Iceland

Our favorite things to do in Iceland

April 28, 2020
The view near Höfn
The view near Höfn – East Iceland

We visited Iceland in March 2019 and it has been one of our favorite trip so far! Between ice and fire, the nature in Iceland is as breathtaking as it is gorgeous.

You do not need to really plan any activity while visiting Iceland. Every step, every corner is full of discovery and the diversity of the landscapes is unrivalable… Nevertheless, Iceland unique settings adds a unique touch to every activity and the cold air is an invitation for outdoor sport!

We’ve compiled the list of the best activity in Iceland – most of them are accessible for everyone but can be tiring!

Ice-climbing a glacier

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#breakingtheice ⛏

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One of the most impressive activity we did in Iceland was ice-climbing. We had no previous experience in ice-climbing, nor in climbing at all!

We joined a group of 4 other people in Skaftafellsjökull Glacier with an expedition organized by Troll Expedition. Fortuitously, they all spoke French and the group size was perfect to enjoy climbing.

Troll Expedition provided all the required equipments: ice axes, harnesses and helmets. You just need to bring good gloves, Ski wear and a bottle of water and you are ready for a 3 hours expeditions into the Glacier!

They pick you up at the Skaftafell glacier parking with a bus, and drop you at the step of the Glacier. From there, you will walk to the beginning of the ice of the glacier. Your guide will teach you how to wear crampon and how to navigate safely on the ice.

Then, you will walk with your crampon and discover the beautiful Skaftafell glacier, with its history, finding your way across its fissures and cracks.

The highlight of the trip, the ice-climbing will be challenging but rewarding! You will learn how to climb the ice and hike a glacier. It is physical but fitted for everyone used to mid-level intensity activity. Thankfully, you will be attached at all time to your guide, there is barely any risk, only small fright!

Alexandra in Skaftafellsjökull Glacier, in Iceland's Vatnajökull National Park.
Alexandra in Skaftafellsjökull Glacier, in Iceland’s Vatnajökull National Park.

Practical information about ice-climbing in Skaftafell

🕸Website: Organised by troll.is (multiple agencies are doing such tour but we loved our tour with them! The guide was very experienced and friendly and the group reasonably sized.)

Duration: 3 hours

👨‍👦‍👦Suitable for children (8 years old+)

💵Price: 9,900 ISD, around 80 USD per person

🌎Location: Skaftafellsjökull Glacier, in Iceland’s Vatnajökull National Park. Around 330KM from Reykjavik

Skaftafellsjökull Glacier, in Iceland's Vatnajökull National Park.
Skaftafellsjökull Glacier, in Iceland’s Vatnajökull National Park.

Fly the drone across the beautiful Icebergs of the Diamond Beach

One of our favorite visit to Iceland: The ice diamond beach. The Diamond beach is located in southern Iceland and can be easily visited after your Ice-climbing in Skaftafell.

The diamond beach is by Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, and offers a stunning landscape with hundreds of Icebergs visible on the black sand beach. It is one of the most impressive view we have seen after years of traveling. Unfortunately, we visited twice and only took photo on the latest day when it was snowing. The area is called Breiðamerkursandur, but we found out calling it Diamond Beach much easier to pronounce!

It is also the perfect place to shot your drone video amid the ice-cubes.

If you driving in the area, do not hesitate to stop more than twice: sunset, full-day and sunrise lights offer very different variation in the landscape as well as the weather. Sometimes, the ice will be transparent as glass, sometimes whites, and the lights reflection is simply magical.

Practical information about the Diamond Beach on Breiðamerkursandur

🕸Website: The best website with information about the diamond beach, and one our favorite to visit Iceland is guidetoiceland.is.

Duration: You can spend a full day there, it’s magical! (but cold in winter)

👨‍👦‍👦Suitable for everyone

💵Price: free visit and free parking

🌎Location: Across Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, 375 km from Reykjavík

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Walk in the storm to an Airplane Wreck

In 1973 in Sólheimasandur, a US Navy DC-3 plane crashed on the black beach. Fortunately, everyone survived the crash but the wreck remains. Instead of salvaging the unit, it was left on the beach whether to decay or as a tourist attraction.

