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Top 10 Best Places to Visit in Iceland

Jonah Parzen
June 9, 2023
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If this is your first trip to Iceland, there are a few sights you simply must see. Start off at Hallgrimskirkja and catch an aerial view of Reykjavik before continuing onto Thingvellir to witness where North America and European tectonic plates meet.

Godafoss Waterfall in the Golden Circle offers breathtaking waterfall views where rainbows often appear, while Jokulsarlon offers amazing glacier lagoons, where icebergs nonchalantly drift past black sand beaches.

1. Reykjavik

Reykjavik is Iceland's capital and serves as a starting point for thrilling adventures. It features an open-minded culture, boasting vibrant music and art scenes as well as delectable cuisine.

Sustainable tourism and ecotravel is essential to Iceland's local community. When visiting, be sure to support independent cafes and gift shops like Kiosk that practice ecotourism. Also remember to purchase souvenirs made in Iceland rather than simply featuring its flag or name - this way you are supporting local businesses!

For those seeking an adventurous experience, Landmannalaugar in Fjallabak Nature Reserve provides a perfect setting. Nestled amidst glacial rivers and geothermal pools, its challenging yet rewarding hike is truly rewarding. Or join Glacier Adventure to hike on Vatnajokull glacier into its ice caves; their tours adhere to ethical and environmentally responsible practices!

2. Akureyri

Akureyri may seem an unlikely tourist hub, but this vibrant little city serves as Iceland's gateway to the north. Locals gather here for breakfast at cafes which open early and stay busy well into the night.

Start exploring Akureyri's old town with its charming architecture featuring Scandinavian elements. Visit the Akureyri City Museum to gain more insight into local history before exploring Mount Sulur with hiking trails and breathtaking panoramic views, or taking a dip in one of the country's largest geothermal swimming pools - Geothermal Swimming Pool Complex (GSPC).

Akureyri makes an ideal base from which to visit nearby attractions such as Hverir's bubbling mud pools, Lake Myvatn's bubbling hot springs and Dimmuborgir's otherworldly rock formations - not forgetting whale-spotting from Husavik or feeling dwarfed by nature at Dettifoss waterfall and Asbyrgi canyon!

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Glacier lagoons
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Sustainable Travel @ Iceland

3. Husavik

Husavik boasts of being the whale-watching capital of Iceland and it is easy to understand why. You can take a boat trip out into the ocean and spot both humpback whales and minke whales along with white-beaked dolphins.

GeoSea baths offer a relaxing place to unwind with hot salty geothermal water and stunning bay views. Plus, there are educational videos and displays on marine ecology - there's even a giant whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling!

Husavikurkirkja, designed by Rognvaldur Olafsson of Hallgrimkirkja in Reykjavik, stands near the harbour. You can hike through surrounding mountains and visit Asbyrgi canyon; drive Myvatn with its ice caps and Dettifoss waterfall for more adventure; or stay local and engage in activities such as mountain biking and golf/disc golfing - great options to keep active here.

4. Vestmannaeyjabaer

Icelandic highlands offer an amazing landscape diversity ranging from flower-packed meadows and cascading waterfalls, to glacier-carved mountaintops and iceberg lagoons. Here you may spot Arctic Foxes; take flight over this unique scenery for an unforgettable journey!

Visit Iceland to explore its dramatic lava fields or enjoy horseback riding through an otherworldly landscape on one of Iceland's sweet and sturdy horses. Whale watching/sea angling trips are popular here and it may even be possible to spot puffins during certain seasons; sunrise visitors should head for Hornstrandir on the west coast for spectacular sunrise views over this otherworldly landscape; there are also several natural hot springs near Hornstrandir that you can soak in under starry skies.

5. Gullfoss

Gullfoss waterfall in Iceland is one of its most beloved attractions, gaining notoriety via Instagram posts and travel brochures alike.

Tiered cataracts are breathtaking displays of water and rock layers forming new combinations - nature at work at its finest! Their mesmerizing beauty serves as a constant reminder that Iceland's landscapes are constantly shifting and reforming in surprising ways.

