What Are the Best Day Trips from Reykjavík?

As beloved as Iceland’s vibrant capital city of Reykjavík is to both foreign travelers and native Icelanders, we all know that what lies just outside the mid-sized metropolis is what fascinates many visitors – the island’s wild, rugged mystique.

Many people state that one of the most wonderful things about Reykjavík– aside from the city’s one-of-a-kind arts and culture scene, fascinating architectural landscape, and unique culinary traditions of course – is its close proximity and connection to the island’s untouched wilderness.

Travelers barely have to leave the city limits to soak in a geothermal spring, observe a magnificent waterfall, or witness a skyrocketing geyser. Many, many touring agencies operate out of the central city, where most of Iceland’s population also currently resides. Thus, if you decide to base yourself in Reykjavík during your stay, you don’t have to worry about missing out on everything else Iceland has to offer.

Travelers and experts based in Reykavík recommend a tremendous breadth of options with respect to day trips out of the city. Below you’ll find our ten favourites:

Blue Lagoon and the Reykjanes Peninsula

Reykjanes Peninsula in southwestern Iceland
Reykjanes Peninsula in Southwestern Iceland

The Blue Lagoon is undoubtedly one of the biggest pulls of all of Iceland’s attractions, and arguably the most internationally renowned of the island’s numerous hot springs. It also constitutes a popular first and/or last stop for many travelers en route out of Reykjavik. While it is a popular locale for spa-goers to soak their skin in the astonishingly vibrant and wonderfully healthful cerulean blue waters, The Blue Lagoon also generates electricity and hot water for nearby communities. Originating 2,000 meters below Earth’s surface, the lagoon is located in a lava field near in the fishing trip of Grindavík, which is situated on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwestern Iceland; it is a relatively quick drive from central Reykjavīk.

Many tour operators offer day trips to the Blue Lagoon and around the Reykjanes Peninsula upon which it is situated, as there are many exciting things to do even in the region’s quaint small towns! We highly recommend visiting Hafnarfjörður before or after your dip in The Blue Lagoon – it is a port town and the third most populated city in Iceland. Hafnarfjörður has earned the moniker of “Elf City,” as it is rumored to possess Iceland’s largest settlement of folkloric elves and dwarves. There are many “Hidden Worlds” tours offered during the day, where you will get to hear ancient folk tales of the magical hidden worlds of Icelandic fantasy. Hafnarfjörður is also considered Iceland’s rock n’ roll city, as many well-known Icelandic bands have emerged from this location.

Located on this peninsula is also the famous Bridge Between Continents, literally a footbridge over the tremendous crevice signifying the diverging Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. The Reykjanes Peninsula enjoys a unique positioning right over the Mid Atlantic Ridge, one of the few places on Earth where the planet’s monumental tectonic activity is easily visible to the naked eye. It is most definitely worth taking a stop here to observe where Europe and North America connect – and pull apart.

In Iceland, you’re never too far from the Atlantic sea, and the Reykjanes Peninsula is located off the coast of beautiful Hafnarberg, a long procession of beautiful and precipitous cliffs near the old fishing hamlet of Hafnir. Hafnarberg is a geosite in Reykjanes UNESCO Global Geopark and has an abundance of beautiful hiking trails.

The Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall and Kirkjufell mountain, Snaefellsnes peninsula, Iceland
An enchanting shot is taken while sunset in Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall and Kirkjufell mountain, Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

The Snæfellsnes Peninsula has captivated both travelers and native Icelanders for centuries. Its topography is characterized by sparkling golden beaches, dramatic volcanic systems, plummeting seaside cliffs, and, of course, the magnificent icecap Snæfellsjökull. Traversable roads and a very regular bus schedule mean that this area in West Iceland is very readily accessible for travelers out of Reykjavík. The peninsula has earned the nickname “Iceland in Miniature,” as it seems to encompass all of Iceland’s most alluring assets in a 100 kilometer stretch. As far as day trips go, this area is an excellent choice for just that reason.

