Iceland is the tourist’s dream location, a country with amazing landscapes, beautiful scenery, and rich history. Thanks to social media, movies, and TV shows, there has been an increase in Icelandic tourism. And all those tourists will want to check out this list of the best Iceland landmarks.
When you hear Iceland, you probably think about the Northern Lights. While the stunning views of those beautiful dancing lights are a huge draw, so many other amazing things are unique to Iceland.
This small island is every adventurer’s dreamland. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth. It features features quaint towns, dramatic landscapes, breathtaking glaciers, unbelievable waterfalls, and the most incredible hikes. It is also home to a number of geothermal heated pools. And it is place that keeps calling us back. We’ve visited many times over the last two decades.
If you are visiting Iceland, this guide to Icelandic landmarks is for you!
Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa
A pinnacle of tourism in Iceland and often referred to as one of the wonders of the world, Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa is one of the most popular landmarks in Iceland. It is on the bucket list of most people who visit. This thermal spot located in a lava field in the Reykjanes Peninsula, barely fifteen minutes away from the Keflavik International airport, has therapeutic properties which have been confirmed medically.
If you are looking to explore Iceland, a visit to Blue Lagoon is in order. It is perfect for a romantic getaway with your partner as they offer a state-of-the-art spa with everything necessary for you to relax. Beyond the geothermal water, there is also a great restaurant on-site that introduces you to Icelandic cuisine.
At Blue Lagoon, you can have relaxing baths, enjoy unique cocktails from the built-in bar, and take in the beautiful surrounding landscape. A visit to the Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa might just be the thing you need to relax and prepare your body to embark on a fantastic adventure exploring Iceland.
Churches have always stood as historic landmarks because of their importance in documenting local history. And Iceland is no different. The Hallgrímskirkja Church is one of the most historic landmarks in Iceland. Standing at 242.2 feet, the Hallgrímskirkja Church is the tallest and the most prominent church in Iceland.
This grand edifice was designed by Iceland’s distinguished Gudjon Samuelsson, who drew his inspiration for the building from another one of Iceland’s iconic spots: Svartifoss Waterfall. The church is a significant landmark in the city of Reykjavik because it is the tallest building in the country.
There are several things you can do at the Hallgrímskirkja Church. If you are a lover of music, the church’s famous pipe organ will interest you. The pipe organ is 49 feet tall, weighs 25 tons, and is made up of 5,275 pipes.
Outside the church, you will find the world-renowned Leif Eiriksson statue given to Iceland by the United States as a gift to commemorate the 1,000-year anniversary of the Icelandic parliament, known as Althingi. You can climb the Hallgrímskirkja tower and take in the breathtaking view of the harbor and all the colorful houses in the city.
Thingvellir National Park
Thingvellir National Park is one of the most visited natural landmarks in Iceland. This is due to several reasons. The first is its geographical location as the place where North America meets the Eurasian tectonic plate.
Beyond its geographical attraction, Thingvellir National Park also holds a prominent place in world history. It was the site of the Icelandic parliament, Althingi, where the Vikings would meet to discuss the issues of the time. Over 1,000 years later, people still visit to pay homage to the ancient Vikings who founded the parliament in the year 930. For both the geographical and cultural reasons, Thingvellir is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Finally, Thingvellir National Park attracts a large number of visitors because of its pop culture value. If you are a fan of Game of Thrones, you might be interested in visiting because it was one of the main shooting locations for the series.
Some activities that can be carried out here include taking in nature, as well as scuba diving or snorkeling between the continental plates.
Located in the Westfjords region of Iceland, Dynjandi Waterfalls is rightly named “Thunderer.” It gets this name because of the sound it makes as the seven waterfalls that make up Dynjandi cascade over large boulders.
