Despite the nation’s modest size and small population, Iceland offers a staggering number of breathtaking natural wonders and unforgettable experiences. If planning your Icelandic vacation feels a bit overwhelming, or you simply want to make sure you don’t miss a thing, a guided tour may be the solution. Read on for a complete rundown of the ten best Iceland tours. These will put you well on your way to exploring everything the country has to offer.
Completing the Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is perhaps the best-known and most-traveled tourist trail in Iceland. It encompasses much of the nation’s southwest region. The Golden Circle typically includes three key destinations: Þingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area and Gullfoss Waterfall. All three fall within a two-hour drive from the capital city Reykjavik. This makes the Golden Circle an ideal day trip for visitors.
At Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll be able to see the dramatic split between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Iceland is the only country where this rift valley, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, is visible above sea level. It is most evident in Þingvellir. The park is surrounded by volcanoes. These rise above Þingvallavatn, the country’s largest natural lake.
The Geysir Geothermal Area
Your next stop on the tour, the Geysir Geothermal Area, is about 50 minutes from Þingvellir. As you approach Geysir, you’ll notice steaming vents and lava chimneys. These dot the hills and soil, Both are brilliantly colored by the rich minerals they contain.
The two main attractions here are the Great Geysir, which erupts only occasionally, and its more active neighbor Strokkur. Strokkur gushes powerful bursts of water and steam approximately every 10 minutes.
Just 10 minutes down the road from Geysir is the final component of the Golden Circle, Gullfoss. This majestic waterfall cascades over two drops that total more than 100 feet in height. The falls are famous not only for their power (churning nearly 5,000 cubic feet of water per second at their summertime peak) but also for the rainbows that appear in the falls’ mists on sunny days.
The Golden Circle is an extremely versatile excursion. Because of the stops’ proximity, you can make it an all-day event. Alternatively, you can choose a combination tour that incorporates a second activity. Examples include snowmobiling on a glacier or swimming in the Blue Lagoon.
Navigating Northern Iceland
If you’d like a change of pace from Reykjavik, consider trekking north to Akureyri. This is Iceland’s fifth-largest city and the “capital of the north.” The scenery there is spectacular, with mountains providing a dramatic backdrop for the vast waters of the Eyjafjörður fjord.
It’s an ideal destination for nature-lovers, with its abundance of recreation areas, hiking paths and diverse flora. The Akureyri Botanical Garden is famed for its collection of nearly every native plant in addition to almost 7,000 foreign varieties. The town is also home to a thriving arts community. This includes multiple museums, galleries and exhibitions.
Just outside Akureyri is Lake Mývatn. Here, you can gaze upon the still, glassy waters of a shallow volcanic lake. You can also spend hours watching the dozens of bird species that nest nearby. The lake is one of the best sites for viewing the Northern Lights.
Tours in Northern Iceland encompass a wide range of activities and attractions. This includes options such as whale watching trips, Nothern Lights excursions, and bathing tours of Lake Mývatn and the surrounding hot springs. Additionally, you can even experience “beer spa” tour in Árskógssandur, just outside Akureyri.
Snorkeling at Silfra
Don’t let the icy waters fool you: Iceland is home to the Silfra fissure. This is widely considered to be one of the best diving sites on the planet. Silfra’s crystal-clear waters allow for incredible visibility of as much as 100 meters.
Located in Þingvellir National Park, the fissure was formed as the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates shifted in 1789. This caused massive earthquakes in the region. Its waters come from an underground spring filled with meltwater from the neighboring Langjökull glacier. Because of this, decades of filtering through porous volcanic rock make it some of the purest water on Earth. This snorkeling day tour of Silfa includes drysuit rental and snorkeling equipment.
Glaciers are a key component of Iceland’s geology, providing visitors with dozens of options for experiencing them up close.
- The “Glacier Grand Slam” in Skaftafell includes a guided hike on either the Falljökull or Svínafellsjökull glaciers (based on the season and current conditions) as well as a zodiac boat excursion through the Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon.
- This combination glacier hiking and ice caving tour allows adventurers to hike Vatnajökull, Iceland’s largest glacier, and explore the nearby ice caves with the help of an experienced guide.
- Visit filming locations for Star Wars and Game of Thrones, hike the Mýrdalsjökull glacier and see the famous Katla volcano on this Vik-based tour.
