Whether you are coming to Iceland for the first time or you already visited, and fell in love with Iceland so hard that you can’t help but come back for a second visit. We know the feeling! Here is our list of locations that are a little off the beaten path but yet are just as, if not more, spectacular than the well-known attractions.
Falljökull Glacier within Vatnajökull National Park
Given that 11% of Iceland is covered by glacier ice, it doesn’t come as a surprise that glacier hikes are often the highlight of most people’s visit. What you may not know is that although Iceland is home to 400 glaciers, the majority of travel companies offer tours on the same ones – and for good reasons. Sólheimajökull, for instance, is perhaps the most popular one to walk on since it is nearest to Reykjavík and most easily accessible by car. Perfect for a one day trip while exploring the South coast!
However, a more secret alternative and by far one of the most spectacular glaciers to hike on is Falljökull in the Skaftafell area. Often confused as Virkisjökull or Vatnajökull, Falljökull is one of the outlet glacier tongues of Vatnajökull, the largest ice cap in Europe no less! Falljökull roughly translates to the falling glacier in Icelandic and thus couldn’t be more aptly named since it looks like a giant frozen waterfall plunging down from Iceland’s highest mountain, Hvannadalshnúkur. At first hidden behind surrounding mountains as you approach it, Falljökull can look daunting from afar, but fear not, only experienced guides who have been trained on this glacier will take you for a hike as they know best how to navigate around the labyrinth of crevasses and seracs on the way to the ice fall.
The walk may seem challenging due to the glacier’s unique shape (flat at its base but with a sloping icefall as you make your way up), yet only a moderate fitness level is required. Plus you know what they say, the view is always better when it is earned! I promise you that the sense of achievement once you have reached the ice fall and the fantastic view overlooking the valley and the lagoon are unmatched! If you’re lucky enough, you might even be able to meet the only two inhabitants of this glacier, a duo of ravens, Huginn and Muninn, who have been there since we can remember and who know very well where and how to pose for photographs, especially if it involves a bribe in the form of food.
Ultimately rest assured that any hike on Falljökull is a unique experience since the landscape will always dramatically change from one day to the next as the glacier is moving up to one foot a day and melting back even faster.
Come with us on a glacier hike on Falljökull glacier on our Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon 2 day tour, running all year round!
Remoteness of the Westfjords
Far less traveled than the South Coast due to its remoteness from the main Ring road that surrounds Iceland, allow us to shamelessly describe the Westfjords as the most stunning region of the island. From the roads winding around dramatic coastal fjords to the bucolic fishing villages steeped in history and tradition and vast mountain ranges, going to the Westfjords will always leave you with the feeling that you are on the edge of the world, which probably explains why this region is also best known as ‘The Last Frontier’.
If you want to visit Iceland undisturbed, this is the place to be. Perhaps the most spectacular landscape in this region is Látrabjarg, the towering 14 kilometers long and up to 441 meter high sea cliff which makes it the largest one in Europe. From mid-May to mid-August, this awe-inspiring cliff is home to an astounding variety of birds from guillemots, snipes, razorbills to red-throated loons and, of course, lots and lots of puffins, which you can easily get a close-up photograph of. Even if you are not an ornithologist wannabe, this sight won’t leave you disappointed. The quietness of the place and the fact that Látrabjarg is located at the tip of the Westfjords and constitutes the westernmost point of Europe conveys a feeling of complete isolation, only interrupted by the chirping of the birds.
Since we are talking Westfjords, let us not forget to mention Vigur, a picturesque island of 45 hectares located half an hour from Ísafjörður by boat ride. This is one of our all time favourites, which we have made sure to include on our four-day excursion to the Westfjords. Known for being home to the one and only windmill left standing in Iceland, Vigur is also a fantastic spot for bird watching as thousands of birds from eider ducks to black guillemots, arctic terns and puffins lay their nests across the island. Be careful not to step on an egg as you make your way from one end of the island to another and watch out for seals lazily sunbathing on the rocks offshore.
