The 25 best places to visit in Iceland

 

In the far north west of the country, in the Skápadalur Valley lie the remains of the wrecked whaling ship, Garðar BA 64. Launched from Norway in 1912, it was eventually sold to its new Icelandic owner in the 1940's. In the early 1980's after nearly 70 years on the water it was deemed unfit for service, where it was then purposely run aground. It remains to this day, slowly rusting away within beautiful natural surroundings.

25. Garðar BA 64

In the northern centre of the country, at the tip of Vatnajökull National Park within the highlands of Iceland is the Aldeyjarfoss, a waterfall with a 20 metre (65 ft) drop. The white waters of the Skjálfandafljót River pour and crash there way through a lava field of black basalt columns, making for a rather unique natural sight.

24. Aldeyjarfoss

 

To the south east of the capital, Reykjavik, lying off the south western coast of mainland Iceland sits the small island of Elliðaey, the third largest island in the Westman Islands Archipelago. With a permanent population of zero, visitors will only find a lone hunting lodge and an abundance of puffins.

23. Elliðaey

 

In the extreme southern centre of the country, along the main ring road lies the remote village of Vík í Mýrdal, more commonly referred to quite simply as, Vík. As well as being the southernmost village in Iceland, it is a place known for its spectacular natural scenery, including a black pebble beach of basalt columns and offshore rock formations. Surrounded by steep cliffs it sits within the shadow of the Mýrdalsjökull Glacier on the Katla Volcano.

22. Vík í Mýrdal

 

In the north west of the country, just off the countries main ring road sits the famous Hvitserkur, a 15 metre (50 ft) basalt stack that stands alone on the northern coast. With its two holes at the base it has been said to resemble a dragon drinking from the sea.

21. Hvítserkur

 

In the extreme east of the country is the Seyðisfjörður, the name given to the village and the large fjord within which it lies. Though less visited because of its extreme location, visitors that do make it here will find a historic village of old wooden buildings surrounded by steep mountains, the most prominent of them being the 1,085 metre (3,560 ft) Mount Bjolfur. Great for trekking, one of the areas popular sites is the Gufufoss, a waterfall reminiscent of the Skogafoss, one of Iceland's most well known waterfalls.

20. Seyðisfjörður

 

South west of the capital, Reykjavik, is one of Iceland's most famous and most visited attractions, the Blue Lagoon, one of the most well known geothermal spa's in the world. The water temperature averages 37-39 Celsius (99-102 F) and is renewed every two days. Super heated water is vented from a nearby lava flow used to run turbines for electricity. The water is then fed into the lagoon for people to bathe in. Silicate minerals are the cause of the milky blue shade, and the same minerals are believed to help many skin conditions.

19. Bláa lónið

 

In the far south west of the country is the largest and most populated city in Iceland, the capital city, Reykjavik. The most northerly capital of a sovereign state, it is renowned as one of the cleanest and safest cities in the world. Towering above the low lying colourful buildings, the main attraction is undoubtedly the Hallgrímskirkja, built in 1945 and standing at a height of 74 metres (244 ft) it is the largest church and one of the tallest structures in Iceland. From the top of the tower it offers one of the best views over the city and the surrounding landscape.

18. Reykjavik

 

To the south east of the capital, Reykjavik, on the main ring road is the partially obscured waterfall of Gljufurarfoss, sometimes known as the Gljufrabui, literally translated to mean 'One Who Lives In The Canyon.' Visitors can follow the trail into the narrow canyon for the best view.

17. Gljúfurarfoss

 

North east and close to the capital, Reykjavik, is one of the most visited locations in Iceland, Thingvellir National Park, a site of historical, cultural and geological significance. Lying within the Rift Valley, it marks the point of the mid Atlantic ridge and the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. This entire beautiful natural area has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

16. Thingvellir National Park

 

In the centre of the country, situated in the Highlands of Iceland is the Kerlingarfjöll mountain range, part of the larger Tuya Volcano system. Composed of volcanic mountains, minerals from the hot springs have changed the ground colour yellow, red and green, making for one of the most unusual and incredible landscapes in the country.

15. Kerlingarfjöll

 

At the most northwesterly point of the country in one of Iceland's most remote areas lies the Hornstandir Nature Reserve, a 580 square kilometre (220 square mile) area of fjords, tundra, flower fields, and home to some of the most picturesque cliffs on Earth.