This thunderous waterfall is a must-visit landmark in Iceland as it is arguably the most beautiful waterfall in Iceland. To fully appreciate the beauty of this mountain waterfall, take a hike to the top. This hike is steep but brief. It should take a total of 20 minutes if you do not make any stops. However, it would be best if you made a few stops, spend some time looking at the smaller waterfalls, each of which has its own name. You can walk behind Gongufoss, one of the smaller cascades.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
One of the most popular Icelandic landmarks, Jökulsárlón, means glacial-river lagoon. This place is aptly named because Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon comprises a glacier—the magnificent Vatnajokull. This is the largest glacier in Europe. Jökulsárlón also features a river that flows from a lagoon out to the ocean.
As sheets of ice peel off the glacier into the lagoon, they float slowly towards the narrow river and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. As they float, the slowly melt and break apart into smaller pieces.
Once they reach the ocean, the icebergs lodge themselves on the black sand beach. As the ice contrasts with the black sand, the beach has taken on the name Diamond Beach. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is one of the most beautiful landmarks in Iceland.
If you visit, be sure to walk along the lagoon and marvel at the icebergs. Also walk out to the Diamond Beach. You can participate in a boat tour that takes you closer to the glaciers during summer. This is also an excellent location for seal watching and bird watching. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a place where beauty and nature blend to create a unique experience unlike anywhere else in the world.
Solar/Sun Voyager Sculpture
An ode to the sun, a promise of hope and better things to come, this sculpture which is shaped like a Viking boat, has often been mistaken for a real Viking boat by tourists who are aware of Iceland’s Viking history.
However, this is far from the truth.
Sculpted as part of an art competition to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the city of Reykjavik, this sculpture has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland. In a city filled with incredible street art murals, it makes sense that they would also have great sculptures too.
The Solfar Sculpture is one of Iceland’s most family-friendly landmarks. It is located along the waterfront, and it features a backdrop of the majestic Mount Esja. This provides an excellent opportunity for your family to draw inspiration from the dreamboat. The Sun Voyager is also a great backdrop for beautiful pictures and is one of the most popular Instagram spots in Reykjavik. Hint: arrive early in the morning or late in the evening to have the spot to yourself.
Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck
The Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck has become a famous place and makes frequent appearances in pop culture, which has led to an increase in visitors to the site.
While the reasons for the crash, which occurred on November 21, 1973, are unknown, there are multiple theories from running out of fuel to icing on the wings. The wreck has gained prominence as more people venture out to see it, and it has been included in several guided tours to the region.
The plane wreck has been featured in a 2007 documentary on the Icelandic musical band Sigur Rós. It has also been featured in music videos such as the music video for Justin Bieber’s popular song ‘I’ll Show You’. The plane wreck has also made appearances in several television commercials as well as a Bollywood movie.
The combination of black sand and the gray body of the wrecked plane creates an outer-worldly feel that is great for photography, especially when captured during sunset or during periods of intense fog, which is common at the site.
Be sure to take a lot of pictures at this location as they will undoubtedly be insta-worthy.
Vík í Mýrdal Church
The Vik í Mýrdal Church is considered the most iconic landmark in the small village of Vik. It is one of the most photographed churches in Iceland and the world in general.
At first glance, it looks like a quaint minimalist church. However, when you consider the entire scenery, it becomes easy to see the appeal. In the summer, the hillsides surrounding the church are covered in beautiful lupine flowers. It is one of the best photography spots in the country. Of course, in the winter, the hills are covered in snow, leaving the bright red roof of the church to give color to the surrounding area.
Beyond its aesthetic value, the church is considered an evacuation spot in case the Katla Volcano which is close to the village of Vik í Mýrdal erupts.
Located in Vatnajökull National Park in Northern Iceland, Dettifoss Waterfall is considered the second most powerful waterfall in Europe. At 100 ft wide and with a drop of 144ft, it is also the second-largest waterfall in Iceland and is a highlight of the Diamond Circle tour. The waterfall is located on the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river, which is a product of the melting of the Vatnajökull glacier.