Firstly, you’ll surely want to see the peninsula’s crown jewel, Snæfellsjökull. This glacier is so massive that it can be seen across the bay from Reykjavík – which is 120 km away! It is both an active volcanic system and glacial mass, and it is perhaps best known for serving as the setting for Jules Vernes’s classic science fiction novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth. The territory surrounding the glacier is titled The Snæfellsjökull National Park, the only park of its kind that stretches from the seashore to the mountaintops.

Obviously this stretch of land is massive and exploring it can take up quite a bit of the day. However, there are many other charming attractions on the peninsula worth exploring outside of the inspiring, mystical glacial mass. If you’re tired after hiking some of Snæfellsnes’s invigorating, rugged trails and would like to enjoy a more slow-paced romp, visit the village of Stykkishólmur. It is a quaint, nautical town full of charming wooden warehouses, shops, and residential homes. It is home to a few wonderful regional museums as well, one of which is the Norska Húsið, which was built by trader and amateur astronomer Árni Thorlacius in 1832. It houses a stunningly unique series of art exhibitions and an eclectic selection of local antiquities. Another fascinating one is the Library of Water, which features a striking reflective installation by American artist Roni Horn. In this piece, 24 glass pillars filled to the brim with Icelandic glacier water perpetually reflect and refract light in a hypnotizing display.

If you’re interested in Icelandic culture, you probably have at least a rudimental familiarity with Nordic elf, dwarf, and troll folklore. Well, on the incredible black sand beach of Djúpalónssandur, you can see the rocky formation of sea stacks close to the former fishing village of Dritvík – it is said to be a troll church! Also on this stretch of glittering black sands are fragments of rusted metal from the English trawler Eding, which shipwrecked on the Icelandic shore in 1948.

Further down on the beach you can observe the lifting stones formerly utilized to test fishermen’s hardiness. These four stones are titled Amloði (Bungler), Hálfdrættingur (Weak), Hálfsterkur (Half-Strong), and the largest, Fullsterker (Fully Strong). If a man couldn’t lift Hálfdrættingur, he was deemed unfit for life at sea. Perhaps don’t try lifting these yourself though – the stones range from 23 kilograms to 154 kilograms respectively.

Now this one is not for the faint of heart – the farmstead at Bjarnarhöfn on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is West Iceland’s leading producer of hákarl. This term refers to a traditional Icelandic dish: fermented shark meat. Obviously this dish is very unique and nationally-specific, so the Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum exists for those who are interested in learning more about culinary history and the process of making this dish. Visitors to the museum are, of course, allowed to try a bite.

Inside the Volcano: Thrihnukagigur

Inside the Volcano - Thrihnukagigur Magma Chamber, Iceland
Inside the Volcano – Thrihnukagigur Magma Chamber, Iceland

Put simply, Iceland is one massive geological hotspot, thanks to the island’s positioning on the Mid Atlantic Ridge. There are more active volcanic systems on this island than most any other country in the world, and they reliably erupt every three to four years. Iceland is also the only place on the planet where people can descend directly into the heart of a gigantic dormant volcano.

Thrihnukagigur, which literally translates into “Three Peaks Crater,” has not erupted for over 4,000 years. The volcanic system’s title was chosen by Icelandic physician and lifelong caving enthusiast Árni B. Stefánsson, who you can thank for Thrihnukagigur’s current interior accessibility. He lobbied for making the now-quiet volcano traversable for years!

Many tour operators run day trips out of central Reykjavík to Thrihnukagigur. En route to the volcano is Reykjavík’s main landmark, Hallgrímskirkja Church. The Lutheran structure is a striking demonstration of unique Icelandic architecture and it is also among the tallest structures in Iceland; this multi-tiered building is most definitely worth a visit on your way out of the city.

You will likely travel out to the Blafjöll (“Blue Mountains”) County Park lava field, where Thrihnukagigur is located, with one of Iceland’s expert volcanologists, as you will need the appropriate equipment and guidance to safely traverse the massive geological structure. The volcano floor is roughly the equivalent to three full-sized basketball courts!

Once equipped with harnesses, helmets, flashlights, and all other necessary caving equipment, you will be lowered down through Thrihnukagigur’s crater opening via elevator. The descent takes about six minutes. Inside, you will witness a stunningly colourful display of ancient, undulating solidified magma – this is truly and literally an experience you can only get while in Iceland!