Horseback Riding through Lava Fields
Slow your pace with a guided horseback ride through the picturesque lava fields of Hafnarfjördur. The 90- to 120-minute tours start at the well-appointed Íshestar Stables. Here, you are equipped with all necessary gear. You meet the friendly horse who will be your companion along this relaxing journey.
Along the path, you’ll see a variety of volcanic rock formations, rolling green hills and peaceful streams. As a result of the relaxing nature, no previous riding experience is required. The tour is appropriate for children as young as eight.
Hiking the Highlands
If you’re planning on visiting Iceland during the summer months, take advantage of the limited opportunity to visit the highlands, which are typically accessible only from late June through September. The most popular destinations in this region are Pórsmörk and Landmannalaugar, and each has its own distinctive and captivating attributes.
Pórsmörk, or “Thor’s Valley,” offers a lush landscape filled with rolling mountain paths, lively rivers, unusual rock formations and abundant birch stands. About 35 miles north is Landmannalaugar, where constant geothermal activity has created sandy mountains and brightly-colored soil in vibrant shades of green, blue, purple, pink and red.
Seasoned hikers needing little guidance may opt for the Highland Hikers Passport, which provides transportation to the trailhead of one of two of Iceland’s most popular highland hiking routes. These are the Laugavegur hiking trail and the Fimmvörduháls hiking trail, along with return transportation at the end.
For a less physically demanding experience, travelers can reserve space on a Super Jeep Tour of Landmannalaugar. This includes stops at several stunning crater lakes and waterfalls, as well as a swim in a naturally heated pool.
Seeing Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Western Iceland’s Snæfellsnes peninsula is a natural paradise, with striking black sand beaches, vast lava fields, powerful waterfalls and towering mountains dominating the landscape. Likewise, it’s also home to Snaefellsjökull glacier, made famous as the namesake entry point in Jules Verne’s novel Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
This minibus tour hits all the peninsula’s highlights, including Kirkjufell Mountain, Vatnshellir Cave, Djúpalónssandur beach, Saxhóll Crater, Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall and the Snaefellsjökull glacier.
Roaming the Ring Road
The Ring Road is Iceland’s main highway, spanning more than 800 miles in a circle along the outskirts of this island nation. Travel the Ring Road in its entirety, and you’ll experience nearly every element of Iceland’s diverse and beautiful geography. These will range from glaciers and volcanos to waterfalls and geysers.
This seven-day tour of the Ring Road offers a comprehensive guided journey through every corner of Iceland. You’ll visit the stories attractions of the Golden Circle. Also, you’ll sail through the Glacier Lagoon. You can walk the glittering shores of Diamond Beach. Additionally, you will witness the thundering waterfalls of Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss. You can stroll through the quaint streets of Akureyri, sample authentic Icelandic cuisine, and much more!
Caving in Leidarendi
Explore the mysterious world below Iceland’s famous volcanic fields with a tour of the underground lava tube at Leidarendi. Just a half hour outside Reykjavik, the cave hides below the Blue Mountains. This allows daring visitors the opportunity to see a side of Iceland that few tourists ever experience.
Also, you’ll crawl and walk through centuries-old rock formations and stalactites formed by past volcanic eruptions. Additionally, if you visit during the winter months, you’ll also get to see some incredible natural ice sculptures.
Chasing the Northern Lights
Spotting the elusive aurora borealis—commonly known as the Northern Lights—may be the ultimate Holy Grail of a visit to Iceland. However, your odds of seeing this colorful light show in the sky vary based on the season, weather forecast and light pollution levels. As a result, taking advantage of local tour guides’ expertise can increase your chances of success.
Dozens of tours are available year-round. This ranges from simple Reykjavik-based bus tours to cruises aboard a luxury yacht. Northern Lights viewing is also incorporated into a wide range of combination excursions, including one that combines Golden Circle stops, glacier snowmobiling and aurora-hunting.
Final Thoughts on Iceland Tours
Iceland is a geographically and culturally diverse nation with activities and attractions to suit nearly every interest. As a result, whether you’re into craft beer or spa-like hot springs, quirky puffins or majestic whales, rugged hikes or refined galleries, there’s a perfect tour waiting for you in the Land of Fire and Ice.