“After a captivating journey to Iceland for the first time, our copywriter, Amy, is here to talk about all-things Iceland, from top places to visit to the best things to do in Iceland.”
From touring Iceland’s most famous attractions like the Blue Lagoon and the geysirs to chasing the Aurora Borealis, I've put together the perfect ‘first-timers’ guide for your first Iceland holiday. Explore the most unique and magical activities that will make your first time in the 'land of fire and ice' an unforgettable journey at any point in the year.
Embark on the path less travelled by to discover the Icelandic wonders from cascading waterfalls to black sand beaches. You'll be in awe with every step you take, and one trip is enough to tick it off your bucket list (and to add it back on again!)
Read on to see the best things about Iceland, it’s renowned sites and why you should make Iceland your next adventure.
Iceland is worth visiting for a multitude of reasons. Its dramatic volcanic landscapes, glacier lagoons and unbelievable natural sights might be some of the more famous aspects. Iceland is one of the best places to see the northern lights, and volcanos show some of the world’s highest activity. The volcanic activity has resulted in some of Iceland’s well-known attractions including black sand beaches, thermal hot springs, volcanic craters, geysirs and even the well-known lava show where you can discover more of the volcanic tales of Iceland.
However, there is so much more to Iceland than enchanting sites that will enrich your first-time experience. Iceland is home to friendly locals who are passionate about the island. You’ll quickly make friends with the people who live in Iceland, whether you’re on tours, eating and drinking in Reykjavik or visiting the local towns and swimming hotspots.
Below are my top must-see attractions and activities that definitely should be on your list of things to do in Iceland.
The Aurora Borealis is one of Iceland’s top attractions, and with expert guides leading you to the areas with the least light pollution, you can see them dance around the night sky to your hearts content! Watch the power of nature unfold in front of your eyes as electrifying greens and deep reds splash across the sky. As you soak in the awe-inspiring sights during your search of the northern lights, be sure to take a look at the blanket of stars light up the unpolluted night sky. If you’re lucky, you might see a shooting star.
The best time of year to see these extraordinary lights is autumn as the lights are more active and there are fewer crowds. If you do choose to visit Iceland in the winter months, then you’ll have the warmth of a hot chocolate (and optional vodka) from your Superjeep tour guide to keep you warm.
A full-day tour that you don’t want to miss out on is the renowned Golden Circle tour. A circular route bursting with fascinating natural wonders, this is one of the most popular trails of Iceland that you can explore for yourself. Accessible from Reykjavik, this experience makes for the perfect outdoor adventure and one of the best Iceland road trips with opportunities to see the famous waterfalls, craters, hot springs and national parks of the island, with glimpses of the famous wild horses along the way.
From the top of the volcanic crater, you can peak down into the heart, and soak up the sapphire-blue water lake at the bottom, the perfect opportunity to snap some scenic photographs. However, if you’re more adventurous, be sure to take the steps down to the bottom for tranquil views of the gentle waves. During winter when the water is frozen over, the echoing sounds of rocks hitting the ice makes the moment ethereal.
This attraction is a fascinating geological phenomenon on the Golden Circle route. The eruptions of the hot spring are every four to 10 minutes, and if you might even catch a double eruption! In Icelandic, geysir translates as ‘to gush’, a perfect way to describe the thrilling show.
The Gullfoss waterfall is beautiful all-year-round, and is one of Iceland's most beautiful waterfalls. From ice-gem turquoises and snow-white gushes of water in the winter to the sapphire blues in summer, you can see the depths of the magical falls and the winding river trailing away between the cliffs from multiple angles. Hopefully during the summer months, you can see the rainbow appear in the powerful spray.
This national park is one of Iceland’s most well-known UNESCO World Heritage Sites, where you can witness the slight shift in tectonic plates along the North American and Eurasian plates. There aren’t many times you can walk in between two tectonic plates, but in this national park on the Golden Circle route, the unthinkable is possible.