Also located on the Blafjöll county field is Leiðarendi Cave, another visually striking underground lava formation. Leiðarendi literally translates into “The End of the Road.” Many travelers will take a half-day caving trip through the lava “tube” in search of the otherworldly, naturally-formed ice sculptures that have re-formed and endured inside the cave for many winters. The interior of the lava tube looks almost like it was painted; much like in Thrihnukagigur’s interior, Leiðarendi’s walls boast undulating waves of multicoloured lava impressions amidst imposing stalagmites and stalactites.

Grímsey Island

Beautiful seashore of Grimsey Island nearby Iceland
Beautiful seashore of Grimsey Island nearby Iceland

Grímsey Island is home to one hundred people (all of whom live in the unique village of Sandvik) and about one million seabirds. A bustling hub for the fishing industry, Grímsey is also thought to be the “pearl” of Northern Iceland and is Iceland’s northernmost inhabited territory. Located 40 kilometers off Iceland’s north coast, the island emerges on the horizon as a singular blue cliff, a mysterious and unspoiled location. Legend tells us that the island was once only inhabited only by trolls, giants, and the hidden folk, until a hardy fisherman man named Grímur made his home there and drove out the creatures. Many sailing organizations based in Reykjavík operate ferries and boats to the island, and offer additional touring opportunities upon arrival.

Guided tours take visitors through ideal bird watching areas on Grímsey, and share local stories related to the island’s inhabitants, the natural world surrounding them, and the exciting and sometimes dangerous livelihoods of the fishermen. It is also worth noting that the Arctic Circle literally cuts across this island, so you will have the opportunity to straddle the line dividing North and South. You can even receive a certificate stating that you have indeed literally crossed the Arctic Circle.

Grímsey is perhaps best known to wildlife aficionados for the roughly one million puffins that burrow into the cliffs, but on rare occasions, polar bears have also been known to drift over to the island from Greenland! You are certainly more likely to see the puffins, but this is no great loss – puffins are stout, adorable little birds. In Icelandic they are called prófastur, meaning “the dean,” in reference to their distinguished posture. There are no trees on Grímsey, but despite its far north location its vegetation is exceptionally green. Even on Grímsey’s striking basalt columns, verdant moss often grows and creates a beautiful view.

Living on a very remote island, Grímsey locals are known for being quite savvy with their local resources. Given the abundance of birds – and eggs – it is a tradition on the island to go egg-collecting, and within the island gift shops you can witness some fascinating crafts derived from this activity. For example, artists often make tiny eggshell lamps designed with varying patterns.

There are two guesthouses on the island, one of which is open all year. A ferry called Sæfari travels from Dalvík to Grímsey three days a week year-round, and the island is also accessible via Air Iceland three times a week during winter and seven days a week during the summer months. If you elect to travel via airplane tour, you will likely have the opportunity to fly over the Krafla and Myvatn regions and witness the mainland’s extraordinary landscape from the air as well. While on Grímsey, bear in mind that the sun does not actually set during the month of June. If you are unable to sleep with light, you may want to elect another time to make the day trip.

The Golden Circle

Blue pool at the Haukadalur geothermal area, part of the golden circle route
Blue pool at the Haukadalur geothermal area, part of the golden circle route

The Golden Circle route is often touted as the “classic sightseeing tour” of Iceland. As no natural topography marks its parameters or its extent, travelers are, of course, free to add on other stops to the three highlight attractions of the tour: Þingvellir, Geysir, and Gulfoss. This loop is entirely possible to traverse comfortably in one day – better yet, the highlights of the tour are all within 100 kilometers of Reykjavík!

The Geysir field is located in Iceland’s southern lowlands, and is typically the first stop on The Golden Circle route. The spouting hot spring from which the Geysir field gets its name, The Great Geysir (or Stori-Geysir), has a long and sporadic history of activity. It ceased to spout for unknown reasons in 1916 and unexpectedly revitalized itself in 1935 for a brief period before resuming its dormancy. Since then, its activity has been encouraged by the feeding of carbon soap powder into its opening – but it still does not spout on its own. When it was naturally active, it would shoot a thick stream of boiling water up to sixty to eighty meters in the air! Just 100 meters south of the Great Geysir is Strokkur, which is very much still alive and spouting. Strokkur erupts every ten minutes or so and its towering column of super-heated water can reach up to thirty meters.

