When it comes to raw natural beauty, Iceland is hard to beat. From Volcanos, to staggering waterfalls and explosive geysers, the landscape of this country isn't something to be overlooked. As more and more people begin to discover Iceland, the more touristy it can get. This guide is to help you have the most authentic experience possible on the Island of Garðar.
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1. The Great Geysir
I'll get one of the more popular destinations out of the way because although you're sure to run into more than a few tourists, it's still worth the time. The geyser erupts every 6-10 minutes and its water can reach as high as 18m (60ft)!
Now typically people choose to go on the Golden Circle tour which consists of Þingvellir National Park, Strokkur Geyser, and the Gullfoss waterfall. The cheapest tour I've found is BusTravel and it'll run you about 6,450kr (~50USD). I typically hate tour buses but $50USD for the day isn't bad and that frees you up to rent a car and take your time on the South Coast (more on that later).
Price: 6,450kr (~50USD)
Address: Haukadalsvegur, Geysir, Iceland
2. The Gullfoss Waterfall
The second stop on the Golden Circle tour, the Gullfoss waterfall is located 116km from Reykjavik (72miles). The waterfall is one of the largest in Iceland and the average amount of water cascading down is 4,900 cu ft per second! Interestingly enough the waterfall was privately owned until the first half of the 20th century, when it was sold to the State of Iceland by Tómas Tómasson.
Price: Included in the Golden Circle Tour - 6,450kr (~50USD)
Address: White River, Blaskogabyggd 801, Iceland
3. Þingvellir National Park
Þingvellir National Park sits on the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, in what's known as a rift valley. The landscape surrounding this area is incredibly diverse and you can see everything from canyons and waterfalls to the largest natural lake in Iceland.
*this stop is also included on the Golden Circle tour.
Address: Þingvellir National Park, Iceland
4. Sólheimajökull Glacier
Part of the south coast, the Sólheimajökull glacier is one of the largest glaciers accessible to tourists and is just a small part of the much larger Mýrdalsjökull glacier, which is home to the infamous Katla Volcano.
Unfortunately the glacier is shrinking at a rate of an olympic sized swimming pool every year, and it will mostly likely vanish completely in the next couple of decades (the black color on the surface of the glacier is caused by pollution).
Price: Free, I recommend renting a car and heading down the South Coast yourself, which gives you the freedom to move at your own pace. The cost of renting a car averages around $20USD/day and you can check various prices here.
Address: Solheimajokull glacier, South Coast, Iceland.
5. The Black Sand Beach
I guess the name speaks for itself right?. The Black Sand beach is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world. It's unique color comes from the erosion of over 20 different forms of volcanic rock, typically found near the mouths of volcanos.
Depending on how interested you are in this topic, I would recommend visiting the Iceland Volcano House in Reykjavik to gain a better understanding of the geography before you go.
Price: Free (the Volcano House is also free but there is a small entrance fee to see the documentary, ~1400KRS)
Address: Black Sand Beach, Vik, Iceland
Photo by Pjt56
6. Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon
Located just a bit further south of the Black Sand Beach, Fjaðrárgljúfur is a 100m (328ft) deep canyon that dates all the way back to the Ice Age some two million years ago. The hike to observation deck is about 2km (1.2 miles) and it isn't a particularly difficult one. At the top you also can view the waterfall off the western side of the canyon as an added bonus.
Address: Route 206, 3.5KM off The Ring Road, Kirkjubaejarklaustur, Iceland
An easy stop continuing on your South Coast tour, these two massive waterfalls are hard to miss. Both dropping staggering amounts of water every second from a height of about 60 m (200 ft). Skógafoss also has a hiking trail that winds up behind it, while Seljalandsfoss actually allows you to walk behind the falls (make sure to bring a rain coat as you're sure to be wet!).
Address: Skógafoss waterfall, Skógar, Iceland
Seljalandsfoss waterfall, Skógar, Iceland
Photo by CGP Grey
8. Icelandic Phallological Museum
Despite black sand beaches, volcanos, and geysirs, this will by far be the strangest place you will visit on your trip. The Icelandic Phallological Museum is home to the worlds largest collection of... well penises. Created by Sigurður Hjartarson, the museum houses over 230 specimens (and if you're to believe it even an Icelandic elf). This may seem like a bizarre thing to visit on your trip but hey, when in Rome right? Also when else would you be able to see a whales penis up close?
Hours: Daily, 10am-6pm
Address: SLaugavegur 116, Reykjavik 105, Iceland
9. Hallgrimskirkja Church
Now, I've never been a huge fan of Church attractions (with a few exceptions, looking your way Sagrada Familia) but the Hallgrimskirkja allows for an excellent 360 degree view of Reykjavik. It's over 74.5 metres (244 ft) high, and is one of the tallest structures in the entire country giving you birds-eye views of the city.
Hours: Open daily 9AM - 5PM
Address: Hallgrímstorg 101, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
10. The Blue Lagoon
Despite being one of the most visited places in Iceland, this geothermal spa still makes the list. It sits on a lava field on the southwest peninsula and churns out water with an average temperature of 37–39 °C (99–102 °F). Due to the heavy content of rich minerals, the water is excellent for the skin and there's even a research facility dedicated to helping treating skin disease.
Make sure you reserve a spot on the day you go here (Don't expect it to be a peaceful sanctuary because it does get crowded!)
Price: Starting at 6,990kr and up
Hours: Open Daily 8AM-10PM
Address: Nordurljosavegur 9, Grindavik 240, Iceland
WHERE TO STAY?
Reykjavik is such a small city that you can pretty much walk everywhere without any problem. The Hallgrimskirkja Church is a good center point of the city and anything in that general area will work great. I would say as long as you don't stay any further than Hlíðar, you won't have any trouble getting around. I've heard Kex Hostel is great for backpackers (I only got a chance to visit their bar) and Airbnb is perfect for couples looking for something a little nicer.