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Hailed as the Land of Fire and Ice, Iceland is known for its majestic waterfalls, exploding mudpits, ice caves, black sand beaches and magical Northern lights.

…Talk about amazing!

In March I travelled from London to Iceland with friends and we road-tripped the Golden Circle

As a travel blogger, I’ve had some epic adventures, but wow: Iceland blew my mind.

In one week, based in Reykjavík, my friends and I challenged ourselves to see and do as many incredible things as possible in Iceland’s Golden Circle in under one week.

So in this post, I’m sharing a travel guide with the 12 most amazing things to do in Iceland. I’ll also share the best tours from Reykjavík with free cancellation up to 24 hours in advance – so keep reading!

11 Amazing Things To Do In Iceland

Two figures in waterproof coats and clothes walking on rocks with a backdrop of a thundering white waterfall in Iceland

Walking with my friend Kat against the dramatic backdrop of Skógafoss waterfall

1. Chase Iceland’s Spectacular Waterfalls

You can’t visit Iceland and not be absolutely blown away by its waterfalls.

Seriously – they’re something else!

Iceland is home to some of the most magnificent waterfalls known to humankind. Imagine standing near the thunderous Seljalandsfoss or the towering Gullfoss, the chill spray on your face, a rainbow dancing in the mist. The sheer spectacle of water and power is something to behold.

If you’re wondering why Iceland is teeming with waterfalls, it’s because of the island’s geographic position on a volcanic hotspot, coupled with its icy glacier meltwaters. This creates an abundance of waterfalls, each more stunning than the last.

From the mighty Faxi to the enchanting Skogafoss, Iceland leaved you with a deep respect for the fierce power of water. I can personally vouch for the magic of Seljalandsfoss. Walking the trail behind it transported me straight into Lord of The Rings.

For photographers looking to capture waterfalls, pack a waterproof camera like a GoPro. While the mist might make for a dramatic photo, it’s not too kind on mirrorless or DSLR cameras. You don’t want to contend with a foggy lens or moisture damage!

Remember your waterproof clothes too. The more adventurous will want to get up close and personal with the waterfalls, which means you’re going to get wet. It’s all part of the fun, but soggy jeans in the middle of winter? Not so much.

(For a complete checklist on what to pack for your Iceland trip, check out my Golden Circle Road Trip: Itinerary & Guide.)

So if you’re on the hunt for an unforgettable travel experience, Iceland’s waterfalls should be at the top of your list.

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  • Iceland South Coast Waterfalls Tour: Get your camera ready for the majestic Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls, and explore the black sand beaches of Reynisfjara. This tour’s got “profile pic” written all over it!
  • Southern Iceland Day Tour: This tour takes you across the stunning landscapes of Southern Iceland, where you’ll be treated to a sight of iconic waterfalls like Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss. Did you know Seljalandsfoss allows you to walk behind the cascade? It’s a surreal experience!
  • South Coast Adventure Small Group Day Tour: Ever dreamt of exploring a land of fire and ice with just a handful of like-minded explorers? Here’s your chance! This small group tour takes you to the spectacular Reynisfjara black sand beach and two majestic waterfalls, Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss. Be ready for some insta-worthy spots!
  • South Coast Fire and Ice Day Tour: Who’s up for a fiery icy adventure? Yup, that’s right. This tour will unleash your inner thrill-seeker, taking you right to the heart of Katla volcano and the beautiful Solheimajokull glacier. You’ll be treading paths less travelled, where ice meets fire!
  • Private Day Trip To The Icelandic South Coast from Reykjavik: Feast your eyes on the stunning Seljalandsfoss and the dramatic Reynisdrangar cliffs at an iconic black sand beach.
  • South Coast Glacier Hike & Waterfalls: Time to get your inner adventurer front and centre! Scale a glacier and feel the chill of ancient ice under your boots. Don’t miss the stunning Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls!
  • 6 Days Self-Drive Tour with Golden Circle & Waterfalls: Go for this self-drive tour that takes you through the iconic Golden Circle and stunning waterfalls. Did we mention the 4×4 campervan? It’s the ultimate road trip setup!
Green lights of the Aurora Borealis dancing over us at Grotta Lighthouse in Reykjavík

Green lights of the Aurora Borealis dancing over us at Grotta Lighthouse in Reykjavík

2. Experience The Mystical Northern Lights

One of the absolute must-dos in Iceland is to witness the ethereal beauty of the Northern Lights, the Aurora Borealis.