Next is Gulfoss, arguably Iceland’s most famous waterfall. Located in the canyon of the Hvítá river in southwest Iceland, Gulfoss is remarkable in part due to its tiered, “staircase” formation. The rushing water source is characterized by two distinct “drops” in rapid, right-angle succession as it flows into the Hvítá, making it a truly intriguing feat of environmental geometry. Gulfoss also translates literally into “Golden Falls,” named for the stunning glacial colouring that gives the waters a golden sheen, particularly during the summer season. It is said that visitors feel more energized after witnessing Gulfoss’s golden rays than they were when they arrived!

Finally, Þingvellir National Park is a site of vital importance to the Icelandic nation. Literally translating to “Parliament Plains,” Þingvellir is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is confirmed as the setting for man’s oldest existing parliament. Developed in 930 AD, the Alþing parliamentary assembly convened here until 1798. While traversing Þingvellir’s fields, you will witness Logberg, or Law Rock, the oldest existing platform for exacting rulings, legal actions, and parliamentary announcements.

This region also exhibits some very intriguing geological properties. In the summer of 2000, activity along the Mid Atlantic Ridge instigated two massive earthquakes in Iceland. Within fissures developed due to tectonic stresses, Lake Þingvallavatn was ultimately born – it now keeps the region incredibly verdant and rich with wildlife and aquatic life. You will also be able to witness Skjaldbreidur, one of the most beautiful shield volcanoes in Iceland, created by seismic activity about 10,000 years ago. The hiking trails and clear waters within and surrounding Þingvellir are very popular for aficionados of mountain climbing and scuba diving.

The “Big Three” will likely take up much of your day, but if you have some more energy left over after visiting Þingvellir, Geysir, and Gullfoss, there are quite a few must-see detours in these regions that we recommend:

The Langjökull Glacier

Langjokull Glacier Iceland view
Langjokull Glacier Iceland

The second largest glacial system in Iceland isn’t too far from the Gulfoss waterfall in Iceland’s western interior. Many travel operators run adventure tours through this region – if you’d like to try your hand at snowmobiling, this is a great choice!

The Secret Lagoon in Flúðir

This lagoon is a well-kept secret in Iceland. While the Blue Lagoon is virtually an international household name, the Secret Lagoon is also a wonderful stop for those who want a quieter hot-spring experience. The Secret Lagoon is, in fact, the oldest known pool in Iceland and its toasty geothermal waters are entirely natural.

River rafting in Hvítá

Bruarhlod Canyon of the Hvita river near Gullfoss Waterfall in Iceland
Bruarhlod Canyon of the Hvita river near Gullfoss Waterfall in Iceland

It is worth noting here that you can not only witness the rushing rapids Gulfoss pours into; you can also go grade II rapid rafting!

Fontana Geothermal Baths

En route to the Geysir plains, make a stop in the town of Laugarvatn, where the Fontana Geothermal Baths produce steamy waters that do wonders for the skin. You can also enjoy lunch or a quick snack on-site; the staff at the baths often have naturally-heated rye bread prepared for visitors!


A man sits on the edge of Kerid crater in Iceland
A man sits on the edge of Kerid crater in Iceland

This massive crater was formed around 6,500 years ago and it is notable for a few reasons. Firstly, it seems to form an essentially perfect oval, which is quite atypical. Secondly, its interior is stunning – Kerið boasts a deep, rich red colour. Finally, the lake at the bottom is nearly turquoise!

Snorkel in Silfra

A beautiful shot of Silfra Iceland
A beautiful shot of Silfra, Iceland

Located in Þingvellir National Park is the Silfra fissure, an underwater gorge exposed by the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates pulling away from each other. Underwater visibility is measured at about 100 meters here, making it an incredible snorkeling locale. Furthermore, the water here is about as crystal-clear as can be – it’s actually safe to drink!

