20 Hidden Gems in Iceland: Go Off-the-Beaten-Path

Godkendt ekspert

Thorsmork has many stunning locations that most travelers missDiscover hidden gems in Iceland, a land of natural wonders ranging from volcanic craters, geysers, glaciers, and waterfalls. Many have become famous, but Iceland has a wealth of lesser-known and spectacular attractions. Get off the beaten path and find secret places with this list of Iceland's 20 best-kept secrets.

While Iceland is renowned for wonders like the Blue Lagoon, the Golden Circle, and the picturesque South Coast, the true charm of this island often lies off the beaten path. As you travel through Iceland's dramatic landscapes, you'll find hidden wonders all around the country.

This means that there's always a memorable experience around the corner, no matter where you're accommodation in Iceland is located. Embrace the adventure and plan a self-drive tour to see iconic attractions and more hidden locations with our list of 20 hidden gems to visit.

Some of the attractions on our list take the term "Iceland off the beaten path" to a new meaning, whereas others are more regularly visited and thus more easily accessible with a rental car. Taking in a mix of the country's regular hot spots and some of the best-kept secret places in Iceland is the perfect way to plan your trip.

20. Reykjavik's Hidden Gem: Grotta

The lighthouse at Grotta is a Reykjavik hidden gem

Believe it or not, it's possible to get off the beaten path in Reykjavik. The capital city still has a few under-explored corners left. One such example, on the Seltjarnarnes peninsula in the western part of the city, is an area named Grotta.

Grotta is, in fact, a nature reserve due to its rich birdlife. It's the best spot in town to watch the sunset as it shimmers over Faxafloi bay or to see the northern lights within city limits.

There's even a tiny, artificial hot pool among the rocks that you can dip your feet in called Kvika foot bath. It can often be a little tricky to find, but a top tip is to remember it's near one of the little huts you'll pass by as you drive out onto the peninsula.

Grotta in Reykjavik is especially beautiful during sunsetAdditionally, there's a picturesque lighthouse accessible only when the tide is low. During low tide, you'll have six hours to go back and forth; otherwise, you'll get stuck by the lighthouse.

From May 1 to June 30 every year, there's no access to the Grotta lighthouse, as it's nesting season. However, if the weather is good, the beach right by Grotta, which stretches up near the golf course on the other side of the peninsula, can be a great spot to watch the sunset or have a picnic. Grotta is one of the locals' favorites of all the hidden gems in Reykjavik.

19. Seljavallalaug Pool

Seljavallalaug is a South Iceland hidden gem

Perhaps not as remote as it used to be, but still considered a hidden gem, is the Seljavallalaug pool in South Iceland.

Driving the South Coast is popular among tourists, but no bus tours take you to this place at the moment. It makes the experience of walking into the mountains with a well-earned dip between a mountain, glacier, and a volcano all the more enjoyable. It's also one of the more unusual things to do in Iceland that you can't do in many if any, other places in the world.

Among the available pools in Iceland, the Seljavallalaug pool is the oldest and still in pretty good shape. It even has a changing room (though there are no showers). There's no fee, so just bring your swimsuit and enjoy the quietness of nature. We don't want to spoil his hidden beauty, so be sure to bring your respect and care as well.

Bathing in Seljavallalaug is quite a unique experienceThe pool is situated between the famous Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls. You'll need to drive off the beaten path and then walk 0.7 miles (1.2 kilometers) to reach this treasure; however, the experience is well worth the detour. When it comes to South Iceland's hidden gems, Seljavallalaug Pool is definitely worth the effort.

When driving from Reykjavik, take a left towards Seljavellir before reaching Skogafoss. You'll go past a selection of cabins on your left before joining a gravel road with plenty of potholes - added fun.

18. Fridheimar Tomato Farm

Fridheimar is a popular farm to visit in Iceland.

