Golden Circle

What are the most popular and best value adventure and nature tours in Iceland? See some of the trips that you should join while you are in Iceland.

The most common question we get here at Guide to Iceland is: What should I do when I go to Iceland? To help you out with the answer, we've made a list of our most popular tours that take you to stunning locations and are good value for money.

Obviously, people will want to see and do different things when they come to Iceland. Some tours have a limit on age, so they may not be suitable for families with young children, other tours require people to be quite fit, there are plenty of action tours to choose from - but also many that focus on relaxing.

When booking your tour, note if the tour is available all year, or only runs at a specific time. Northern Lights tours for example only run during wintertime and river rafting tours only take place during summer.

We've tried to take this into consideration while making this list, by giving you a few options to choose from.

Additionally, we think that the best way to explore Iceland is by taking your time and explore it on your own, so we have a wide variety of self drive tours available, with a suggested itinerary and all accommodation taken care of. You can even customise your own self drive tour!

If you'd like to explore the country completely on your own without an itinerary, then you can easily rent a car and hit the road. Or you can compare tours on the largest marketplace of tours in Iceland. Following is the list of the top tours in Iceland:

10. The Golden Circle

Gullfoss waterfall during winter

The Golden circle is a must do when visiting Iceland. It's accessible all year round. On the Golden Circle, you'll see the breathtaking waterfall Gullfoss, the Geysir hot spring area - where you can witness the geysir Strokkur erupting every few minutes and you'll go to Þingvellir national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It only takes about half a day to see all three locations - so it's ideal to combine the Golden Circle with another half a day trip - no wonder most of our popular trips are Golden Circle combo trips! And the options are almost endless, if you want some action you can go on a Golden circle and snowmobiling tour, or combine it with horseback riding or snorkelling. If you prefer a less active combination you could go caving or to the Blue Lagoon.

The snowmobiling tour is a great option if you want to add some adrenaline to your trip. You'll get to travel the whole time in a super jeep, something that all car fanatics shouldn't miss out on. Langjökull glacier, Iceland's second biggest glacier, is situated not far from Gullfoss waterfall. In order to reach it, you'll need to be in a 4 wheel drive car - which only adds to the adventure. On the vast white plains of the glacier you can have spectacular views on clear days and get the adrenaline pumping whilst driving your own snowmobile in the crisp air. 

Whale watching

If you're not too fussed about adrenaline but are an animal lover, then perhaps this whale watching and Golden circle day tour is more your thing. It starts in Reykjavík harbour with a 3 hour whale watching tour in the morning before setting off to see the Golden circle in the afternoon.

There's a variety of Golden Circle options, you can go on a tour or drive it yourself. Here are all the golden circle tours options and here you can rent a car.

9. The south coast and Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon

Skógafoss waterfall

This best value day tour to Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon lasts 14 hours and takes you along the entire south coast of Iceland, through picturesque fishing villages all the way to the breathtakingly beautiful Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon.

On the way, you'll pass Iceland's largest glacier, Vatnajökull, as well as the beautiful Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls where you can stop to walk around one and to the top of the other.

When you reach the lagoon, you'll go on a boat trip between the chunks of ice in the lagoon. This tour is available between April and October but there are plenty of other south coast tours operating in wintertime as well.

The way to get there during winter is to join this 2 day tour to Jökulsárlón or this 3 day tour to the glacier lagoon with ice caving and glacier hiking. The bonus of visiting Jökulsárlón in winter is that you can go into an ice cave, which I will describe in more detail later in this article. 

Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon

Right next to the lagoon is a black sandy beach that's covered with chunks of ice, earning it the name Diamond Beach, as the ice glistens like diamonds in the sunshine.

The south of Iceland is spectacularly beautiful and you can also easily drive it yourself, unless you'd prefer that someone else does the driving and spend your time admiring the surrounding landscape instead of the road.

A variety of south coast tours are available.

8. The Northern Lights

Northern Lights

In wintertime there are dozens of Northern Lights tours you can choose from. There's an aurora forecast online where you can check how active the lights are supposed to be, along with what the predicted cloud cover is. In order to see the Northern Lights it needs to be dark and a clear sky. You can go on all sorts of Northern Lights tours, in multi day tours such as this 7 day self drive tour or you can go for just a few hours. You can even go on a Northern Lights cruise or hike up a mountain near Reykjavík and camp overnight on this Northern Light Mountain Camping tour!

If you'd like to spice it up with some activity and lovely food, then this Northern lights, caving and lobster tour is a great winter tour. You start by exploring the great underground formations of Leidarendi cave before a lovely lobster feast in a local restaurant (included in the price). After a nice meal, you'll set out in a comfortable jeep to go hunting for the Northern lights - just make sure you pick a clear night to go! 

Here you can see the variety of the Northern Lights tours.

7. Go inside a volcano

Inside volcano

Most people that come to Iceland want to see a volcano, Iceland has plenty of them. This volcano tour on the other hand, offers you the chance to go INSIDE a volcano! Not to worry, the volcano in question, Þríhnjúkagígur, has been dormant for the past 4000 years and shows no signs of activity, so you can descend right to the bottom of the magma chamber!

This is the only place in the world where you can go inside a volcanic magma chamber and this tour is only available in summertime, with limited availability - so be sure to book it early!

If you're interested in volcanoes, there are plenty more volcano tours to choose from!

6. Go glacier hiking

Glacier hiking

If you don't have much time in Iceland but still want to get as much glacier action in as possible, then you should book this glacier hiking and boat day tour to go hiking on Iceland's largest glacier, Vatnajökull. The feeling of walking over an enormous block of ice is incredible and leaves you in awe of Mother Nature. A boat ride on Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is also included in this tour. This tour is only available in summertime.