Iceland’s South Coast

Rock arch at Dyrholaey, South Coast Iceland
Rock arch at Dyrholaey, South Coast Iceland

South Iceland is a geographic masterwork of volcanic activity and home to some of the island’s most celebrated natural wonders. While there is so much to do in this region that a day trip may not allow for a thorough survey of the south, you are sure to have a fulfilling twelve-to-twenty-four hour adventure if you base your southern journey from the region’s most spectacular geopark: Katla.

The Katla Geopark is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a natural wonderland of active volcanism, crisp black beaches, and lava fields. It is a very dynamic location, as over 150 volcanic eruptions have been recorded in this area alone since the 9th century. The topography is ever-changing due to frequent volcanic activity, making Katla Geopark a fascinating place to visit and re-visit. The volcanic systems of Eyjafjallajökull – which you may remember as the massive eruption that grounded international flights in 2010, Katla – arguably the most dangerous volcano in Iceland, and Grïmsvötn are among the most active in this region. But don’t fear – about 2,700 residents actually live within the geopark, which also covers about 9% of Iceland, and Icelanders are well-equipped to deal with volcanic activity.

Iceland Katla Geopark Glaciers
Iceland’s Katla Geopark Glaciers

The town central to the Katla Geopark is Vík, also an important commercial hub and travel industry centre for South Iceland. Aside from its economic role, Vík exhibits stunning natural beauty, and there are many diverse places of interest for travelers in and around the town center. If you are a wildlife aficionado, head just east of the central village to witness a massive abundance of Arctic terns – the most in one location in Europe, in fact. A short jaunt within the vicinity of Vík will lead you to scenic hiking trails that will undoubtedly thrill nature and wildlife lovers. Just south of Reynisfjall, the mountain range emerging from Vík’s borders, you will be able to witness a majestic set of geologic columns towering imposingly out of the Atlantic Ocean. Indeed, Vík is a wonderful place for travelers who have particular interest in navigating scenic hiking trails, watching birds and other Arctic wildlife, snowmobiling on glacial mountain ranges, riding horseback on sleek black beaches, or enjoying authentic fish dishes – like fresh or smoked Arctic char – from the village fish shop.

Eyrarbakki is another southern village worth visiting for many reasons, not least of which is that it enjoys a location on Iceland’s longest river, the great Þjórsá. It is a friendly village that boasts a historical role as largest commercial outpost, trading centre, and fishing locale in Iceland. While Vík now enjoys a more robust status as South Iceland’s vital commercial centre, Eyrarbakki still provides an enchanting look back into the island’s regional past. A great many houses have been preserved in this town since 1890, and visitors often cite their trip to this area as one resembling a journey back through time. A few popular attractions in Eyrarbakki include The Eyrabakka Maritime Museum and the Árnessýsla Folk Museum, which was built as far back as 1765. If you are a birdwatcher, the Flói Bird Reserve is just north of Eyrarbakki, and it is listed as an imperative habitat for wetland birds in The Bird Life International Association.

Aerial View Iceland Fjaorargljufur Canyon River Vally South Iceland
Aerial View Iceland Fjaorargljufur Canyon River Vally South Iceland

Just off of the southern part of Iceland’s famous Ring Road is Fjaðrárgljúfur, often described as one of the most beautiful canyons in the world. Fjaðrárgljúfur is a tremendous topographic chasm, about 100 meters deep and 2 kilometers long. Its geography is characterized by sheer, narrow walls that plummet in a somewhat serpentine formation through Earth’s layers. The bedrock is estimated to be about two million years old – so when you touch or observe the palagonite comprising the canyon walls, you are experiencing a geologic relic of the Ice Age. Fjaðrárgljúfur’s river, Fjaðrá, plummets off the canyon’s edge and joins the Skaftá River below. Fortunately, Fjaðrá’s waters are rather quiet and contained, so hikers are able to safely navigate the interior of the canyon if they so desire.