Regarded as the Holy Grail of skywatching, these lights paint the night sky with a spectacular dance of colours – from vibrant green to rosy pink and even rich purples.

The best times to catch this celestial ballet are on clear, dark nights between September and April.

If you have a car and you’re up for a bit of adventure – and saving a ton of cash – consider skipping the guided tour. I personally recommend that you use the local Icelandic Met Office’s northern lights coverage map to hunt for the lights yourself.

We did this and were amazed by the fact we were able to see the incredible Aurora Borealis just moments after we parked our car near Grótta Island Lighthouse! Only 10 minutes from our Airbnb, we tracked the Met Office coverage map and the Northern Lights appeared in full force, changing shapes and spreading across the sky at 4am.

Green streaks and car headlamps of the Aurora Borealis at Grotta Lighthouse, Reykjavík

Green streaks of the Aurora Borealis at Grotta Lighthouse, Reykjavík

There’s something profoundly magical about seeing these lights put on a show in the sky, and if you’re like me, you might find yourself torn between capturing the moment on your camera and simply soaking in the experience!

If you’re a photographer, remember to plan your shot and settings in advance – the Aurora Borealis moves quickly and the high ISO can make it tricky to get a clear shot. The result, though, is well worth the effort – a mesmerising display of nature’s own light show that you’ll remember for a lifetime.

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  • Northern Lights Cruise: Set sail into the dark and watch the night sky light up in a surreal display of colours. Expect to visit Faxaflói Bay. Don’t forget your camera – this is a sight you’ll want to share!
  • Sails, Lights and Winter Nights: Bundle up and breathe in the crisp winter air as you sail along Reykjavik’s coastline, eyes peeled for the stunning Northern Lights. You’ll start in Old Harbor and end up in the open sea.
  • Northern Lights Viewing with Hot Chocolate: Enjoy the celestial spectacle of the Northern Lights while sipping on a warm hot chocolate. The tour takes you through Reykjavik city centre and to the viewing location.
  • Northern Lights Night Tour: A tour that takes you away from the city’s light pollution into the darkness of Iceland’s countryside for an unforgettable display.  The tour starts from Reykjavik and heads deep into the Icelandic countryside.
  • Northern Lights Yacht Tour: Climb aboard a luxury yacht and admire the Northern Lights reflecting off the calm seas. You’ll be on the decks of a yacht in the Reykjavik harbour.

Remember, these tours are subject to weather conditions and Northern Lights sightings are not guaranteed. But hey – the thrill is in the chase – and some tours let you book back on free of charge, just double check Ts & Cs.

Admiring Vík’s magnificent Katla glacier cave and its ethereal icy structures

Admiring Vík’s magnificent Katla glacier cave and its ethereal icy structures

3. Book A Glacier Cave Tour in Vík

You’ve got to put Vík on your itinerary, especially if you’re the adventurous sort.

Vík is near some of Iceland’s most impressive glaciers, and believe me when I say seeing them up close is incredible. Exploring the beauty of these natural ice tunnels and caves left me speechless – there’s nothing like standing between walls of pure, dazzling ice that shine in shades of blue and white.

We scheduled a 4-hour Super Jeep Ice Cave tour near Katla Volcano, which took off from Vík. Just a heads up – keep your tour dates flexible, as the tour can be cancelled or rescheduled with short notice so it doesn’t compromise safety. Ice caves can be a bit temperamental, needing just the right weather to remain stable – but the wait is worth it.

The journey there is exciting too, with huge snow trucks navigating through landscapes so white and pristine, it feels like a dream. We were given crampons for better traction on the ice, plus bright orange helmets for safety. Don’t forget to bring warm clothes and a camera – you’re going to want to take a few snaps in there!