Photo from Golden Circle Minibus Tour With Visit to Fridheimar & Kerid Crater Lake

Fridheimar is an organic tomato farm in Reykholt in South Iceland, a perfect stop along the popular Golden Circle route. This is a family-run tomato and cucumber farm and restaurant. They use scratched tomatoes (which are unsuitable for supermarkets) to make tomato soup for lunch to reduce waste.

The soup is spectacular, and you can enjoy this experience right in the greenhouse itself. This helps keep you warm on cold winter days and provides a great atmosphere nestled among tomatoes on the vine.

These guys are all about the tomato. You can get schnapps served in a tomato, tomato ice cream (it sounds weird, but it's delicious), tomato chutney, and, of course, a Bloody or a Virgin Mary. There's also homemade bread and cucumber salsa accompanying the soup.

A woman picks tomatoes at Fridheimar in Iceland.Photo from Golden Circle Minibus Tour With Visit to Fridheimar & Kerid Crater Lake

The whole atmosphere is friendly, light, airy, and warm; the tomatoes must be in a warm climate and get a lot of light throughout the year. You can even get a tour of the tomato farm before your lunch.

This is a very popular restaurant because of the unique seating environment and the delicious food, so you will have to book a table in Fridheimar ahead of time to visit. You can also enjoy a stop as part of this convinient Golden Circle minibus tour, which includes a visit to the nearby Kerid crater!

17. Gljufrabui Waterfall

Gljufrabui waterfall is a South Iceland hidden gem

Photo by Jórunn Sjöfn

Next to Seljalandsfoss waterfall and another of South Iceland's hidden gems is a waterfall that many people miss. Gljufrabui waterfall is only an 820-yard (750-meter) walk away from Seljalandsfoss, next to a farm, so you have no excuse not to visit if you're already in the neighborhood.

To see the Gljufrabui waterfall, you need to walk between a couple of rocks that form a little cave entrance, and then you'll be able to stand right underneath the waterfall. Bring a raincoat; you'll get wet.

You'll have to make your way through a hidden ravine to reach GljufrabuiPhoto from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Tiffany Bailey.

Seljalandsfoss waterfall is a significant stop on most South Coast tours, so you can make this detour during an excursion as long as you're mindful of returning to your tour bus on time.

However, if you don't want to stress with timing things right, you can take this wild South Coast tour with waterfalls and glacier hiking from Reykjavik, which includes a visit to Gljufrabui on the itinerary. Make sure you have sturdy shoes for this excursion, as it involves some stone-hopping on a fast-flowing stream.

16. Hvitserkur Rock

Hvitserkur isn't tall - but a dramatic rock!

Hvitserkur stands by itself just outside the Hunafjordur fjord in Northwest Iceland. It's only a slight detour from the main Ring Road of Iceland, in between the villages of Reykir and Blonduos.

To reach this hidden gem, drive road 711 from the Ring Road (turn left if you're coming from Reykjavik, turn right if you're coming from Akureyri). There aren't any tours going there, so you'll have to drive yourself to get off the beaten path in Iceland. In summer, you can even do this detour from the Ring Road with a small rental car.

For those coming in the winter months, Hvitserkur can make the perfect foreground for some shots of the northern lights if you're lucky enough to get a great show. Those moments make Hvitserkur one of my favorite secret spots in Iceland.

15. Fjadrargljufur Canyon

Fjadrargljufur in South Iceland is a mystical canyon and a great off the beaten track destination in Iceland

Another stunning South Iceland hidden gem not far from Ring Road is Fjadrargljufur. Some tourists refer to it as "Sweet Ass Mossy Canyon," which is a pretty accurate description.

However, it's now more known for its appearance in the hit HBO show, "Game of Thrones." We can't guarantee dragons if you stop by for a visit, though.

The direct translation of Fjadrargljufur is "Feather River Canyon," and it's one of Iceland's most picturesque canyons. Take your time hiking up and enjoying the stunning scenery, but make sure you stick to the path. It's equally stunning during wintertime.

