Iceland, with its stunning landscapes and unique natural wonders, is a destination that has captured the hearts of travelers around the world. With its striking volcanoes, majestic waterfalls, geothermal hot springs, and rugged glaciers, this Nordic island offers an abundance of adventures and experiences for visitors to enjoy.
If you find yourself with a stopover in Iceland, don’t waste the opportunity to explore this enchanting country. Despite its small size, Iceland is packed with incredible sights and activities that will leave you awe-inspired. From immersing yourself in the vibrant capital city of Reykjavik to venturing out into the wild landscapes beyond, there are endless possibilities for you to make the most of your time in Iceland.
In this article, we will guide you through some of the must-do activities during a stopover in Iceland. Whether you have a few hours or a couple of days, these experiences will allow you to truly immerse yourself in the charm and natural beauty of the country.
So fasten your seatbelt, as we embark on an unforgettable journey through Iceland’s highlights and uncover the best ways to spend your stopover.
Reykjavik City Tour
Start your stopover in Iceland with a tour of Reykjavik, the vibrant capital city. Despite being a small city, Reykjavik is bursting with charm, culture, and history.
Begin your exploration with a visit to Hallgrímskirkja, the iconic church that dominates the city skyline. Climb to the top of its tower for panoramic views of Reykjavik and its surrounding mountains and sea.
Next, head to the beautiful waterfront area of the city known as the Old Harbour. Stroll along the harbor promenade, admire the colorful boats, and perhaps even spot some playful seals. Make sure to visit Harpa, the exquisite concert hall and conference center, known for its unique architecture and stunning glass facade.
For history buffs, a visit to the National Museum of Iceland is a must. Here, you can delve into Iceland’s rich history and learn about its Viking heritage, medieval manuscripts, and unique cultural traditions.
Continue your city tour by exploring the charming streets of the city center. Discover the vibrant art scene at the Reykjavik Art Museum and explore the numerous galleries and boutiques that showcase the works of Icelandic artists and designers.
No visit to Reykjavik is complete without experiencing the city’s culinary delights. Sample traditional Icelandic dishes like hákarl (fermented shark), pylsur (hot dogs), and freshly caught seafood at local restaurants and street food stalls. Don’t forget to try the famous Icelandic ice cream for a sweet and refreshing treat.
End your Reykjavik city tour with a visit to the stunning Sun Voyager sculpture. This iconic artwork, resembling a Viking ship, is located on the waterfront and offers a perfect spot for photos and reflection.
Whether you choose to explore the city on foot, by bike, or with a guided tour, Reykjavik will captivate you with its unique blend of nature, culture, and modernity.
Golden Circle Tour
One of the most popular excursions from Reykjavik is the Golden Circle Tour, which takes you on a journey through some of Iceland’s most breathtaking natural wonders.
The first stop on the Golden Circle Tour is Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here, you can witness the dramatic rift between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, which is filled with crystal-clear water, known as Silfra. You can even snorkel or scuba dive in this fissure for a truly unique experience.
Continuing on the route, the tour takes you to the awe-inspiring Gullfoss waterfall. Marvel at the powerful cascade as it plunges into a narrow gorge, creating a mesmerizing display of mist and rainbows on sunny days.
Next, visit the Geysir geothermal area, home to the famous Strokkur geyser. Every few minutes, Strokkur erupts, shooting water high up into the air, creating a thrilling sight. Take your time to explore the bubbling mud pools and other geothermal features in the area.
To complete the Golden Circle tour, make a stop at the historic and picturesque town of Skálholt. This former episcopal see is an important site in Iceland’s history and offers a glimpse into the country’s religious and cultural heritage.
The Golden Circle Tour is a delightful adventure that allows you to experience the raw power of Icelandic nature. From the dramatic landscapes to the geological wonders, this tour is a must-do for nature lovers and adventure seekers.
Blue Lagoon Visit
No visit to Iceland would be complete without a trip to the world-famous Blue Lagoon. Located in a lava field on the Reykjanes Peninsula, this geothermal spa offers a truly unique and relaxing experience.
The Blue Lagoon is known for its milky-blue, mineral-rich waters, which are heated by underground volcanic activity. The high concentration of silica, algae, and minerals in the water is believed to have therapeutic effects for the skin and body.
Upon arrival, you’ll have the opportunity to indulge in a rejuvenating soak in the warm waters of the lagoon. Relax and let the mineral-rich waters nourish your skin and melt away any tension in your body.
The Blue Lagoon also offers a range of spa treatments, from massages to facials. Pamper yourself with a luxurious massage or enjoy a rejuvenating facial, all while surrounded by the stunning natural beauty of the lagoon.
