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Depending on your time in Iceland here is a guide to help you prioritize the most epic experiences to include while you’re there. Iceland is a truly stunning country and there’s a lot more to it than just waterfalls & amazing landscape. To me, experiences are a lot of travel as well. I always want to add in really memorable aspects that align with my interests and things that I really enjoy as well as unique things that are local experiences. So in between your waterfall visits be sure to not miss the following experiences.
Quintessential Iceland Experiences: Geothermal Baths/Pools
An experience that Iceland is so well known for, you definitely must have while there. With abundant options all across Iceland when it comes to geothermal baths & pools. The most well known being, The Blue Lagoon. If you’ve never been to Iceland, I would suggest you experience this, although I do think it is romanticized a lot more than reality. (A real life Instagram vs. reality type situation.) But, I’m a huge supporter of regardless what others say, if it’s something you’ve always wanted to do then by all means definitely do it! I’m glad we experienced it, but on a return trip I wouldn’t rush to experience it again.
The most well known experience to have in Iceland would have to be, The Blue Lagoon. This is located closer to the airport than the town of Reykjavik making it a great first stop once arriving or last stop prior to leaving. Just be sure that you allow enough time there! You definitely want to get the full experience. I mean, it is considered one of the 25 wonders of the world. Be prepared, you must pre-book a time slot. There are three different experiences you can choose. Basic, then one including a dinner reservation and a full spa experience. More on the options when visiting the Blue Lagoon.
Myvatn Nature Baths
My favorite thing about this experience was the view of Iceland in the surrounding area. It was so picturesque. You can look out over the lava fields for what feels like forever. They also had a great beer selection! (Beer adventures/beer ventures are the best way to travel!) I always like to sample local brews during traveling. This location is also known as the Blue Lagoon of east Iceland. (With much better views and surroundings in my opinion!)
Of the geothermal pools we visited, this one was my favorite! It was so serene, looking out over the lake & there wasn’t as many people there as well. To me, it was an extremely relaxing experience. If you’re feeling really daring, you can also jump into the lake. We did this & it was pretty shocking how chilly the lake was. But, keep in mind it was October!
Natural Hot Springs/Geothermal Rivers
While we didn’t end up doing this, it’s definitely something that I want to do on a return trip to Iceland. This would truly be an unforgettable experience to have in Iceland. Beyond the more pool/spa experiences listed above, explore some more natural and serene geothermal hot springs & rivers. Literally immerse yourself in nature both in your surroundings and relaxing in a natural hot spring or river.
Reykjadalur Geothermal River is claimed to be one of the best by an Icelandic blog. Since it is located under an hour drive from Reykjavik, it’s easily accessible even if you aren’t in Iceland for an extended period of time.
Another one mentioned, Landmannalaugar Hot Pot is extremely scenic. That seriously sounds so relaxing! It’s located in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve, an area filled with hills and valleys. It’s very popular during the summer with hikers.
Víti Geothermal Lake is also a milky blue looking lake, similar to the Blue Lagoon. It was formed by volcanic activity. It’s located in the Icelandic Central Highlands. Literally in the middle of Iceland within the Vatnajokull National Park. If you’re planning to mostly take the 1 road around Iceland, this would be a really far detour and on not as reliable roads. Ensure the vehicle you have is able to make the trek there. The time of year you’re visiting is also a consideration to make.
Laugarvellir geothermal pool & waterfall is located 65 miles south west of Egilsstadir. Getting there depends on the time of year you’re there and also what kind of vehicle you have. It’s somewhat harder to get to, but once you do it seems like it’s so worth it! In winter you can expect to have to walk about 6 miles to get there and in summer only a little over a mile and a half. This definitely is reinforcing the fact that I want to return to Iceland in the summer months!
Sample Icelandic Beer
Mostly in Reykjavik we went to a handful of breweries. There always needs to be an element of sampling the local brews! Drinking locally, wherever you are is a huge passion of mine. Here is the full list of the breweries we visited: RVK Brewing Company, Aegisgardur Brugghus & Bryggjan Brugghus.