Fjadrargljufur canyon during winter, one of Iceland's secret spots

Photo by Robert Bye

To reach it, drive towards Kirkjubaejarklaustur village on Iceland's southern coast (use your drive time to work on your pronunciation of Kirkjubaejarklaustur!). Driving from Reykjavik, the canyon will be on your left-hand side just before reaching Kirkjubaejarklaustur (which translates to "Church Town Convent").

This village is a great base for exploring many stunning attractions, including parts of the Highlands. For example, from there, you can visit Fjadrargljufur as part of this epic 8-hour Super Jeep tour of Lakagigar craters, the site of one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in Iceland's history!

14. Hofsos Swimming Pool

Another Iceland hidden gem is Hofsos swimming pool in Iceland

This tiny town on the Trollaskagi peninsula next to Akureyri in North Iceland has Iceland's most gorgeous infinity pool on its hillside. It boasts a stunning view over the fjord. This is not necessarily one of the most secret places in Iceland, but if you plan to explore the North during your trip, it makes the perfect end to a long day of traveling.

Complete a day of adventuring by bathing under the midnight sun from the infinity pool, or watch in awe as the northern lights dance over the fjord.

13. Vesturdalur Valley

Hljodaklettar (Sound Rocks) are an Icelandic hidden gem.

Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Michal Klajban. No edits made.

Many people go to lake Myvatn, Dettifoss waterfall, and even Asbyrgi canyon, as they're all part of the Diamond Circle route. But if you're in this area and searching for North Iceland hidden gems, make sure to visit Raudholar and Hljodaklettar, both in Vesturdalur valley.

They're located on Route 85 towards Husavik village, one of the best places in Iceland for a whale-watching tour, and 10 miles (16 kilometers) from Asbyrgi canyon. If you're traveling in the area, make sure to include a stop, as these incredible, colorful locations are some of the most beautiful places in Iceland.

Rauðhólar (Red Hills) in Vesturdalur, Iceland

Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Mickaël Delcey

Hljodaklettar ("Sound Rocks") are basalt columns of every shape and size, twisting and turning in every conceivable direction. Raudholar ("Red Hills") are colorful hills of black and yellow but mainly fiery red. There are few places in Iceland where you'll find colors as vivid as the landscape here.

A tour from Akureyri or a tour of Myvatn can also take you close to Hljodaklettar. However, the best way to see Vesturdalur valley is by getting off the beaten track and driving yourself with a rental car. For convenience, you can even pick up a rental car in Akureyri!

12. Thjorsardalur Valley and its Waterfalls

Haifoss and Glanni are some of the most stunning waterfalls in Thjorsadalur valley.

Thorsardalur valley is full of gorgeous waterfalls often missed by tourists. The waterfall inside Gjain canyon is one of them, although the canyon itself is pretty spectacular, too. Haifoss waterfall is Iceland's third-highest one at 400 feet (122 meters) tall, and the smaller Granni waterfall is just a stone's throw away. Both are beautiful hidden gems in South Iceland.

Then there's Hjalparfoss waterfall (its name translates to "Help's Falls") that's a little further down the valley. Lastly, there's Thjofafoss, which translates to "Thief Waterfall." It's on the other side of the mountain Burfell and well worth a visit.

Thjofafoss in Thorsardalur valley, with Hekla in the background

All of these waterfalls are in the same area and can easily be reached on Routes 32 and 26. They're all about a 74-mile (119-kilometer) drive from Reykjavik. You'll need to rent a 4x4 Jeep to access Thorsmork, but be aware that you must cross the dangerous Krossa river, which should not be attempted by those not used to such a driving challenge.

We recommend skipping the drive and taking a tour instead. For example, you can visit the area with this Thorsmork valley Super Jeep and hiking tour.

11. Glymur Waterfall

The lush Glymur waterfall in Iceland

Photo by Jorunn

When the Hvalfjardagong tunnel opened back in 1998, the distance from Reykjavik to Borgarnes was shortened by approximately one hour since people no longer had to drive Hvalfjordur fjord ("Whale fjord"). Nowadays, it's not as common to drive this gorgeous fjord, so if you want to get off the beaten track in Iceland, Hvalfjordur is a must.

