Okay, so this isn't necessarily a popular attraction, but I am incredibly thankful we made the trip to Vík. We had originally set out from Reykjavik with no real plans or destination. After exploring the Golden Circle and checking out a few waterfalls, we decided to make it to the next "big" town (I use the term "big" very loosely - Vík has a population of 291) and then turn back.


Vík is really quaint and feels a bit quirky, but its hidden gem is the black sand beach. It's really an incredible sight. There's a small cliff which looks out on the water, and this is an excellent spot to just sit and get lost in the beauty of your surroundings.


Just off the beach are sea stacks called Reynisdrangar, which have an interesting backstory: "Legend says that the stacks originated when two trolls dragged a three-masted ship to land unsuccessfully and when daylight broke they became needles of rock."


The drive along Ring Road 1 (the highway) offers many stunning views on the way to Vík. That alone is worth it, and the town is a delightful little destination.

Vík
Vík
Kerið
Kerið

Kerið

Kerið is a volcanic crater which is located in the Golden Circle. Similar to Seljalandsfoss, this won't be the most spectacular thing you see in Iceland, but it's still worth seeing. It's a good reminder of the volcanic activity that Iceland is famous for. Most of the surrounding wall is very steep and if you go for a bit of a hike around the crater, you can get to a point where you could walk down to the bottom of the crater. Unfortunately we visited it at the very end of our day and the sun was on its way down, so we didn't want to risk descending into a crater in the dark! I would give yourself an hour or so to spend here if you're interested in walking all the way around and to the bottom.

Rock fissures
Rock fissures

Þingvellir National Park

Þingvellir National Park is a historical site with some unique landscapes. Þingvellir translates to "Parliament Plains" and that's exactly what this site was, all the way back in 930AD. Legislative assemblies met in the Park all the way up until the 1700's, and now it is a national shrine.


It makes up a part of the Golden Circle, so it's relatively near a lot of the other attractions you'll be wanting to check out. You can spend as much or as little time as you'd like here. There's hiking, horseback riding, and even camping. Alternatively, you can take a quick stroll around some of the grounds and walk between large rock fissures that have resulted from Iceland's very active geological history.

Strokkur
Strokkur

Geysir Geothermal Field

Yet another part of the Golden Circle, the Geysir Geothermal Field is a popular attraction; it was actually the busiest attraction we visited by far. We went expecting to see a geysir and got so much more.


The "Great Geysir" is actually inactive and has been since 1935. The pictures you see of a geysir going off every few minutes are of a smaller geysir called Strokkur. The whole area is filled with tiny geysirs, hot springs, mud pots, and various unique sights that truly make it seem like the ground you're walking on is alive. Visiting this area was one of the many times in Iceland that I felt like I was on a foreign planet.

Eyjafjallajökull & Katla

I'm sure we all remember Eyjafjallajökull making the headlines and watching as non-Icelandic speakers attempted to pronounce it. We visited about a year after its eruption and couldn't pass up the opportunity to check out the impossible to pronounce volcano ourselves. It unfortunately doesn't look like a whole lot from the highway, but it's interesting to check out its surroundings and see how they must've been affected by the eruption. Right beside Eyjafjallajökull is Katla, another volcano which is due an eruption at any time. Katla is much bigger than Eyjafjallajökull and would be much more devastating if and when it does erupt.

If you're looking to see a really cool volcano that stands out amongst its neighboring non-volcanic mountains, you're not going to see it here. They are, however, on the way to Vík so you'll pass by anyway. I wouldn't go all the way out there just to see the volcanos, but it's worth a quick stop if you're already passing by. It's also a bit of an adrenaline rush to stand right next to a volcano that's due to explode!

Blue Lagoon
Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon

We unfortunately did not have the opportunity to go for a swim in the gorgeous and much loved Blue Lagoon as we only made a quick stop on our way to the airport. However, even without swimming, it was a place worth going. The mere sight of the amazing blue water and lava rock that surrounds it is worth the trip out there.


There are trails you can walk throughout the lagoon and it's a surprisingly large area. You can always dip your hand in and scoop up some of the surprisingly soft white mud. There's also an indoor viewing area where you can sit with a warm drink and watch everyone enjoying themselves in the beautiful water.

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Kaffi Reykjavik Ice Bar

This place is the only real complaint I have and the only attraction I would actively discourage people from visiting.


I remember seeing it on the Amazing Race many, many years ago and making a mental note that I absolutely must go there someday. Well, that day came, and it was incredibly disappointing.


The bar is really just a tiny room made of ice that's no bigger than an average dining room. There's no bartender or other patrons; it's sort of just like standing in a freezer taking shots by yourself. Weird and not even remotely exciting. It's located in the basement of an upscale restaurant, and sort of just tucked aside as an afterthought. You pay about $15CAD per person to get in and that includes a shot of Iceland's signature drink, Brennivín.


