The land of fire and ice is such a unique place, at times it can almost feel out of this world. With its towering glaciers, endless waterfalls, active volcanoes and hot springs, it offers an unlimited amount of adventures. This Iceland Travel Guide is filled with 50+ recommendations for the best experiences, restaurants, shops and stays on the island.
Icelandic + English
When To Visit
Summer + Fall
Iceland - also referred to as the land of fire and ice - is a nature lovers paradise. Here you'll find everything from active volcanoes, endless waterfalls and black sand beaches to towering glaciers, geothermal pools, and charming small coastal towns.
These cute little birds have become the unofficial mascot of the country and getting the chance to spot one is such a special experience.
If you're wanting to see the northern lights in Iceland, the best time to visit is during fall and winter.
When people think of Iceland, one of the first things that comes to their mind is the Blue Lagoon — and for good reason! The sulfuric blue pool is the perfect place to relax after an adventure filled trip.
Sites To See
Where To Eat
Places To Stay
Hallgrímskirkja stands as one of Iceland’s most iconic buildings and is visible from most of downtown Reykjavík. As the tallest church and sixth tallest structure in the country, it also offers fantastic views of the city.
This famous pond is located near the center of the city and serves as a beautiful spot to relax and take in the views. It's also a great place for observing many species of waterbird, like swans and geese.
The Old Harbor
Tucked away in the remains of an old harbor you’ll find shops, museums, restaurants and tour operators. At the end of the harbor is a little walking path that will lead you to the perfect viewing point of downtown.
To get a sense of what life was like during the early days of Icelandic life, stop by this interactive museum located downtown. On display are some of the oldest relics of human habitation found in Reykjavík.
Reykjavík Maritime Museum
Located in the old harbor, inside an old fish freezing plant, the Reykjavík Maritime Museum showcases exhibits highlighting the important and historical connection Iceland has to fishing.
While not technically located in Reykjavík, this geothermal pool is just a short 30 minute drive from the city. Home to one of the 25 wonders of the world, the milky blue water offers a unique spa experience.
Just minutes from the city center, Sky Lagoon offers guests a luxurious and rejuvenating experience. The spa’s infinity pool also provides breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean.
THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF ICELAND
The National Museum of Iceland displays some of the country’s most precious artifacts and works of art. It showcases a permanent exhibition of Icelandic history and culture as well as temporary installations of art.
You can't leave Iceland without trying one of their most famous delicacies — the hot dog. It's best ordered eina með öllu, or with everything: ketchup, mustard, fried and raw onion, and remoulade.
Located at the end of Laugavegur, this restaurant serves up some of the best burgers around. The 90s vibe and dart boards in the back also make it a fun place to hang out on the weekends.
This isn't your average bakery. After studying in Copenhagen, Ágúst Einþórsson revolutionized the Icelandic bread and bakery market with his first location of Brauð & Co. back in 2016. Since then, the brand has expanded to 9 locations.
Sites To See
Where To Eat
Places To Stay
This Napoli-style pizzeria places a strong focuses on using only fresh, quality ingredients. Through making all of the sourdough for their crusts on site and buying tomatoes directly from farmers in Italy, they've gained a strong fan following.
There's nothing better than having a big bowl of soup after a cold day outside, and 101 Reykjavík serves up some of the best. Popular dishes include their lobster and seafood soups.
When a fourth generation family-owned fishing company decided to open a fish and chips stand, it meant only the highest quality fish would be served. As such, this has become a tourist and local favorite alike.
This former bus station turned food hall —Reykjavík's first to be exact — is home to some of the best food in Iceland (including Flatey Pizza).
With a group and not sure what to get? This European style food hall has everything from fresh Icelandic fish to vegan wraps, Vietnamese spring rolls, and sushi.
Located just outside of the city center, 201 Hotel is the perfect rest spot for those looking to be near downtown but don't want to deal with parking. Bonus: it's also a short drive to Costco (home of the best gas prices around)
Just steps from Laugavegur — one of the oldest streets in Reykjavík lined with shops and restaurants — this hotel offers upgraded amenities for guests wanting an elevated hotel experience.
This eco focused campsite is located only 3 km from the city center and is only a short bus ride away from most popular attractions for those that don't have a car.
Price: 2900 ISK/person per night
Going counter clockwise on the Ring Road, this waterfall will be one of the first major attractions. But don't forget your rain coat, as you'll get the opportunity to walk behind the falls and you will get wet.
With birds flying all around the base of the waterfall, this place makes you feel like you're in a movie. You can also choose to just walk to the base or take the stairs up and see where the water originates from.
This small peninsula offers breathtaking views of the surrounding glaciers, coastline, and famous rock arch. With a small trail going around the lighthouse, this is the perfect spot to stop and stretch your legs.
One of the most popular stops along the Ring Road, this beach is popular for its unique basalt columns. Come early in the day to avoid the large crowd of tourists that fill the beach in the afternoon.
The ice that's washed out of Jökulsárlón Lagoon with the tide, gets washed up on this beach across the street. However, the amount of ice you find depends on multiple factors, so you can find tons or none at all.
One of the largest glacier lagoons on the Ring Road, Jökulsárlón provides guests not only the opportunity to walk around the lagoon, but also take a tour boat out on the water.