At the bottom of the Hvalfjordur fjord, you'll find a trail leading to Iceland's second tallest waterfall, Glymur, which is 650 feet (198 meters) high. It used to be thought to be the tallest in Iceland until it was surpassed by Morsarfoss in 2011. The name Glymur translates to "Echo," and for a good reason.

The top of Glymur provides amazing views over the surrounding areaThe hike is beautiful and relatively easy, leading you through green mossy cliffs towards the Glymur waterfall, and it only takes about 2-3 hours one way. You can even book this hiking tour to Glymur waterfall with a transfer from Reykjavik. The hike is a truly underrated thing to do in Iceland.

10. Raudasandur Beach

Raudasandur is a beach in the Westfjords.Photo by Regína Hrönn Ragnarsdóttir 

Iceland is very famous for its sandy black beaches. However, you can also find white beaches in the country and even the beautiful Raudasandur red beach in the Westfjords. The color can play tricks on your eyes; it may seem white, orange, yellow, or very red, depending on the natural light. This apparent color change can make Raudasandur beach one of the most magical places in Iceland.

There's nothing there besides the sand, so if you want to go to a tranquil beach - no vendors or shops to distract you - Raudasandur delivers. You can go for a walk all by yourself, which makes for a fantastic, non-touristy thing to do in Iceland and a unique experience.

Take the time to walk along the tranquil Raudasandur beach

Photo by Regína Hrönn Ragnarsdóttir

If 6 miles (10 kilometers) of sand isn't enough for you, travel a little further and go to Latrabjarg cliff, where thousands of puffins reside in the summer months. It's the largest seabird cliff in Iceland and one of those hidden gems in Iceland that make you forget about everything else outside of the moment.

The best way to get to Raudasandur is to either drive all of the Westfjords or take the Baldur ferry from Stykkisholmur to Brjanslaekur and drive from there. The area is usually inaccessible during wintertime, so it's best done as a summer self-drive tour. It's also advisable to rent a four-wheel drive car to best cope in the Westfjords.

9. Siglufjordur Village

Siglufjordur on Trollaskagi in North Iceland

Siglufjordur is a cute little town that used to be the world capital of herring fishing and the fifth-largest town in Iceland. It's found at the northernmost tip of the Trollaskagi peninsula (close to Hofsos pool). Siglufjordur is nestled in a small fjord, surrounded by mountains on three sides. It's remote and overlooked, but some of Iceland's best-hidden gems are found here.

The Herring Museum is one of the best museums in IcelandWhile here, make sure you go to the Herring Era Museum, which brings the town's history to life through some beautiful buildings on the town's main street. It's one of the best museums in Iceland!

The town's location is somewhat inaccessible, making you feel like you're in a remote place at the end of the world, despite only being a 48-mile (77-kilometer) drive from Akureyri. And if you're wondering where to stay, explore the range of accommodations available in Siglufjordur. You can even stay at the charming Siglo Hotel for a luxurious experience.

8. Kjolur Road

Kjojur will take you to the Kerlingarfjoll mountain range.

When the highland roads are opened in the summertime, it's a good idea to drive the Kjolur road. It's only accessible with a four-wheel drive vehicle. On the way, you can either make a stop at Kerlingarfjoll mountains, Hveravellir hot spring fields, or both.

The road is Route 35, the same road as Gullfoss waterfall. It connects the north and the south of the country and lies between Langjokull glacier and Hofsjokull glacier. The highlands in between are sandy but full of hot springs, some of which you can bathe in, and provide some excellent hiking trails.

This six-day highland self-drive tour includes Kjolur, Hveravellir, and Kerlingarfjoll, taking advantage of some of Iceland's less visited natural attractions. It's also a great way to experience Iceland off the beaten path.