While you are traversing Iceland’s South Coast, you absolutely mustn’t overlook one of Iceland’s most famous glacial landscapes. The Jökusárlón glacier lagoon was covered in a thick sheet of glacial ice until around 1932. The ice consistently retreats, and these days more than 100 meters of ice breaks off and morphs each year, reforming the lagoon and filling it with artistic iceberg formations. The lagoon is notable in particular for its unique blue-green hue, which arises as a result of its inner mixture of saltwater and freshwater. Boat tours are available year-round; if you venture out during the winter months, you can say hello to the hundreds of seals that spend their time here!

Rock and turquoise sea at the port of Vestmannaeyjar
Rock and turquoise sea at the port of Vestmannaeyjar

Finally, if you would like to make a quick journey out to sea, you might want to consider visiting Iceland’s southern Islands: Vestmannaeyjar, also known as The Westman Islands. Vestmanneyjar is comprised of an assembly of fifteen islands off the mainland’s south coast. These islands were formed by submarine volcanic eruptions around 11,000 years ago, with the exception of Surtsey, which only rose from the waves about fifty years ago. Rugged, striking, and draped with glittering black sands, the islands are all characterized by sheer sea cliffs and verdant vegetation. Heimaey, which is famous for its abundant puffin population, is the only island that is inhabited.

Two other “do-not-miss” attractions on Iceland’s South Coast include the unique Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi waterfalls. The unusual Seljalandsfoss connects to the river Seljalandsá, is the only known waterfall of its kind, where people can actually walk behind the cascade! Gljúfrabúi is also interesting in that it’s partially concealed by its own canyon, so finding it is a bit like a treasure hunt. Both of these waterfalls are located at the base of the Eyjafjallajökull Glacier.

Hiking Glymur

Hike to Glymur waterfall - Iceland
Hike to Glymur waterfall – Iceland

While we’re discussing waterfalls, there are several “can’t-miss” cascading beauties conjoining with Iceland’s many rivers. Gulfoss may be the golden pride of Iceland as waterfalls go, but there are quite a few others that are impressive in their own right, easily accessible from Reykjavík, and certainly worth a day’s journey.

Glymur waterfall is located in beautiful Hvalfjörður in West Iceland. This location is very accessible out of Reyjavík, as it is just an hour’s drive out of the city. Within the innermost regions of the Hvalfjörður fjord lie two valleys: Brynjudalur Valley and Botsndalur Valley. Brynjudalur Valley is nestled close to the hill Suðurfjall and mountain range Múlafjall.

Above Botnsdalur Valley towers the mountain Hvalfell, which was formed during one of the Ice Age’s many eruptions, and behind it lies the fourth deepest mountain lake in Iceland, Hvalvatn. The uppermost area of the river is traversable by foot, but as travelers make their way further down the valley, they will come across a gargantuan chasm that should only be observed and not climbed! Through the gorge, Iceland’s highest waterfall, Glymur, cascades down for almost 200 meters.

Previously, the stunning Hvalfjörður fjord was a bit of an irritant to Icelanders despite its scenic qualities, only because drivers once had to take a 62 km detour around the fjord in order to access other parts of the country outside of Reykjavík. Fortunately, in 1998 the Hvalfjarðargöng tunnel was opened to traffic, making access to the fjord available and much more beautiful because all that gravel dust was finally able to settle.

Vatnajökull National Park

The ice cave, Skaftafell glacier, Vatnajokull National park
The ice cave, Skaftafell glacier, Vatnajokull National park

Enjoy the breathtaking, rugged scenery and towering glaciers of Skaftafell National Park, located in Öræfi in southeast Iceland. This larger park merges with Vatnajökull National Park and is located about four hours outside of Reykjavík. This territory covers approximately 8% of Iceland’s surface and it is believed by many to be the one of the most – if not the most – beautiful places on Earth. Within the region is settled Europe’s single largest ice cap, Vatnajökull, which is surrounded by a series of glaciers on each side.

Indeed, Vatnajökull is so enormous that its glacial tongues have their own names and attract visitors in their own right. The thickness of the ice in this region measures at around 400-600 meters, and under the icy overhang lies numerous active volcanoes, including Grimsvotn and Bardarbunga.

