Take a journey through these unique places to visit in Iceland with the Adventographer. Iceland has exploded in popularity as a tourist destination over the last few years. Nowadays the tourists outnumber residents nearly 3:1 in the peak summer months. But even with this huge influx of tourists and the endless information available about the country online most visitors miss out on some of the most unique places in Iceland.
Best Places To Visit In Iceland
In this post, rather than bore you with places everyone else is talking about, we’ll explore some of the best ‘off-the-beaten-path’ and unique places to visit in Iceland. But don’t worry, we’ll check out the best places to visit that are a little more well-trodden as well. Read more at 15 Interesting Facts About Iceland
Hallgrimskirkja – Reykjavik
Located in the capital city of Reykjavik, Hallgrimskirkja church is Iceland’s tallest building. It is one of Reykjavik’s best-known landmarks, the Hallgrimskirkja church looms over the City Skyline. It’s visible from almost everywhere in town yet many tourists never bother to visit this brutalist church on the hill. But bypassing this structure is a mistake.
Built over a period of 41 years it resembles the impressive landscapes around Iceland. Not only does the bell tower provide an impressive sight over the expanse of Reykjavik but the interior is impressive on its own housing a 15m tall concert organ sporting 5275 pipes!
One of the best things to do in Iceland is in one of the least visited regions. The West Fjords are often bypassed due to their remoteness and distance from other popular must-see Iceland attractions. Perhaps this helps to keep the West Fjords one of the best places to visit.
Due to the relative lack of tourists passing through the area, its attractions remain undiscovered by the masses. Here in the West Fjords, you’ll find sparse fishing villages tucked into sheltered coves, grand sweeping views, and landscapes that time (and tourists) have all but forgotten. And that’s about as good a reason as any to visit!
While the black-sand-beach Reynisfjara is famous in the south, its pink-sand cousin Rauðasandur is unknown. This beautiful beach in the Westfjords is pink due to pulverized scallop shells. Stretching 10 km from the Látrabjarg bird cliff, it is the largest sea bird cliff in all of Europe. And it is a great place to spy puffins.
Every Tourist to Iceland knows Gullfoss waterfall but who among them knows the much more impressive Dynjandi? Dynjandi, hidden away in the West Fjords, is one of the most breathtaking waterfalls in Iceland. (without the crowds) Translated literally its name means ‘thunderous’ and it doesn’t disappoint!
This gargantuan waterfall is felt before it’s seen, and an impressive sight it is! Unlike other waterfalls around Iceland that commonly drop vertically, Dynjandi is a cascading waterfall. This lends to its 60m wide and 100+m tall beauty.
A short 15minute hike from the parking lot following the river and some smaller cascades will get you face to face with the fury of Dynjandi. Don’t forget your Camera! Dynjandi is definitely one of the most unique places to visit in Iceland and you’ll want your photo taken in front of it for scale! Read more: Mighty Not to Miss Iceland Waterfalls
Hornstrandir Nature Reserve
While visiting the Westfjiords, the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. It encompasses 580 square km. (220 square miles). Check out: Iceland – Experience the Land of Fire and Ice
Okay, I know I said everyone knows Gullfoss, but no Iceland travel guide would be complete without mentioning the Mighty Gullfoss. Gullfoss is Iceland’s Niagara Falls and its thundering waters will terrify and delight. This waterfall plunges 32 meters (104 feet) into the Hvitá River. It is located in the Southwest of Iceland and is a popular stop on the Ring Road. It is a wonder of Iceland and truly one of the best things to do.
Iceland Phallological Museum
A weird and wonderful Icelandic museum in the Captial City is dedicated to all things phallic. You heard right… The Iceland Phallological Museum is the world’s foremost collection of phallic specimens; in fact, they have specimens belonging to all the various types of mammal found in the country!
It’s a weird, after lunch kind of stop while roaming around Reykjavik. Understandably it’s not for everyone, but if nothing else it makes for a good story to tell when you return home, and unique? Most definitely!
