Iceland might be the most beautiful country I’ve visited so far and one of the few that has truly amazed me from start to finish. While the country might be relatively small, what it lacks in size it makes up with a variety of stunning sceneries that range from crystal blue glacier lagoons to green moss volcanoes, red sand beaches, and black desert landscapes.
There are so many beautiful destinations in this country that a single list cannot do proper justice to it, but here I’ll share with you 20+ stunning sights I believe everyone should visit to see the best that Iceland has to offer.
Many of these attractions are easily accessible from the Ring Road –Iceland’s main road– while other will take you off the beaten path into remote areas far from any signs of civilization.
It is recommended you drive your own car so you can move freely all over the country and enjoy these sights at your pace. I recommend staying at least two weeks in Iceland to visit all of these places.
1. Kirkjufell and Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall
Kirkjufell (Church Mountain) is the most photographed mountain in Iceland and a natural icon on its own. Located next the to the small town of Grundarfjörður, it rises 463 meters above sea level in an unusual, long, conical shape; that has become the beautiful landmark not only of this town but of all Iceland too. There is a hiking trail leading to the top, which takes about one hour and a half each way.
In front of Kirkjufell Mountain, you have Kirkjufellsfoss (pictured here), which means Church Mountain Waterfall. The word “foss” means waterfall and you’ll see a lot of it through this post. The combination of falls, isolated mountain, the seascape, and gorgeous sunset clouds makes this a dream spot for photographers.
2. Snæfellsjökull National Park
Snæfellsjökull National Park is situated on the western point of the Snæfellsness peninsula and is home to the most famous volcano in Iceland, Snæfellsjökull – the crowning jewel of the park itself.
In addition to the volcano, you can see other stunning spots in the park like Djúpalónssandur beach, Saxhóll volcano crater, Lóndrangar (the two massive lava formations), Sönghellir (the singing cave), and Rauðfeldargjá (the hidden waterfall), among others. Due to its proximity to Reykjavik (approx. 2 hours drive each way), it is one of the most visited parks in Iceland. You can drive around the park and Kirkjufell in a day.
This is my favorite region in all Iceland as it is relatively remote and gorgeous. Driving along the fjords offers majestic views at every corner, and then some more. Being one of the most remote regions of Iceland, you could drive here for hours and not see any form of civilization – just nature at its best.
I loved driving all around each fjord valley, created thanks to the millions of years of glacial retreat and erosion. To me, the most impressive drives where Route 63 and Route 60 (heading north of Dynjandi Waterfall). But the views are not the only impressive thing of the fjords; here you can camp freely almost everywhere! If you’re driving the whole circuit in the Westfjords, make sure not to miss the Látrabjarg Cliffs – one of the most spectacular seabird cliffs in the world. Additionally, it is Iceland’s westernmost point (considered one of Europe’s westernmost points after the Azores islands) and Europe’s largest bird cliff – 14 km long and up to 440 meters high.
4. Dynjandi Waterfall
Dynjandi waterfall is not only the biggest waterfall in the Westfjords, but it is also one of the most beautiful in the country. The word “Dynjandi” means “thunderous,” and indeed you can feel the thunderous sound when you’re standing right at the base of the falls. Dynjandi cascades a total of 100 meters, which is then followed by six smaller falls until it reaches the sea.
Different from most falls in Iceland, Dynjandi doesn’t drop in a free fall column, but slowly cascades through the rocks, spreading its liquid veil from 30 meters at the top to 60 meters at the bottom.
Watch the sunset from there. Not only does the waterfall looks spectacular illuminated in orange hues, but also the sunset itself is stunning.
5. Rauðisandur Beach
Rauðisandur (red beach) is a beautiful, remote red sand beach in the Westfjords. It stretches for about 10 km from Látrabjarg bird-cliff in the west towards Skorarhlíðar mountain side in the east. How red the sand looks depends on the light of the day. It can vary from white, to orange, yellow, and very red. But, whether it looks red or not, it is a beautiful sight not to miss. Unlike most beaches that are a single, long strip; Rauðisandur is made of large, irregular patches of sand surrounded by shallow emerald green water. What’s even more curious are the sheep living at the beach!
The road leading to the beach is a steep gravel road, so great care must be taken while driving since it passes through some dangerous curves and cliffs. Some say this is the most dangerous road in Iceland; I found it just fine.
6. Hornstrandir National Park
This is the most inaccessible part of Iceland and the northernmost tip of the Westfjords. It has been uninhabited since the 1950’s due to its rough weather, remoteness, and lack of resources. Today it is a beautiful national park where you can camp and hike for days. No roads lead there, so you can either hike for a week from the end of the road, near Krossnes, to get there (another week to get back) or take a two-hour boat ride from Ísafjörður to a few points in Hornstrandir, from where you can start the hike. I took the boat ride and did a day hike. You can choose to stay longer according to the boat schedule of the season.