From walking along obsidian-coloured sand to witnessing a renowned volcanic glacier, this one of the must-see attractions on your Iceland bucket list! During this tour, you’ll quickly see the influence Iceland has on the classic novels, The Lord of the Rings, written by Tolkien. From elfish folklore to moss covered hills and troll-like mountains, the resemblance is profound.
Famous for its appearance on the hit series Game of Thrones, Reynisfjara Beach is comprised of fascinating rock formations, deep black volcanic sand, and waves so high, visitors must be cautious. On this black sand beach, the roaring ocean is dangerous, yet if you find a safe spot to watch over it, you’ll be in awe of its beauty. Four standalone sea stacks sit in the distance aside the cliffs, and Icelandic folklore says that they were once trolls caught and turned to stone by the sunrise.
Along the South Coast sits one of Iceland’s best and most fascinating glaciers, named Sólheimajökulll Glacier. This is experience is a true highlight of the tour, with backdrops of cascading moss-capped cliffs with picturesque waterfalls sweeping down gracefully. The glacier is made up of three distinct colours: White which is the melting ice, black for the volcanic ash and turquoise which is the pure ice. The walk up to the glacier viewpoint is just as breathtaking as the glacier itself. You’ll walk along a glacial lake speckled with giant icebergs and see landscapes of snow-capped mountains.
Immerse yourself further in the fascinating nature of Iceland with a visit to Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, two more of the best waterfalls in Iceland along the South Coast. Whether it’s winter or summer, be sure to wear your trusty waterproof coats as you’ll most likely get wet if you want to get up and close. Both are powerful, majestic falls in Iceland, with opportunities to see them from behind and above.
If Iceland is on your must-visit list, then you’ll likely know about the Blue Lagoon or Sky Lagoon. Iceland is famous for its geothermal hot springs, where you can soak in the natural heat of the earth whilst indulging in a drink or two from the bar after a relaxing spa treatment.
The Blue Lagoon is one of the biggest and arguable most famous in Iceland, and makes it to one of the world’s top 25 wonders. You can enjoy the powerful skin treatments with multiple face mud and algae masks and soak your skin in the geothermal water.
The Sky Lagoon is a spa paradise, with a seven-step ritual and soothing views of the vibrant ocean just a stone’s throw. Included in the ritual, you can enjoy skin scrubs, steam rooms and an unforgettable sauna with a glass window overlooking the sea. Afterwards, enjoy a drink from the bar whilst the heat of the healing waters.
To keep your hair healthy after your visit, coat it in conditioner and keep it tied up in a knot. You might not mean to get it wet, but the conditioner will protect it if accidents occur!
Be sure to layer up before heading into the ocean from Reykjavik Harbour, one of the best places for whale watching in Iceland. With an expert guide, you’ll be taken from Skjalfandi Bay into the ocean aboard a traditional Icelandic boat to see the majestic creatures breach the surface of their natural habitat.
Between the months of April and October, you’re likely to see minke whales, humpback whales, fin whales and pilot whales dance between the waves. Not only will you be seeing the marine giants show off their incredible acrobatics, but you’ll glimpse the colourful puffins soar through the air. With so much to see on this tour, this is one of the best activities in Iceland for families.
Enjoy all of this with a mouthwatering treat and hot chocolate to keep you warm during your extraordinary journey.
Iceland is brimming with alluring wonder, and there are engaging museums where you can learn more about the captivating island.
Although your trusty Super Jeep tour guide will provide any information you like, you can enjoy a walk around the museum dedicated to the northern lights of Iceland. Learn all about the Nordic lights, what ancient cultures once believed the lights to be and myths from around the world. You can also see the northern light forecast, perfect for predicting the best night to see them!
If you’re a lover of marine life, The Whales of Iceland Museum is excellent for you. A large room is dedicated to life-size whale models, where you can get a sense of just how big the majestic sea creatures are. Discover the vast history of the whaling industry, the habits of different whales and end your exploration with a coffee and a browse in the gift shop.
Get to know more about the red-hot lava that runs beneath the surface of the Reykjanes Peninsula at the gripping Lava Show. A lava professional will be leading the show, with knowledge of all-things-volcano and a demonstration of how quickly lava can turn to glass. Watch as it turns from burning liquid gold to obsidian glass in minutes and get to know how the active volcanos and volcanic activity in Iceland are heavily monitored by specialists.