Volcanic eruptions under Vatnajökull and its associated ice tongues often instigate floods that cause the Skeiðará river in particular to swell impressively. However, many other beautiful rivers find their source in Vatnajökull, including Jokulsa a Fjollum and Skjalfandafljot to the North, Jokulsa a Bru to the Northeast, and Jokulsa I Loni, Skeidara, Nupsvotn, Skafta, and many more to the south. On the southeastern side of the glacier is the glacial lake Jökulsárlón, renowned for its startling turquoise waters. In fact, you can make a day trip out of visiting the caves near Jökusárlón alone. You’ll have the opportunity to explore the refreshing glacial lagoon area mid-morning or early afternoon and stop for lunch at Jökusárlón Café if you so choose. After that, you can traverse the fascinating and ever-changing glacial ice caves of Jökusárlón with trained ice-caving professionals.

The Skaftafell Visitor Centre provides visitors and inhabitants with helpful information and guidance to help them negotiate the park’s trails and learn about its history. Of course, there exists is a massive selection of hiking trails, as well as accommodating campground facilities. In the summertime, park rangers sometimes offer guided tours and even host children’s activities! For the more rugged traveler, snowmobiling and Super Jeep tours are also available.

James Bond fans might recognize the Vatnajökull area from the film A View to Kill and Jökusárlón from Die Another Day. Furthermore, many scenes from the wildly popular HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones were shot at Vatnajökull (and lake Myvatn)!

Horseback Riding Along the Svarta River

Skagafjordur district, Iceland at dawn with the Svarta River
Skagafjordur district, Iceland at dawn with the Svarta River

The Icelandic horse is a unique, stocky, rugged little creature. Spirited and friendly, with tremendously thick manes and tails and strong limbs, they make wonderful companions and are often photographed running freely along Icelandic plains. Despite their petite size, many believe they are the most beautiful horses in the world. There are currently about 80,000 Icelandic horses on the island.

Iceland offers many opportunities for visitors to ride these good-natured creatures, who have played instrumental roles in the lives of Icelanders since the 9th century. Individuals, families, and riders of all levels are welcome to ride through the island’s many scenic lava fields and hillsides. Opportunities to ride are abundant all over Iceland, but for the sake of mentioning a new area, you might consider basing your horseback adventure near the beautiful river Svarta.

Varmahlíð in Northern Iceland enjoys plentiful farmland ideal for raising happy horses, and many stables offer guided riding experiences. There are regular buses from Reykjavík to Varmahlíð if you’re not too keen on making the drive yourself. Due to the village’s close proximity to Svarta, or “Black River,” riders often emerge from one of the region’s many ranches and enjoy the unspoiled tranquility of Svarta’s territory. Icelandic horses have extremely thick coats and they are unafraid of water, so you may even be able to literally ride across rivers and streams if you are feeling daring.

Horseback riding tours are usually offered year-round, as these sturdy animals don’t bat an eyelash at crunching snow. Saunter along with the Icelandic horse’s unique gait (called tölt) and explore Iceland’s beautiful nature with an equine companion just as the Vikings did!

Whale Watching Out of Reykjavík’s Old Harbour

Iceland is, unsurprisingly, an ideal location for whale watching. The frigid waters of the island’s oceanic coast play host to an impressive array of Arctic marine life, particularly during the summer months. From April to September, you can sail alongside numerous orca, humpback whales, Minke whales, blue whales, white-beaked dolphins, porpoises, seals, and basking sharks just off of Reykjavík’s Old Harbour. Bear in mind that these are just a few of the twenty plus aquatic species that make their home in Iceland’s waters, so the odds are in your favor when you travel out by boat – and tours depart daily! Whale Watching tours typically last for about three hours, depending on the company’s policies. Additionally, most whale watching organizations in Iceland are able to boast at least a 90% sighting rate, particularly during summertime.

Many whale watching organizations also offer tourists the opportunity to enjoy Icelandic waters by night in hopes of glimpsing the famed aurora borealis, or Northern Lights. Imagine a flurry of porpoises leaping in graceful arcs against the glowing lights of Iceland’s night skies!

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