Iceland’s dramatic landscape is straight out of a movie so gear up to get your Frodo Baggins on! With so much to do and see, putting together a Top 10 list is like waking up on the first alarm: impossible. Imagine a place that used to be completely green, dump a ton of volcanic lava on it and fast forward 300+ years. The volcanic basalt has formed black sand beaches, glaciers have formed on volcanic rock, and waterfalls form wherever there’s a glacier melting – literally everywhere! The countryside, dotted with sheep, horses and quaint churches, is quite charming while the snow capped mountains are expense and extraordinary.
Iceland has heaps to offer but if a top 10 list had to be made, here it is!
1. Snæfellsness Peninsula –
The western peninsula that’s home to it all! From the all black Búðakirkja church to the arch rock at Gatklettur or the most photographed mountain / waterfall combination in Iceland (Kirkjufell / Kirkjufellfoss), the Snæfellsness Peninsula has come to be known as “Iceland in Miniature” with all it has to offer. A lot of tourists skip out on this gem of a peninsula, don’t be one of them! Budget note: there’s only one toll in Iceland, it costs $10 and it’s on the way to the peninsula (frowny face).
2. Geirabakari Bakery and Café –
A family run bakery famous for their snúðar, a giant light and fluffy cinnamon bun pastry topped with a layer of thick chocolate. Are you drooling yet? This place is perfectly situated among a view of mountains and it’s a nice place to stop on the way from Reykjavik to the Snæfjellsness Peninsula!
3. Reykjavik –
The largest city in Iceland and home to more than half of the Icelandic population! This adorable city sits right along the coast and is dotted with fun, colorful houses. You’ll find the best view of the city from the top of the Hallgrímskirkja church. Stop in the quirky Café Babalu if you’re looking for a quick and yummy lunch and Elder and Is if your sweet tooth craves crepes!
4. Blue Lagoon –
If you’re going to be in Iceland, you must make a stop at the famous Blue Lagoon! A geothermal spa that is great for your skin and a definite Iceland bucket list item! You have to schedule your visit and buy tickets ahead of time but you are sure to enjoy yourself, even with the crowds. To avoid them and get the lowest price, go early or late!
5. Kvernufoss –
There are a tonnn of waterfalls in Iceland. Seriously, too many to count and way too many to try and see! Kvernufoss is a hidden waterfall that’s off the beaten path. Escape the herd of tourists visiting the prominent Skogafoss waterfall and visit the neighboring waterfall – Kvernufoss. Park by the Skogar museum, walk behind the warehouses to the right, and take the ladder to cross over the fence. Spark your sense of wonder in just about 1/2 a mile as the waterfall appears down the path!
6. Sólheimasandur –
The abandoned US Navy Airplane that crashed on the black sand beach in 1973! Allegedly the crew survived but it’s unclear why the aircraft had to land. Seeing Sólheimasandur is well worth the 4-mile round trip walk! Try to get their early to avoid the masses!
7. Dyrholaey –
Not far from the village of Vik in southern Iceland, you’ll find ocean side cliffs and and arch rock jutting out into the water. Atop of the cliffs sits a lighthouse and an incredible view of Reynisfjara black sand beach and basalt sea stacks.
8. Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon –
If this list had been in order, this canyon definitely would have been first! Hidden down a 2-mile gravel drive right off the main road is a magical, massive canyon! Fjaðrárgljúfur is an absolute must-see that is out of this world!
9. Skaftafell Glacier Hike –
Many of the attractions in Iceland are free but hiking on the Svínafellsjökull glacier is totally worth the splurge (~$90)! You’ll strap on some crampons (those spiky ice shoes), learn the basics of walking on ice, and experience the stunning beauty of lava ash designs in ice several meters deep.
10. Jokulsarlon Lagoon –
A crystal clear glacial lagoon filled with icebergs that have broken off the surrounding glaciers. The water and icebergs flow through a waterway out into the Atlantic ocean. Make sure to stop on the other side of the street and walk down the beach to see the icebergs floating at sea!
Have you been to Iceland? What topped your list?!