If you are looking for an awe-inspiring experience that would leave you marveling at the wonders of nature, you should visit Dettifoss. Take a steep 800 meter walk downhill from the parking lot on the west side of Dettifoss to the upper viewing point of Dettifoss. Here you can get a good glimpse of the waterfall and take great pictures.
If you are looking to get very close to the waterfalls, follow the upper trail along the bank of the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river to get to an outlook of the waterfalls. You might get wet from the spray, but it will be worth it. You will be able to feel the ground shake under your feet when you get close to the waterfalls.
Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is one of the most spectacular canyons in the world. This snake-like canyon gained prominence after it was featured in music videos such as Justin Bieber’s music video for his song “I’ll Show You” in 2015. The canyon features an observation platform overlooking the Mögárfoss waterfall.
Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is a picturesque canyon that was created by natural forces and has stood for thousands of years. Two kilometers long and 100 meters deep, it can be accessed from the ridges below or from the riverbank of the Fjaðrá River which runs through it.
The Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon was also featured in the television series Game of Thrones, in the scene where dragons can be seen flying over the canyon. So, if you loved the show, a visit to this canyon is in order when you are in Iceland.
Grjótagjá Cave provides a beautiful romantic getaway for people who are familiar with Game of Thrones. So, if you are a fan, you should include a visit to Grjótagjá in your Iceland itinerary.
Beyond Game of Thrones’ relevance, the cave is also a part of the history of the area as famous outlaw Jón Markússon used the cave as a hideout in the early 18th century. It is believed that he used to take a bath in the pool of water found in the cave. However, bathing is now prohibited because the water is too hot for people (people use a less famous, nearby geothermal cave for swimming instead).
Climbing down into the cave is relatively easy in the summer. But it can be extremely treacherous in the winter. Look out for the jagged rocks at the entrance of the cave, which keeps it hidden and can injure you if you are not careful.
In Iceland, nothing beats the Golden Circle, which laces together some of the best tourist attractions in the country. And the Gullfoss Waterfall is one of the landmarks on the Golden Circle. It originates from the Langjokull glacier, which is the second-largest glacier in Iceland.
While sightseeing, be sure to visit all three viewing points of the waterfall to get perfect views. Note that the viewing point closest to the falls will get you damp, so if you have issues with getting wet, the other two provide great views as well, and you can skip the one closest to the falls.
If you are a photography enthusiast, a visit to Gullfoss Waterfall provides ample opportunities for you to take great picture.
Harpa Concert Hall
Harpa Concert Hall is a modern landmark that holds both cultural and social values. It is well known for its unique architecture as well as for its concert and conference center. This popular tourist attraction has drawn millions of people since it was opened in 2011. Visiting Harpa is one of the most interesting things to do in Reykjavik.
Beyond the architecture of the concert hall, another reason for visiting Harpa is the concerts that go on here. The concert hall has also been praised for its acoustics which makes it stand out as a state-of-the-art concert hall. The Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Icelandic Opera, and Reykjavík Big Band often use Harpa for their concerts which take place multiple times in the year.
This privately-owned crater is along the famous Golden Circle tour route. The Kerið Crater is about three thousand years old and draws geology and nature enthusiasts alike.
Many people visit this site because of the color contrasts in the area, which provides a picturesque view. The slopes of the crater have a vivid red color which is a result of the volcanic activity that created the crater. This contrasts with the deep aquamarine color of the waters of the crater lake for which it is best known. And in the winter, the white snow adds another dimension to the visit. We’ve been fortunate enough to visit during both the summer and the winter.
This mountain takes its name from the way it is shaped like the steeple of a church and is reportedly the most photographed mountain in Iceland. In a land filled with mountain ranges and peaks, this says a lot about the beauty and prominence of Kirkjufell.
This impressive mountain has served as a visual landmark for travelers for a very long time. There is a waterfall at the base of the mountain, which when photographed with the mountain, creates a stunningly iconic image. During summer, the mountain slopes are covered in lush greenery. During winter, the mountain slopes are devoid of shrubbery and are covered in brown and white snow. Like many sites in Iceland, this has become more popular due to Game of Thrones.
