20 Unmissable Attractions in Iceland

The stunning Gullfoss waterfall is just one of many must-see sights in Iceland
The stunning Gullfoss waterfall is just one of many must-see sights in Iceland | © Michele Orallo / Unsplash
Photo of Camille Buckley
19 November 2020

With waterfalls and glaciers, geothermal landscapes and awe-inspiring rock formations, Iceland is bursting with unmissable natural attractions. Mainly found by road trip, hike or tour guide, these extraordinary sights are sure to leave a lasting impression.

Geysir

Natural Feature
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Strokkur Geyser, Geysir, Iceland
See geysers in action at the Geysir hot spring area | © Robert Wyatt / Alamy Stock Photo

The Geysir hot spring area, part of the Golden Circle tour, comprises a dozen boiling pits. The most active of these, Strokkur, spouts every few minutes to heights of up to 30m (98ft).

Ásbyrgi canyon

Natural Feature
Map View
Asbyrgi Canyon, Vatnajokull National Park, Iceland
There are many interesting basalt formations within Ásbyrgi canyon | © ARCTIC IMAGES / Alamy Stock Photo

This horseshoe-shaped canyon in the north is said to be the hoof print of Odin’s horse in Norse mythology. Within the canyon are numerous hiking trails and interesting basalt formations.

Svartifoss

Natural Feature
Map View
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Svartifoss is framed by columns of black basalt to stunning effect | © Lucas Marcomini / Unsplash

This 12m (39ft) waterfall, inside Vatnajökull National Park, is framed by black columnar basalt. You can take a short hike from the visitor centre to get remarkably close to this unique sight, one of the smaller examples to be found among Iceland’s numerous waterfalls.

Lake Víti

Natural Feature
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magnificent icelandic landscape with scenic volcanic lake viti, krafla
The crater in which Lake Víti lies was formed by a volcanic eruption | © LightField Studios Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

This crater was formed during a prehistoric eruption, yet Víti itself was formed during another eruption in 1875. Víti’s colour ranges from milky green to pearly blue and can be bathed in after making the steep descent down into the crater to its shores.

Dettifoss

Natural Feature
Map View
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Dettifoss is one of Europe's most powerful waterfalls | © Richard Dorran / Unsplash

Dettifoss is one of Europe’s most powerful waterfalls, and is located in northeast Iceland. The huge force of water forming the fall comes from Vatnajökull glacier. The waterfall was used in the opening scene of the 2012 science fiction film Prometheus.

Dverghamrar

Natural Feature
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Columnar basalt outrcop, Dverghamrar (Dwarf Cliffs), near Foss, Iceland
These basalt formations are a protected national monument | © Efrain Padro / Alamy Stock Photo

With a name meaning “dwarf rocks” in Icelandic, these peculiar columnar basalt formations are a protected national monument. The extensive fracture network creates a multifaceted display.

Krafla

Natural Feature
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Frozen lavas field in the geothermal valley Leirhnjukur, near Krafla volcano, Iceland, Europe. Landscape photography
The Krafla area features a fascinating array of colourful sediment deposits | © Ivan Kmit / Alamy Stock Photo

This Martian landscape created by geothermal activity in the north of Iceland has a fascinating array of colourful sediment deposits, and intriguing accompanying smells.

Herðubreið

Natural Feature
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Mt Herdubreid in winter, snowcovered, seen from farm Moedrudalur located between lake Myvatn and Egilsstadir,  northeast Iceland.
Herðubreið is a flat-topped mountain in the Central Highlands | © Andreas Werth / Alamy Stock Photo

Considered the Icelandic national mountain, and sometimes called “the queen”, this flat-topped mountain in the Central Highlands is the sole figure rising from the surrounding desert.

The Arctic Henge

Natural Feature
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Skaftafell glacier and mountains, Vatnajokull National Park in Iceland. Nice day over the Iceland's largest glacier.Amazing Iceland nature seascape p
The Arctic Henge towers over the village of Raufarhöfn | © Michal Balada / Alamy Stock Photo

Towering over the village of Raufarhöfn in eastern Iceland is the sundial known as the Arctic Henge, a long-term work still under construction. The structures have been placed in accordance with allusions found in Icelandic folklore and mythology.

Snæfellsjökull

Natural Feature, Park
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Snæfellsjökull can sometimes be seen all the way from Reykjavík | © Meng Ji / Unsplash

Within Snæfellsjökull National Park lies this glacier-capped volcano, used by Jules Verne in his 1864 novel A Journey to the Center of the Earth. It can sometimes be seen all the way from Reykjavík.

These recommendations were updated on November 19, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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