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Top 10 things to do in Iceland that first-timers will love!

Powerful waterfall in Iceland Pinterest image

Top 10 things to do in Iceland that first-timers will love!

Iceland is one of my favourite countries of all time! As a Travel Blogger you try to be as unbiased as possible as each country offers its own unique experience.

But as you’ll discover in this post, there’s just something about Iceland that is truly special and like nowhere you’ve ever been before!

I had a jam-packed itinerary over my five day trip. But I’ve managed to narrow it down to my top 10 things to do in Iceland, that first-time visitors especially will love! So, let’s go folks…

1) See the Northern Lights

First up, adorning many a bucket list (and certainly the case for me!)…the Northern Lights!

Caused by collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the Earth’s atmosphere, the Northern Lights are one the biggest draws to Iceland because of just how epic this natural phenomenon is!

It’s a bizarre feeling watching the Northern Lights. They look almost CGI as they dance across the dark Icelandic sky as they seem too beautiful to be true. You could hear a pin drop as people are awe-stricken into silence.

There are a few companies that do tours but I had a great experience with Grayline. They’re great as if you don’t see the Northern Lights the night of your tour, you can keep rebooking tours for free until you do see them.

Just imagine booking the trip of a lifetime to Iceland with the main goal of crossing the Northern Lights off your bucket list and not seeing them the ONE night you book the tour!

Be sure to book your trip between September and mid-April as you’re more likely to catch them. Also, pack some coffee…it’s a late one!

The Northern lights

2) Relax at the Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon was second only to the Northern Lights on my top things to do in Iceland and was a welcome day of relaxation on an otherwise action-packed trip!

The Blue Lagoon became quite the well-being wonder as locals started swimming in the warm excess geothermal seawater that flowed from the nearby geothermal power plant.

When minerals in the water such silica and sulphur were found to have healing properties the Blue Lagoon quickly became a curious retreat travellers!

It’s now one of the 25 wonders of the world and a remarkable place that represents everything that Iceland prides itself on (plus, super relaxing!).

For more on the Blue Lagoon, check out my five step guide to the Blue Lagoon or Blue Lagoon Vlog to get all the deets!

People swimming in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland with white steam coming off the water

3) Explore Reykjavik

Iceland’s capital city is an awesome place to hang out, grab some food and enjoy the stunning views from all angles!

From anywhere in the city centre you are within walking distance from the main street which features lots of cute boutiques and family-run restaurants.

As well as the Northern Lights Museum, the Icelandic Phallological Museum (i.e. the famous ‘penis’ museum hehe!), the Viking Museum and Reykjavik Harbour.

If you want to see more of Reykjavik, check out day one of my Iceland Vlog Series.

Reykjavik city centre with whale statute and mountains and water in the background

4) Visit Þingvellir National Park

Þingvellir, or as we would pronounce it in English, ‘Thingvellir’ is a spectacular national park located in the South West of Iceland.

If you’re not self-driving during your trip to Iceland you can visit Þingvellir National Park as part of a Golden Circle Tour.

This tour also includes Gullfoss Falls and the famous exploding Icelandic geyers, so is well worth it!

Aside from the sha-mazing views of Iceland’s flawless natural landscape, it also has a very cool history. Þingvellir literally means, ‘parliament plains’. Iceland’s parliament (the oldest in the world) was established here around 930AD and continued to meet here until 1798.

Þingvellir National Park is now protected and became a World Heritage Site in 2004, thanks in part to the rift valley it lies in.

This valley is fascinating as it marks the divide between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates (but more on that at number 10!).

View of a grassy landscape in Iceland with mountains in the background and a river and white houses in view

5) Watch the geysers explode

Watching Iceland’s famous geysers explode is so much fun! It’s another natural phenomenon that will quite literally take your breath away.

But try not to jump when they explode so you can get a useable camera shot!

Geysers are a fascinating natural phenomenon. Eruptions take place as hot water within the geyser forces its way to the surface as it gets trapped by the cooler water above it.

I visited the Strokkur Geyser, which is one of the few geysers in the world that erupts reliably and frequently, every four to eight minutes.

So I’d highly recommend this geyser stop for first-time visitors on a short trip to ensure you see it for yourself!