Not only are the sceneries gorgeous, but here’s also where you’ll find Iceland’s biggest arctic fox colony. Even if it is the middle of summer, you must go with proper winter clothing and be prepared to get wet – you’ll be less than 10 km from the Arctic Circle, so the wind drafts are pretty cold! Since there’s nothing in the area, you must carry with you all your food and camping gear.
7. Vatnajökull National Park
This national park covers approximately 14% of Iceland, making it Europe’s second largest national park. In the park is Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest glacier outside the Arctic, generally measuring 400–600 meters in thickness (at the most 950 meters). But the most interesting thing about this glacier is that under it, it conceals some active volcanoes, of which Bárðarbunga is the largest and Grímsvötn the most active – hence why Iceland is called the land of fire and ice.
Inside Vatnajökull there’s an area formerly known as Skaftafell National Park. In it, you can hike short trails leading to Svartifoss waterfall and Skaftafellsjökull glacier. You can also walk over Svinafellsjökull glacier, and if you’re open to more intensive hikes, you can head to the Morsárdalur valley and Kristínartindar mountain peaks. Lastly, Skaftafell is also the perfect base camp for those who seek to climb Iceland‘s highest mountain peak, Hvannadalshnjúkur.
8. Svartifoss Waterfall
Svartifoss (Black Fall) is among the most famous waterfalls in the country. In fact, it was the inspiration behind the iconic Hallgrimskirkja church in Reykjavik. The water falls about 20 meters in front of a natural background created with black basalt columns. To reach it, you must hike about 45 minutes each way from Skaftafell’s entrance.
9. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Jökulsárlón is considered one of Iceland’s natural wonders. It has slowly formed throughout the decades as the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier started receding from the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. While today it is considered to be Iceland’s deepest lake, the beauty of this lake is not in its size, shape, or depth, but on the glacial background and the icebergs floating in it. As the glacier melts and breaks into pieces, these icebergs float a slow procession through the lake until they reach the ocean and melt.
Just standing there, watching the ice slowly float to its death makes this a unique place worth visiting. You can also ride a boat/Zodiac to get closer to the glacier and icebergs.
10. Mount Mælifell
Reaching Mount Mælifell (Measure Hill) was probably my favorite experience in Iceland. With its awe-inspiring green moss and its stand alone pyramidal shape surrounded by a vast, black desert landscape, Mount Mælifell has become one of Iceland’s most iconic landmarks. It makes you feel like you just entered another world.
Mount Mælifell is a volcano standing almost 200 meters tall, which you can hike to the top. It is reachable only by a 4×4 vehicle since the path leading to it is not paved, in terrible shape, and crosses several rivers (some of them pretty deep). While the drive is long, slow, and arduous (about 10 to 12 hours round-trip from Reykjavik), it is worth doing it.
Throughout the journey, you’ll see the seemingly endless black desert wilderness of Mælifellssandur, the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, as well as the mountains of the Fjallabak region, among others. You can take the F210 (the one I took and loved) or the F261 (seems to be shorter) to reach Mælifell. Both require a 4×4.
Landmannalaugar is an area full of geothermal nature baths in the Highlands of Iceland. It is also famous for its notable surroundings full of spectacular rock formations, lava fields, and multicolored rhyolite mountains. Two of its most famous mountains are Blahnjukur (‘Blue Peak’) and Brennisteinsalda (‘Sulphur wave’).
Thanks to the area’s renowned beauty, from here you can start the most popular hiking trail in all Iceland – the Laugavegur trail. It takes four days to hike and ends at the Thorsmork valley on the south. Naturally, it is full of stunning wilderness only hikers can witness.
12. Haifoss Waterfall
Haifoss, with a fall of 122 meters, is the third highest waterfall in Iceland. Besides having an impressive height, the setting on which it falls makes this a stunning sight to visit. Another waterfall, Granni, accompanies Haifoss, and they both share the waters of the Fossa River, which is a tributary of the glacial river Þjórsá – Iceland’s longest river.
Reaching Haifoss is not too difficult, though the road leading to it is unpaved and in relatively bad shape. But, once you reach the end of the road and stand at the edge of the cliff, you’ll see this panorama is completely worth the bumpy ride.
13. Glymur Waterfall
Not too far from Reykjavik, you’ll find Glymur – Iceland’s second highest waterfall standing 198 meters tall. Glymur was considered the highest waterfall in Iceland until Morsárfoss was measured in 2011 – reaching 240 meters tall.
Surprisingly, not a lot of people visit this fall. To get to it, you must hike for two to three hours round-trip, through green mossy cliffs, and along a beautiful, narrow canyon. The hike gets a bit tough at some points, but take it slowly and enjoy the river and mountain views.
14. Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
Seljalandsfoss is one of the best-known waterfalls in Iceland since it is easily visible from Route 1 (the famous Ring Road), and it looks just as stunning from far as it does from up close. Additionally, this waterfall has a very peculiar feature; a cave behind the fall that allows you to walk right behind it. Don’t miss doing this walk. If it is a sunny day, you might catch a glimpse or a rainbow or see a stunning sunset.
The waterfall drops 60 meters and is part of the Seljalands River that has its origin in the volcano glacier Eyjafjallajökull (the one that erupted in 2010).
15. Skógafoss Waterfall
Another popular waterfall not too far from Seljalandsfoss (just 30 km away). Skógafoss is 60 meters high and 25 meters wide, making it one of the biggest falls in Iceland (based on water volume).
You can stand right at the base of the falls or hike to the top through a staircase. Along the way up, you can stop to get a view of the troll (a rock formation, pictured above) to take some beautiful shots of the falls.
There is a legend connected to this waterfall. It is said that around the year 900, Þrasi Þórólfsson, the first Viking Settler at Skógar (Eystriskógar), buried a treasure chest behind the falls; and that apparently, the first man to go behind it will find it.
The legend continues by saying that locals found the chest years later, but were only able to grasp the ring on the side of the chest before it disappeared again. The ring was allegedly given to the local church.
Want to see if you can find a treasure?
16. Blue Lagoon
While this is a man-made attraction, it is derived from natural elements produced hundreds of feet under the earth – its peculiar white-blue water. The warm waters of the Blue Lagoon are rich in minerals like silica and sulfur and it is said that bathing in the Blue Lagoon helps rejuvenate the skin as well as improve skin diseases. The water temperature in the bathing and swimming area of the lagoon averages 37–39 °C (99–102 °F).
Besides, it’s considered a sin going to Iceland and not going to the Blue Lagoon. This is the most visited attraction in the country.
17. Thingvellir National Park and Silfra
Þingvellir, anglicized as Thingvellir, is probably the most important national park in Iceland due to its historical, cultural, and geological significance. It lies in a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. In other words, the park is literally split by two continental plates that are slowly drifting apart 2cm a year.
Right in the rift valley you’ll find the Althing, the national parliament of Iceland, which was established at Þingvellir in 930 and held its sessions there until 1798.
When you’re visiting the park, you’ll see the crack formed by the tectonic plates. This crack is filled with some of the purest, clearest glacial water (after being filtered by volcanic rock), which makes it a perfect place to go diving since the visibility can reach up to 100 meters. While I was not fond of diving in water at a temperature of 4 degrees Celsius, I’m happy to say that the experience of diving between two continental plates is beautiful and unique.
18. Geysir and Gullfoss Waterfall
Together with Þingvellir, Geysir and Gullfoss form part of the Golden Circle, a popular day excursion from Reykjavik. These sights are just a few miles from each other and are easily accessible.
Did you know the word geyser comes from the Icelandic word Geysir, which is the name of the most famous geyser in the country? Geysir was the first geyser described in a printed source and the first known to modern Europeans.
Unfortunately, Geysir has been dormant for the past couple years, but just a few meters south of it there’s Strokkur, the “smaller sister” of Geysir. It still erupts these days every 6 to 10 minutes and the water column reaches an average height of 15 to 20 meters, though it has been recorded reaching up to 40 meters in height!
Not far from Geysir is Gullfoss Waterfall (Golden Waterfall), one of the most beloved falls in the country due to its peculiar, picturesque two-stage cascade that totals a drop of over 30 meters.
19. Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck
If you like surreal looking places to photograph, then this is for you. This site is known as the Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck, named after the beach where the crash happened.
This is a Douglas Super DC-3 airplane from the US Navy lying hollow and forgotten on a deserted black beach. What is a US Navy plane doing in Iceland, you may ask? Well, the Navy used to have a base in Iceland and on November 24, 1973, one of their DC-3 planes ran out of fuel after the pilot switched to the wrong fuel tank and crash-landed on the beach.
Luckily all crew members survived the accident, but for some reason, the fuselage was left there and never recovered. Today, it is a cool and surreal place to visit, and one I’d recommend everyone to go to and see from inside and out.
To reach it you’ll have to walk about 45 minutes, each way, from the highway (Route 1). If you’re willing to walk a bit more, you can continue past the plane towards the beach shore.
20. Dettifoss Waterfall
Dettifoss, located in Vatnajökull National Park in the Northeast area of Iceland, is the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Dettifoss is situated on the Jökulsá á Fjöllum River and drops 45 meters down to the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon. Its drop is 100 meters wide, making it the largest waterfall in Iceland regarding volume discharge, having an average water flow of 193 m3/s.
To help you find these places, here’s a maps with their location.
Additionally, if all these pictures and descriptions were not enough to inspire you, check out this video below showing most of the sight described here and more.
While I recommend renting a car there, know that it is also possible to reach most of these destinations with tours. Viator, for example, has an extensive selection of tours in Iceland.