Amazing Things To Do In Iceland - Epic Travel Guide for South Iceland Golden Circle - Sitting in a stunning blue ice cave near Vík, Iceland

Admiring snow-capped mountains from a stunning blue ice cave near Vík – one of my favourite travel photos!

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  • Katla Ice Cave Tour: Ever wondered what’s inside a volcano? This tour’s got you covered! Explore the magical ice caves of Katla Volcano, and take in the contrasting beauty of fiery volcanic history and cool ice formations.
  • Small-Group Glacier Hiking and Ice Climbing on Solheimajokull Glacier: Strap in for an adventure of a lifetime! Navigate the rugged paths and icy slopes of Solheimajokull Glacier. An absolute must-see, with its impressive ice formations and crevasses.
  • FastTrack Ice Cave Tour: Short on time, but big on adventure? Get straight to the heart of the action with this fast-track tour. Explore the captivating ice caves under the Katla Volcano, and marvel at the natural beauty of the Icelandic landscape.
  • Ice Cave Underneath the Volcano: Immerse yourself in a world of contrasting elements – fire and ice. Explore the hidden wonders inside an ice cave underneath the Katla Volcano, and learn about its fascinating history. A true geological marvel!
  • Langjokull Glacier Ice Cave Walking Tour from Reykjavik: Ready for a day trip from Reykjavik? Explore Langjokull Glacier and its mesmerising ice cave. Learn about glaciology, and admire the stunning views from the top of the glacier.

Figure taking a photo with a camera on the black sands of Reynisfjara Beach with roaring waves and basalt stacks (reynisdrangar) visible

Huddled up in my parka, taking photos on the gorgeous black sands of Reynisfjara Beach

4. Experience Reynisfjara’s Black Sand Beach & Basalt Stacks

Exploring Reynisfjara – a mesmerising black sand beach – is one of the most amazing things to do in Iceland. Known for its roaring waves and basalt stacks, Reynisfjara is a famed stop on the Golden Circle tour and was recognised by National Geographic in 1991 as one of the top ten non-tropical beaches on the planet.

Just 2.5 to 3 hours by car from Reykjavik, Reynisfjara’s glittering black sand is the result of volcanic eruptions from the nearby Katla Volcano, with the lava instantly cooling and hardening upon hitting the sea, creating an otherworldly landscape.

Standing proudly off the shoreline are the Reynisdrangar sea stacks – towering basalt formations that, legend has it, are frozen trolls who attempted to drag ships from the sea. These iconic stacks, along with the beach itself, have had their fair share of the limelight, featuring in hit shows and films like “Game of Thrones” and “Star Wars: Rogue One“.

Mel Legarda illumelation Filipino British UK Travel Blogger at Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach in Iceland

Wrapped up in thermals with my trusty camera, smiling on the stunning black sand beach of Reynisfjara!

Wildlife watchers, keep your binoculars handy! These stacks are home to an impressive array of seabird species, including puffins and guillemots, turning the area into a bird-watching paradise. If you’re taking photos, bring a telephoto zoom lens.

Note of warning: Reynisfjara’s beauty comes with a raw power. The beach is known for its forceful ‘sneaker waves’, which can surge further up the beach than you might expect, so remember to keep a safe distance of at least 30 metres. Make sure your camera is weather-sealed too, as the elements here are as unpredictable as they are breathtaking.

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  • Iceland South Coast Waterfalls Tour: Charge up your camera batteries, because it’s about to get beautiful. Experience  Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls, then explore the black sand beaches of Reynisfjara.
  • South Coast Adventure Small Group Day Tour: This boutique group tour takes you to the spectacular Reynisfjara black sand beach and two majestic waterfalls, Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss. Be ready for some insta-worthy spots!

The stunning view of snow-capped mountains, glittering ocean and a Whale Watching boat in Faxafloi Bay!

The stunning view of snow-capped mountains, glittering ocean and another boat from the deck during our whale-watching tour in Faxafloi Bay

5. Take A Wild Whale Watching Tour

Next up on your must-do list in Reykjavik? Grab your sea legs and head out on a whale watching tour in the Greenland Sea!

