ItineraryPlaces to VisitLocation Spotlight: Must-Visit Places in Iceland
An aerial view of the stunning, otherworldly landscape of Iceland, with vibrant green moss covering the volcanic rocks and mountains in the background.
Go Car Rental Iceland travel writer Leah BIlquist
By Leah BIlquistJul 17, 2024 • 11 min read

Location Spotlight: Must-Visit Places in Iceland

Discover Iceland's breathtaking landscapes and explore the unique, extraterrestrial environments that make this country so special. Visit 6 must-see locations that look like they belong on another planet.

Iceland is an extraordinary country that is sought after by wanderlusters from all over the world. Its cascading waterfalls and mountainous peaks are just some reasons to visit. However, most travelers simply come here to escape into the country's vibrant and remote landscapes. So it is no wonder Iceland tops the list of places that make you feel like you are on another planet.

You will be able to enjoy a variety of destinations during your next Iceland road trip. From mossy green volcanos to silky black sand beaches. Enjoy indulging in all the local Icelandic cuisines along your journey.

Don't know where to begin? Let's go over the top six places that will transport you into another world when visiting the stunning country of Iceland.

Reynisfjara (Black Sand Beach Iceland)

Iceland tourist walking on Reynisfjara black sand beach

Located near the town of Vik, Iceland, is the breathtaking Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. This world wonder is a hotspot for photographers looking for a unique photo with contrast. Luckily the black sand beach is easy to get to since it is conventionally located along the infamous Ring Road. It is also 110 miles southeast of Reykjavik, making it a quick two-and-a-half-hour drive. This means it is just far away enough to still attract a lot of visitors, without it being completely overcrowded.

Iceland's South Coast is a beautiful place to escape for a while. In addition to the bold black sand, you can also admire the rocky sea stacks known as the Reynisdrangar. They sit high in the sea, making a beautiful backdrop while enjoying your black sand beach day.

Reynisfjara volcanic black sand beach, iceland

After you are down soaking up the views of the black sand beach, head up to the town of Vik. Which is only a quick five-minute drive from Reynishverfisvegur. Here you can indulge in hot drinks, tasty meals, art galleries, and much more. A local favorite is Smiðjan Brugghús, a chic restaurant with craft brews and fresh burgers. On colder days, grab a piping hot soup at The Soup Company. A Vik hot spot featuring Hurry Curry Fish Soup, Lamb Stew, and Vegan Soups.

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach in Iceland be enjoyed any time of the year. The best part is that Iceland's cloudy and rainy weather compliments the bold colors even more. Providing a spooky contrast to the already stunning views. It is no wonder why this Iceland beach is so famous as it was rated one of the Top 10 non-tropical beaches to visit on the planet in 1991 by National Geographic. A must-stop on your Icelandic road trip.

Please note: While the black sand beach is majestic and beautiful, it can be dangerous. Lives are unfortunately lost here annually due to the unpredictable sneaker waves. Which are large and powerful coastal waves that reach the shore quickly and unexpectedly. You can still enjoy the beach from afar, but be careful when approaching the shoreline.

How far is Reynisfjara Beach from Reykjavik?

Reynisfjara Beach is a two-and-a-half-hour drive southeast of Reykjavik.

Þingvellir National Park

Waterfall into The Mid Atlantic Rift, thingvellir, Iceland

One of the most beautiful places in Iceland is the magnificent Þingvellir National Park, also known as Thingvellir National Park. It is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site on the mainland of Iceland. It is also convenient for travelers visiting Iceland by car because it is along the route of the Golden Circle.

There are plenty of fun stops in this unique National Park! Your first stop should be the Gullfoss waterfall, known as Golden Falls. It is famous for its two levels of waterfalls, with the first part of the waterfall rising to 36 feet. You can then watch it cascade to the second part of the falls, which showcases a 69-foot drop, a real show stopper. The canyon on both sides of the waterfall reaches 230 feet, ending at the Gullfossgjúfur canyon.