It costs around $7 USD to enter this privately owned land, but the views you get from the dunes are breathtaking. At the entrance is also a small cafe where you can get breakfast after watching the sunrise.
Hengifoss is the third highest waterfall in Iceland but it's no easy feat to get there. From the parking lot it's a steep 3 mi. hike to the base, but there are plenty of pull off points where you can take in the surrounding views.
Svínafellsjökull is one of the most accessible glaciers in Iceland. Just a short walk from the parking, you'll get the opportunity to see the glacier up close and a lagoon that it's creating as it melts.
Home to the largest number of basalt columns in Iceland, Stuðlagil has become a popular stop for tourists. Tip: come early if you want to avoid the large crowds and drones flying around for the perfect shot.
Hands down my favorite spot in all of Iceland! With the multiple waterfalls lining the canyon, birds flying all around, and the lush moss surrounding the area, Múlagljúfur Canyon looks like it's out of a movie. It's around 3 mi. roundtrip and so worth the hike.
DETTIFOSS (WEST SIDE)
One of my favorite waterfalls in Iceland, Dettifoss is also the second most powerful waterfall in Europe. You can see the falls from two sides (east or west) but the west side is the most popular, offering a large parking lot newer trails, and in my opinion a better view.
If you're running short on time, I might suggest skipping this stop as I think Svínafellsjökull is better. But just a short walk from the parking lot you get beautiful views of the glacier.
Nicknamed “waterfall of the gods", this is one of the last major stops before Akureyri (the second largest city in Iceland. If you have time, I suggest walking around both sides of the falls as each offers a beautiful view.
Offering black crust and sourdough pizza, Black Crust Pizzeria serves up some of the best food in town. You can't go wrong with anything on the menu, but some of our favorites included the bread sticks, chicken spears and No. 9 pizza.
Located directly next to Vík Campsite, this coffee shop located in a converted school bus is the perfect place to stop whether you're passing on through or looking for morning coffee.
Located in a 100 year old timber house, El Grilló Bar is home to one of the best meals we had on our trip. The pepper cheese on the El Grilló burger is something I still crave to this day.
If you're looking for an elevating dining experience, Pakkhus is the perfect place to stop. Here you'll find unique local dishes such as Langoustine and Horse Tenderloin as well as other popular items including cod and the duck and pork.
A food truck serving restaurant quality burgers. Stop by if you're looking for a quick bite or want to enjoy a meal by the harbor. They also have vegetarian options if that's what you're looking for.
Craving some classic American food? This no-frills retro inspired diner serves up delicious burgers and fries that remind you of home. Pro tip: grab a glass of Appelsín to make your experience uniquely Icelandic.
Focused on using fresh ingredients from local fisherman and farmers, Run23 serves as a great spot to eat and converse about the day's activities.
Looking for a more casual dining experience? Íshúsið Pizzeria is a small shop that serves up delicious thin stone baked pizzas using local ingredients including the famous local lobster, langoustine.
One of the best campsites on the Ring Road in terms of amenities, it's located only 1km from the city center.
Price: 1850 ISK/person per night
The family-run hotel is located right near the city center, with rooms offering views of of either the ocean, columnar basalt sea stacks or the nearby mountains.
Located right on the main street of Seydisfjordur, this campsite is surrounded by beautiful mountains.
Price: 2000 ISK/person per night
Along with offering campers and RVs a place to rest for the night, the campsite also rents out cottages.
Price: 2000 ISK/person per night
Situated between the harbor and the famous rainbow road, this guesthouse is the perfect spot to rest for the night.
Hamrar Campsite offers campers plenty of space to spread out while being close to the city center.
Price: 1900 ISK/person per night
Located in the city center, this hotel is the perfect place to stay when visiting Iceland's second largest city.
This modern and stylish hotel is located in the center of Höfn and offers guests amazing views of the Vatnajökull glacier nearby.
Þingvellir National Park
This UNESCO world heritage site is also home to Iceland's first national park. It sits in the middle of two tectonic plates making it a unique snorkeling spot for those brave enough to plunge in the cold water.
One of the most impressive waterfalls in Iceland, Gullfoss is a must stop if you're venturing around the Golden Circle. But just like the other waterfalls around the country, don't forget to bring your raincoat!
A lesser known stop along the Golden Circle, Kerið is a volcanic crater lake famous for its vibrant red rock and blue water. The land, however, is privately owned so it does cost 400 ISK to get in.
One of the most popular stops along the Golden Circle, the Strokkur Geysir which is located in the geothermal pools of the Haukadalur Valley. The geyser erupts around every 10 minutes, making it easy to experience.
While not technically a stop, farmers located along the route often provide opportunities for visitors to see an Icelandic horse up close. Just keep an eye out for signs saying you can feed the horses for a few Krona.
Iceland's unique landscape, extreme weather and mountain roads can make it at times a difficult place to explore. Download the Safe Travel app before you go to make sure you're up to date on road closures, weather alerts and additional warnings regarding certain areas.
The Aurora app is one of easiest ways to see in real-time where the northern lights are visible from. Tip: visiting during the fall and winter increase your chances of being able to see the lights.
These two grocery stores offer some of the lowest prices around and are the perfect place to pick up snacks for your trip.