You will access the wreck through a walk in a desolate landscape, surrounded by the howling wind. Hiking the path in winter, we had to protect ourselves from the sandstorm and the little 4KM walk only felt like a journey in another world.

When you finally reach the plane, you will find it in good condition. The cabin and the wing engine are still there. The spot is perfect for photography and the plane very instagrammable.

Why did the plane crash? Nobody knows the full story, but the rumours said that the pilot tried to switch to his empty fuel tank, which lead to an emergency landing on the beach.

Practical information about the DC Airplane Wreck in Sólheimasandur

🕸Website: The best website with information about the plane wreck, is again guidetoiceland.is.

Duration: Around 3 hours, including 2 hours walk and one hour within the plane area.

👨‍👦‍👦Suitable for everyone – the walk is quite physical if the wind is howling.

💵Price: free visit and free parking. Possible to pay for a bus to pick you up and drop you at the wreckage.

🌎Location: 162 KM on the road from Reykjavik to Vik. You have to stop at a parking spot on the road 1. You can find the exact stop on your GPS with Google Map here.

Stare at the Northern Lights from a Jacuzzi

Between November and March, Iceland is the paradise of Northern Lights hunters, visiting from everywhere in the world.

While you can hunt northern-lights in long and cold all-night expeditions, we recommend trying as well the comfortable version: Northern Lights from your Jacuzzi. Less adventurous, but somehow very pleasant too! Northern Lights chasing was one of our favorite things to do in Iceland, but we did not get so lucky – we saw them once and forgot to photograph them!

Where to watch Northern lights from a jacuzzi in Iceland

🏨Aurora Lodge Hotel – We really recommend this beautiful hotel, in the middle of nowhere, perfect to see the Northern lights. You will have access to different jacuzzis each with its own temperature. Grab a beer and don’t forget your towel in the room, it’s really freezing outside!

💵Price: Around 100 USD for a standard room for 2. It was our “luxurious treat” during our trip. You can find more informations here. The place was very beautiful and the staff super kind.

🌎Location: Hvolsvöllur – 100 KM on the road from Reykjavik

Aurora Lodge Hotel - Hvolsvöllur
Aurora Lodge Hotel – Hvolsvöllur

Snowmobile to an Ice-cave

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🛷

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At the end of our travel to Iceland, we had a slot for one last activity and we hesitated for a long time between Snorkling at Silfra and snowmobile. Eventually, the call for adrenaline and our fear of swimming in a ice-cold lagoon decided us toward the snowmobile!

We had a very fun time – it is not easy to drive the engine but the guide explained us well. It is really only an introduction to snowmobile: you drive for about 1 hour following each other but it is still very fun for anyone without previous snow driving experience.

As a setting, you will be in a fantastic glacier and ice out of world scenery. We had a very sunny day and the photo we took there show well how magical and out of the world you will feel!

At the end of the snow-driving, you can enjoy a visit to one of the ice-tunnel. Those are very special construction done to study the glacier. We loved the visit as a very pleasant break from the driving and learnt quite a lot about the glaciers of Iceland.

Alexandra on the Langjökull Glacier
Alexandra on the Langjökull Glacier

Practical information about the snowmobile tour on

🕸Website: We booked directly on the site, but you can book on guidetoiceland.is.

Duration: Around 3 hours, including 1 hour of snowmobile and a guided visit to the ice cave.

👨‍👦‍👦Suitable for anyone with a valid driving license.

💵Price: Around 200 USD or 30,000 ISK

🌎Location: Departure is on the base camp of Langjökull glacier. About 130KM from Reykjavik in the Snæfellsnes peninsula.

Relax in the hot spring of secret-lagoon

Everyone heard about the Blue Lagoon in Iceland and its world famous hot spring! While we would have love to visit, the price is horrendous and you need to book in advance. We are never cheap when we travel, but paying 80 dollars to enter a hot spring seems unreasonable. That is why, we looked for alternative and found out “secret lagoon”.

Secret Lagoon natural hot spring are located in the village of Flúðir. They are quite authentic hot spring in Iceland, even though already quite busy with tourists. The natural pool water is around 38-40 degrees and the hot spring also have a little geyser erupting every 5 minutes or so. It is a beautiful setting, and an amazing place to watch the Northern Lights if you are lucky.

