We spent months researching our trip to Iceland, and know how challenging it can be to plan which areas you want to travel to. We hope this Iceland travel guide by region can help you organize your next trip with the areas that appeal to you most.
Our own 8-day Iceland itinerary is shared at the bottom of this post in case you’re interested. Which region would you like to start with?
- Southwest Iceland/Reykjavik
- South Iceland
- East Iceland
- North Iceland
- West Iceland/Snaefellsness Peninsula
- Interior Iceland/Highlands
Home to the Keflavik Airport and Iceland’s capital city Reykjavik, this is most travellers’ starting point to a visit in Iceland.
- Blue Lagoon: Bathe in this luxurious man-made geothermal spa. Standard price starts around 40 USD. 40 minutes from Reykjavik.
- Reykjavik: This vibrant capital city is full of sites, world class food, funky shopping, and wild nightlife. Check out our post here to learn more.
Heading counter-clockwise from Reykjavik is South Iceland. This area is the most well traveled area in Iceland, containing a common tour route named the “Golden Circle” as well as the famous Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon full of floating icebergs.
This region is easily accessible from Reykjavik, and there are plenty of tours offered from the city. You can also rent a car and comfortably see most of these famous Icelandic sights from Reykjavik within a day or two if you’re pressed for time.
- Golden Circle: A classic tourist sightseeing loop covering around 300km from Reykjavik going through Thingvellir National Park (UNESCO World Heritage Site of enormous cracks splitting the earth’s surface between the North American and Eurasian plates), Geysir (site of geothermal geysers, one of which massively erupts every 10 minutes), and Gullfoss (two-tiered waterfall). Our post on the Golden Circle here.
- Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon: A must-see lagoon filled with floating icebergs. Check it out at sunrise or sunset for truly stunning views. Our post on the lagoon here.
- Vik & Dyrholaey: Vik is a beautiful village marked by a cute red church in its center, with Dyrholaey, a peninsula with an arch cut into the middle, not a far drive away.
- Seljalandsfoss waterfall: The only waterfall in Iceland that you can walk behind and feel its true power.
- Skogafoss waterfall: One of the largest waterfalls in Iceland, and due to the amount of water spray it creates, it is often seen with a rainbow on a sunny day.
- Skaftafell National Park: This park has a little bit of everything: volcanoes, forests, and glaciers. Hike through the trees to see the famous Skaftafoss waterfall surrounded by basalt columns, or wander onto the nearby Vatnajökull Glacier.
Off the Beaten Track:
- Kerio crater: Arguably one of the most colorful craters you’ll stumble upon in Iceland.
- Katla Lava Field: We stumbled upon this mossy wonderland on our drive along Iceland’s ring road. A dried up lava field, it is covered in a carpet of moss.
- Seljavallalaug: This hot spring is one of Iceland’s oldest swimming pools, created in 1923. Today you can swim in it for free, if you’re willing to trek a little off the beaten track. For directions on how to get here, check out our skinny dipping in the midnight sun post.
- Kirkjugolf: “Church floor” formed by cooling lava that created basalt columns that eroded to look like a tiled floor.
- Hveragerdi: Known as the hot spring capital of the world, this town is home to a hot river you can hop right into.
Driving past Hofn and onwards brings you to East Iceland. This is a quieter part of the country, with less “tourist sites” and more quaint fishing villages, farmlands and small fjords. Sit back and enjoy the scenery.
- Litlanesfoss: One of a series of unique waterfalls that flow into one another surrounded by strange basalt rock columns.
- Eystrahorn mountain: A great photography subject, this three-peaked mountain rises dramatically out of the black sandy beach surrounding it.
Next up is North Iceland, one of the most unique and diverse areas in the country. Surrounding Lake Myvatn, one of Iceland’s largest natural lakes, are a variety of volcanic craters and hot spring discoveries. This region is a must-see in Iceland!
- Lake Myvatn: One of the largest lakes in Iceland.
- Husavik: An adorable fishing town, Husavik is the base for many whale watching tours in Iceland Check out our post on Husavik and whale watching here.
- Hverir: A must see sulphur hot springs full of bright colors, bubbling mud pots, and steaming fumaroles. Check out our post on that here.
- Hverfall: 1km wide volcanic crater whose entire rim can be walked around.