7. Most Famous Unknown Place: Flatey Island

Flatey island in West Iceland is the most famous unknown place in Iceland

A visit to Flatey island is like stepping back in time to Iceland in the 1900s. Its name translates to "Flat Island" and is the easiest name to say of anywhere in Iceland you'll visit!

This small island in Breidafjordur bay has seasonal habitation. Flatey gets a little busy in the summer, especially with photographers ("a little busy" means a few dozen people or maybe 100). But in winter, only six people reside there.

Surprisingly, many concerts are held on the island, with an event happening almost every week of the summer. It's probably the most famous unknown place in Iceland.

There's one road on the island, but no cars are allowed – it's only 1.2 miles (two kilometers) long and a few yards wide. Even more shocking, there was no cell phone reception on the island until recently.

Flatey's only road

Photo by Jórunn Sjöfn

Stroll around the island, have a peek into the church and the small library, watch the sea and the birds, clear your head, relax, and even say "hi" to the elves. If you're feeling peckish, don't miss out on the fish of the day at Hotel Flatey.

To get there, take the ferry Baldur from Stykkisholmur on the Snaefellsnes peninsula or from Brjanslaekur in the Westfjords. If you're driving around Iceland, you can take your car onto the ferry, and they'll deliver your vehicle at the other end of the bay (in either Stykkisholmur or Brjanslaekur). You can pick it up later in the day, or even some days later if you spend a few days on the island.

From Stykkisholmur, it's 1.5 hours on the ferry, and from Brjanslaekur, it's just a one-hour journey. You can also include a visit in your tour of the Snaefellsnes peninsula as a day trip from Stykkisholmur.

6. Holuhraun Lava

The fresh Holuhraun lava field is quite dramatic

Photo from Super Jeep Tour to Askja Caldera & Holuhraun Lava Field with Transfer from Myvatn

The new addition to the Icelandic landscape is the lava field at Holuhraun, where a volcanic eruption occurred from August 2014 to February 2015. The area is very much off the beaten track, and you'll need a powerful four-wheel drive vehicle to reach it. It's simplest to visit with a guided tour, like this Super Jeep tour to Askja caldera and Holuhraun lava field, which departs from lake Myvatn.

Holuhraun is also a candidate for the most famous unknown place in Iceland. Here, you'll be able to feel the newly formed rough lava and see nature in its most raw form. Holuhraun is easily one of the more unique things to do in Iceland and should not be missed by anyone who wants to get off the beaten path here.

5. Stakkholtsgja Canyon

Stakkholtsgja canyon in is South Iceland hidden gem

Photo by Regína Hrönn Ragnarsdóttir 

This stunning canyon is close to Thorsmork, and if you hike it for about two hours, you'll reach a waterfall deep inside it. It's an easy hike that's suitable for the whole family.

When there are about 330 feet (100 meters) left to the bottom of the canyon, it splits into two parts, and you'll need to wade through a river to reach the waterfall at the end.

Water rushes from the waterfall at the bottom of Stakkholtsgja in Iceland

Photo by Regína Hrönn Ragnarsdóttir 

Exploring any canyon in Iceland is always a treat, but this one, for the variety and photo opportunities, is one of the best. File under: Another one of the most beautiful places in Iceland.

4. Hvammsvik Hot Springs

Bathe among nature at Hvammsvik Hot Springs in IcelandWhile the Blue Lagoon and Sky Lagoon are some of the most popular geothermal experiences around the Capital Region, another one has recently opened that's rising in popularity. Hvammsvik Hot Springs in the picturesque Hvalfjordur fjord opened in 2021 and is still quite the hidden gem among luxurious bathing locations in Iceland.

It's a 45-minute drive away from the city center, and you can visit with this relaxing half-day soaking tour at Hvammsvik, which includes a transfer from Reykjavik. You can also go by yourself with a rental car and book your Hvammsvik Hot Springs admission online.

