Advice from a local: top 10 places to visit in Iceland.

Posted: 26/06/20 | June 26th, 2020

Last modified on: August 3rd, 2020 at 16:13

Advice from a local: my top 10 places to visit in Iceland. Visit the land of ice and fire like a local. Start planning your trip with my 10 places to visit.

Advice from a local: my top 10 places to visit in Iceland.

If you like raw untouched nature, Iceland is the country for you. There is so much to see and do that it might be hard to get started. Below I will talk about my personal top 10 places to visit in Iceland. Places I used to visit since I was a kid, and still amaze me!

Here’s an overview of 10 amazing places to visit in Iceland from a locals’ perspective. Being born and raised in Iceland, I have traveled around the island a lot, and want to share my favorite places with you. Of course, you should start with the golden-circle, which is an amazing day trip from Reykjavik. But if you have more time to spend in Iceland, read my 10 places to visit in Iceland below!

1. Þórsmörk

Cars crossing one of the many rivers to Þórsmörk.
10 places to visit in Iceland: Crossing one of the many rivers to Þórsmörk.

My number one place to visit in Iceland is Þórsmörk! It is by far my most favorite place in Iceland, named after the lighting god, Thor! I have been coming here for many years with my family to camp and hike. It is special for many many reasons, but what makes it so different is that it is hard to get there and it offers nature that I haven’t seen anywhere else in the world. A beautiful canyon surrounded by beautiful green mountains, clean rivers, and the sound of waterfalls.

The road leading up to the campsite goes through a few big rivers. So you need a proper 4×4 and some knowledge of how to drive through rivers.

On the way there you can stop at a few magnificent places. Such as the roots of the famous Eyjafjallajökull, which erupted in 2010. Walk into the beautiful green canyons, Nauthúsagil, and Stakkholtsgjá where you will find magical waterfalls.

In Þórsmörk there is a camping ground and mountain huts where you can reserve a bed. I recommend staying there for at least a night to experience all that Þórsmörk has to offer. Just make sure to check the road openings and weather forecast before you go, it is in the highlands, so the conditions can change quickly!

It is also possible to do a very cool 25km trek from Þórsmörk to Skógar this trek is known as Fimmvörðuháls, the travel association website has all the info you need on it!

Know before you go:

In case you don’t have a car in Iceland,  look at the Icelandbybus website for more info on the bus to Þórsmörk. Check the website of the road authority whether road 249 (Þórsmerkurvegur) is open before you go!

2. Fjallsárlón glacier lagoon.

Advice from a local: top 10 places to visit Iceland:
Advice from a local: top 10 places to visit Iceland: Fjallsárlón.

Fjallsárlón is one of the many lagoons coming from Vatnajökull. The biggest glacier in Iceland. Lesser-known than it’s famous sister: Jökulsárlón, and one of the most magical lagoons, in my opinion. It is a bit smaller than Jökulsárslón but fewer tourists visit it and there is less “traffic” there. It gives you a chance to enjoy nature more.

You can walk down to the lagoon, see the giant wall of ice in front of you, and witness the glacier in all its glory. Stay for a while and take it all in. Seeing glaciers up close like this always makes me feel very small and reminds me that nature is completely in control.

Know before you go:

Please don’t climb on top of the icebergs or go into the lagoon. These lagoons are freezing and it can be very very dangerous if you fall in. 

3. Vestfirðir.

Advice from a local: top 10 places to visit Iceland: Spot Puffins at Látrabjarg.
10 places to visit Iceland: Spot Puffins at Látrabjarg.

All of the Westfjords is one big highlight, that’s why driving the fjords is on this list. Threading all of the fjords, going up and down mountain passes is a lot of fun. This region of Iceland is very adventurous, you will pass through many tiny fishing villages, beautiful fjords, see seals, foxes, and puffins. While ending the day in one of many hot springs. It is remote and raw and is a must-do in Iceland.

Often the Westfjords are “cut out” of the ring road trips, but I think this is a big mistake. Yes, it does take time to drive it, but it is so so worth it and there are lots of things to do and see! It’s one of my favorite places to visit in Iceland.

Visit Látrabjarg to see hundreds of puffins flying around giant cliffs, walk on the red bach at Rauðisandur, or go to Hornstrandir and be completely alone. Don’t forget to visit the hot pots in Drangsnes and immerse yourself in Icelandic culture and nature.

Know before you go:

The roads in this region are often just gravel roads. Make sure you have a decent vehicle and remember to go slow. 

4. Landmannalaugar.

10 places to visit Iceland: On top of a mountain in Landmannalaugar
10 places to visit Iceland: On top of a mountain in Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar is a very special place that you have to see in Iceland. If you’ve ever seen one of those pictures of Iceland with colorful mountains, this is the place where they are!