Mývatn Nature Baths
The Lake Mývatn area is a popular tourist area for its beautiful lake and other surrounding attractions, including the Mývatn Nature Baths.
The Mývatn Nature Baths leverage the warm springs found around Lake Mývatn to create a natural bathing experience for users. For centuries, people who live in this area have made a ritual out of their bathing practices. This ritual involves dipping oneself in steam and finishing off with a leisurely swim in warm water.
The Mývatn Nature Baths allow visitors to recreate this experience. The first dip in the clouds of steam produced by the hot springs, then they have an enjoyable swim in a geothermal pool, one of the best hot spring lagoons in the country.
Námafjall Boiling Mud Pits
Located at the bottom of a volcanic mountain, this landmark is popular for its large collection of steam springs and boiling mud pots. The steam springs are referred to as fumaroles.
The surrounding landscape of Námafjall resembles a typical desert except for the Hverarönd itself which is where the desert is replaced by what would appear to be hot springs. However, instead of water, the steam springs and mud pots are filled with sulfurous gases. This gives the site the permanent smell of rotting eggs.
Thanks to the mud pots and steam springs, the area is devoid of vegetation. However, this does not mean that it is devoid of color. The ground in the area is covered with colorful deposits of minerals which make the location an explorer’s (and photographers) delight. If your nose is not sensitive and you can brave the smell of sulfurous gases, exploring this site can be a rewarding experience.
The Perlan Museum is a masterpiece that has something for everyone. There are so many activities you can do here, which allows you to experience all of Iceland in a short time, and all in one place.
At the Perlan Museum, you can learn the natural history of Iceland and how the volcanoes and glaciers have changed the Icelandic landscape.
Perlan Museum features an ice cave made from snow from the Icelandic mountains, which recreates the feeling of walking into a glacier. This can be a particularly enjoyable experience for kids as they are allowed to touch the ice and listen to what a glacier sounds like inside of it.
If you do not have the opportunity to see the northern lights in Iceland, you can experience the aurora virtually in a 22-minute show in the planetarium. This can be an educational experience for both adults and children alike.
Raufarhólshellir Lava Tube
Would you like to know what happens during a lava eruption, then visit the Raufarhólshellir lava tube. This underground lava tube gives you a view into how lava works when it erupts and the ways it changes the surrounding landscape.
Raufarhólshellir lava tube is one of Iceland’s longest caves. It was formed during the Leitahraun eruption, which caused a crust to thicken and form a roof over the lava stream.
The entire lava tube is 4500 ft long, with the main tunnel being 3000 ft long. At about 96 ft wide and 33 ft high, it is spacious enough for people to stand in, walkthrough, and explore. This makes it one of Iceland’s most expansive lava tubes.
There are three breathtaking columns of light near the entrance of the cave created when the roof of the tube caved in. Towards its end, the tube branches into three smaller tubes where you can see amazing lava falls.
The little town of Seyðisfjörður is a major tourist attraction in Iceland because the town is so beautiful and is also quite historic. The town is nestled comfortably in a deep fjord surrounded by mountains. This gives it a great picturesque view.
One of the best things to do is to simply wander around and immerse yourself in the pretty little town. Take in the beautiful architecture, take pictures of the colorful houses, the rainbow street, and the Blue Church. Of course, stop into the local shops and even have a coffee or pizza at the Arts Center.
The town is known for the love of the arts and several famous artists have lived here. The town is also known for hosting many arts festivals throughout the year. Come and experience one of the prettiest Icelandic towns.
Another one of Iceland’s major waterfalls, this magnificent landmark on the South Coast is one most visited waterfalls. The waterfall and the surrounding area are beautiful, especially in the summer with a vast lupine field below the falls.