Strandagaldur – The Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft
The majority of Icelandic people believe in all kinds of fanciful ideas. From elves to witchcraft you’ll find a local who will swear it’s real. I can’t say I’m a big believer, but when in Rome right?
Located in the small, sleepy village of Hólmavík in Iceland’s West Fjords the macabre Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft is sure to spark your imagination or make your skin crawl.
I can’t help but think Silence of the Lambs when viewing the weirdest item in the museum, a set of trousers made from human skin. This is definitely one of the most unique places in Iceland!
- Check out the Movie Eurovision – Rachel McAdams’s character definitely believes in the magic of elves.
Thingvellir National Park (Þingvellir National Park)
Located just 47 Minutes from Reykjavik, Thingvellir National Park is easily accessible from the capital city. If you are traveling in clockwise direction on the Golden Circle Tours, it is one of the first stops! Thingvellir National park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its historic significance where the Vikings claimed independence from Denmark. It houses the largest lake in Iceland Lake Þingvallavatn.
Located on the Rift Valley of Two Continents, many of the best things to do in the country are found right here.
Silfra Fissure in Thingvellir NP
Most visitors to Iceland don’t realize that the country is literally being torn in two continents. Sitting atop the mid-Atlantic ridge and spanning two different tectonic plates Iceland is growing at the rate of about 25mm per year. Nowhere is this more apparent than at the Silfra Fissure in Thingvellir National Park.
Silfra fissure is the rift formed by these mighty tectonic forces at work. Here hundred-year-old glacial meltwater percolates through the porous lava rock feeding Thingvellir lake and lending to one of its world-renown qualities, visibility.
Snorkelers and divers from across the world flock to swim through the fissure, effectively floating in no-mans-land between the continents! With 100m+ visibility, you truly feel as if you’re flying, it’s only the 2°C water that snaps you back to reality. If you’re hunting for unique places to visit in Iceland Silfra is definitely one! Read all about Diving in Silfra – Iceland Underwater
Bridge Between The Continents
Continuing to play on Iceland’s stretching waistline, you can locate another part of the evergrowing rift south-west of Reykjavik on the Reykjanes peninsula. There’s no diving or snorkeling here, rather a bridge crossing the much more visible gap.
Known as the bridge between the continents it was built as a symbol of the connection & cooperation enjoyed between Europe and North America.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon (Iceberg Lagoon)
Iceland is covered in glaciers, but most tourists pass them by with only a photo or a faint memory to their credit. On Iceland’s south coast lays a real treasure. A treasure where you can get up close and personal with not only Iceland’s glaciers but also the icebergs that they produce.
Jokulsarlon is an expansive glacier lagoon on the coast just a few hundred meters inland from the sea. Here while the seals play and tourists zip around on zodiac boat tours the icebergs nonchalantly bob along before being sucked out to see and subsequently washed up on the beaches flanking the lagoon.
Perhaps not as off the beaten track as the rest of these destinations, Jokulsarlon makes the list because it’s simply unique. It is truly one of the natural wonders of Iceland.
Speaking of Natural Wonders, the famous black sand beach nearby is not to be missed. While exploring Jokulsarlon be sure to cross the road and see the stunning black sand beach.
It’s famous for the icebergs that wash up on shore as they make their way out of Jokulsarlon down the river to the Atlantic Ocean. One of the best things to do is to go for a walk along the beach at sunrise. That is when the icebergs really seem to be cluttering the shore. Both of these popular stops are located on the Iceland circle route.
Hiding away just off Iceland’s main ring road is Fjadrargljufur canyon. It waited here patiently in relative obscurity until thrust into the spotlight recently by Justin Beber and his hit Music video for “I’ll Show You”.
Fjadrargljufur is a stunningly craggy canyon jutting out from the rolling green hills nearby. This picturesque canyon is a favorite among photographers and Instagrammers. It’s easy to see why!