It makes you feel like you are on another planet. The colorful mountains and the harshness of the huge lava field create a scenery I can almost guarantee you have never seen before. On the picture above you can see where the lava flow stopped, right before the camping place. Quite a cool sight to see, which makes you realize how powerful mother nature is.

By the camping place, there is a hot spring flowing into the river. Go in for a dip after a day of hiking, open a beer, and take in the beautiful surroundings. It is a perfect way to end the day after a tough hike. If you don’t have camping gear, there is a mountain hut there where you can stay, check out the website of the huts for more information.

It is possible to hike from Þórsmörk to Landmannalaugar via the famous Laugavegur trail. This is a challenging trek 0f about 54km, you can find more information on the website of the hiking association. If you want to go to both Þórsmörk and Landmannalaugar, then this trek is one of the places you need to visit in Iceland.

Know before you go:

Make sure you check that the road is open before you head onto your adventure. Road.is provides very up-to-date info about road openings. Look at routes F225 and 208

5. Askja.

Advice from a local: 10 things to do in Iceland.
Advice from a local: top 10 places to visit in Iceland: Our little blue Rav on the way to Askja

Askja, it can’t get more adventurous than this. It is way up in the highlands, right above Europe’s biggest glacier (Vatnajökull). It is located in a very active volcanic area. You need a proper 4×4 that can drive through rough lava fields and cross rivers. Askja itself is a beautiful destination, but the drive there is the real adventure!

It is possible to camp in Drekagil (dragon canyon) for the night. I highly recommend this, spending a night surrounded by these powerful forces is something unique. There are mountain huts there with basic accommodation, in case you don’t feel like camping. Book them in advance: the website of the hut for more information.

We opted to sleep in the car instead of our tent when we were there as it started to snow and it was only about 2 degrees outside (this was in July!). So be prepared! 

In the area is the second deepest lake in Iceland Öskjuvatn. The lake is the old crater from the volcanic eruption in Askja.

Next to it is a younger crater Víti (hell in Icelandic). Walk up and you will see the light blue water inside, almost looks like the Blue Lagoon. The temperature of the water is on average about 22 degrees. Make sure to check with the rangers before going into the crater. Sometimes the temperature is too high or the path too muddy, so you won’t be able to get out.

The Öskjuvatn lake is pretty spectacular, if you’re there during good weather then you will have magnificent views of the mountains surrounding you. There are also lots of curious-looking geothermal areas with clay, floating rocks, and weird smells.

Know before you go:

The walking path to the lake can sometimes become very foggy and often there is snow on the path (yes even in summer). It is very well marked with sticks, in poor visibility do not to stray away from the sticks. 

There are several ways to get there, from the east you take F905 from Route 1 and then into F910 into Drekagil. The path is rocky and bouncy. You can Also take F88 from Route 1, but then you have to cross two rivers, usually only passable for big 4x4s. Be prepared for an adventurous ride!

6. Seyðisfjörður.

Tiny but cozy, spring sunset in Seyðisfjörður!
Tiny but cozy, spring sunset in Seyðisfjörður!

Seyðisfjörður is a small fishing village on the East coast of Iceland. Only about 600 people live there and the mounting road leading to it is often inaccessible in the winter. I may be a bit biased here, my grandmother lives in this village and I have been coming here for many years. This has allowed me to get to know it and I know that it’s a must-see in Iceland!

It is known for being very artsy. This tiny village hosts a yearly art festival called LUNGA, filling the town with all kinds of art and fun people. This has slowly turned the village into a cool, artsy, and fun place. All of this located in a beautiful fjord.

Go for a nice walk through the fjord and visit the beautiful waterfall: Vestdalsfossar. This offers you amazing views over the village and the big mountains around. Then head to one of the many cozy cafes in the village.

If you feel adventurous: One of the things to do is hiking to the next fjord, Loðmundafjörður. This fjord is inhabited and is completely empty. It is about a 15km trek and 600m ascend, one way. Many people decide to do it in two days, spending one night in the fjord. 

Seyðisfjörður may be remote, small, and quiet. But, it has a huge charm that draws people in again and again. Read more about things to do in Seydisfjordur

Know before you go:

You need to cross a fairly big pass, Fjarðarheiði, to Seyðisfjörður. It is sometimes closed or ill-passable in the winter. Make sure to check before you go, especially in the winter months. There is snow all year round on top of the pass, expect any weather!

7. Mývatn.

Advice from a local: my top 10 places to visit in Iceland.
10 places to visit in Iceland. Boiling mud at Myvatn.

Mývatn is a place right out of Middle Earth, from Lord of the Rings. This very cool place is a must-see in Iceland if you’re traveling in the north. One of the best places to visit in Iceland.