- Dettifoss: Not the most beautiful of waterfalls, but Dettifoss is Europe’s most powerfall waterfall.
Off the Beaten Track:
- Grjotagja: A secret hot spring hidden deep in a crack within the Earth.
- Hvitserkur rock: An out-of-the-way gem, this rock rises strickingly out of the ocean. Plus nearby is Osar Beach, a coastal line overflowing with seals.
- Asbyrgi: A 1km wide horseshoe-shaped canyon with sheer rock cliffs lining the sides.
- Askja: Yet another volcanic crater… yet this one you can swim in!
The Snaesfellsness Peninsula is called “Iceland in Miniature” as many of the country’s national sites can be seen on a drive through this area, including the famous volcano at the very tip of the peninsula. This area is not a far distance from Reykjavik, and thus there are many tours offered from the city to explore this area in a day or two.
- Kirkjufell/Kirkjufellsfoss: A famous photography spot, the Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall sits at the bottom of the Kirkjufell mountain.
The Westfjords is a large peninsula on the northwestern tip of Iceland that is connected to the rest of the country by only a small 7km isthmus. This is one the most stunning and least-visited areas of Iceland. The landscape is rugged with mountains, dramatic fjords, and rough gravel roads. The weather can be wild and unpredictable. But for those willing to take on the challenge, the rewards are more than worthwhile.
- Dynjandi: This is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in all of Iceland, appearing like a veil draped over the side of a mountain. It requires a bit of hike but is worth it.
- Hellulaug: The best natural hot spring in the Westfjords.
- Rauðsandur: A unique red sand beach at the southwest tip of the fjords that is worth the detour.
- Vigur: One of the cutest little fishing towns in the Westfjords.
Only open in the summer months pending road conditions, this untamed region of Iceland perfect for hikers and adventurers with its colorful mountains, rocky deserts, volcanoes and hot springs.
Know that you require a 4×4 vehicle to enter this region of Iceland and a close eye on the road conditions to know which “f-roads” are open (official site with that information here). SAD cars shares average road opening times here.
- Landmannalaugar: These Icelandic highlands are famous for hiking among colorful hills and stunning landscapes. The most famous hike is a 4-day trek, but you there are several shorter treks you can conquer within a few hours.
- Thorsmork (Þórsmörk) National Park: This park is another hot spot for hiking in Iceland. You can hike into the park form the above mentioned Lanmannalaugar, or drive in by splashing through rivers as we did here.
Iceland By Region Travel Guide: Our Itinerary
If you want an idea of how to organize your Icelandic travels, here is a look at our 8-day itinerary:
- Day 1: We spent our first day driving the Golden Circle and surrounding sites. We spent the night near Landmannalaugar as our plan was to hike the area the next day (but sadly it was closed on our arrival on June 8). Click here for our post.
- Day 2: With Landmannalaugar closed, we splashed through rivers on our way to Thorsmork National Park where we spent the day hiking. In the evening we checked out the two famous nearby waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss, and then fell asleep in Skogar. Click here for our post.
- Day 3: We spent the morning checking out the adorable town of Vik and the dramatic coastline of Dyrhoaley. From there we drove to Skaftafell National Park and took a boat ride among the floating icebergs of Jokulsarlon. We spent the night in Hofn. Click here for our post.
- Day 4: This was a heavy driving tour as we headed up the eastern coast towards north Iceland. We listened to Icelandic tunes, ate snacks, and enjoyed the scenery. Our day ended in the cute fishing town of Husavik where we took the Sunset Whale Watching tour and spent the night. Click here for our post.
- Day 5: We spent the day in awe exploring the area surrounding Lake Myvatn and then spent the night in Akureyri. Click here for our post.
- Day 6: Another heavy driving day, we spent this day driving from Akureyri to Grundarfjordur on the Snaefellsness peninsula where we spent the night. We broke up the drive with stops at the Hvitserkur rock and Kirkjufell. Click here for our post.
- Day 7: We made our way around the Snaefellsness peninsula and back to Reykjavik on this Saturday to make sure to partake in the crazy nightlife this city is known for. Click here for our post on Reykjavik.
- Day 8: After a nice sleep-in, we spent this day exploring the funky city of Reykjavik before boarding the plane the following day to the Faroe Islands.