For the ultimate indulgence, consider booking a private VIP experience. This allows you to enjoy exclusive access to a secluded area of the lagoon and additional amenities, such as a private changing room and refreshments.
After your time in the lagoon, visit the on-site restaurant for a delicious meal. The menu features a range of Icelandic and international dishes, made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Pair your meal with a refreshing drink from the bar, and savor the flavors in a relaxed and elegant setting.
Before leaving the Blue Lagoon, don’t forget to visit the Lagoon Shop. Here, you can find a variety of skincare products, made with the lagoon’s unique ingredients, to take a piece of the Blue Lagoon experience home with you.
A visit to the Blue Lagoon is a truly blissful experience, allowing you to soak in the soothing waters and pamper yourself in a luxurious setting. It’s the perfect way to unwind and rejuvenate during your stopover in Iceland.
Northern Lights Excursion
One of the most mesmerizing natural phenomena to witness in Iceland is the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis. A stopover in Iceland provides an excellent opportunity to embark on a Northern Lights excursion and witness this breathtaking display in the night sky.
The Northern Lights are caused by solar particles colliding with Earth’s magnetic field, creating stunning colors and patterns in the sky. The best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland is during the winter months, from September to April, when the nights are long and dark.
Many tour operators in Iceland offer Northern Lights tours, taking you to optimal viewing spots away from city lights. These tours are guided by experienced experts who track weather conditions and solar activity to maximize your chances of seeing the lights.
While the Northern Lights can be unpredictable, witnessing them dancing across the sky is an unforgettable experience. The lights can appear as green, pink, blue, or even purple hues, creating a magical and ethereal ambiance.
Remember to dress warmly and bring a tripod for your camera to capture these incredible moments. The long exposure times required for photographing the Northern Lights allow you to capture the full beauty and movement of the lights.
In addition to the Northern Lights, the dark Icelandic skies also provide an excellent opportunity for stargazing. Away from light pollution, you can marvel at the multitude of stars and constellations, immersing yourself in the wonders of the universe.
A Northern Lights excursion is an absolute must during your stopover in Iceland. Whether you witness a subtle display or a vibrant dance of colors, this natural spectacle will leave you in awe of the beauty of our planet.
Glacier Hiking Adventure
For those seeking an adrenaline-filled adventure during their stopover in Iceland, a glacier hiking excursion is a must. Iceland is home to some of the most breathtaking glaciers in the world, offering a unique opportunity to explore these icy giants up close.
Glacier hiking tours are available throughout the year and cater to all levels of experience, from beginners to experienced hikers. Your journey begins with a knowledgeable and experienced guide who will provide you with the necessary equipment and safety instructions.
As you set foot on the glacier, you’ll be enthralled by its otherworldly beauty. The sheer size of the ice formations, the purity of the ice, and the stunning icicles and crevasses will leave you awestruck.
As you traverse the glacier, you’ll encounter magnificent ice sculptures and unique features formed by the slow movement of the glacier over thousands of years. Your guide will share their knowledge of glaciology and point out interesting geological formations along the way.
One of the highlights of the glacier hiking adventure is the opportunity to explore ice caves. These natural wonders are formed within the glacier and often contain shimmering blue ice formations. Exploring the intricate tunnels and chambers of an ice cave is a truly magical experience.
Glacier hiking tours typically range from a few hours to a full day. Longer tours may include additional activities such as ice climbing or ice climbing lessons for those seeking an even more challenging experience.
It’s important to note that glacier hiking can be physically demanding, requiring a moderate level of fitness and stamina. However, the sense of accomplishment and the breathtaking views make it all worth it.
Don’t miss the chance to embark on a glacier hiking adventure during your stopover in Iceland. It’s an opportunity to experience the raw power and beauty of nature while creating memories that will last a lifetime.
Whale Watching Tour
Iceland is renowned as one of the best destinations in the world for whale watching. With its rich marine ecosystem and diverse whale population, a stopover in Iceland provides an incredible opportunity to witness these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.
Whale watching tours depart from various coastal towns around Iceland, including Reykjavik, Husavik, and Akureyri. These tours are led by experienced guides who are knowledgeable about the different whale species and their behavior.
As you venture out into the open sea, keep your eyes peeled for the telltale signs of whales. The sight of a humpback whale breaching the water’s surface or a pod of dolphins swimming alongside the boat is a sight to behold.
During the tour, you’ll have the chance to encounter several whale species, including humpback whales, minke whales, orcas (killer whales), and even the elusive blue whale, the largest mammal on the planet.
Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture these incredible moments. The gentle giants gracefully maneuvering through the water, their tails elegantly diving beneath the surface, and the spray of their blowholes make for breathtaking photographs.
Whale watching tours also provide a unique insight into the marine ecosystem of Iceland. Your guides will share interesting facts about the whales, their migratory patterns, and the importance of conservation efforts to protect these magnificent creatures.
For those interested in marine life beyond whales, keep an eye out for other fascinating marine species such as seals, puffins, and a variety of seabirds that call Iceland’s coastal waters home.
Whale watching tours usually last a few hours, giving you ample time to observe and appreciate these incredible creatures. It’s an experience that will leave you with a deep appreciation for the wonders of the ocean and a newfound passion for marine conservation.
If you’re a nature enthusiast or simply curious about the remarkable creatures that inhabit our oceans, be sure to include a whale watching tour in your itinerary during your stopover in Iceland.
Viking History and Culture Exploration
Iceland has a rich and fascinating history deeply intertwined with Viking culture. Exploring the Viking heritage during your stopover in Iceland will allow you to dive into the captivating tales of the fearless Norse seafarers who once ruled these lands.
One of the best ways to immerse yourself in Viking history is to visit the Settlement Exhibition in Reykjavik. Here, you can explore the remains of an ancient Viking longhouse dating back to the 10th century. The exhibition provides insights into the daily life, customs, and challenges faced by the early settlers of Iceland.
Another must-visit destination is the Saga Museum, where you can step back in time and experience the Viking era firsthand. Through realistic displays and audio guides, you’ll discover the captivating sagas and legends that shaped Icelandic history.
To gain a deeper understanding of Viking culture, visit the National Museum of Iceland, where you’ll find a dedicated section showcasing Viking artifacts, including weapons, tools, and exquisite jewelry. The museum also houses Viking-era manuscripts, providing a glimpse into the literary achievements of this era.
For those with an interest in Viking ships, a visit to the Viking Ship Museum in Reykjavik is a must. Here, you can marvel at reconstructions of Viking longships and learn about their impressive craftsmanship and navigational skills.
To truly grasp the spirit of the Vikings, venture outside the capital and explore sites such as Thingvellir National Park, where the ancient Viking Parliament, known as the Althing, was established. The Althing marked the beginning of Iceland’s democratic history and is considered one of the oldest parliamentary institutions in the world.
For a more hands-on Viking experience, consider joining a Viking-themed adventure. Don your Viking attire, learn about Viking weaponry, and participate in activities like axe throwing or archery. These experiences offer an interactive and immersive way to connect with the Viking past.
No exploration of Viking history is complete without tasting traditional Viking-inspired cuisine. Sample dishes like smoked lamb, fermented shark, and hearty stews reminiscent of the meals enjoyed by the warriors of old.
Immerse yourself in the Viking heritage during your stopover in Iceland, and delve into the captivating stories, artifacts, and experiences that bring this ancient culture to life.
Icelandic Cuisine Tasting
Exploring the culinary delights of a country is an essential part of any travel experience, and Iceland offers a unique gastronomic journey. During your stopover, be sure to indulge in the flavors of Icelandic cuisine, which is influenced by the island’s natural resources and rich culinary traditions.
Start your Icelandic culinary adventure by sampling some traditional dishes. One iconic Icelandic food is the fermented shark, known as hákarl. The strong smell and pungent taste might be an acquired taste, but it’s an interesting and unique experience for the adventurous palate.
Another must-try dish is the Icelandic lamb. The country’s pristine landscapes provide perfect grazing conditions, resulting in tender and flavorful meat. Whether it’s in a hearty lamb stew or as a grilled chop, Icelandic lamb is sure to delight your taste buds.
Seafood lovers will rejoice in the abundance and freshness of Iceland’s fish and seafood. From succulent salmon and delicately flavored Arctic char to the Icelandic classic, salted cod, there are plenty of options to choose from. Be sure to try the traditional Icelandic fish stew, plokkfiskur, made with fish, potatoes, onions, and a creamy béchamel sauce.
No exploration of Icelandic cuisine is complete without trying the famous Icelandic hot dogs, or pylsur. These delicious sausages are made from a blend of lamb, pork, and beef, and are served with an array of toppings such as crispy onions, ketchup, mustard, and remoulade. They are a popular street food option and can be found at various stands throughout the country.
For those with a sweet tooth, Icelandic desserts won’t disappoint. Try the irresistible kleinur, a twisted donut-like pastry, or the delicate and creamy skyr, a traditional Icelandic yogurt. Don’t forget to indulge in the heavenly Icelandic ice cream, which comes in a variety of unique flavors, including licorice, birch, and rhubarb.
