13 Unique Things to Do in Iceland

With its dazzling natural landscapes, distinctive local cuisine, and enticing spa traditions, Iceland offers countless unforgettable experiences. For the discerning traveler looking for a glimpse of authentic Iceland, it’s worth straying from the beaten track.

In this guide, you’ll discover 13 unique things to do in Iceland. Whether it’s whale watching beneath the midnight sun, or riding a snowmobile across an ice-capped volcano, these activities reveal a different side to the Land of Fire and Ice.

Uncover more extraordinary adventures among these Icelandic experiences.

1. Dive or snorkel between continents

scuba diver between rocks exploring thingvellir lake silfra iceland

Iceland sits on the boundary of two tectonic plates known as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Here, the Eurasian and North American plates have pulled apart over millions of years, forming and transforming the country’s landscapes.

To see this process in action, head to Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Iceland’s Golden Circle. Visitors can walk in Almannagjá, the dramatic rift between these plates, and see waterfalls cascade down the surrounding cliffs.

Another way to venture into this geological boundary is by swimming between two continents. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge passes right through Lake Þingvallavatn, creating a deep underwater trench called the Silfra fissure.

Thanks to exceptionally clear waters and the stunning location, Silfra is one of the best places in the world for freshwater diving and snorkeling. It’s a breathtaking thrill you won’t find anywhere else.

2. Glimpse whales beneath the midnight sun


Over 12 species of whale and dolphin visit Iceland’s waters throughout the year. Witnessing these majestic, mysterious creatures in any season is an unmissable experience.

For an alternative whale-watching tour, it’s worth waiting until late on a summer’s evening. During this time, Iceland’s nights are illuminated by the midnight sun, and the ocean is bathed in a gentle glow. With few other boats around, whale watchers will have sea views all to themselves.

It’s a serene and magical moment whenever a whale breaches the surface. On a private vessel, the engines can be turned off, creating a calm and quiet atmosphere. This way, travelers can enjoy a greater intimacy with these animals.

3. Descend into a volcano


There’s a world beneath your feet wherever you walk in Iceland. Whether that’s ice caves or lava tunnels, these underground spaces offer a thrilling alternative perspective of the Land of Fire and Ice. 

One of the top things to do in Iceland is to descend into the caverns and hollows formed by extinct volcanoes. In the heart of the Bláfjöll Mountains, for instance, visitors can explore the dormant Þríhnúkagígur. It’s the world’s only magma chamber that can be accessed by an elevator. 

Inside, the rugged cavern is lit up to reveal the mesmerizing colors and formations left behind by the molten rock thousands of years ago.

4. Try a surfing lesson in the North Atlantic Ocean

The Land of Fire and Ice may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of surfing. Yet, with dramatic coastlines, impressive waves, and mild summer temperatures, it has much to offer as an off-beat surfing destination. 

In fact, taking a surfing lesson could be one of the most thrilling and unusual things to do in Iceland. With a local instructor, and a drysuit for warmth, visitors will learn how to paddle, pop up, and catch a wave. All while enjoying Iceland’s coastal beauty.

Alternatively, more advanced surfers can hire a guide to show them the best surf spots. It’s an unconventional journey through the beaches and bays of southwest Iceland.

5. Bathe in a luxury lagoon


The spa culture of Iceland deserves its sumptuous reputation. Visitors can relax in geothermal pools and have the chance to see the northern lights above.

The Blue Lagoon on the Reykjanes peninsula is one of Iceland’s most luxurious spa destinations. Guests can swim in the pool’s milky blue waters, or unwind in the lagoon’s exclusive area, the Retreat Spa. Plus, the resort offers multiple fine dining options, including the Michelin-starred restaurant called Moss. 

A short distance from Reykjavík, Sky Lagoon is another of Iceland’s renowned spas. At the modern, state-of-the-art facility, guests can kick back in the infinity pool overlooking the North Atlantic Ocean. And they can indulge in the Sky Ritual, a premium wellness package based on Icelandic tradition.

6. See Iceland from the sky on a helicopter ride

Iceland is just as beautiful from above. For an extravagant adventure with unmatched views, a private helicopter tour is the perfect choice.

The journey starts from Reykjavík, where passengers will enjoy a bird’s-eye perspective of the city’s colorful houses and distinctive architecture. Then, they’ll be treated to panoramas over Faxaflói Bay, the deep fjords of West Iceland, and the volcanoes and ice caps beyond. 

Plus, there’s the chance to land on a remote hilltop for scenes of Iceland few other visitors ever witness. Travelers can also benefit from helicopter transport to various tour locations, including the Bláfjöll Mountains, for a breathtaking day out.

