Top 10 Reasons to Visit Iceland

Emily Draper

(Updated: )
8 min read
Top 10 Reasons to Visit Iceland

Formed by active volcanoes, giant glaciers, tectonic ridges, and rough oceans, Iceland is a rugged jigsaw of breathtaking landscapes waiting to be explored. Having been originally settled by Vikings in the 10th century, these landscapes have been woven with the stories of Norse culture and mythology.

Together, the landscapes and culture promise a poignant and powerful experience of Iceland. If that's not reason enough to visit this remote, largely uninhabited island on the cusp of the Arctic Circle, then here are 10 more. What will your biggest reason to visit Iceland be?

To Witness the Beauty of the Natural World

Between its volcanoes, glaciers, valleys, fjords, highlands, waterfalls, and even its basalt column cliffs, it's safe to say the Land of Fire and Ice is a spectacle of nature. Its landscapes are so unique, unusual, and unlikely that this remote North Atlantic island frequents the ?top destinations for nature-lovers' lists. In other words, it's the perfect place to witness the extraordinary beauty and talent of nature.

Image of beautiful glacier lagoon in Iceland
Land of Fire and Ice
For a taste of these inspiring landscapes, rent a car in Iceland and head on one of its best [driving routes]( While the Golden Circle leads you to Thingvellir, Geysir, and Gulfoss Waterfall, the South Coast Way highlights the dizzying Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, Skaftafell waterfall, Tungnaá and black sand beach, and the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.

Also check out our Guide to Traveling to Iceland on a Budget

To See the Magical Northern Lights

Iceland is one of the few special places in the world where you can catch sightings of the elusive Northern Lights. Unbeknown to most, it's also one of the most affordable.

The lights can be seen in northern Scandinavia, but these countries are notoriously expensive to visit due to their currencies being much stronger than the euro, pound, or dollar. From the flights to the tour guides to the Iceland car rental, its prices are relatively lower.

Image of a person standing and gazing at the Northern Lights in Iceland
Northern Lights in Iceland.
Since the Northern Lights are by no means shy in Iceland, it's easy to find them without a guide. All you need to do is drive to drive north of Reykjavik on a clear night to a remote sparsely habited location with no light pollution.

To Immerse in Icelandic Culture

Iceland is a country very proud of and deeply ingrained in its history and culture. It was first inhabited by Viking settlers from Northern Europe in the 10th century, influences of which can still be seen to this day from its grass-covered buildings to its Old Norse language.

Image of very colorful houses and homes in Reykjavik Iceland
Colorful homes in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Like many Norse countries, Iceland is also romanticised by myths and legends known locally as ?sagas' which reveal a magical world of elves, dragons, and other wonderful creatures that live secretly in hidden corners of the country. What's more, many believe they might actually exist. As much as it appreciates its traditions, modern Iceland is also considered one of the most progressive countries in Europe, making it a seriously dynamic place to visit.

To Go on Hiking and Other Outdoor Adventures

As the least populated country in Europe with 80% of its land completely uninhabited, Iceland is the ideal destination for hiking adventures and other outdoor sports. From the 3-hour Reykjadalur hike to natural hot springs to an intense yet epic 12-day trek along the Laugavegur Trail that encompasses mountains, lakes, lava fields, and valleys, there's so much to explore on foot.

Image of two people hiking in the highlands of Iceland. Foggy weather.
Hiking in Iceland is an experience.
However, the country's diverse landscapes inspire you to explore in other ways too. White water rafting in the Hvítá River, ice climbing up the Vatnajökull glacier, snorkelling in Silfra, and fishing in Reykjavik are just some of the outstanding adventurous outdoor activities on offer in Iceland.

To Go Chasing Waterfalls

I am fully aware of TLC's advice of not going chasing waterfalls but I think in this case we can make an exception.

Since Iceland is the Land of Fire and Ice and where there is ice there are waterfalls. 10,000 of them to be exact. While some are more like small downhill streams just a few feet tall, many are tall, slim, and elegant, and others are intimidatingly large and loud. All of them possess a captivating beauty that has to be seen to be believed.