Although tourism was initially unwelcomed at Gullfoss waterfall, tourism was ultimately saved in the early 20th century by local farmer's daughter Sigridur Tomasdottir who put in some hard work in saving it and dedicated a stone memorial to her at its top. Today, visitors can still enjoy Gullfoss year-round but winter tours from Vik offer opportunities to experience its famous Ice Cave or Langjokull Glacier hikes for ultimate glacier hiking tours here! There are also unique tours offered here!

6. Geysir

Iceland's tourism industry has experienced explosive growth in recent years. Unfortunately, this means some of Iceland's unique locations may become overrun with visitors; to experience more authentic Iceland experiences and gain a truer picture, try venturing beyond tourist hotspots to uncover more hidden gems off-path.

Geysir Geothermal Area is an iconic stop along the Golden Circle for good reason! The Strokker Geyser can send up water 30 meters high into the atmosphere - truly breathtaking!

Geysir Geothermal Area offers plenty to explore besides geysers. Make sure to visit its bubbling blowholes, the Blesi mud pools and Thingvellir National Park which was home to Iceland's first parliament as well as Silfra's crystal clear waters glistening beneath.

7. Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss waterfall is an unforgettable spectacle no matter the season, but summer brings out its true brilliance as the sun's rays illuminate its misty curtain of water. For an unparalleled viewing experience, make your visit between morning or dusk for optimal viewing conditions.

Gljufrabui ("canyon dweller") in Iceland gives this spectacular waterfall its name. Visitors to this waterfall have an unprecedented experience as they can walk behind it along a hidden pathway for a stunning viewpoint.

This waterfall is easily accessible from Reykjavik and close to other attractions like Skogafoss, Solheimasandur Plane Wreck and Eyjafjallajokull volcano (which famously caused a six-day air travel disruption during 2010's eruption), making it an attractive day trip destination. Furthermore, food carts and restrooms can be found at this location for added convenience.

8. Skaftafell National Park

Akureyri, known as the "capital of the north", provides visitors with an array of activities. From visiting its wooden church (Hauikirkja) to touring its Botanical Garden and learning more about local culture through museums such as biology or cultural, Akureyri is packed with attractions - with guided hikes leading into Landmannalaugar being one such option.

Skaftafell National Park should not be overlooked when planning a visit to Iceland; its natural wonders make it one of the top highlights. Winter brings snowy landscapes filled with glaciers snaking down river valleys; hiking trails wind through this unique river-carved glacial valley past meadows, willow and birch groves as well as ancient features from Ice Age cliffs; don't miss a stop by Seljalandsfoss waterfall as well.

9. Skaftafell National Park

Skaftafell National Park in Iceland was recently inscribed onto UNESCO's World Heritage list for being one of the largest National Parks in Europe and home to unique flora, glaciers, black sand deserts and waterfalls.

There are a variety of hiking trails here with breathtaking vistas over the landscapes, the most renowned trail being that of Svartifoss Waterfall which cascades over several black basalt organs.

Skaftafell's Ice Caves can also be visited during winter, however you will require special equipment for this activity. Local guide services offer tours through these icy caves.

Skaftafell offers visitors the unique chance to witness some traditional turf farmhouses, an integral part of Icelandic history that makes for fascinating exploration. Additionally, you can walk along its world-famous "Diamond Beach," where shimmering pieces of ice adorn its black sand beaches.

10. Snfellsnes Peninsula

Fludir's coastal cliffs and wildlife are key attractions, with Fjorubordid restaurant being an essential stop. Kayak through narrow channels to spot seals and puffins!

Budir's black church is one of the top tourist hotspots on Snaefellsnes, while Arnarstapi is an historic harbour village with charming timber houses and strong connections to Icelandic mythology (it was home of Bardar Snaefellsass). Tour through Vatnshellir Lava Tube for an underground journey that may have inspired Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth novel series.

No trip to Iceland would be complete without seeing Jokulsarlon, an electric blue and sparkling white glacier lagoon filled with electric blue and glittering white icebergs. Or discover Breidamerkursandur Beach where mossy volcanic towers tower overhead - perfect for hiking!

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Top 10 Best Places to Visit in Iceland
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