To enhance your culinary experience, consider visiting local farmers’ markets, such as the Reykjavik Flea Market or the Hallgrimskirkja Christmas Market, where you can sample a wide range of Icelandic products, including homemade jams, artisanal cheeses, and freshly baked bread.
Pair your meal with some Icelandic beverages, such as the popular malt drink called Malt or a shot of the traditional Icelandic schnapps, Brennivín.
Immersing yourself in Icelandic cuisine is not only a treat for your taste buds but also a way to connect with the local culture and traditions. So be open-minded and ready to savor the unique flavors and culinary experiences that Iceland has to offer.
Shopping for Unique Souvenirs
A stopover in Iceland wouldn’t be complete without picking up some unique souvenirs to commemorate your trip. Iceland offers a wide range of one-of-a-kind items that reflect the country’s rich natural beauty and cultural heritage.
One popular souvenir is Icelandic wool products. Known for their exceptional quality and warmth, Icelandic wool sweaters, known as lopapeysa, are a must-have. These traditional sweaters feature intricate patterns and designs inspired by Icelandic nature and folklore.
You can also find a variety of other woolen items such as hats, scarves, and blankets, all made from Icelandic sheep’s wool. These cozy and stylish accessories make for cherished mementos of your Icelandic adventure.
Another iconic Icelandic souvenir is lava rock jewelry. Made from volcanic rock found in the country, these handcrafted pieces capture the rugged beauty of Iceland’s landscape. Look for unique necklaces, earrings, and bracelets that incorporate lava rocks and other natural elements inspired by Iceland.
For those seeking a taste of Icelandic cuisine, consider bringing home some local delicacies. Items like Icelandic sea salt, birch syrup, and licorice candies are flavors unique to Iceland and make for perfect gifts or treats for yourself.
If you’re a fan of arts and crafts, explore the local galleries and boutiques where you can find handmade ceramics, glassware, and pottery. These one-of-a-kind pieces often incorporate traditional techniques and reflect the natural beauty of the Icelandic landscape.
For music enthusiasts, Icelandic music is gaining international recognition, and you can find a wide variety of albums featuring local artists. From traditional Icelandic folk music to contemporary indie bands, there is something for everyone’s musical taste.
Don’t forget to browse the shelves of local bookstores for Icelandic literature. From ancient Norse sagas to modern works of fiction, Icelandic literature offers a glimpse into the country’s history, folklore, and unique storytelling traditions.
Lastly, no visit to Iceland is complete without bringing a piece of the country’s geothermal wonders home. Look for geothermal skincare products, such as volcanic mud masks or mineral-rich bath salts. These beauty products harness the natural power of Iceland’s geothermal resources and are a popular choice for self-care and relaxation.
When shopping for souvenirs, consider supporting local artisans and businesses to contribute to the local economy. By doing so, you can ensure that your souvenir is not only a cherished memento but also a meaningful contribution to the community you have visited.
With its wide array of unique and handcrafted items, shopping for souvenirs in Iceland is an opportunity to bring home a piece of the country’s natural beauty and cultural heritage.
As your stopover in Iceland comes to an end, it’s hard not to be captivated by the wonders and beauty of this incredible country. From the vibrant city of Reykjavik to the breathtaking natural landscapes, Iceland offers a plethora of experiences that will leave a lasting impression on you.
Whether you choose to explore the city’s cultural and historical sites, embark on thrilling adventures in the great outdoors, or indulge in the unique flavors of Icelandic cuisine, there is something for everyone to enjoy during a stopover in Iceland.
From the stunning Golden Circle and its majestic waterfalls and geothermal wonders to the ethereal Northern Lights illuminating the night sky, the natural wonders of Iceland will leave you in awe of our planet’s beauty.
But it’s not just the landscapes that make Iceland special; it’s the warmth and hospitality of its people, the perseverance of its Viking heritage, and the preservation of its rich cultural traditions.
As you reflect on your time in Iceland, remember the unique souvenirs you collected, the flavors you savored, and the memories you made. Whether it’s a lopapeysa sweater, a piece of lava rock jewelry, or a favorite Icelandic recipe, these mementos will serve as reminders of your incredible journey.
Whether your stopover in Iceland was a brief interlude or the start of a lifelong love affair with this remarkable country, it will undoubtedly leave you with a desire to return and explore more of its enchanting wonders.
So, until we find ourselves once again amidst Iceland’s breathtaking landscapes and welcoming culture, let the memories of your stopover serve as a reminder of the beauty and adventure that await in this Nordic paradise.