With 23 types of whales calling Iceland’s waters home, it’s an unforgettable adventure. We took the plunge with Elding and their Classic Whale Watching Tour. Setting sail from the Old Harbour, you’re transported into the spectacular world of Faxaflói bay, home not only to our flippered friends but also a stunning array of birdlife, from puffins and gannets to guillemots.

Book a whale-watching tour and you get a three-hour tour, cosy indoor areas (complete with a cafe!), outdoor viewing platforms, and a live commentary from a host. Elding’s big red thermal suits kept us nice and toasty during the ride, especially when standing out on the deck in the wind.

Brunette girl with braid in red thermal overalls smiling on the deck of a boat with the sea and mountain in the background

Ensconced in not only my thermals and parka, but also Elding Whale Watching’s bright red overalls to protect us from the chill in Faxafloi Bay!

While we didn’t spot any whales on the day, an absolutely delightful pod of dolphins more than made up for it. Frolicking in our boat’s waves, it was a true bucket-list moment. And don’t worry if you’re not so lucky with your wildlife spotting – Elding kindly allows you to take the tour again for free until you do.

So even if you don’t catch sight of any aquatic wonders, simply being on the sea, with dramatic clouds overhead and snow-capped mountains on the horizon is a breathtaking experience in itself. So, pop on one of their big red thermal suits (thank me later) and enjoy the ride!

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  • Whale of a Time Tour: This tour will have you braving the waves of Reykjavik’s coast to witness the majestic dance of humpback whales. Top spots: Faxa Bay and the Whales of Iceland Exhibition, to swot up on whales afterwards.
  • Whale Watching & Whales of Iceland Exhibition: Ready to channel your inner marine biologist? Discover more about these gentle giants with this double whammy tour. You’ll get up close and personal with whales in the North Atlantic Ocean and then hit up the Whales of Iceland Exhibition in Reykjavik.
Exploding mudpits and boiling geysers at Geyser geothermal area

Exploding sulphuric mudpits and boiling geysers at Geyser geothermal area

6. Experience Exploding Mudpits At The Great Geysir

Geysir, affectionately known as the Great Geysir, is a red-hot, must-visit spot along the famous Golden Circle route.

Nestled in the gorgeous Haukadalur Valley of Bláskógabyggð, this geothermal wonderland boasts boiling mud pits and spectacular, exploding geysers that are truly a sight to behold on your tour. And, let’s not forget the star attraction, the reliable Strokkur – doing its thing every 5 to 10 minutes, blasting boiling water sky-high that will leave you absolutely gobsmacked!

And that sulphuric smell? Let’s just say it’s a bit like boiled eggs, all part of Iceland’s geology magic.

But Geysir’s more than just geysers – there’s lots to do nearby. Savour a hot cuppa at the cosy café, grab a yummy lunch at the restaurant, or take home a piece of Iceland from the luxury gift shop.

All this, for just an entrance fee of ISK 600 (about a fiver in sterling). Just remember to play it safe and stick to the marked areas.

Brunette woman in winter gear walking with a camera dramatically surrounded by mist in Geyser

Emerging dramatically from the mist in Geyser

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  • Golden Circle & Northern Lights Combo Deal: Experience the best of Iceland by visiting the Thingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area, Gullfoss waterfall, and topping it off with a surreal Northern Lights chase – all in one tour!
  • Small Group Golden Circle & Blue Lagoon Tour: Join this boutique tour for an extraordinary sightseeing adventure through celestial geysers at Geysir, breathtaking waterfalls, volcanic craters, and finish off with a relaxing dip in the famous Blue Lagoon.
  • Day Trip to Golden Circle and Sky Lagoon: Mix adventure and calm in this unforgettable tour from Geysir geothermal area to the relaxing Sky Lagoon, inspired by Iceland’s dramatic coastline.
  • Grand Golden Circle Tour: Take a grand journey through some of Iceland’s most spectacular landscapes and landmarks, including Kerid Crater, Thingvellir National Park, Geysir, and Gullfoss.
Brunette girl with long hair and a pink coat in winter clothing using a camera to take photos of birds on a snowy viewing deck near Faxafoss (also known as Vatnsleysufoss) Falls on the Golden Circle

Snapping photos of wildlife near Faxafoss (also known as Vatnsleysufoss) Falls on the Golden Circle

7. Get Close To Wildlife with Puffin Watching

Iceland is the best place in the world to see puffins doing their thing in the wild.  Fun fact – Iceland is home more than 60% of the globe’s entire Atlantic puffin population, with over 8 million puffins inhabiting the island. That’s a lotta puffins!