14. Hornbjarg

 

In the south west of the country, east of the capital, Reykjavik, is the enormous waterfall, Gullfoss, translated it means the 'Golden Falls'. Due to its proximity to the capital, as well as being part of the countries famous Golden Triangle along with Thingvellir and the Geysers of Haukadalur, Gullfoss has become one of the most visited attractions in Iceland.

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13. Gullfoss

 

In the lesser visited far north east of the country is the Asbyrgi Canyon, a 3.5 kilometre long, 1.1 kilometre wide deep depression. The cliffs surrounding can reach up to 100 metres (328 ft) high, giving spectacular views across the forested canyon below.

12. Ásbyrgi Canyon

 

In the far south of the country, just off the southern ring road is the Skogafoss, with a single drop of 60 metres (197 ft) it is without a doubt one of Iceland's biggest and most visually impressive waterfalls.

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11. Skógafoss

 

In the far south east of the country, and the far south east of Vatnajökull National Park, is the Jokulsarlo, translated as 'Glacial River Lagoon', a glacial lake at the head of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier field. Not only can visitors marvel at the blue icebergs floating in the lake, the vast ice cap of the Vatnajökull mountain is visible in the distance.

10. Jökulsárlón

 

In the extreme east of the country, just off the main ring road is the 716 metre (2,349 ft) Eystrahorn, a menacing jagged and rocky mountain that stands out even within this amazing terrain.

9. Eystrahorn

 

In the Highlands of Iceland, at the northern end of Vatnajökull National Park are the lakes of Oskjuvatn and Viti, sitting in the crater of the Askja Volcano. Though popular with swimmers, the Viti Lake still boils in places. Visitors should also be aware the locals only swim on windy days as carbon monoxide can collect on the surface and knock people unconscious.

8. Öskjuvatn & Viti Lake

 

In the southern centre of the country, just off the main ring road is the Fjaðrárgljúfur, a narrow canyon caused by thousands of years of glacial erosion. At nearly 2 kilometres in length and with canyon walls up to 100 metres (328 ft) steep it has long been a major attraction for hikers.

7. Fjaðrárgljúfur

 

Just south of the capital, Reykjavik, within the incredible landscape of the Reykjanesfólkvangur, visitors can witness one of the worlds most unique sights, the Thrihnukagigur, literally translated as 'Three Peaks Crater'. Discovered in 1974, opened to tourists in 2012, this dormant volcano is the only volcano in the world where visitors can descend into the magma chamber, making for a truly unique experience.

6. Thrihnukagigur

 

In the southern centre of the country, in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve in the Highlands of Iceland is an area known as Landmannalauger, renowned for its geothermal hot springs and breathtaking natural scenery. Formed in an eruption some time in the 15th century, it sits at the edge of the Laugahraun Lava Field. Hugely popular among trekkers, it is a unique, colourful landscape of mountains, crater lakes and ancient lava fields.

5. Landmannalauger

 

Between the village of Vík í Mýrdal and the Fjallabak Nature Reserve in the southern centre of the country is one of Iceland's most instantly recognisable landmarks, Mount Maelifell. Standing 200 metres (656 ft) above the surrounding terrain, this green mossy cone volcano almost sits completely alone within the flat dark landscape.

4. Mount Mælifell

 

South east of the capital, Reykjavik, just off the main ring road close to the Gljúfrafoss is probably the best known waterfall in Iceland, Seljalandsfoss. One of the most visited attractions in the country, its single drop of 60 metres (197 ft) makes it one of Iceland's biggest waterfalls, as well as one of the countries finest natural wonders.

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3. Seljalandsfoss

 

North west of the capital, Reykjavik, in the extreme west of the country is another of Iceland's best known and most photographed locations, Kirkjufell, translated as 'Church Mountain'. Standing 363 metres (1,190 ft) above sea level this simple mountain makes for a spectacular and iconic sight.

2. Kirkjufell

 

National Park status is given to an area because of it's unique nature or cultural heritage in a particular country, so for a country like Iceland with it's abundance of incredible natural landscapes, giving a place national park status must mean it's rather incredible.

Vatnajökull National Park is worthy. Europe's second largest national park is home to Europe's largest glacier outside of the Arctic island of Svalbard. Besides the enormous glacial field that covers 8% of the country, the park also has several active volcanoes, high plateaus, steep mountains, deep canyons, waterfalls, lava fields, hot springs, black sandy coast, ice caves and glacial lakes. It is one of the most diverse and beautiful landscapes on Earth.

1. Vatnajökull National Park

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