9 Fun Things To Do in Iceland

With its epic landscapes and unique culture, Iceland draws tourists in droves. Visitors will find warm and welcoming people and lots of fun activities to enjoy.

But with so much to see, it can be challenging to settle on an itinerary for a short visit.

Fun things to do in Iceland include visiting Viking ruins and unique local festivals.

Outdoor enthusiasts can tour the countryside on snowmobiles, go caving and experience the northern lights.

Culinary, puffin-watching, architectural, and Game of Thrones tours will appeal to niche audiences.  

This article covers some of the most unique and exciting adventures that Iceland has to offer.

Also, see What Is the Best Time to Visit Iceland? to learn more.

Also, see What Is the Golden Circle In Iceland? to learn more.

1. Experience the Northern Lights

The northern lights, one of the most spectacular sights in the natural world, are only visible from a few locations close to the arctic circle.

Iceland has a handful of the best places to watch the rare and fleeting phenomenon.

The best time to see the northern lights in Iceland is on dark fall or winter nights [1].

Visibility also waxes and wanes along an 11-year cycle of auroral activity that last peaked in 2014. 

Ideal viewing locations are outside cities, in dark and isolated natural settings where light pollution is less.

Many remote resorts provide special observation points, and visitors will find plenty of fantastic options. 

2. Visit Viking Ruins 

The Vikings were the first people to settle in Iceland permanently.

Arriving sometime between the late 9th and early 10th century, they seeded the culture to which most Icelanders trace their roots. Today, only traces of this history remain.

Visitors can visit the ruins of early Viking settlements at:

  • Garðabær
  • Eiríksstaðir
  • Hrafna-Flóki
  • Þjórsárdalur valley
  • Vopnafjörður
  • Hofstaðir
  • Vatnsfjörður [2]

There are also Viking graves and pagan burial mounds at:

  • Hringsdalur
  • Skallagrímshaugur
  • Hjörleifur  
  • Hraunhafnartangi
  • Hildishaugur
  • Hafurbjarnarstaðakumlið 

Other iconic locations that visitors curious about Vikings may want to explore are:

  • The Settlement Exhibition in Reykjavík (possibly the very first settlement on the island)
  • The Alþingi at Þingvellir National Park (the open-air site of the Viking parliament)
  • Snorri Sturluson’s manor at Reykholt (he was the author of the Icelandic sagas) 
  • The Culture House in Reykjavík (which houses rare original manuscripts, such as the poetic Edda) [3]

Also, see What Is Iceland Known For? to learn more.

3. Go Puffin Watching

Iceland and other far northern locations offer great spots for birdwatchers to observe rare arctic species of bird that can’t be seen anywhere else.

Of these, no species is more loved than the Atlantic puffin.

With over 60% of the world’s puffin population, Iceland is one of the best locations to view these photogenic creatures. [4] 

Since they spend most of their lives at sea, the summer nesting season (between May and August) is the best time to spot them.

Mass nesting sites can be found at:

  • Borgarfjörður Eystri 
  • Látrabjarg cliffs
  • Vestmannaeyjar islands
  • Hornstrandir Nature Reserve
  • Tjörnes peninsula
  • Ingólfshöfði nature reserve
  • Hafnarhólm island

4. See Cutting Edge Architecture

Most people think of Iceland as a place of spectacular outdoor scenery, and this is undoubtedly true. But the country also has so much else to offer.

Its urban design, which is among the most sophisticated in the world, will delight any admirer of contemporary architecture.

The Hallgrímskirkja Church that dominates the Reykjavik skyline is only the most iconic example. [5] Other Icelandic architectural landmarks include:

  • The Harpa Concert Hall
  • The Þjóðleikhúsið (National Theatre of Iceland) 
  • The University of Iceland’s main building
  • The Landsspítalinn Building (the main building of the University Hospital of Iceland) 
  • The Sundhöllin public baths
  • Hótel Borg

Also, see How to Move To Iceland to learn more.

5. Take a Snowmobile Tour

Snowmobile tours are an exciting way to explore the sublime Icelandic landscape. [6] Visitors can use snow crafts to move swiftly between attractions while enjoying the outdoors. 

Glaciers are frozen year-round, making them perfect for exploration on a snowmobile. However, lakes may only be accessible in winter when they freeze over.

Exciting locations to go snowmobiling include:

  • Vatnajökull glacier
  • Langjökull glacier
  • Mýrdalsjökull glacier
  • Lake Mývatn

6. Explore Cave Systems

Iceland’s volcanic terrain and far northern location combine to produce some of the world’s most extraordinary cave networks.

Formed by rivers of lava, Icelandic caves are full of fascinating natural features. [7]

Some cave networks are protected to preserve them, but visitors will still find plenty of locations to explore.

Guided tours are offered year-round, and many caves have been fitted with stairways and walkways, making them highly accessible.

Also, see 250 Viking Boy Names to learn more.

7. Visit Game of Thrones Filming Locations

Iceland offers unique terrain with a variety of dramatic settings that range from glaciers, mountains, and waterfalls to lava fields and black sand beaches.

No wonder it’s known as ‘The Land Of Fire and Ice.’

Many famous Hollywood productions have been filmed in the country recently, including Star Wars and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

But none of them have had the impact that Game of Thrones has had on the public imagination.

Fans of the series can now visit the sites where some of their favorite scenes were shot. And Icelandic travel agents offer guided tours that take in the biggest attractions.

Famous sites on the Game of Thrones tours include:

  • Svínafellsjökull Glacier in Skaftafell National Park – The ‘Beyond the Wall’ segments of Season 2 were filmed here.
  • Myrdalsjokull Glacier – Where the ‘First Men’ mounted their defense.
  • Dimmuborgir lava field –  This is where the ‘Free Folk’ made camp in Season 3.
  • Grjotagja Cave – Jon Snow and Ygritte’s romantic getaway in Season 3.
  • Hverir geothermal area – Where Samwell Tarley got lost in a blizzard. 
  • Thingvellir National Park – Provided the scenic backdrop for Arya and the Hound’s journey to the Eyrie and, later, for the Hound’s epic battle with Brienne of Tarth.
  • Þórufoss Waterfall –  Where a dragon ate a goat in Season 4.
  • Kirkjufell Mountain – An arrow-shaped mountain, the ‘Dead’ are shown marching past it in Season 6.
  • Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach – Eastwatch-by-the-sea in Season 7.
  • Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon – Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons fly through it in Season 8.
  • Skogafoss Waterfall –  Where Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons alight in Season 8. [8]

8. Take a Food Tour

From the flocks of lambs that roam the island to the cod and herring found off its coast, like its Nordic neighbors, Icelandic food, too, draws on excellent local produce.

Knowledgeable tour guides can steer discerning gourmands past tourist traps and help them find authentic local treasures. [9]  

9. Experience Uniquely Icelandic Festivals 

Every month of the year, the Icelandic capital Reykjavik hosts a cultural festival. [10]

From celebrating the seasons to curating the best of local and international film, music, design, and art, there’s something for everybody. 

Visitors will want to check ahead to find out what might be happening when they intend to visit.  

Also, see 250 Viking Girl Names to learn more.

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Christian Christensen

Christian started Scandinavia Facts to explore his family heritage, raise awareness of one of his academic interests as a professor, and civilly promote the region. Please see the About page for details.

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