Fun fact: the smallest post office in Europe is located on the island. Perfect timing to send a postcard to your loved ones. Perhaps the best part of the visit is the hospitality of its five inhabitants, a farmer and his family who will offer you the best homemade delicacies, from rhubarb crumbles to a mean happy marriage cake, all made with rhubarb cultivated on the island (what can we say, our love for adventures often competes with our love for food).
Come with us to explore this raw Icelandic beauty on our Wild Westfjords 4 day trip!
Care for a swim in one of Iceland’s natural hot pools but would rather avoid the crowds of the Blue Lagoon? Located in a small village called Flúðir, the secret lagoon is an ideal place to relax and unwind on your way to the Golden Circle. It is also the the oldest natural hot pool in Iceland dating back to 1891, where locals used to teach their kids to swim and wash their clothes. Not to worry though, the water stays at 38-40 Celsius all year and is thus perfect for bathing. Bonus points for the small geyser erupting every 5 minutes nearby. Whilst the secret is out, come at the right time of the day and you may very well find yourself alone!
Visit the Secret Lagoon with us on our Golden Circle: Platinum Tour!
Volcanic Westman Islands
Often neglected by travel companies despite its raw beauty, another yet to be unearthed region of Iceland is the Westman Islands. Located half an hour away from Landeyjarhöfn in the South of Iceland, you won’t have properly explored Iceland until you hop on a ferry ride to this archipelago of 15 jagged volcanic islands, 14 of which were born out of submarine volcanic eruptions 11,000 years ago. Home to Iceland’s largest puffin colony, the list of things to do on the Westman Islands is endless.
Start your day by making a visit to Eldheimar Museum on Heimaey, the only inhabited island of the archipelago. There, you will learn all you have to know about the 1973 volcanic eruption which almost destroyed the island if it wasn’t for the locals who used massive hoes to curt the lava flow and ultimately saved the town. From the museum, you will be able to see the lava which extended the size of the island by 20% ! Don’t forget to make a stop at the Sæheimar Aquarium and say hi to Tóti, perhaps the friendliest puffin you’ll ever see who was rescued at birth after its colony left the island and headed to the sea. Also watch out for the whales as you take a scenic boat ride around the otherwise inaccessible islands surrounding Heimaey.
Explore the Volcanic Westman Islands with us on our (summer only) trip!
Hiding in plain sight is the Reykjanes peninsula
There is more to Reykjanes than the Blue Lagoon and Keflavik Airport! Did you know that Reykjanes peninsula is located on a rift zone between the North American plate and the Eurasian plate? That means it’s the only place where you can see the Mid-Atlantic rift above sea level. That alone should motivate you to explore the area, shouldn’t it? If you’re still hesitant, a visit to Iceland’s largest hot mud spring called Gunnuhver, the Mars-like landscape of Krýsuvík as well as a descent into Raufarhólshellir which is one of Iceland’s longest lava tubes will not disappoint.
Join our Between Continents: Reykjanes & The LAVA Tunnel tour and let’s explore the peninsula together!
An honorable mention must be given to Lilja Guesthouse which didn’t make the top 5 but deserves full recognition: A family-run for generations, the farmhouse has been recently converted into a charming and comfortable guesthouse where you will eat the best langoustine sandwich of your life and bottle feed the tiniest lambs. Located as far from Reykjavik as you can get on a two-day trip, Lilja is the best place to recharge after visiting the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and before glacier hiking. Bonus points for the unequaled hospitality of its owner, Óli and the delicious breakfast. Psst, don’t miss the homemade smoothies and the dill smoked salmon or you’ll be sorry.
Hi I’m Ryan Connolly, I’ve guided in multiple countries and spent the last three years travelling across the globe. I have spent the past 2 years studying everything related to glaciers, climate change, and Iceland in my spare time.