7. Go glamping on a private island


Camping is one of many Icelanders’ favorite summer pastimes. One way to make this authentic experience extraordinary is to go glamping on a private island. 

This way, campers can be close to nature without lacking anything they need for a refined and inspiring stay. For instance, food is provided that’s grown in the island’s private gardens. Holiday-makers also have the chance to catch sustainable wild salmon in the local river. 

Staying on a remote island, surrounded by nature, is the perfect way to escape the bustle of daily life back home.

8. Tour the countryside on horseback

Icelandic horses are an iconic and adorable symbol of the nation. As such, horseback riding is an ideal way to learn about the nation’s centuries-old traditions. 

Brought here by Vikings centuries ago, Iceland’s horses are recognizable for their size and strength. Over the years, strict rules have controlled their breeding, meaning the creatures you see today are very similar to those that came with the early settlers.

Riding a horse is also a relaxing and enjoyable activity in its own right. On a private horseback tour, visitors can embark on an epic adventure through Iceland’s mountains and valleys.

9. Ride a snowmobile across an ice-capped volcano

No visit to Iceland is complete without seeing the country’s ice caps. Over 10% of the nation’s surface is covered in ice and snow, including Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest glacier. Exploring these otherworldly landscapes is a bucket-list adventure. 

One of the most exciting and exclusive ways to witness such vast expanses of ice is on a private snowmobile tour. Visitors will learn how to confidently drive their vehicle before following their guide into the frozen landscape. Along the way, awe-inspiring views open up over remote regions of Iceland. 

The ice cap known as Eyjafjallajökull is a top destination for snowmobiling excursions. From the vast plain of ice, you can see along the length of Iceland’s south coast.

10. Sample fresh food at exclusive locations

Iceland boasts some incredible places to eat and drink, with Michelin-starred restaurants and gourmet offerings. But for those looking for unique experiences in Iceland, there are many innovative ways to enjoy the country’s cuisine. 

For instance, taste seafood at its very freshest on a culinary boat tour. Fishermen catch shellfish straight from the sea, offering visitors an opportunity to try scallops, sea urchins, and more in the ocean air. 

Alternatively, visitors can enjoy a private picnic on a secret island amidst the rugged ice of a glacial lagoon. It’s a peaceful and luxurious way to witness Iceland’s raw natural beauty.

11. Visit the highlands on a private tour

Iceland’s highlands are a wild and uninhabited area in the center of the country. The region is known for its vividly colored mountains, hiking trails, and some of the most jaw-dropping waterfalls in Iceland.

With rivers to ford and no paved roads, access to the region is a challenge for the unprepared. Fortunately, on a private highland Jeep tour, visitors can easily see what others only dream of glimpsing. 

For example, with the help of a local guide, travelers can see gorgeous off-the-beaten-track areas in the rugged valley of Þórsmörk. They can visit hot springs deep in highland valleys. Or they can get an exclusive look at the lava fields around the legendary Lake Mývatn in North Iceland.

12. Take a boat to the Westman Islands

Many trips to Iceland involve renting a car and traveling the Ring Road, the highway looping around the country. It’s a deeply rewarding opportunity to see the nation at your own pace. 

Yet by sticking to the mainland, many visitors miss one of the country’s top sights. That’s the Westman Islands, an archipelago of volcanic isles off the south coast of Iceland. With its jaw-dropping cliffs, a world-famous puffin colony, and a proud local community, you’ll be glad you made the journey.

For an extra element of opulence, travelers can enjoy a private meal in a secluded beach cave accessible by boat. Local cuisine will be prepared by one of the Westman Islands’ top chefs.

13. Learn to cook Icelandic food

Iceland’s cuisine is renowned for its surprising and unique flavors. Learning to cook like an Icelander provides an intimate insight into the nation’s culture. 

During a masterclass in the kitchen, visitors will discover the authentic tastes, techniques, and ingredients that inspire Icelandic gastronomy. It’s a hands-on way to learn about the food culture that has sustained Icelanders for generations. 

Plus, after the lesson, participants can sit back and let the professionals craft a gourmet meal. Fresh fish, free-range lamb, and foraged vegetables are the stars of the show.

Discover unique Icelandic experiences with Nine Worlds

In this guide, you’ve uncovered a wide selection of the exclusive adventures available in Iceland. But much more is possible in the Land of Fire and Ice.

At Nine Worlds, we curate luxury itineraries for the discerning visitor. As a trusted destination management company, we offer private tours that are fully customizable to each traveler’s preferences. Based in Reykjavík, our team of local experts can help you build the perfect escape.

Contact us to find out more about the experiences we offer.

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