The man working there actually told us not to bother at all and just go have a drink of Brennivín somewhere else for a lot cheaper. I was intent on checking it out after many years of longing to see it, and in hindsight I wish I would have just listened to the man trying to discourage us.


All in all, very underwhelming and money better spent elsewhere.

Other Things You Should Do In Iceland

  • Check out the museums: Iceland has a number of museums that will introduce you to its history and heritage. The Víkin Maritime Museum gives you a cool history of the Vikings, and is definitely worth checking out as it's very reasonably priced (about $12CAD). Also worth noting: Iceland has a Phallological Museum. Yes, you read that right; it's a museum of penises. Not everyone's idea of a good time, I'm sure, but it's certainly unique.
  • Go see the 'The Sun Voyager': It's that famous statue of the really uncomfortable looking Viking boat. It's a beautiful piece of art and the walk along the seawall to get there is stunning.
  • Drive aimlessly: I would recommend renting a car to do all of your sightseeing as opposed to doing the tours. You can stop wherever you'd like, spend as much time at any spot as you'd like, and just drive peacefully off into the beautiful Icelandic countryside. The landscape is gorgeous no matter where you're headed, so pick a direction and just go take it all in.
  • Walk aimlessly: We spent a lot of our trip just walking random streets and stopping in at small pubs for a drink. We found ourselves in some great spots, which I unfortunately could not point you towards now, since we weren't keeping track of where we were going. But I'm sure you'll find your own great hidden gems by just wandering around the streets of Reykjavik.
  • Eat at the pubs: We ate most of our meals at pubs, and were never disappointed. Pub food is a favourite of mine anywhere, but nowhere has compared to Iceland. I'm always surprised that I don't see more people talking about, because it really is consistently delicious. Also be sure to try out Víkin beer; it's one of the cheapest beers you'll find and it's really quite good.
  • Don't eat at American restaurants: I know that when you're in a country with some obscure local cuisine, it's tempting to stop by the nearest American restaurant for something familiar. Towards the end of our trip we had the same inclination. We ended up paying almost $100CAD for one basic meal - a margarita alone was almost $20CAD. Stick with the pub food if you're craving a burger, it will be more than sufficient and much easier on your wallet.
  • Pre-drink before a night out: Drinking in Iceland is expensive. The locals will tell you that no bar or club is truly busy until the early hours of the morning because of this. Most locals pick up their booze from a liquor store and drink with friends at home until 1 or 2am. After everyone has a good buzz going, they then go out to the bars. For this reason, if you're planning on taking advantage of the nightlife, you might want to schedule some naps so you're prepared to be out until 5am!

The Sun Voyager
The Sun Voyager
Colourful streets of Iceland
Colourful streets of Iceland

I've traveled to many countries and seen many amazing things, but Iceland has been my favourite. Its uniqueness is unparalleled and it's such a positive, special environment. The locals are friendly and almost everyone speaks English. It's easy to get around and the city is surprisingly trendy and lively. The land outside of Reykjavik seems untouched and pure, and you can see steam rising from the geysirs throughout the landscape. It's a place where you feel like the Earth is alive and keeping you company, and reminding you that the world is a truly beautiful place.

Comments

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    • Maggie.L profile image

      Maggie.L 2 years ago from UK

      Hi Aime, A lovely hub about all the great things to do in Iceland. I'd love to go there. Voted up and interesting.

    • Aime F profile image
      Author

      Aime 2 years ago from Trudeauland (it's like Disneyland but hotter)

      Thanks, Maggie! I really hope you get the chance to go, it's magical!

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 2 years ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      In the early 1990s, when I lived in Silicon Valley, the leader of Stanford Outing Club organized a trip to Reykjavik. It cost only $5000, but that was my life's savings, so I couldn't afford it. It made me feel a little better that no one else could afford it either, so the trip was cancelled.

      I've ALWAYS wanted to visit Iceland! I'm fascinated by all its geothermal activity. Also, it's the most peaceful nation in the world. I'll bet the northern lights views are fantastic!

      I'd even gladly spend some time in an ice bar and hotel! You could color the walls and windows with lights, or food dye.

      Thanks for this article!

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 2 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      What an honest travel article you've created, full of insights and personal tips, thank you. Vik looks incredible. The Blue Lagoon also. Although your descriptions are wonderful - even about the Ice bar - my mind is made up. Iceland is not for me - but I sincerely hope that other people will be attracted to this country.

      Votes up and a share because I was with you as you ate in the pubs, my favourite part.

