Make your own Iceland bucket list with these top suggestions from the land of fire and ice.
And don’t miss this article on how to travel Iceland with kids.
The Ultimate Iceland Bucket List
When all is said and done, a bucket list is simply an ugly term for a beautiful wish list. What should you put on your Iceland bucket list? What would you love to see, to taste, to feel, to breathe?
Here’s a round up of the top things to do in Iceland, so that you can start to make your own plans.
See the Northern Lights
The beautiful blaze of green and red that makes up aurora borealis, or the Northern Lights, can be seen in the sky above Iceland in the dark winter months. However, note the use of the word can be seen not will be seen. They are notoriously unpredictable and while it’s a great idea to add them to your Iceland bucket list, bear in mind that nature is fickle and that sightings cannot be guaranteed.
Take a road trip around the Golden circle
Iceland’s Golden Circle route runs through the south of the country and is one of the most popular circuits for visitors. Highlights include the Pingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss waterfall and the Haukadalur geothermal area with geysers. Stick it on the list!
Bathe in the Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon Spa near Grindavik is perhaps one of the most famous spots in Iceland and as a result features on many an Iceland bucket list.
But is it worth it?
Geothermal spas and catching up with friends form key parts of life in Iceland, so from that point of view, it’s not just a tourist trap. The milky blue water is real enough but the trouble is, as with so many things in tourism, the crowds.
If you do plan to go, make sure to go at a quiet time and let go of any idyllic preconceptions you may have. Just accept it for what it is – and enjoy!
As Reykjavik is both the capital and the largest city in Iceland, the place deserves a slice of your time as it is the cultural and financial hub of the island. Look out for brightly coloured houses, bars, museums, restaurants and a geothermally heated beach.
Visit Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon & Diamond Beach
First, you’ll find the surprise of a dark, black sand beach. Then, the diamonds arrive. Icebergs from the Jokulsarlon Glacier wash up on Diamond beach, creating a striking visual scene. Photographers love it here, of course, but nature lovers feel drawn as well. It’s usual to see seals and occasionally orcas from the shores of the beach itself.
Taste some Icelandic Cuisine
Icelandic food has a reputation for being fresh and simple, to really make the most of the natural resources that surround the country. Look out for cod, herring and char served with berries and lava salt. You’ll also find the more controversial dishes involving horse and whale.
Bathe in a natural rock pool in “Steam Valley”
Steam Valley, or Reykjadalur to give it its dignified name, runs through the south of the country, following a river with hot pools made for bathing. You can hike between the thermal water pools and mud pools if you’re brave enough for the cool air in between.
Snorkel between two continents in Silfra
The Silfra fissure runs between the North American and European tectonic plates. And what’s even cooler than that is that you can swim and snorkel there! Head to Pingvellir National Park and splash or hike your way around.
Go Whale Watching
A fortuitous mix of warm and cool waters around the shores of Iceland supports plenty of krill and fish, making it an ideal feeding ground for whales.
Up to 24 different species of whales swim around the Icelandic shores, from minke to humpback, and even the blue whale if you’re lucky.
You’re also likely to spot plenty of dolphins, porpoises and orcas. Find out more about whale watching in Iceland here.
Travel between April and November for the best chances of spotting a whale, with July and August being the peak months for sightings.
Hike in an Ice Cave
One of the most popular things to do in Iceland involves taking a hike through an ice cave or glacier cave. Despite the similar sounding names, these are not identical experiences. Caves come in blue, white and black shimmering colours, fresh from Disney’s Frozen palate. Always make sure to travel with an experienced guide, though, as both ice caves and glacier caves can be extremely dangerous.
Enter a volcano at the Three Peaks Crater
Fancy heading into a volcano that’s as deep as the Statue of Liberty is tall? As you head down the 700 feet into the magma chamber, you may be reassured to know that the volcano hasn’t erupted for around 4000 years. Then again, perhaps after all that time, it’s due a little blast of activity?!
Þríhnúkagígur is the Icelandic name, which roughly translates to mean “three peaks crater.” It takes six minutes to descend in the open elevator into the darkness. But who knows how long it takes to come back up ;-)
Find more about heading inside the Three Peaks volcano here.
Planning Your Trip to Iceland
Great, you’ve jotted down your Iceland bucket list. Now it’s time to plan the trip!
When is the best time to visit Iceland?
Summertime in July and August makes for the warmest temperatures and most sunlight. Winter in Iceland can feel long, cold and dark. On the other hand, that’s when you are most likely to see the Northern Lights, so factor in which items on your Iceland bucket list are most important to you. This article on how to visit the Golden Circle in winter can help you out.
How much does it cost to visit Iceland?
Costs have changed over the last few decades, so check out this article on how to budget for a trip to Iceland to help you work out what you need to save (and then spend!)
How many days should you spend in Iceland?
While some people head over for a weekend in Reykjavik, that’s really missing the best the country has to offer. At a minimum, plan for seven days, ideally longer. Around two weeks works well for most people.
Is 7 days in Iceland enough?
It’s one of those difficult questions. Seven days is enough to see Reykjavik and explore some of the wilderness that makes Iceland famous. But you could easily spend between two and three weeks in Iceland if you love the great outdoors.
Do I need a car in Iceland?
If you’re travelling independently rather than joining a tour, you will need your own wheels in Iceland. You can pick up a rental car near the KEF international airport and then explore Iceland under your own steam!
DIY or book with a tour operator?
Either works for Iceland, but if you’re looking for a reputable tour operator, then I’d recommend Discover the World. We worked with them when we planned our family itinerary in Iceland.