Puffins spend most of their lives bobbing about on the high seas, but they’re not elusive— they touch base on Iceland to breed. And what makes Iceland an ideal habitat for these charming birds? Well, with its vast, rugged cliffs and isolated islands, Iceland’s terrain offfers up the perfect setting for puffins to nest, safe from predators and human interference.

Iceland’s puffin capital is Borgarfjörður, where you’ll find about 10,000 pairs of puffins nesting every summer. Borgarfjörður is one of the safest places to watch puffins in Iceland, with shelters and wooden platforms to get close to them without, you know, falling off a cliff. The long summer days in Iceland give these delightful creatures plenty of daylight hours for foraging and feeding their chicks.

Here’s another eyebrow-raiser for you – the adventurous Icelanders have a tradition called ‘puffling rescue‘, where they help young puffins, known as pufflings, make their way to the sea by throwing them off cliffs!

Sounds harsh, but it’s actually a helpful nudge as the pufflings can struggle with their first flight. It’s all done in the spirit of giving them a flying start (literally)!

Icelanders have real respect for puffins, ensuring their protection and conservation – and taking a puffin tour in Iceland is a great way to get involved.

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  • Puffin Paradise Tour: Ever dreamed of seeing puffins in their natural habitat? This tour offers just that, along with stunning sea views. Unmissable fact: Puffins spend most of their lives at sea, only coming to land to breed. Must-see spots: Lundey and Akurey Islands.
  • Puffin Watching from Reykjavik: Hop on board for a trip out to sea and see where these adorable little birds call home. You’ll visit their nesting sites on Lundey and Akurey islands, just off the coast of Reykjavik.
Brunette girl in ski trousers and snow boots standing on icy rocks at Oxarafoss Waterfall in Thingvellir National Park in Iceland

Smiling away at Oxarafoss Waterfall in Thingvellir National Park

8. Witness Tectonic Activity At Thingvellir National Park (UNESCO)

Thingvellir National Park, only a 45-minute drive from Reykjavik, is a must-visit location on anyone’s Icelandic itinerary. Not only is it the only UNESCO World Heritage Site on Iceland’s mainland, but its unique geological and historical significance makes it a remarkable area to explore.

You’ll be awestruck by the sight of the continental drift between the North American and Eurasian Plates with your own eyes. There in the rift valley, you can admire cracks and faults like the Almannagjá canyon, admire the stunning Oxarafoss waterfall, and take an iconic snap at the quaint wooden church. Lake Thingvallavatn was even featured in “Game of Thrones”!

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  • Golden Circle & Northern Lights Combo: Two experiences in one! Explore the Golden Circle’s jaw-dropping natural wonders during the day, then chase the elusive Northern Lights at night. Top spots: Thingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area, and Gullfoss waterfall.
  • Small Group Golden Circle & Blue Lagoon Tour: Fancy a dip in a geothermal spa after exploring the Golden Circle? This is your tour. Key locations: Geysir geothermal area, Gullfoss waterfall, and of course, the Blue Lagoon.
  • Golden Circle & Sky Lagoon Day Trip: Combine the thrill of the Golden Circle with the relaxation of the Sky Lagoon – with epic visits to Thingvellir National Park and Geysir geothermal area included.
Man with an adventurous outdoors backpack looking out to a snowy, frozen over vista of Thingvallavatn Lake in Thingvellir

A friend looking out to a snowy, frozen-over vista of Thingvallavatn Lake in Thingvellir

Also, here’s a top tip for the mega-explorers: make the most of your Thingvellir visit by trying a Silfra Fissure Diving Tour. The unforgettable dive will have you exploring the depths for about 30-40 minutes, and trust me, the views are otherworldly. You’ll be swimming between tectonic plates, a unique experience you can’t get just anywhere.

