What to do in Iceland? What to see in Iceland? What to eat in Iceland? We’ve got you covered.
If you’re planning a trip to Iceland and looking for what the locals recommend, look no further. Iceland may be small in size, but that doesn’t mean there is a shortage of things to do, foods to eat and sights to see. With our top 10 list of things to do in Iceland, you are guaranteed to make the most out of your time here.
Grab a Cup of Sunshine
Here in Iceland, no matter the weather outside, we keep ourselves warm and bright inside with Iceland’s favourite drink and pastime: coffee. We relish our “kaffitími”, and in a recent nationwide Zenter survey, Icelanders voted Te & kaffi as their favourite coffee, with locations all over the country. Want to try coffee the Icelandic way? Place a lump of sugar under your tongue, sip a cup of strong, black brewed coffee and lace your fingers around the warm mug. You’re welcome.
Enjoy a Local Dip
With all this geothermal water, Icelanders discovered long ago that life is best lived from the warm embrace of a hot pot. In most communities around the island, you’ll find important conversations being had, families playing, friends catching up and people enjoying their alone time—all at the town pool. This is a low-cost way to enjoy life—Icelandic style.
Find Your Own Golden Hour
The Golden Circle route is very busy, but for good reason. You see some of the most eye-popping, iconic sites from Icelandic nature and history all in a single day trip. Stories of Viking-age justice, mighty waterfalls, erupting hot springs, tectonic craziness—no matter the weather or time of day, your shots are going to be golden.
Eyes on the Sky
While it’s not all waterfalls and elf legends here way up North, our perch at the top of the world does afford some pretty good seats for the greatest show on Earth. We mean the Northern Lights. The photographs and videos you see are never quite the same as seeing the lights with your eyes. Grab a bus and get outta town.
We’ve Got a Museum For That
Icelandic punk music? We got a museum for that. The settlement of the island? We got a museum for that. Video games from the 80s? We got a museum for that. Fisherfolk and their outfits through the ages? We got a museum for that. Penises? We got a museum for those too. Wool? We got a museum for that. Model boats? Yep. Geodes? Check. Witchcraft and sorcery? Epic tapestries? Icelandic river bugs? Yes, yes and yes. We got a museum for all of that.
Live the History
Icelanders love their history, from the settlement of the island right up until that time our soccer team almost won the World Cup (almost is a relative term—let us have this one, ok?). But nowhere can you live and breathe our fair island’s story like Árbæjarsafn, Iceland’s living history museum. The gentle light that peers in through a turf house window. The earthy aroma of a root cellar. Experience Icelandic history with all five senses.
Get Outta Town
While Reykjavík is a great little city, if you’ve come all this way, you’d be missing out on Iceland’s remarkable rural beauty if you don’t treat yourself to a trip outside the capital. Legendary waterfalls, black volcanic beaches, warm rivers, geysers, glacier lagoons and rapturous northern lights—and that’s only the South Coast!
Let the Dogs Out
Although Iceland is no stranger to the Michelin guide and will dazzle you with its creative menus, sometimes you need a quick, cheap bite. And just because you eat it out of a paper wrapper while standing up doesn’t mean it won’t be a meaningful food experience. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Icelandic hot dog. Savoury, crunchy, tangy and utterly Icelandic. Nothing fancy and ready whenever you are, but somehow always surprisingly flavorful and filling. It’s a favourite for good reason.
Sip, Don’t Gulp
While Iceland may have a stormy history with beer (read: banned for 70+ years), the nation is definitely making up for lost time now. Iceland is undergoing a beer renaissance with microbreweries popping up all over the country. Treat yourself to a brewery tour and get to know some of Iceland’s tremendous craft brews of the moment.
Meet an Icelander
“Hvað segir þú?” What say you? That’s how we greet one another in Icelandic. Try it. We may seem a little withdrawn in our shells (hey, it’s cold out there sometimes). But we’ve got lots to say, and we make pretty good friends. Meet an Icelander while in Iceland. You won’t regret it.
And now… the bonus insider tips of the century! Keep in mind two things when you get off the plane:
- The sticker shock of buying booze at an Icelandic liquor store is enough to make some go stone-cold sober on the spot. But if you decide to get your drink on while in Iceland (and if you do, please do so responsibly), do yourself a favour and stock up at the duty-free shop at the airport. This might be the only country where people buy duty-free AFTER they land. But seriously, it will save you a bundle.
- Once you get out into the arrivals hall, skip the taxis to town. They cost an absolute fortune. So unless your new Icelandic bestie is picking you up (see #10 above) or you are made of money, reserve a seat on the airport bus. They cost a fraction of the price, run all day and night, and you can even have them drop you wherever you’re staying. It’s like having a friend drive you, only there’s free WiFi and no presh to make conversation. Bon voyage!