While it doesn’t have the scale of the Grand Canyon or the depth of Copper Canyon in Mexico its narrow width and sheer cliff walls make it stunning none the less.
Seljavallalaug Hot Spring / Hot Pool
Iceland’s oldest swimming pool perhaps isn’t something that would typically draw tourists. But when you see a photo of Seljavallalaug tucked into the hillside of a verdant, mountain-ringed valley and realize that you can still swim in this geothermally fed pool you too will want to drop your day’s plans and visit!
A short walk from the makeshift parking area next to a farm follows the river into an ever-narrowing valley before crossing the river in a few spots and delivering you to Seljavallalaug. The water is warm but not hot, and the pool makes for a great mid-day break along the south coast!
Grjótagjá Hot Spring Cave
Grjótagjá is one of the most unique hot springs in Iceland and might seem familiar if you’re a fan of the hit television series Game of Thrones. This lava cave hot spring appears in a season three episode as the setting for a much-anticipated love scene between the main characters. (John Snow and Ygritte)
While bathing here is not allowed (the water is too hot and slightly acidic) venturing into and discovering the cave comes with a high recommendation from me!
Myvatn Nature Baths
If you really do want to dip in a hot spring the Myvatn Nature Baths are just up the road and a great way to round out a day of exploring in Iceland!
Snæfellsjökull National Park
Snæfellsjökull National Park is another unique location in Iceland that gets fewer visitors than it deserves. Formed in 2001 to protect the distinct landscapes and important historical relics it also provides the infrastructure that allows tourists to access this wild peninsula.
Here you can descend into and explore an 8000-year-old lava tube at Vatnshellir Cave, climb into an extinct volcano at the Saxholl Crater and even search for puffins along the rugged black basalt cliffs of Londrangar.
The Snaefellsness peninsula and Snæfellsjökull National Park are places well worth adding to your Icelandic Itinerary!
Until recently Glymur was the tallest waterfall in Iceland. Simply because of this fact you’d expect it to be a common stop for visitors to the country. However, Its somewhat remote and involves a bit of a hike, so, even the tourists that do come through the area are likely to skip it. Accessible only in the summer months you’ll want to plan for a 3 hour round trip.
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
Reynisfjara Beach is definitely the most famous place in Iceland. It has shown up in every Medieval and fantastic movie out there. Located beside the town of Vik, this striking coast features huge black basalt stacks. It is about 120 km from Reykjavik making it a popular day trip and it is located on the Ring Road. You’ll see many sea birds along here and it’s one of the best places to spot puffins.
Snaefellsjokul National Park
Located on the West Coast of Iceland, Snaefellsjokul national park is a must-visit on a tour of Iceland. Located on the tip of the Snaefellsjokul Peninsula it has a beautiful basalt landscape where you can explore lava tubes, the Buðahraun lava field, the Snæfellsjökull Glacier and volcano.
Vatnajokull National Park
Vatnajokull National Park is the land of Fire and Ice due to its volcanic activity mixed with glacier movement. It is Europe’s largest national park covering 12% of the country. It sees fewer tourists than other tourist destinations and you can take 4X4 trips, do some hiking and take guided tours onto the Vatnajökull ice cap and ice caves.
It also houses the Dettifoss Waterfall, the most powerful waterfall in Europe. It is definitely worth the trip to Northern Iceland. It also houses the largest glacier in Europe. Vatnajökull Glacier is actually an ice cap that encompasses 8100 square km.
Asbyrgi Canyon is located in North Iceland and just 30 km from Dettifoss Waterfall. The 100 meter high cliffs form a horseshoe canyon. It reminds me of the Cliffs of Moher of Ireland (without the water of course). You can camp in Asbyrgi Canyon and it is a good place for hiking.