Hvammsvik Hot Springs has stunning views

Photo from Relaxing Half-Day Hot Spring Soaking Tour at Hvammsvik from Reykjavik

The Hvammsvik Hot Springs is a must-stop when driving the Hvalfjordur fjord, and can be the perfect place to relax if you plan to hike up the nearby Glymur waterfall. They also have an on-site café where you can enjoy a well-earned treat while relaxing.

If you're visiting Iceland in winter, you can even enhance your experience by embarking on this small group Hvammsvik Hot Springs tour with dinner and a northern lights hunt. If luck is with you, you're in for a very magical night!

3. Hornstrandir Nature Reserve

Dramatic Hornbjarg cliff at Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, one of the hidden gems of Iceland

The most inaccessible part of Iceland is Hornstrandir, the northernmost tip of the Westfjords. This is about as off the beaten path in Iceland as it gets. No roads lead there, so you can either hike for a week from the end of the road (near Krossnes farm) to get there (plus another week to get back) or take a boat from Isafjordur.

There are no shops or villages, and cell service is unreliable, so be prepared with any supplies you may need if you intend on staying there for a while.

Arctic fox are Iceland's only native mamal.Photo from 2 Day Wildlife Tour in the Westfjords at Hornstrandir & Hornvik with Transfer from Isafjordur

This is also where Iceland's biggest arctic fox colony lives, so try to spot some gorgeous foxes in their natural element. Remote wildlife experiences like this are one of the unique things to do in Iceland that leave a lasting impression long after you have returned home.

A six-day tour option around Hornstrandir will help you make the most of this stunning region. It's truly one of Iceland's hidden gems.

2. Thakgil Campground

Thakgil camping grounds

Photo by Alda

Thakgil ("Roof Canyon") is a gorgeous camping ground in South Iceland. This area is not far from the village of Vik.

If you're heading East, turn left after about 3.7 miles (six kilometers) after leaving Vik. Drive along that road for approximately 8.7 miles (14 kilometers), past the abandoned film set, until you reach a lush green flat valley surrounded by rugged mountains and small rivers.

The area is very sheltered from the wind, and there's even a cave to dine inside. You'll need to drive yourself to get there, but the journey is certainly worth the effort.

1. Viknaslodir Hiking Trails

Dyrfjoll mountains tower over the viknaslodir area

Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Michal Klajban

Deep in East Iceland, the area around Borgarfjordur Eystri contains one of Iceland's best hiking areas: Viknaslodir ("Trails of the Inlets"). A five- to 10-day hike around the area is recommended.

The hike from Borgarfjordur Eystri down to Seydisfjordur town is usually done in four days and is 34 miles (55 kilometers) in length. This is the same as Iceland's most popular hike, Laugavegurinn.

The Storurd boulders are part of the Viknaslodir Hiking Trail, one of Iceland's hidden gemsPhoto from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Michal Klajban

Along the way, you'll see stunning mountain views, valleys, and fjords. Perhaps the most spectacular attraction in the area is Storurd, a gorgeous blue lake covered with giant rock boulders.

When it comes to East Iceland's hidden gems, Viknaslodir is one of the most rewarding and should not be overlooked. Don't skip this place if you want to explore Iceland off the beaten path.

Additional Tips for Reaching the Hidden Gems of Iceland

To reach most of those hidden places in Iceland, renting a good four-wheel drive vehicle is best because you'll most likely be driving on unpaved gravel or mountain roads. This is also the best way to get off the beaten path in Iceland and is highly recommended.

It's also advised to get full insurance cover options (especially gravel insurance) to ensure you're covered in an emergency.

A final tip is to always focus on driving safely, wearing your seatbelt, and keeping an eye on both the weather forecast and the accessibility of the roads.

We hope you enjoyed exploring our hand-picked top 20 list of hidden gems in Iceland. Will you visit any of these spots? Will you go on a guided tour or drive yourself? We'd love to answer any questions you might have and hear about your experiences in the comments below.

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