Practical information about your visit to the Secret Lagoon

🕸Website: secretlagoon.is

⏰ Duration: We recommend going in the evening as it is likely to be less busy and you can see the Northern Lights (with luck).

👨‍👦‍👦Suitable for everyone – free for children below 14 years old.

💵Price: Secret Lagoon cost is 3000 ISK for adults, 2200 ISK for seniors (67+) and free for children below 14 years old

🌎Location: Secret Lagoon is located in Flúðir at around 100KM from Reykjavik. It is part of the Golden Circle.

Eat the world-famous Lobster Pizza in Höfn

Who does not love a good pizza? In Iceland, one of their specialty is actually the lobster pizza! While we were not fan of the Icelandic food, we loved their lobster pizza! The lobster capital of Iceland is Höfn in the East and they are famous for it.

The pizza presents itself like a classic Margarita, but with big chunk of lobster on top of it. It is absolutely delicious and if you like lobster, it will likely be the gastronomical highlight of your visit to Iceland!

Where to eat a good lobster pizza in Iceland

🍴Z Bistrom, Pakkhus Restaurant

💵Price : A Lobster pizza is around 35 USD but it can be more expensive

🌎Location: The best lobster pizza are in Höfn but they are also available in Reykjavik if you do not travel so far east.

Höfn fishing harbor
Höfn fishing harbor

Visit the little Black Church in Budir

In the Snæfellsnes, in the West of Iceland, you will find a lovely black church in Budir. Budir is located in one of those Icelandic lava field, covered with yellow grass and presents itself a surreal landscape. You will be surrounded by cliffs, and plain black church will make you feel alone in the world.

Black Church in Budir
The black Church in Budir
Budir surroundings - Snæfellsnes peninsula
Budir surroundings – Snæfellsnes peninsula

Practical information about your visit to the Black Church and Budir

👨‍👦‍👦Suitable for everyone.

💵Price: Parking and visit is free

🌎Location: In the the hamlet of Búðir, in the magical Snæfellsnes peninsula.

Learn about and meet Icelandic dwarf horses

François did not expect them at all in Iceland, but here they were! Horses, everywhere in the snow landscapes. Icelandic horses are a very special breed of horse: resistant to cold, small (the size of pony) and not scared at all of humans!

You can meet Icelandic horses in many farms across Iceland. It is also often possible to ride them (we did not try, it was too cold) and it looks like a bit of fun! We met a few Icelandic horse breeders during our travel as we stayed in a few farm/guesthouse. We’ve learnt many things about them: for example, an Icelandic horse once it leaves the country, is not allowed back in to keep the race pure and safe from sickness.

There are many other things to learn about those horses, and you will meet many of them during your travel. They are also very photogenic animals and they will love taking a few photos with you.

Swim between 2 tectonic plates in Silfra

We have not done ourselves this activity as we started to reach our maximum budget allowed! Our friends were able to, so we rely on their kind advice for this suggestion as it was one of the highlight of their trip! We trust their advice and included it in our list of top things to do in Iceland.

Silfra is located in the beautiful Þingvellir National Park which we visited. It is positioned between 2 tectonic plates. Silfra is one of the fissure created between those 2 plates, one of the largest, and is filled with groundwater.

Silfra is one of the most popular place of Iceland to enjoy scuba diving and snorkeling. The water is pretty chill (around 3 degrees) but you will swim in a dry suit. Even though you are protected and we read over internet that it’s quite comfortable, our friends, not used to artic temperature, nearly froze to death.

Practical information about your visit to Silfra in Þingvellir

🕸Website: https://www.dive.is/dive-sites/silfra

Duration: we recommend going in the evening as it is likely to be less busy and you can see the Northern Lights (with luck).

👨‍👦‍👦Suitable for everyone above 12 years old for snorkeling, above 17 for scuba diving.

💵Price: We found snorkeling tour for around 10,000 ISK. For Scuba-diving, it depends of the tour but from around 15,000 ISK

🌎Location: Silfra is located in Þingvellir National Park at around 45 KM east of Reykjavik. Þingvellir is part of the Golden Circle.