To see the falls up close, you must take the 1.3-mile hike around the waterfall. This is a great way to enjoy the views while feeling the subtle mist of the waterfall. The short walk is easy, with an elevation gain of only 101 feet. It takes only an average of 31 minutes to complete, making a short and sweet addition to your trip.

The Eurasian and North American tectonic plates in Þingvellir

After you have worked up an appetite, stop by the Gullfoss Cafe. A locally run gift shop with delicious food. The meals range from hot soup to homemade cakes. Pick up some Icelandic gifts before making your way out of the Gullfoss Falls area. They have local books and knick-knacks that you can bring home with you!

Another impressive stop off in Þingvellir National Park is the Almannagjá gorge. This gorge marks the edge of the North American tectonic plate. You can walk along the rift valley, which technically allows you to walk between two continents. Then, start your journey at the Thingvellir National Park Visitor Center, where your journey will begin. A beautiful place to technically be on two continents at once. If that is not an item on your bucket list, then I don't know what is!

How far is Þingvellir National Park from Reykjavik?

Þingvellir National Park is a forty minute drive from Reykjavik.

Diamond Beach Iceland

A man walks along the glistening black sand shore of Diamond Beach in Iceland, surrounded by glittering ice chunks scattered along the beach.

A hidden gem, also known as Diamond Beach, is located in the remote area of the South Coast of Iceland. The beach is a Breiðamerkursandur glacial plain located by the glacier lagoon of Jökulsárlón. It is a popular road trip spot and is sought out by those who want to explore the less populated areas of Iceland.

The beach is a black sand strip stretching over eleven miles, located next to the glacier lagoon. The icebergs that travel from Jökulsárlón in the water resemble, you guessed it, diamonds! The icy jewels become vibrant crystals thanks to the contrast of the black volcanic sand. It is a favorite for those wanting to capture vibrant sunset photos as the colors of the sky dance off of the ice chunks.

Please note: It is important to be alert when visiting Diamond Beach in Iceland. It is known to have random "sneaker waves," which can come as a surprise. These waves can happen anytime when you are close to the water. So be sure to keep your distance and to pay attention when on the sandy shore. Pictures and exploring are still encouraged as it is a relatively safe area most of the time.

Diamond Beach in Iceland, where the black sand contrasts with the sparkling ice chunks scattered along the shore, creating a breathtaking natural wonder.

If you don't feel comfortable exploring Diamond Beach on your own, don't worry! You can take a boat tour with Ice Lagoon Zodiac Boat Tours. Which is located across the street from the beach. This once-in-a-lifetime tour brings you close to the biggest glacier in Europe, the great Vatnajökull. You will even see the glacial chunks falling off the side if you are lucky enough.

Diamond Beach in Iceland can instantly transport you to another planet. Enjoy its natural contrast and glistening icebergs while road tripping through the beautiful South Iceland Coast.

How far is Diamond Beach from Reykjavik?

Diamond Beach is located five hours southeast of Reykjavik

Vatnajökull Iceland

People walking on a Vatnajökull glacier in Iceland

Get ready to visit the largest and most voluminous ice cap in the whole country of Iceland, Vatnajökull. In addition, it is the second-largest glacier in all of Europe since it covers 8% of the landmass of Iceland. Vatnajökull National Park in Iceland is home to this massive glacier and is the showrunner of the park.

This area provides lots of activities for those seeking adventure. This includes glacier hiking since the glaciers have "long tongues." This allows you to walk along with them, generally with a guide. You can also explore the infamous ice caves, which have become photoshoot hotspots. Spend your day hiking in the caves while marveling at the icy blue frozen surrounding.

Person is standing in a ice cave in Vatnajökull glacier Iceland

Take advantage of the rest of the park when you are done adventuring. Vatnajökull National Park is unique because it is the second-largest national park in Europe. It covers more than 5,460 miles, 14% of the country. A fantastic place with lots of land and glaciers to explore. The National Park has over fifteen hiking trails, rated from easy to hard. Some provide views of waterfalls and lakes, in addition to the glaciers.