Even if diving’s not your thing, the park itself is a gem, offering breathtaking views and easy walking trails. So, don’t miss out on this extraordinary park in Iceland. And remember, respect the environment – we don’t want any mishaps like that tourist I saw fall into Oxarafoss waterfall while trying to climb a rock!

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Brunette girl with sunglasses and a braid smiles with a backdrop of blue water and mist at the gorgeous Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa

Happy and calm at the gorgeous Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa

9. Experience the Misty Mineral Magic of The Blue Lagoon

Fancy a rejuvenating, mystical spa experience in Iceland? You simply cannot miss out on the Blue Lagoon – a geothermal spa, nestled in the heart of a volcanic landscape, where you can lounge in warm, mineral-rich waters while the cool Icelandic breeze brushes your face.

If you’ve visited Iceland before and didn’t get to the lagoon, that’s a brilliant excuse to make another trip!

It can get a bit packed in the morning with loads of young travellers making the most of their layover time in Iceland, but it’s all part of the experience – try to visit at sunrise if you’re going in winter.

According to Icelandic dermatologist Jenna Huld Eysteinsdottir, the Blue Lagoon’s algae and silica have been scientifically proven to boost the genes that prevent skin aging.

Essentially, soaking in the Blue Lagoon gives your skin a natural, mineral-rich facial. You can also slather your face with their iconic silica mud mask for an added boost and take some skincare home with you.

Booking a Blue Lagoon tour is super easy. Starting from USD $80, you get premium access to the Blue Lagoon, a towel, and a drink included. So treat yourself to a relaxing session at the Blue Lagoon, and let its misty mineral magic sweep you off your feet.

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  • Small Group Golden Circle & Blue Lagoon Tour: Fancy a dip in a geothermal spa after exploring the Golden Circle? This is your tour. Key locations: Geysir geothermal area, Gullfoss waterfall, and of course, the Blue Lagoon.
  • Blue Lagoon Entry & Transfers: Looking for some chill time? Soak in soothing geothermal waters at the world-famous Blue Lagoon. It’s not just a spa – the waters are rich in minerals that are great for skin health. Get your transfers sorted so all you need to worry about is relaxation.
  • Blue Lagoon Entry with Extras: Kick things up a notch at the Blue Lagoon with some extra pampering. Not only do you get entry to these heavenly waters, but you also get a free drink, a towel, and a mud mask included. The complimentary silica mud mask will leave your skin feeling soft and refreshed.
  • Golden Circle – Blue Lagoon & Kerid Crater Tour: Prepare for an unforgettable day exploring breathtaking landscapes and historical landmarks. Get ready to be amazed by the 6,500-year-old Kerid Crater, boasting a vibrant azure blue lake. And don’t miss the iconic Gullfoss waterfall and the geothermal area in Haukadalur. But the highlight of the tour is definitely the Blue Lagoon – prepare for rejuvenation!
A person in a pink winter coat, boots and backpack standing on icy steps on a staircase leading to a frozen crater lake at Kerid in Iceland, surroudned by a snow-capped valley

My friend Kat admiring the beautiful view of a frozen Kerid Crater Lake

9. Do A Mini-Hike To Kerid Crater Lake

We stumbled upon Kerið (Kerid) Crater Lake during our visit – and I really recommend checking it out! Tucked away in the Grímsnes area of southern Iceland, this volcanic crater lake blew us away. We weren’t even planning to visit it, but there it was, beckoning us as we were driving past.

For a tiny entry fee of 400 ISK (that’s about £2.50, $3.20, or EUR2.60), you get to experience one of nature’s most beautifully preserved marvels. Plus, that money goes into maintaining this precious sight, so it’s definitely a win-win.

From the car park, you get to take a mini-hike down to the crater. We visited in winter and the sight was just surreal – the lake was frozen solid, and the surrounding snow made the place magical. Just a heads up, it can be a bit slippery due to the snow, so make sure to have your walking sticks or snow boots handy.