Thanks to the spray off the falls, you’ll find the most beautiful rainbows here. Sometimes they are double rainbows, and if you are daring enough, you can venture high enough to take a picture while standing in the rainbow. Five hundred twenty-seven steps are leading up to the waterfall’s observatory point, and a reward for climbing them is being up close with the rainbows.
Apart from the scenic beauty of this landmark, there is also a legend attached to it. According to local folklore, the ancient Viking settler of the region, Þrasi Þórólfsson, hid a treasure chest behind the waterfalls, and the first person to find it would own everything in it.
Church in Husavik
This quaint church is the most iconic structures in the small town of Husavik and one of the most photographed in Iceland. In use since 1907, this wooden church was built by the State Architect Rögnvaldur Ólafsson, who designed it in the shape of a cross.
The church features iconic paintings drawn from the Bible as well as from local Icelandic scenery, making it the pride of this little waterfront town. While a tourist attraction, it is still in use as marriages, baptisms, funerals, and the annual general meetings are hosted there.
The church is best known for being featured in the movie, Euro Vision, and played a critical role in the plot.
Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur Hot Dog Stand
The cuisine of a destination is an important part of tourism. And no trip to Iceland would be complete without exploring the food of the country. And in Iceland, the lowly hot dog might well be national food. Icelanders eat hot dogs by the truck load and they are found at every gas station in the country.
The Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur hot dog stand is a cultural institution in central Reykjavik. It has been in existence since 1937 and has been popular amongst locals who visit it for affordable, tasty hot dogs…and late hours after a night of drinking in the bars.
If you visit this hot dog shop, be sure to request for einu með öllu. This is a hot dog that contains everything; everything being fried onions, ketchup, sweet brown mustard, regular mustard, and remoulade. It is a tasty spicy treat that would leave you craving more.
This little hot dog stand gained international prominence and became a popular tourist destination when former US President Bill Clinton visited Iceland and ate hot dogs from the stand in 2004.
Vidimyrarkirja Turf Church
If you are looking for a true relic of ancient Icelandic architecture, look no further than the tiny Vidimyrarkirja Turf Church. It is one of the most picturesque churches in Iceland.
Dating back to 1836, this iconic landmark is made up of turf and wood. The sides and roof are made from turf, which is capped by weathered wooden walls.
Beyond the external appeal of the church, the inside of the church is very quaint. Having room to seat about 10 people, it feels very intimate. The pinewood walls and decorations exude a minimalistic feel.
Another iconic canyon in Iceland, Stuðlagil Canyon is an absolute beauty to behold. This is one of Iceland’s recently “discovered” natural landmarks. This landscape was previously hidden by a powerful and forceful river that no one dared cross because of the danger.
Fast forward to 2003-2007, a dam was built in the area, and as the water level began to recede, the canyon began to reveal itself. In 2016, some local shepherds discovered the canyon, and the rest is history. It is now a tourist attraction for people looking to see the tall Basalt columns for which the canyon is best known.
Stuðlagil Canyon has two viewpoints that provide unique views. To get a full view of the canyon, you should access the canyon through both viewpoints. The first viewpoint is on the west side of the canyon, close to the nearby Grund farm. This is the closest to the on-site parking lot. However, while you get a great view of the canyon, complete with lush countryside, you can only view the Basalt columns from the east side of the canyon, which allows you the chance to see the canyon, or hike into it.
A trip to Iceland is a great opportunity to discover new world facts, experience the beauty of nature, and go on exciting adventures.
Lance Longwell is a travel writer and photographer who has published Travel Addicts since 2008, making it one of the oldest travel blogs. He is a life-long traveler, having visited all 50 of the United States by the time he graduated high school. Lance has continued his adventures by visiting 70 countries on 5 continents – all in search of the world’s perfect sausage. He’s a passionate foodie and enjoys hot springs and cultural oddities. When he’s not traveling (or writing about travel), you’ll find him photographing his hometown of Philadelphia.