Image of a waterfall in Iceland, surrounded by green mountains.
Waterfall in Iceland.
It would be so easy to spend your entire trip chasing waterfalls in Iceland, but if you can only make time for a few, make it Skogafoss and Godafoss. As the 25-metre-wide and 60-metre-tall Skogafoss cascades with might from the edge of a cliff on the south coast to an eerily beautiful black sand beach while the intimidating 12-metre-high and 30-metre-wide Godafoss thunders into a luminous teal plunge pool near the Arctic Coast.

To Seek Some Solitude

As modern society becomes more demanding, it becomes harder yet more necessary than ever to get away from it all every once in a while. To take time to reflect, reground, and remember the beauty and simplicity of life at its most pure. As a largely untouched landmass in the middle of the Atlantic, Iceland is one of the best places in the world to do so.

Whether you travel across the Arctic Coast, through the Highlands, or around Westfjord, it's possible to travel for hundreds of miles without spotting another soul. In fact, you need only drive a few hours away from the capital of Reykjavik to find that solitude you crave.

To Learn About Our Earth's Geography

Image of a volcano eruption in Iceland.
Volcano erupting in Iceland.
* What happens to our Earth at the meeting point of two tectonic plates? * What are the effects of volcanic activity in Iceland? * What effect does climate change have on glaciers? * What effect do glaciers have on the Icelandic landscape?

As a country blemished by both volcanoes and glaciers and carved by the Eurasian and North American plates, it's safe to say Iceland is defined by its geography. Therefore, going on a vacation to this majestic country is like going on the world's most exciting and inspiring geography field trip.

Whether you ask the questions or not, you're bound to return with invaluable knowledge about Iceland and our Earth that will enrich your appreciation for nature and the ways in which it was formed.

Check out our Guide to Keflavik Airport

To Dig into Icelandic Cuisine

As an arctic country with little wildlife or vegetation surrounded by a vast sea, traditional Icelandic cuisine is truly one-of-a-kind. Seafood is a large part of the Icelandic diet, but not in the way you'd think. While bountiful Atlantic fish like herring, halibut, and haddock are common, shark and whale are often the most popular dish at the dinner party. Since vegetables were historically hard to grow, ingredients like berries, wild mushrooms, moss, and seaweed are also an old-school staple.

While many of the country's best restaurants honour the island's endemic flavours, there's much more to Iceland's modern cuisine. In Reykjavik, the country's foodie capital, you can indulge in the multifaceted flavours of Iceland at its diverse array of restaurants. However, many argue that nothing beats an Icelandic hotdog from the city's street food stalls.

Check out this Top 10 Things to do in Reykjavik

To Explore the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans

The Atlantic and Arctic Oceans are untameable beasts that few have attempted to navigate and even fewer have conquered. As a country surrounded by these wild oceans and located almost 1,200 km from the next nearest land, however, Iceland has become their master.

Image of the black sand beach and the ocean in Iceland
The ocean in Iceland, near the black sand beach.
When visiting this isolated island, you get an otherwise unfathomable insight into what life is like for people that depend upon water just as much as they depend upon land. From immersive sailing and fishing excursions to simple whale-watching and glacier boat rides, many of Iceland's excursions allow you to explore the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans first-hand.

And even when you are on dry land, you get a glimpse into Iceland's love for the sea whether you're at a fishing village, museum, or at a restaurant eating a freshly caught Hákarl.

To Say You've Been to One of the World's Most Unique Destinations

For all of the reasons above, Iceland is one of the most magnificent, magnetic, and mesmerising destinations for outdoor adventure in the world.

  • Nowhere else can you find waterfalls cascading onto a black sand beach, swim between two tectonic plates, or cross vast icy glaciers and end up at boiling natural springs.
  • Nowhere else can you get so comfortably lost in nature only to find yourself.
  • Nowhere else can you find such peace and solitude.
  • Nowhere else can you develop such an appreciation for the power and intelligence of our natural world.
  • And nowhere else can you find whale on a stick served on the same city waterfront as a hotdog.

Rent a Car For Your Iceland Adventure

To make the most of the Land of Fire and Ice from the tectonic ridge to the Northern Lights, consider an Iceland car rental. It will give you the ultimate freedom to explore this extraordinary country fully by yourself for just a fraction of the price of Icelandic tours. Put in your traveling details below and find the Iceland car rental that's right for you.

You know what to do!