Once you get down there, it’s a great time. We got to throw snowballs and slide on the ice across a volcanic crater lake. It was an experience to remember – I’d love to visit in summer when the crater lake is back to its stunning turquoise hue.

If you’re doing the golden circle route, add Kerið to your itinerary!

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  • Grand Golden Circle Tour with Kerid Crater: Think you’ve seen it all? Wait ’til you’ve been on this tour! This fantastic journey takes you through some of Iceland’s most spectacular landscapes and landmarks, including Kerid Crater, Thingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area, and the majestic Gullfoss waterfall. A fun day filled with awe-inspiring sights awaits, folks!

Colourful houses and rooftops of Reykjavík from above – drone shot of Hallgrímskirkja Church and Main Street

11. Explore The Wonders of Reykjavík, Iceland’s Coastal Capital 

Reykjavik, with its vibrant blend of quirky boulevards, distinctive architecture and a buzzing cultural scene, is a place you should absolutely spend time in if you’re heading to Iceland.

Wander along Laugavegur (“Main Street”), the city’s vibrant main high street, peppered with unique Icelandic boutiques, vintage shops, and independent cafés – it’s a shopper’s paradise.

For history buffs, sink your teeth into Iceland’s rich Viking past at the National and Saga museums. Meanwhile if you’re into architecture, check out the awe-inspiring Hallgrimskirkja church (Lutheran, and very futuristic) also known as Church of Iceland.

As mentioned earlier, if you’re into marine life, The Whales of Iceland Exhibition is a must-see. With 23 life-sized whale replicas  (and a few dolphins too) waiting to be discovered, coupled with interactive info stands, videos with soothing whale sounds, and ambient lighting, it’s a fun way to spend a few hours. I loved visiting it after our whale-watching tour.

A brunette girl's silhouette wearing headphones against a backdrop of fish and a whale tail above her

Intently listening to whale facts against a backdrop of fish at the Whales of Iceland Exhibition in Reykjavík

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  • General Reykjavik Tour: Dive headfirst into the rich history and vibrant culture of Iceland’s capital. Did you know Reykjavik is the northernmost capital in the world? Highlights include the striking Hallgrimskirkja church and the Harpa concert hall.
  • Reykjavik Food Walking Tour: Combine sightseeing with a culinary adventure. Visit key sights like Hallgrímskirkja and Old Reykjavik harbour while tasting local treats like lobster soup.

fried chicken and fries on black ceramic bowl - fish and chips, iceland, kaffivagninn oldest restaurant in Reykjavík, Iceland by Andy Wang (@noonmoon)

Icelandic dishes at Kaffivagninn – the oldest restaurant in Reykjavík!

12. Savour Traditional Icelandic Food & Drink Culture in Reykjavík

Iceland’s got all kinds of interesting foods on its national menu: wolf fish, skyr (that’s the Icelandic yoghurt), kleinur (think twisted donut), and Svið (Sheep’s Head) – so exploring its culinary scene is an adventure you won’t quickly forget.

More adventurous foodies can do a Reykjavík food tour, get a private local chef to cook at your Airbnb (fancy!), or get involved with epic restaurants like Grillmarket, one of Reykjavik’s most popular eateries, offers a fantastic tasting menu that tells a story about the place and its culture. I said no to whale, shark and puffin (not quite to my taste or ethics) but the rest of the tasting menu? Simply out-of-this-world. Worth every penny.

Start off with a meal at Le Kock by Reykjavík Harbour, where you can enjoy a delightful menu that won’t break the bank – think cod and potatoes, or a specialty cheeseburger with truffle oil and charred onions. It’s the kind of comfort food you’d love after a day of exploring. Then it’s time for a sweet treat at Valdis, where you can indulge in unique flavours like rye bread and lava salt – they have vegan options too. There are 2 locations, 1 downtown and another at the Old Harbor District (close to the Maritime Museum).

But what’s a meal without a good drink? Sip on local brews like the ‘Black Death‘, a robust, caraway-flavoured schnapps, or the lighter Skyr drykkur. Strong-willed foodies can try Bjórlíki, a favourite among Icelanders, concocted during the beer ban a hundred years ago. It’s a wild mix of low-alcohol pilsner beer and vodka.

