As one of the hottest travel destinations right now, Iceland boasts insanely beautiful landscapes and adventurous activities. It’s no wonder that people from all over the world are flocking to the Nordic island to experience some of the incredible natural wonders it offers.
After spending only a few days in this beautiful country, you will experience both the awe-inspiring views of nature and the exciting urban atmosphere of Reykjavík. If you’re planning a trip to Iceland or are interested in learning more about Iceland, check out some great tips and recommendations for Icelandic travel.
1. Downtown Reykjavík
Reykjavík, Iceland’s capital and largest city, is vibrant and beautiful with lots of great shops and restaurants. The streets are filled with stores selling Icelandic wool sweaters and trendy cafés with great coffee and snacks. Locals and visitors are bustling around, enjoying their days whether it be sunny or pouring rain. When downtown, be sure to check out the Harpa Music Hall for its impressive architecture and the Hallgrímskirkja Church to see 360° views of the entire city. If you’re looking for a unique café with a cozy atmosphere, check out Café Babalú at Skólavördustígur.
When it comes to clothing, layering is essential. For summer, wear a short or long sleeve t-shirt, a wool or fleece sweater and hooded weatherproof jacket with pants and comfortable walking shoes. You may even want to bring a hat and gloves, especially if you’re not used to North Atlantic summertime.
2. Blue Lagoon
Experience complete serenity and relaxation with Iceland’s Blue Lagoon geothermally heated spa. Located in a lava field near Grindavík, a quick 40-minute drive from Reykjavík and 15-minute drive from the Keflavík International Airport, this incredible world wonder is worth all the hype. The water averages 99-102 °F and is rich in minerals such as silica and sulfur, which have natural healing qualities known to improve skin. The Retreat Spa option guarantees 4-hour exclusive entry into the luxury spa, Retreat Lagoon, and Blue Lagoon. With private changing rooms, a secluded spa lagoon with eye-catching views and a steam cave, you won’t want to leave. Additionally, you can enjoy the Blue Lagoon Ritual at the Retreat Spa, a sanctuary of three interconnected chambers that allows you to experience how silica masks, algae, and mineral exfoliation can nourish your skin. Remember to apply lots of hair conditioner before and after spending time at the lagoon as the water can cause excessive dryness.
3. Helgufoss Waterfall
A hidden gem on the outskirts of Reykjavík, this waterfall is a must-see if you’re staying in the island’s capital. Take a picturesque 15-minute drive to arrive at the Laxness hiking trail. If you choose to start at Gljúfrasteinn and follow the river, you can get to the waterfall in an hour. Or, park further up the road and take the easier 10-minute walking route. You’ll be in awe of the views of this place however you get there and if you’re lucky, you may have the trail all to yourself. When exploring Iceland, be sure to pack hiking essentials, even if you only plan on visiting a couple nature spots. Because the weather is unpredictable, you will want to be prepared for anything. Hiking boots are a must, especially because of slippery surfaces you may encounter. Also, be sure to bring a backpack and always keep a water bottle on hand.
4. Geysir Hot Springs
A popular stop along the Golden Circle driving route, the Geysir Hot Spring Area is such a unique and cool place to visit. Boiling mud pits and hot water blow holes fill the space and steam comes up from the ground. The geothermal area became active over 1000 years ago with the great Geysir. The name ‘geyser’ now describes hot springs all over the world. Although Geysir is now dormant, be sure to check out Strokkur, the most active geyser in the area. It shoots hot water from deep in the ground up into the air every 5 to 10 minutes. Just standing around Strokkur for around 10 to 20 minutes will allow you to see multiple large eruptions from the geyser. Keep in mind that safety is a priority; you must stay inside the marked areas as the water is extremely hot and will burn.
5. Gulfoss Waterfall
Be sure to visit the Gulfoss Waterfall along the Golden Circle driving route. The Gulfoss Waterfall is in South Iceland on the Hvitá River which is fed by Iceland’s second largest glacier, the Langjökull. Its beauty and grandness is unparalleled, as water rushes down 105 feet into a rugged canyon. Only a 3-minute walk from the parking lot on a manmade boardwalk, viewing is easily accessible. From May to August, the "midnight sun" allows for longer days so you can explore in the late evening. With any waterfall in Iceland, wearing hiking boots and a raincoat is important for your safety and comfort. Even in the summer, you may want to bring multiple layers of clothing to keep warm, as temperatures average 40 °F to 50 °F with rain showers and high winds.