This particular geothermal field allegedly occurred after an earthquake shook the southern parts of Iceland.

But let’s face it – we’re all here to watch them explode because it’s just super cool to watch!

Exploding Geyser at sunset in Iceland

6) Visit Gullfoss Falls

Gullfoss Falls is another naturally occurring beauty (seeing an Iceland theme here yet?) from the Golden Circle Tour. It’s the most iconic and beloved waterfall in Iceland and is a must-see!

It’s located in the canyon of Hvítá river where water flows across three stages into an incredible 105 foot crevice.

Gullfoss Falls is a reminder of the power and beauty of nature and is one hell of a cra-zy experience!

The water spray from standing at the edge is so intense and makes you feel ALIVE!

People walking down a path towards the top of Gullfoss Falls in Iceland

7) Meet Icelandic Horses at the Fákasel Horse Park

Now, I’ve actually been a little scared of horses since childhood so I was a little reluctant meeting Icelandic Horses.

I just find them a bit too skittish and unpredictable for my liking (sorry horse-enthusiasts!). But Icelandic horses are the sweetest and most gentle creatures I have ever met.

But what makes them so special you say? Aside from the fact they’re like big, fluffy, friendly teddy bears they’re different from any other breed of horse due to the fact they’re not inter-bred.

No other horse breed lives in Iceland, whilst Icelandic horses exported out of the country are not allowed to return in case they bring back any new bugs that could infect the other horses.

Icelandic horses have unique features and temperaments too that make them different from any other horse breed, plus they are just so freakin’ adorable!

To see more of the Icelandic Horse Park, check out my Game of Thrones Tour Vlog.

WARNING: You may explode with cuteness overload. 

Fluffy white and brown Icelandic horses in a snowy field

8) Watch the sun go down over Þjórsárdalur Valley

Þjórsárdalur is a beautiful valley that was home to an original Viking settlement from 874AD. It’s thought to have been buried under volcanic ash in 1104 following the eruption of a volcano.

Three buildings were accurately reconstructed on the site in 1974 to celebrate the 1100th anniversary of the settlement.

The Vikings were on to something because the views across the valley are stunning! I was there at golden hour to watch the sun go down over it and it was just incredible.

Check out day four of my Iceland Vlog Series for a full view of the settlement and nearby Hjálparfoss waterfall!

Green rock face and mountain in Iceland with a double waterfall joining into a blue pool

9) Check out the view from the church of Hallgrímskirkja 

I actually stumbled upon this church by accident whilst exploring Reykjavik. But it turned out to be one of the best photo opportunities of the trip!

At 244 feet, Hallgrímskirkja is the tallest church in Iceland and designed beautifully to resemble the basalt lava flows of Iceland’s landscape.

But this church is not just beautiful on the outside, the view from its observation tower is also spectacular. It boasts a 360 view across Reykjavik and the gorgeous surrounding mountains.

There’s nothing like getting a bird’s eye view of the city you’re visiting and there’s nothing like seeing the snow topped houses with their candy-coloured roofs in Reykjavik!

Check out day three of my Iceland Vlog Series for the full view.

Rows of little white houses with colourful rooftops with the Icelandic sea and snow top mountains in the background

10) Snorkel between tectonic plates 

Remember the tectonic plate divide I mentioned earlier in Þingvellir National Park? Well, you can actually snorkel and scuba dive between the plates, how awesome is that?!

Silfra in Þingvellir National Park is the only place where you can dive between two continents – making it one of the top diving sites in the world.

This is something that sadly I didn’t get chance to do whilst I was in Iceland due to timing issues. However it’s an experience that is so once-in-a-lifetime. I just had to add it to my top 10 things to do in Iceland list!

This experience will be top of my list on my return to Iceland and I can’t wait!

View of swimming between tectonic plates in Iceland through a rock gorge
Photo credit: AntheaAtlas

Which one of these top things to do in Iceland do you think will be your favourite? Let me know in the comments below! 😊

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About the author

Hi, I’m Mel! The adventure-seeking vegan travel blogger behind Footsteps on the Globe. On this blog you'll find my latest adventures, travel inspiration as well as tips and tricks on how to be vegan around the world. You don’t have to give up being vegan to follow your travel dreams and I’m here to show you how!