Why do tourists go to Iceland? What are the top attractions in Iceland? Before deciding where to spend your next vacation, read on for our top 15 reasons to visit Iceland.
There are so many reasons to go to Iceland on holiday. As the least-populated country in Europe, you will find wide-open spaces and vast areas of untouched wilderness in Iceland. Abundant natural beauty is around every corner with unparalleled scenery unlike anywhere else.
Some of the other top reasons to visit Iceland include:
Get ready to discover the fascinating landscapes, wildlife, locations, and delicious food that makes Iceland such an outstanding destination. Here are our top reasons to travel to Iceland for your next vacation.
Because Iceland is situated just below the Arctic Circle, the summer nights are bright with 24-hour daylight from mid-May to late July.
The summer solstice occurs between June 20 and 22, marking when the midnight sun, Iceland's ethereal crown jewel, sets just after midnight and rises again just before 3 a.m.
Nothing compares to a solitary moment faced with the midnight sun in the middle of nowhere. Utilizing the endless days by going sightseeing late at night allows one to see Iceland's strange landscapes from an unmatched perspective.
There are several midnight sun tours to choose from, for example, the Golden Circle, horse riding, or hiking a mountain during the midnight sun. Seeing the sun refuse to set for the first time is by itself an experience that is sure to leave life-lasting memories.
Iceland's location on the top of the world also ensures that it is among the best places to see the northern lights or aurora borealis. These spectacular celestial wonders are commonly seen in Iceland from September to mid-April and are among the top reasons to visit Iceland outside of the bright summer months.
The Black Church at Búðir under the shimmering northern lights.
On a still winter night, you are likely to see the mystical green lights dancing in the clear sky above Reykjavík, but your chances of witnessing them increase if you head out of town, away from electric lighting and the disturbance of the city.
Many experienced guides specialize in northern lights tours. Seeking out the best nightly sightings and going northern lights hunting can be equally thrilling as seeing the spectacular celestial show itself.
Iceland's rich water supply is by far its most valuable natural resource. The drinking water quality is exceptional due to many unspoiled mountain and glacier streams. Iceland also has a long history of using geothermal energy as a power source.
Remarkable advantages of Iceland's geothermal nature are the natural pools found all around the country, each situated in a unique environment. The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is Iceland's most well-known bathing destination. It often tops the bucket list for first-time travelers to Iceland.
However, some of the most stunning natural bathing areas are in Landmannalaugar natural reserve in the highlands, renowned for its incredible beauty.
Landmannalaugar's majestic scenery of otherworldly rhyolite mountains can only be fully appreciated while bathing in the geothermal water. On a guided Landmannalaugar Super Jeep Tour, you will explore some extraordinary locations before visiting the pools, including Haifoss (the second-highest waterfall in Iceland) and the Ljotipollur explosion crater lake.
The ocean around Iceland provides ideal living conditions for over twenty species of whales, and in recent years, Iceland has steadily grown to become Europe's whale watching capital.
Whale watching in Iceland is renowned for the high chances of spotting the magnificent sea giants. On a whale-watching trip from Reykjavik, you can be 99% certain of seeing minke whales, whale-beaked dolphins, or harbor porpoises. On a Husavik traditional whale-watching trip in north Iceland, you will very likely spot the gigantic humpback whale.
A face-to-face encounter with the Icelandic whales in their natural habitat is an experience beyond comparison. Many tours also include the busy seaside cliffs where the puffin, Iceland's colorful ambassador, nests in rocky crevices or burrows in the soil.
The puffin nests in seaside cliffs and rocks around Iceland.
Located 29 miles (47 kilometers) from Reykjavík, the Thingvellir National Park in Southwest Iceland is a must-see destination because of its historical and geological significance. The Icelandic parliament, Althingi, was founded in Thingvellir in 930 and held its first sessions by the Almannagja gorge, the rift valley of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
Thingvellir has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site because of the area's countless extraordinary natural features, including Thingvallavatn, Iceland's largest natural lake, and the Silfra fissure, in which one can dive or snorkel between the American and European tectonic plates.
Iceland is known as the "Land of Ice and Fire." It earned its nickname from the numerous glaciers and volcanos around the island. Glaciers cover eleven percent of Iceland's landmass. The Vatnajokull glacier, the largest, covers a large part of the southern and central highlands.
Glaciers are directly responsible for many of Iceland's most astonishing attractions, such as Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon in Southeast Iceland. The lake contains gigantic icebergs that have broken off from the tip of the tongue of Breidamerkurjokull glacier, creating a fairyland of ice and wildlife.
Jokulsarlon tours have attracted visitors for decades and remain one of Iceland's most popular activities during the summer months. Locals have ventured onto the Icelandic glaciers for centuries. Today, various guided glacier tours have options ranging from hiking excursions to snowmobile tours and even helicopter rides.
The Icelandic kitchen is a modern reflection of the gastronomic traditions of our forefathers. Fishing, farming, and gathering on a volcanic island in the North Atlantic resulted in a reasonably strange but straightforward preparation of the few ingredients people could scrape together.
For a millennium, Iceland provided some of the harshest living conditions on earth, and its people's diet reflected that fact.
Advanced greenhouse and farming technologies and public demand for fresh, natural ingredients have helped the Icelandic kitchen establish its own unique space within the New Nordic Cuisine.