You may not be able to venture into all the enchantingly breathtaking regions of Iceland, but the Flyover is here to make that possible. This show explores deeper into the mystical legends of Iceland from trolls and elves to the famed Vikings of the past – an activity that must not be missed!
The highlight of the show is the flyover itself. Sit suspended from the ground with your legs over the edge, within moments you’ll forget it’s a screen in front of you. Be whisked away over the iconic regions of Iceland, soaring over cliffs, waterfalls, and glaciers with life-like affects. After years of dedicated work by Icelandic artists, you can see Iceland come to life.
Swimming pools are a part of Icelandic culture, as Icelanders have been relaxing and swimming in natural geothermal baths for centuries. You can immerse in this tradition yourself by finding the top places to swim in Iceland to add to your list.
From hot pools and natural hot spots to remote swimming pools with panoramic views of the sea, you can wind down and talk to the friendly locals away from crowds. A holiday to Iceland can be physically challenging, so use these moments in the soothing natural waters to rejuvenate before your next adventure.
The city of Reykjavik is home to a vibrant culture, stunning architecture and very friendly locals. Exploring the city should be one of the main activities of your Icelandic adventure, as there is so much history, folklore, and spectacular sights to absorb. One way to explore the best of it all is a Walking Tour with a Viking. Take the path less travelled with your tour guide (of Viking descent) and learn about everything from their dense history with the USA, to the ancient Nordic language they speak. On your exploration, see the creative graffiti and the colourful range of buildings that keep the streets vibrant past the sun set (around 4pm in winter.)
Find the best places to eat and drink with the Reykjavik Food Lovers Tour. The authentic foods of Reykjavik are explored on this tour, of which you can indulge in for three hours. Included in the tour is Bæjarins Beztu where you can try the famous Pýlsur, also visited by Bill Clinton. Explore further and find some of the best places for a drink in Iceland's capital.
To try the shark delicacy, also known as kæstur hákarl, you can visit one of Iceland’s renowned authentic restaurants, Kaffi Loki. As you try the traditional Nordic flavours, you’ll have an amazing view of the iconic Hallgrímskirkja Church.
After a long day exploring, there is nothing better than a hearty meal. Be sure to enjoy one of Reykjavik’s famous bread bowl soups from Svarta Kaffid, and pair this meal with the delicious Viking beer.
Are you wondering what to do in Reykjavik? There’s plenty of attractions for you to explore without a tour guide. Be sure to visit Hallgrímskirkja Church, one of the most visited places in Iceland. Here, you can either gaze at the beauty of the building from the ground, or ascend the building to see the vibrant colours of Reykjavik from above.
The Sun Voyager sits on the seashore of Reykjavik, and is a portrayal of a Viking long-ship, created by Jon Gunnar Arnason. This is the perfect place for a picture, especially as the sun is setting and cascades large shadows across the floor.
The Harpa is one of Iceland’s famous landmarks, built with beautiful and unique architecture that has won several awards since it’s construction. Be sure to visit its exhibitions, events and concerts as well as dine and browse in its shops.
When visiting Iceland, don't forget to pack a swimming costume, waterproof coats and warm clothing (no matter the weather), walking boots and shoes, a refillable water bottle, and a camera!
Yes, the Icelander’s speak English.
Anytime of the year is a great time to visit Iceland! Iceland becomes a new country as the seasons change so you can see the best sights and attractions in a totally different way depending on the time of year you visit - whether that's under the snow of winter or midnight sun of summer!
When visiting Iceland a minimum of four days is enough to squeeze in the big attractions, which is perfect for a first-time visit.
You can easily visit Iceland's caves! Expert tour guides can take you on a trip of a lifetime through some of the renowned ice caves of Iceland including Vatnajokull Ice Cave.
Regent's team is full of knowledgable experts who can create your perfect Icelandic adventure. Get in touch for more inspiration for your adventure to 'the land of fire and ice.'