Mývatn is an old volcanic lake, bearing lots of reminiscent of the great forces that traveled through the area. There are loads of pseudocraters in the lake that look like tiny volcanoes.

It’s not one thing to do, it’s a beautiful area surrounding a lake. Filled with interesting and fascinating stops.

There is famous Grjótagjá, a very well-formed crack in the ground with steaming hot water coming out of it, you can walk all along with it and even enter into the crack.

Looming over the area is Hverafjall, a giant crater formed in one of the biggest eruptions. You can hike up, and look down into the massive crater, quite a spectacular view.

In the same area is Dimmuborgir, a magical place where our Santa Clauses live (we have 13 of them!). It is a curious lava formation, where trolls and elves might show themselves!

If you have a car, I highly suggest that you follow Route 1 to the east to Hverar and Krafla. Just over a small hill, a big geothermal wonderworld opens up in front of you. Beware, the smell is overwhelming! Krafla is the name of an active volcano in the area and the name of the geothermal plant there. Drive past the plant and learn more about our geothermal power 🙂

Before arriving at Krafla you will come across Hverar. Which is a geothermal area with bubbling mud volcanoes.

Please make sure to stop at the Myvatn nature baths, the smaller version of the Blue Lagoon!

Know before you go:

Go over to farm Hella and buy some of the local smoked fish. The farm is located across from Fosshotel. 

8. Glymur waterfall.

10 places to visit in Iceland. Looking into the Canyon by Glymur.
10 places to visit in Iceland. Looking into the Canyon by Glymur.

The Glymur waterfall is of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. It is an astonishing 198 meters high and is Iceland’s second-highest waterfall. Located at the very end of Hvalfjörður, which is a fjord not too far from Reykjavik.

It is probably one of the most exciting day trips you can do from Reykjavik on your own. I used to go here with my parents during weekends or days off. It is a cool hike that takes you up to beautiful views of the waterfall and the fjord. It has everything; adventure, hiking, nature, crossing rivers, and stunning views as a reward! The best thing is, it is completely free and you can do it on your own!

This hike is not difficult, but it has some tricky parts and you need to be in decent shape. Also, you need to be ready for a bit of adventuring! The path takes you above the waterfall, there you have to cross a river – by foot, since there is no bridge.

Know before you go:

For more info on how to get to Glymur read our blog about doing this as a day trip from Reykjavik. 

9. Dettifoss

10 places to visit in Iceland. The impressive SolheimajokullPowerful Dettifoss in the winter!
10 places to visit in Iceland. Powerful Dettifoss in the winter!

Dettifoss is a big, powerful waterfall in the North of Iceland. With a cascade of about 44m and an average water flow of 193m³/s, it is one of the most powerful waterfalls in Europe. Its hight and volume make up for one impressive and badass looking waterfall.

Its grey color comes from the river that feeds it. The river comes from the Vatnajökull glacier (the biggest in Europe), the clay and dirt from the glacier give Dettifoss his grey color. We’ve been there in both summer and winter, the two seasons offer very different surroundings and, if you can, I highly recommend visiting it during both seasons. The picture above is from the beginning of May, with still lots of snow!

After you’ve taken time to admire Dettifoss in all his glory, I recommend walking along the canyon to the Selfoss waterfall. It is only about a kilometer walk from the Dettifoss viewpoint. This one is, of course, a bit smaller, but impressive nonetheless. And who gets tired of watching beautiful waterfalls anyway?

Know before you go:

There are two places where you can view it, on the west side if you follow route 862 and on the east side if you follow route 864. Route 864 is not accessible year-round, usually only in the summer months. Route 862 is a paved road and is usually open all year round.

10. Sólheimajökull.

Advice from a local: my top 10 places to visit in Iceland. The impressive Solheimajokull
Advice from a local: my top 10 places to visit in Iceland. The impressive Solheimajokull

Sólheimajökull is a part of the smaller Mýrdalsjökull. Take a walk up to the glacier and witness its power. I already added Fjallsárlón to the list, but this one you cannot miss. You can almost touch the glacier it is so close. You can notice all the different patterns, the cold breeze, and the crackling of the ice. To be so close to a glacier is truly an experience you can’t miss out on.

By the parking spot, during the summer, you can get coffee, hot dogs, or meat soup from a food truck. Grab some food before walking up to the glacier and have dinner with a view! Also, this is the start of many glacier activities like kayaking and glacier hiking!

Know before you go:

Be aware that the soil underneath you may be loose due to melting water, read the signs on the route, and follow them. Often it is dangerous to get too close to the glacier.

Advice from a local: my top 10 places to visit in Iceland.

So this was my top 10 places to visit in Iceland, according to a local. Hopefully, this gives you a good start on planning your trip. In case you have more questions regarding the list above drop a message below or contact us!

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