Another great tour is this Sólheimajökull glacier expedition, that takes place on Sólheimajökull glacier in the south of Iceland. You can choose to meet the guides on location or be picked up in Reykjavík. This tour is only available in summertime.

On this glacier hiking & ice climbing tour you not only get to go hiking on a glacier (also on Sólheimajökull glacier) but you also get to try your hand at ice climbing. This tour is available all year round.

This south coast & glacier expedition doesn't just take you to Sólheimajökull glacier for a hiking experience to remember - but also boasts some of Iceland's most picturesque waterfalls and black sandy beaches. On a clear day, you can see all the way over to the Westman Islands. Nice and easy tour, with plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. Available between May and December.

5. Go snorkeling between continents

ThingvellirSnorkelling in the Silfra fissure, one of the best diving sites in the world - where the water is so crystal clear that the visibility can exceed 100m - is an incredible experience that shouldn't be missed! Only for people that can handle cold though, since the water is VERY cold (drysuits are provided) - but it's totally worth it!

Here are all the snorkelling tours on offer - we'd recommend this Silfra snorkelling tour, that's modestly priced and available all year round.

Snorkelling can be combined with the Golden Circle, so check out this Golden circle and snorkelling tour if you want to spice up your Golden Circle trip - it's available all year round. 

If you have your certified diving license, then you can opt for a diving silfra day tour.

Snorkelling and diving tours are available all year round.

4. See Snæfellsnes peninsula

Arnarstapi at Snæfellsnes peninsula

Snæfellsnes peninsula is breathtakingly beautiful, filled with pretty waterfalls, birdlife, lava fields, black pebbly beaches, impressive mountains and the cherry on top, Snæfellsjökull glacier that crowns the tip of the peninsula. Snæfellsjökull glacier is also a volcano, responsible for the surrounding lava field. This volcano was the entrypoint to the centre of the earth in Jules Verne's famous novel, Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

This great and reasonably priced bus tour to Snæfellsnes peninsula takes in all the main sights - and possibly even some hidden ones if time permits.

Here you can find various Snæfellsnes peninsula tours. Snæfellsnes is accessible all year round.

3. See Lake Mývatn and the North

Lake Mývatn surroundings

Venture a bit further away from Reykjavík and head north to Akureyri. Akureyri is the capital of the north, and the second biggest town in Iceland besides the greater Reykjavík area.

Not far from Akureyri is the stunning Lake Mývatn and surrounding area of Dimmuborgir (Dark Cities). A lot of geothermal activity is in the area, resulting in numerous hot springs and Mývatn Nature Baths.

From Akureyri you can join this hot spring tour around lake Mývatn for a fantastic day out. Waterfalls, craters, lava formations, hot springs and a nature bath are just the tip of the iceberg in this stunningly beautiful area around Iceland's most beautiful lake. Available all year.

If you're in Reykjavík and want to go on a day tour, you can join this Mývatn Sightseeing Tour and hot springs with flight. Available all year.

Find all tours from Akureyri here.

2. Go hiking in Þórsmörk valley or Landmannalaugar

Thorsmork valley

Þórsmörk translates as 'Thor's Valley'. In order to reach Thorsmork you'll need to cross some rivers and go over some rocky roads and the scenery just gets prettier and prettier with every river you cross. Covered with birch trees and rock formations, this valley is lush but harsh at the same time and offers various beautiful hiking trails. A definite must-do for all nature lovers.

Landmannalaugar is 55 km north of Þórsmörk and equally stunning, although in a completely different way! Landmannalaugar is full of colourful sandy and rocky mountains, with little vegetation. Due to much geothermal activity the ground in Landmannalaugar comes in all colours - that includes green, blue, red, pink and purple! There is also a lava field there and various lakes.

We can't make up our mind of which one you should go to, so we've included them both.

Between Þórsmörk and Landmannalaugar is a hiking route, Iceland's most popular hiking route that's called Laugavegurinn, so named after Reykjavík's main shopping street. It's not as busy as the shopping street though - and much more spectacular in beauty!

If you're an avid hiker, in good shape and you've got 6 days available, then we'd recommend this Laugavegur hiking tour. You'll cross glaciers and rivers, valleys and volcanoes. Accommodation is in huts along the way and your gear and food will be transported for you. Only available during summertime.

If you on the other hand just want to go on a day tour to see the areas, then this south coast and Þórsmörk valley tour allows you to go hiking inside Þórsmörk (summertime only), and this Hekla volcano and Landmannalaugar tour gives you enough time to go for a short hike and relax in the natural hot spring there (summertime only).

1. Visit a natural ice cave

Ice caves are only accessible during winter time, as they disappear during summer. When the weather gets milder, they either collapse or melt, so they are a temporary structure that forms every year.

Each cave is unique and the caves vary in size and shape - but they all have this gorgeous blue colour that you can see in the picture above. It's necessary to enter the caves with a guide that knows the area well and knows where it is safe to go.

Inside an ice cave

The ice caves form in Vatnajökull glacier, Europe's largest glacier. Vatnajökull is in the South East part of Iceland, about a 6 hour drive from Reykjavík. If you are driving yourself you can meet the guide at Vatnajökull and join this ice cave tour.

If you're not driving yourself, you can join this 2 day tour to the ice caves.

For an ultimate winter package, we recommend this 5 day winter package, that includes the ice caves, Northern Light hunts, the Golden Circle, the Blue Lagoon and the south coast of Iceland.