There are many must see places in Iceland and below you can find some of our absolute favorite places. We believe that all of those attractions offer something completely unique and are places that everyone travelling to Iceland need to visit.
This world famous spouting hot spring is actually the source for the English word “Geyser”. That alone should tell you how impressive it is considered. However, Geysir is getting a little tired and erupts less frequently these days. No need to worry, though, since Geysirs´ little brother Strokkur spouts every 10 minutes or so shooting up water and steam 25-30 meters high.
Gullfoss (Golden Waterfall)
Iceland’s most famous waterfall is actually two separate waterfalls. The upper one is a drop of 11 meters and the lower one is 21 meters. Together it makes Europe´s largest waterfall that plunges 32 meters into a steep-sided canyon. The spray creates small rainbows over the gorge on sunny days which makes the scenery even more memorable.
Thingvellir national park is a UNESCO World Heritage and is definitely one of the most interesting places in Iceland. Being the original site of the longest-running parliament of the world, a place where one can visualize the North American and European continental shelf plates are being torn apart and the great geological landscape are just some reasons why you should stop by at Thingvellir.
The fact that astronauts train for aerospace missions in the Lake Mývatn area should tell you all about just how outlandish and catastrophic this place is! The lake itself, incredible birdlife, the unique volcanic landscape, stunning lava pillars, hot springs, boiling craters and mud pots are all good reasons to visit Lake Mývatn.
Jökulsárlón (The Jökulsár Lagoon)
When the tip of Vatnajökull Glacier retreated quickly from 1920 to 1965 it left behind this 100 meters deep lagoon.
The Jökulsárlón lake provides outstanding views of the ice cap, a vast dome of ice that rises to a height of 910 m. It spills to the lagoon 19 km away from the jagged glacier hill to the edge of the water line. The lake developed only about 60 years ago (1948 is mentioned), when the entire area was less than 30 m of glacier, which was only 230 m from the Atlantic Ocean, and 3.2 km away from Vatnajökull. Vatnajökull was at the shore line of the ocean and dropped icebergs into the ocean. However, it started drifting in land rapidly every year leaving deep gorges en route, which got filled with melted water and large chunks of ice. These icebergs gather at the mouth of the lake’s shallow exit, melt down into smaller ice blocks and roll out into the sea. The lake is the lowest point in Iceland, with land at 200 metres below sea level. In summer, icebergs melt and roll down the channel into the sea. In winter the lake freezes and locks the icebergs in place. Ice water and soil make a unique ecological phenomenon. Jökulsárlón lake, the “glacier lake”, is now reported to have doubled in size in the recent 15-year period. The huge blocks of ice that calve from the edge of Vatnajökull are about 30 metres high which fills the lagoon stocked with icebergs. Some icebergs appear naturally sculpted on account volcanic ashes from ancient eruptions that partly cover them.
Given the current retreat rate of Vatnajökull, it is anticipated that there will likely be a deep fjord where Jökulsárlón is now in the near future. This retreat is also posing a threat to the National Highway Route 1 of Iceland. The lagoon is 75 kilometres to the west of Höfn town and 60 kilometres east of Skaftafell. It is accessible by the ring road, Route 1, that goes across the lake, and where parking facilities have been provided for visitors. It is also known as the “Tourist Conveyor belt”. While walking on the shore, isolated large blocks of icebergs can be seen on the black sand beach.
Watching huge blocks of ice crash into the water is truly a breathtaking sight.
Ásbyrgi can certainly be counted as one of nature´s wonders. The horseshoe shaped canyon is 3.5 km long and measures 1.1 km across with walls as high 100 m. Scientists believe it formed by a massive glacial flooding right after last Ice Age and another flooding 3000 years ago.
Ásbyrgi canyon lies in the north of Iceland, about 50 minute drive to the east from Húsavík on the Diamond Circle road. The horseshoe-shaped depression is part of the Vatnajökull National Park and measures approximately 3.5 km in length and 1.1 km across. For more than half of its length, the canyon is divided through the middle by a distinctive rock formation 25 meters high called Eyjan (“the Island”), from which hikers may enjoy spectacular views.
The canyon’s steep sides are formed by cliffs up to 100 metres in height. Down in the canyon, visitors walk through a woodland of birch and willow. Between 1947 and 1977, a number of foreign tree species were introduced, including fir, larch and pine. The small lake Botnstjörn is home to a variety of waterfowl species.
Ásbyrgi was most likely formed by catastrophic glacial flooding of the river Jökulsá á Fjöllum after the last Ice Age, first 8-10,000 years ago, and then again some 3,000 years ago. The river has since changed its course and now runs about 2 km to the east. The legend explains the unusual shape of the canyon differently. Nicknamed Sleipnir’s footprint, it is said that the canyon was formed when Odin’s eight-legged horse, Sleipnir, touched one of its feet to the ground here.
Ásbyrgi is definitely a place that is easy to recommend.
The Dimmuborgir area consist of a massive, collapsed lava tube formed by a lava lake flowing in from a large eruption in the Þrengslaborgir and Lúdentsborgir crater row to the East, about 2300 years ago. At Dimmuborgir, the lava pooled over a small lake. As the lava flowed across the wet sod, the water of the marsh started to boil, the vapour rising through the lava forming lava pillars from drainpipe size up to several meters in diameter. As the lava continued flowing towards lower ground in the Mývatn area, the top crust collapsed, but the hollow pillars of solidified lava remained. The lava lake must have been at least 10 meters deep, as estimated by the tallest structures still standing.
The lava flow surface remains partly intact around the Dimmuborgir area, so that the Dimmuborgir itself sits below the surrounding surface area. The area is characterised by large hollow cell- or chamber-like structures formed around bubbles of vapour, and some dramatically standing lava pillars. Several of the chambers and pillar bases are large enough to house humans, giving rise to the term “castles” (borgir).
In Icelandic folklore, Dimmuborgir is said to connect earth with the infernal regions. In Nordic Christian lore, it is also said that Dimmuborgir is the place where Satan landed when he was cast from the heavens and created the apparent “Helvetes katakomber” which is Norwegian for “The Catacombs of Hell”.
Landmannalaugar is one of the most renowned pearls of the Icelandic highlands. The colorful rhyolite of yellow, green, orange and red is in sharp contrast with pitch black lava fields. Another popular attraction in the area is the natural warm-water pool that is ideal for bathing all year long since it is 36-40°C even during winter.
The Blue Lagoon
Iceland’s most famous geothermal pool is the country’s top tourist attraction and there is a good reason for it since there is truly nothing like it in the world. This huge natural lava pool is fed by mineral-rich geothermal seawater that is known for great its effect on the skin. Add the silvery towers of the plant, the warm geothermal seawater, clouds of steam in the middle of a natural lava field and you are in for a unique experience.