Chances are, you will work up quite the appetite hiking around the country's largest glacier. So be sure to stop at Fosshótel Glacier Lagoon Restaurant on your way out of the park. The restaurant features colorful dishes of locally sourced meat and vegetables. Did we mention that they even have a yummy selection of homemade desserts? The best part is that the restaurant is located inside Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon, a convenient hotel to spend the night.

Down here, you can see where Vatnajökull National Park in Iceland is located:

How far is Vatnajökull from Reykjavik?

Vatnajökull is located five hours southeast of Reykjavik

Dynjandi Waterfall

Dynjandi waterfall in Iceland

Feel the mist of a 330-foot cascading waterfall in the Westfjords region in northwest Iceland. It is typically visited by car and is located 226 miles northwest of Reykjavik. You can also fly to the airport in the Westfjords from the Reykjavík Domestic Airport, then rent a car to explore the Westfjords region. This remote area is also known as the "Jewel of the Westfjords" and most certainly lives up to the name!

The Dynjandi Waterfall is unique since it has a variety of waterfalls in one. The top of the falls has a width of 98 feet that widens out to 196 feet on the bottom. This causes the waterfall to mimic a majestic bridal veil which has also become a common nickname of the falls.

People walking to Dynjandi Waterfall at West Fjords in Iceland

You can get a quick workout by hiking to the base of Dynjandi Waterfall. It only takes about fifteen minutes and is rated as easy. You will enjoy the views of the small waterfalls along the way too. The path you will be hiking is narrow and rocky and was built back in 1996 by volunteers. The trail will bring you to the bottom of the waterfall, close enough to feel its cool mist on your face. A quick and memorable hike that is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

After exploring and completing your waterfall walk, head out and stop by Vegamot Bildudal. Which are a cafe, shop, and restaurant located an hour from the waterfall. They offer some delicious food options, including their raved-about fish and chips. You can also purchase local jams, sauces, and much more. Finally, grab a piping hot coffee before journeying to your next out-of-this-world Iceland stop.

Down here, you can see where Dynjandi Waterfall in Iceland is located:

How far is Dynjandi Waterfall from Reykjavik?

Dynjandi Waterfall is located five hours from Reykjavik

Mount Mælifell

The green Maelifell Mountain in Iceland

A trip to another planet would not be complete without an Icelandic Volcano hidden under a glacier. That is why Mount Mælifell is the destination to end the list. This volcano is located in Southern Iceland and is 656 feet high. Mount Mælifell is a composition cone volcano, making it hard to miss.

It is well known for its vibrant green mossy mound surrounded by black volcanic ash. The striking contradistinction of colors attracts travelers from all over the world. In addition to its look, the volcano has a long line of history associated with it. It was exposed over ten thousand years ago, around the end of the Ice Age. However, it was hidden for a long time because it is located under the Mýrdalsjökull glacier.

This destination is ideal for road trippers because you do not need a tour to get to it. In fact, the best way to visit the landmark is by car. You can take advantage of driving up the highlands and mountain roads if you rent a 4x4 SUV. The views along this route are breathtaking! Ranging from vast valleys to riffs and lookouts.

The black sand road to the green Mount Mælifell in Iceland

Mount Mælifell is typically recommended to do as a day trip. This is due to the extremely remote location of the volcano. This means there are not many overnight locations nearby. However, you can take the fifty-minute road trip to Hólaskjól-Higlandcenter. A property that features cozy cabins and cottages. The cabins are fully equipped and provide fantastic views of the stars.

Mount Mælifell is a world of its own and should be a stop on your Icelandic journey. It is a must-see addition to your list of locations that will make you feel like you're on another planet. Get ready to customize your road trip with some of these bucket list items. Iceland is waiting for you to explore its vast and striking landscapes!

How far is Mount Mælifell from Reykjavik?

Mount Mælifell is located four hours southeast of Reykjavik

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