    • dilipchandra12 profile image

      Dilip Chandra 2 years ago from India

      Feeling like touring the places right now.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      My family and I visited Iceland in 2003. What an exciting trip. We took on much of what you have written about. Vik was a highlight along with its gorgeous beaches. Fantastic hub. Voted up.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 2 years ago from Taos, NM

      Actually I have entertained the thought of visiting Iceland. It is interesting to me. Thank you for the virtual tour and your suggestions and advice on visiting this country. Your photos are stunning.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 2 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Great presentation of Iceland's landscapes. Your advice brings even more interest to this well-done hub. Thanks and voted up and more and will share.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 2 years ago from USA

      I've noticed that Iceland is becoming more of a tourist destination, and after reading your hub, I can see why. I loved your photographs and descriptions of the attractions...would love to go there!

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 2 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Wow...beautiful. Nice review between amazing pictures. I hope I can see all of them in person. Thanks for sharing. Good job and voted up!

    • askformore lm profile image

      askformore lm 2 years ago

      I have been so many places all over the world, but never to Island. Your hub made me realize that this is one of the places I must go to before it is too late.

      Thank you for great info and photos.

    • atlantichorizons profile image

      Kristen 2 years ago from Wilmington, NC

      This is awesome! Now I want to visit Iceland. I love to travel and have Iceland on my list.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      iceland waterfalls are sure pretty

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      iceland house looks like joined buildings and very colorful too

    • traveleze profile image

      Lee John 2 years ago from Preston

      What a fantastic article! i haven't been to Iceland yet but i defiantly want to go, and your excellent hub has made me want to go sooner haha :) I have wrote about travel take a look at my hubs tell me what you think thanks again for the great info :)

    • CamLewis1 profile image

      Cam Lewis 2 years ago from Los Angeles

      Brilliant hub. I was fortunate enough to visit some of the very places you have pictured a few years ago. I am a bit jealous as I wanted to believe that its beauty was reserved for me only, but since you did such a great job on the article, I guess I can welcome you into the fold. Cheers

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      beautiful waterfall, I wish i could visit iceland

    • Aime F profile image
      Author

      Aime 2 years ago from Trudeauland (it's like Disneyland but hotter)

      Thanks everyone for the positive feedback!

      I hope you all get a chance to visit, it's been one of the most relaxing trips I've ever done. I know most people think of warm climates and beaches when they think of relaxing vacations, but Iceland is calming in an entirely different and very special way.

    • promisem profile image

      Scott Bateman 2 years ago

      Good photos and a lot of information. My brother has gone twice and my son just went. All of you are convincing me that I need to go too.

    • Akriti Mattu profile image

      Akriti Mattu 2 years ago from Shimla, India

      From the time i watched ,'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,' i'm literally dying to visit Iceland. What a gorgeous country. I am a huge fan of travel and it is an inseparable part of my existence. I love exploring new places and then i like writing about my experience so that more and more people can benefit. I'd love to visit Iceland soon. The first opportunity i get , i'm gonna pack my bags . Thank you so much for sharing this lovely post . Voted up :)

    • rolaabboud profile image

      Rola Maher Abboud 14 months ago from Kuwait

      I really love to see the beauty of other countries , I wish I could visit Iceland one day. Such a gorgeous country.

    • stbrians profile image

      Meshack Bwoyele Keya 14 months ago from Vihiga County,Western Kenya

      Your hub spells out a beautiful place worth visiting. I once erroneously listed Iceland as my country, a mistake that caused me dearly. I should save and visit there

    • Sam Shepards profile image

      Sam Shepards 13 months ago from Europe

      Great article! Been there 2 weeks ago. Seen most of the waterfalls you mention. Glaciers, ice cave, whale and dolphin watching, moving strong northern lights, geysir, vulcanoes and volcanic landscapes etc etc etc. Loved it!

      There are better hotsprings than the blue lagoon, better surroundings, less crowded and cheaper. Like in myvatn area! Time needed for great experience 10-12 days, rent a car and do the tour of the island. best time for me beginning of march till easter or april 15th? Landscapes still have snow in east and north which is more beautiful than brown grass for me.

    • Sam Shepards profile image

      Sam Shepards 13 months ago from Europe

      oh I forgot to mention Glymur is a great waterfall and a steep valley with a small river. Nice nature and great hike. One of the better waterfalls to visit and often overlooked.

    • Ken Burgess profile image

      Ken Burgess 8 months ago from Florida

      I went there many years ago, I'm sure not much has changed.

      I was there during the summer, days were 20 hours long, the air was fresher than you can imagine, the summer is mild.

      We flew out to one of the glacier valleys by helicopter, closest thing to feeling totally away from any civilization, and being thrown back to a time when there was no civilization I have ever felt.

      The people were wonderful, the hot springs a must visit. And if I were wealthy enough to have a summer and winter residence anywhere in the world, that would be where I resided during the summer for sure.

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