Daring to embrace the freedom of the imagination while remaining faithful to tradition, Icelandic chefs produce exceptional lamb and seafood dishes with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Today Iceland is home to many great restaurants that serve what has become known as the New Icelandic Cuisine.
Icelandic is beset with so many mountain ranges that the most diligent of mountaineers could be kept busy for several lifetimes. A remarkable variety of peaks surrounds even the capital, and a short drive can take you away from the city and onto a hiking trail.
The many mountains in Iceland, their accessibility, and general proximity to civilization make Iceland a hikers' paradise that offers endless options varying in difficulty, length, and height.
Across the country, many guided mountain tours are available for experienced and novice mountaineers alike. Whether you venture to the top for magnificent views or decide to take in the landscape from the bottom, you are bound to be amazed.
The unique animal called the Icelandic horse has played a vital role in the cultural and historical development of the nation. This special breed has captivated animal enthusiasts for decades, and for a long time, it was Iceland's main tourist attraction.
Since colonization, the first Viking settlers brought with them their best horses. The island's harsh conditions have shaped their nature throughout the centuries, and the strongest have survived.
The Icelandic horse is known for its gentle but spirited character, five gaits, and an unmatched skill for crossing extremely rugged terrain. Therefore, numerous horse riding tours take travelers far into the rough and inaccessible Icelandic wilderness. These allow for the unforgettable experience of witnessing the land from the perspective of its original Viking settlers.
Iceland exists because of volcanic eruptions, and there are still countless active volcanoes around the island. Although you are not very likely to witness a volcanic eruption on a short visit to Iceland (but you never really know), numerous volcano tours explore the volcanic force that has shaped Iceland from the beginning of time.
Widely considered a fascinating natural phenomenon of its kind, the Thrihnukagigur magma chamber encapsulates Iceland's volcanic essence. A Thrihnukagigur volcano tour is an excursion into the cold heart of a dormant volcano where fiery shades of red tell terrible tales of unspeakable power and destruction.
Although Iceland may lack a steady supply of sunshine, calm winds, and year-round warm weather, Iceland's beaches continue to attract visitors from around the globe. What they lack in subtle tropical features, they make up for in sheer extremity.
Close to Vík, the southernmost village of Iceland, lies the world-renowned Reynisfjara black-pebble beach. Its black basalt cliffs, enormous caves, gigantic rock formations, and the perpetual beating of strong winds make Reynisfjara a mighty place. Here, the full force of the North Atlantic Ocean is a constant reminder of the frailty of human existence.
Similarly stunning is Djupalonssandur black sand beach on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, where visitors can also admire the wreck of a stranded ship from decades ago.
A less known but equally stunning phenomenon is the "Diamond Beach" of Breidamerkursandur in Southeast Iceland. The beach is an otherworldly strip of black sand that derives its name from the "ice diamonds," adorned year-round.
Through the Jokulsa a Breidamerkursandi glacial river, countless small icebergs are carried from the nearby Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon and out to sea. The waves polish them before being washed onto the black sands by the high tide.
At dusk and dawn, the light of the low sun illuminates the ice diamonds from a horizontal angle, transforming the black sands into a field of brilliant diamonds.
Covering most of Iceland's interior, the highlands are home to many of Iceland's most astonishing natural wonders. Generally referred to as "the heart of Iceland," the highlands are unique and untouched.
Here you can travel for hours without seeing any signs of human civilization other than the rugged mountain road you might be driving. There are no light posts, no shops, no crowds, no noise; just you and nature, peace, beauty, and serenity.
Situated in northeast Iceland, the eutrophic lake Myvatn and its captivating surroundings combine in a single area many of the elements that make Iceland stand out among unique travel destinations.
A few kilometers north of the lake, the hell-fire furnace of Krafla volcano is looming. Its vascular system provides the greater Myvatn area with an unbelievable variety of natural bathing springs, otherworldly colors, and haunting rock formations like the eerie Dimmuborgir (Black Forts), a place of chaotic lava, reminiscent of the ruins of an ancient demon city.
Guided Myvatn tours include visits to the Nature Baths, an artificial thermal bath with a mighty view over the lake.
Iceland has several stunning road trip routes. If you take one or more of these routes, it guarantees you will check off some top bucket list attractions and see some of the most outstanding scenery in the country.
One of the most accessible road trips is the Golden Circle route. Often completed as a day trip from Reykjavik, it covers some of the most-loved attractions in Iceland. The major ones are Thingvellir National Park, Gulfoss Falls, and Geysir geothermal area.
Do not miss a visit to the slightly lesser-known but equally spectacular Kerid Crater as an extra-special addition to this trip.
The Ring Road route covers the entire main road around Iceland. Take this road trip to explore all the regions of Iceland, except the Westfjords and Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Or, consider traveling the Diamond Circle, the northeastern alternative to the Golden Circle.
Iceland is renowned for its breathtaking waterfalls all over the country. Gulfoss, Dettifoss, and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls are some of the most well-known. However, countless others are waiting to be discovered, including the magnificent Dynjandi waterfall in the Westfjords.
Wherever you go, hidden gems are waiting. Make sure you allow time to experience the power and pristine beauty of Iceland's waterfalls, yet another of the top reasons to visit Iceland.
Now you have 15 great reasons to visit Iceland, so what are you waiting for? Feel free to join the conversation and share your favorite reasons in the comment box below.