When driving Iceland, many people take drive the ring road or do the Golden Circle Tour, but there is an alternative called, the Diamond Circle. Lake Myvatn is located on this circle. The unique landscape of Lake Myvatn is what makes it so interesting to visit. There are many intersting sites around Iceland’s fourth-largest lake including Dimmuborgir lava formations, the picturesque Hverfjall Volcano Crater, the geothermal area of Leirhnjukur, and the Lofthellir Ice Cave located in the Búrfell lava field.
Like much of Iceland you can take a dip in the hot springs and visit geothermal waters. The Myvatn Mineral Baths area fantastic alternative to the Blue Lagoon.
Iceland is the land of Waterfalls and our favourite was Godafoss. Located on the Ring Road or in North Iceland, Godafoss is known as the Waterfall of the Gods. It is located in Myvatn and Akureyri, the capital of North Iceland.
See the Northern Lights
Iceland is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. Many people plan their entire trip around seeing the Aurora Borealis.What is great about the hotels in Iceland is that they will keep a lookout for the Northern Lights and wake you up when they are active. Just let the front desk know that you are interested and they’ll make sure you don’t miss them.
Geysir Geothermal Area
No trip to Iceland would be complete without witnessing the Geyser Hot Spring Area. The Strokker Geyser shoots 30 meters into the air. While it is a very popular stop on the Golden Circle, it is on the list because it is so unique!
Fjallabak Nature Reserve
You May have heard of Rainbow Mountain in Peru, well Iceland has its own colorful mountains. This valley is filled with rainbow colored mountains and geothermal pools. For hiking in Iceland, this is the one to do, the Laugavegur Trail was rated as one of the top hikes in the world.
When visiting Iceland there are plenty of “must-see” sights, there’s no arguing that. The Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s most famous hot springs. And even though it is overcrowded, no trip to Iceland would be complete without a visit to the Blue Lagoon. What makes it easy is that it is close to the airport so you can pop in before your flight out. (Like we did). The Geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon are what drew tourists to Iceland and it is worth visiting at least once in your lifetime.
Read our full breakdown of the Blue Lagoon here: How to Visit The Blue Lagoon in Iceland
But getting off the tourist trail and exploring the less known and more unique places in Iceland is sure to leave you speechless.
Some of the top things to do in Iceland (that are on the popular tourist trail are:
- Lava Fields – the largest lava flow in the world located in the south of Iceland.
- Vik Rock Formations – Sea stacks and caves
- Gullfoss Waterfall – Iceland’s most popular waterfall
- Golden Circle Route – This is the popular ring road that circles around the country
- Icelandic Horses – These horses are unique to Iceland and nothing compares to going for a ride and trying to Tolt on an Icelandic horse.
- Whale Watching and Bird Watching.
- Independent travel in Iceland is possible when renting a car but you may want to book some tours in advance if you are not driving.
- We use GetYourGuide as a tour company as it is easy to book in advance, cancel with 24 hours notice and we have enjoyed the tours we’ve taken with them.
- Golden Circle Tour – Pick up from Reykjavik and explore the highlights of Southern Iceland including the Geyser, discover where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet in Þingvellir National Park and Gullfoss waterfall Click here for details
- Whale Watching – Húsavík as the capital of whale watching in Iceland and this is the original. If you are going to go whale watching this is a good option.
For more information on Iceland check out our Iceland Travel Guide
Enjoy perusing all these attractions of Iceland? Why not save this to Pinterest for future reference?
These are simply 13 of the hundreds of unique attractions in Iceland. We’ve barely scratched the surface of what the country has to offer.
If you get the chance to visit the land of fire and Ice I’d urge you to drop everything and take it! Iceland has quickly become one of my favorite destinations and somewhere I look forward to returning to again and again!
Patrick is an internationally published Canadian travel photographer and blogger from Adventographer.com who explores the world fuelled by culture, sunsets, street food, and good coffee.
He writes from a wealth of travel experiences both good and bad and endeavors to create & share unique and inspiring content from around the world as a catalyst for change with the mantra Explore.Create.Educate. Find him on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest
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