RVK and Aegisgardur are definitely a more traditional taproom and brewery vibe while Bryggjan was a restaurant/brewery. To me, a comparison in the United States to a Granite city or a chain type restaurant that brews their own beer.
On our way home, I also grabbed a sampler of some imperial stouts and a glass in the duty free area of the airport from Borg Brugghus. We had tried many of the beers during our time there. Most of them darker beers.
I was unable to confirm if they have an actual taproom that you can visit, but access to their beers at the Vinbudin was good. And after braving some chilly and windy days it was nice to snuggle up and wind down without having to actually go out. Darker imperial stouts are my favorite for that!
Another option if you want to try icelandic beer and don’t want to deal with the logistics, there are organized beer tours available as well.
Try the local cuisine
One of my favorite experiences while in Iceland was trying some of their unique dishes. Specifically, two things that we tried that were very interesting were fermented shark & minke whale. You will see these on some menu’s specializing in Icelandic cuisine.
Only in Iceland can you have this experience
Snorkel or Dive between tectonic plates (Silfra)
This was one of my favorite experiences we had while in Iceland. Located in Thingvellir National Park, Silfra is the only place in the world where you can dive or snorkel directly in a crack between two tectonic plates. Is Iceland a part of North America or Europe? Read more on the history on this natural phenomenon. Definitely an experience that I highly recommend! Although cold, the views are something I will never forget. Truly stunning!
Go to a Beer Spa
Spa days are so relaxing. While braving what can be sometimes treacherous weather while traveling to Iceland, why not pencil in a chill relaxing experience to really treat yourself? I love beer and when I discovered this it was like an epiphany. Is this truly real? It sure is! You can soak in a bathtub full of beer, water, hops and yeast with a brewski in hand.
This is the perfect place to stop if you are planning on traveling around the peninsula. You could come from the east and stay in one of the following cities nearby (Dalvik or Siglufjordur) or if you’re coming from the south and you’re headed to Akureyri, the beer spa is something you can add into your journey as well.
Hike on a glacier
There are several glacier walks that you can go on and they aren’t too far from Reykjavik. The most common glaciers to hike or walk on are Vatnajokull glacier and in southern Iceland Solheimajokull glacier.
We opted to do a glacier walk/hike tour on Solheimajokull glacier. It was definitely a cool experience (pun intended!) One that I would definitely recommend while in Iceland. Not only did you get to experience the different terrain, the guide was great at explaining how much the glacier has changed over time.
Stay in a unique accommodation
There are so many amazing and unique accommodations in Iceland. A definite must on your Iceland experiences is staying in one. There are many igloo or glass house type accommodations really capitalizing on showing off the northern lights. Some even have a hot tub included!
While we visited we rented an igloo for one night that had skylights to see the Northern Lights if you were so lucky.
Seek out the Northern Lights
This one is a little more difficult, although probably one of the most epic experiences that travelers want to have while in Iceland. You can’t necessarily plan for this one, just put yourself in the optimal conditions and cross your fingers (and toes too maybe!)
The ideal conditions to view the northern lights are a clear but dark night. (A dark night with very few clouds.) Also, it needs to be the right time of year. In Iceland, you can typically view the northern lights between September and March/April. Basically the wintertime months in Iceland. Which really decreases the amount of things you can do/see in a day due to the daylight hours. Keep in mind, in Iceland during the summer there is a lot of light so that is a consideration to make as well, you can do more in a shorter period of time.
While we visited Iceland in October, we faintly saw the northern lights once when we were in a much smaller town and remote area. There are some tours, however that are specifically geared toward chasing the optimal conditions to see the northern lights.
We spent a week in Iceland and I have a more detailed post on our route for 7 days in Iceland. There were also several things about Iceland, (although I did thorough research) that really surprised me! Read more about things to know before traveling to Iceland.