There are some great bars in Reykjavík like Loftid (Jacobsen Loftið), a beautiful bistro overlooking the busy street below. With huge windows and worn brown leather sofas, the bar has a great ambiance, good music, and a huge selection of high end cocktails. You have to be 25 or over to enter, and there’s a dress code of  “neat and classy.”

Bear in mind it’s expensivetwo cocktails cost £40, meanwhile a small bottle of beer cost £13. If you’re used to prices in major cities like London it might be less of a shock to the system. If you’re on a budget, make sure you choose one or two nights to go out!

Best Food Tours In Iceland | ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ | Top-Rated Food Tours in Reykjavík

  • Reykjavik Food Walk: Get your taste buds tingling with a tour that takes you through the city’s best culinary spots. This isn’t your grandma’s standard food tour – you’ll be trying out fermented shark and dried fish, traditional dishes that have put Icelandic cuisine on the map. You won’t want to miss the old harbour and downtown Reykjavik.
  • Kopar Fine Dining & Northern Lights Cruise: Treat yourself to a luxury dining experience at Kopar, known for its rock-crab soup, followed by a magical Northern Lights cruise. The cherry on the top? The tour includes a visit to the Old Harbour – a must-see!
  • Reykjavik Food Lovers Tour: Get your taste buds tingling with this foodie’s dream tour. You’ll be sampling traditional Icelandic cuisine like the famous Pylsur hot dog and Skyr yoghurt. Stops include the Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur stand and Brugghús Brewery.
  • Private Reykjavik Food Tour: Fancy a private grub crawl? This tour is perfect for you. You’ll savour locally sourced lamb and fresh seafood at spots like the Old Harbour and the Bíó Paradís cinema.
  • Icelandic Beer Tour: If you’re a beer lover, this is the way to go. The tour showcases a variety of Icelandic brews. You’ll visit breweries like Ölgerðin Egill Skallagrímsson and taste the legendary Gull beer.
  • Reykjavik Eimverk Distillery Tour & Tasting: Ready for a spirited adventure? Explore the Eimverk Distillery, Iceland’s only whisky distillery, and taste the local spirits. Plus, you’ll have the chance to explore the distillery’s unique location in Reykjavik’s Grandi harbour district. Cheers to that!
  • Hire a Private Chef in Reykjavik: Want a culinary adventure in the comfort of your own accommodation? Hire your own private chef and enjoy a personalised menu. Pro tip: the Icelandic lamb is a must-try!
  • Reykjavik Icelandic Food Tour: This tour is truly a foodie’s delight. You’ll nibble on everything from fermented shark to warm Icelandic doughnuts. Highlights include the Kolaportid Flea Market and Café Loki.

Brunette girl a photo on a boat in Reykjavík old harbour during a whale-watching tour

Say cheese! Shooting a photo on a boat in Reykjavík old harbour during a whale-watching tour with Elding

Should You Road Trip The Golden Circle in Iceland?

There are so many other amazing things to do in Iceland – such as visiting undeerrated places such as the Mývatn Nature Baths, or checking out the iconic Solheimasandur plane wreckage, but the ones I’ve included are the tried and tested hot spots.

The gorgeous sites of the well-beaten Golden Circle are a great place to start your Iceland adventure. I know there’s probably a lot of scorn when visitors stay stuck to the tourist path, but these are famous for a reason!

Hope this roundup of amazing things to do in Iceland was useful – and I hope you have an epic trip!

If you’re heading to Iceland and want to know what to pack and how to budget, check out my Iceland Golden Circle Road Trip: One Week Itinerary & Guide. Or, watch my YouTube video guide below:

Mel Legarda

Melissa Legarda is the founder of illumelation. She has worked as a travel blogger, creator and writer since 2015, and has collaborated with well-known brands worldwide. She has helped over 1,100+ students improve their travel photography skills since launching her creative courses. Her mission is to encourage and empower others to travel and create more. Find her on Instagram.