As said earlier, Iceland was one of our favorite trip so far, and we cannot wait to go back, maybe in summertime this time, to discover a whole new country.
Afraid to be too cold in Iceland ? For the same budget, you can go to Costa Rica – a tropical volcanic paradise!

  • Reply
    John Quinn
    April 28, 2020 at 11:02 pm

    Whoooo you got up to some cool stuff. Really wished I had known about the ice climbing before I visited, that looks brilliant. Mind you I had that feeling a lot on my Icelandic trip. I missed lobster pizza too (but had shark meat).

  • Reply
    Lannie Travels
    April 28, 2020 at 11:04 pm

    What an amazing trip! Some places I’ve been to and others I hadn’t! Ice climbing looks like so much fun. I also can’t believe you flew your drone at Jökulsárlón. When I went, it was too windy for a human, let alone a drone!! Great post!

  • Reply
    Ryan
    April 29, 2020 at 2:02 am

    That is such an amazing sounding place to visit. Having been on several glacier hikes, ice climbing sounds even better.

  • Reply
    Francesca
    April 29, 2020 at 9:55 am

    Some seriously beautiful and otherworldly experiences here. seeing the Northern lights from a jacuzzi sound right up my street!

  • Reply
    My Anasa
    April 29, 2020 at 1:31 pm

    The information and the pictures are so useful. Iceland is on my bucket list and after lockdown, I would like to go there. Now I have something more to plan my tour. Thanks a lot for sharing it. According to the prices, it is not so expensive as I thought.

    • Reply
      François
      May 1, 2020 at 5:36 pm

      Yes the price of the activities are somehow reasonable. I would say – the issue is that in Iceland everything is expensive:
      accomodation, food, activity, car rental. Eventually, it all adds up. It’s expensive but well worth it 🙂

  • Reply
    Patricia
    April 29, 2020 at 2:35 pm

    Sacré coup d’œil! Des images magiques d’un paysage sublime.

  • Reply
    Jordanne | Ofaglasgowgirl
    April 30, 2020 at 4:42 am

    Iceland looks and sounds amazing! I’ve always wanted to go and reading you post has just made me want to even more! I definitely think once the world gets back to “nornal” that I’ll be starting to plan trips away and Iceland will be one of them. The hot springs sound amazing, I would absolutely love going there and the little black church would be on my list of places to see, I really enjoy old architecture and places with a history.

    Jordanne || Thelifeofaglasgowgirl.co.uk

    • Reply
      François
      May 1, 2020 at 5:34 pm

      Thank you Jordanne – I think Iceland is definitely one of the best trip someone can do in their life!

  • Reply
    Under Flowery Sky
    May 3, 2020 at 7:45 pm

    Wow so brave to do ice climbing.
    I would love to discover the beautiful nature of
    Iceland..

  • Reply
    Worldwide Travel Tips
    May 4, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    We’ve been to Iceland and simply felt in love with this beautiful country, and it’s a beautiful landscape. I found useful and practical the information you mentioned about ice-climbing in Skaftafell, especially that we did not have time to do Ice Climbing while in Iceland! Great article, with lots of useful and well-structured info for travellers.

  • Reply
    Patricia
    May 5, 2020 at 8:15 am

    A couper le souffle!

  • Reply
    Hillary
    May 12, 2020 at 10:10 pm

    I want to go to Iceland so bad, and even more now! Ice climbing seems terrifying, but that plane wreck seems really cool. Beautiful photos!
    -Hillary
    http://www.hillarybush.com

    • Reply
      François
      May 14, 2020 at 2:05 pm

      Thank you Hillary – everything is terrific in Iceland! Such a great place to take amazing photos we cannot wait to go back there in summer to see it under a different weather!

  • Reply
    Shannon
    June 12, 2020 at 5:39 pm

    Whoa,… what an extraordinary adventure for you guys! The ice climbing, the airplane wreck; very interesting, and your AMAZING photographs. This article is way off the charts! I love it! Thanks for sharing, I hope one day I will visit Iceland!

    • Reply
      François
      June 19, 2020 at 1:45 pm

      Thank you! We loved Iceland and everything is so beautiful, it is truly perfect for photography.
      We hope you will visit as well and enjoy it as much as we did!

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