There are plenty of practical reasons why Iceland is a great place to travel. You can fly there in less than six hours from the East Coast, the dollar remains strong against the Icelandic krona, and it’s an easy layover on your way to Europe. But even if all those things didn’t apply, Iceland should still be on the top of your travel bucket list because all of the beautiful things to see and do there. Here are 15 of our favorites.
1. Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon isn’t just a pretty place to visit just outside of Reykjavik. The silica-rich water does wonders for your skin too.
2. Laki Craters
Explore the lava tunnels in this series of volcanic craters—also known as Lakagígar—or climb to the top of the main mountain to take in the panoramic views of the expansive lava fields. Don’t worry—there hasn’t been a major eruption since 1783.
3. Gullfoss Waterfall
One of the main attractions of the Golden Circle, Gullfoss is actually made up of two tiered waterfalls.
Designed to resemble the basalt lava flows found in Iceland’s landscape, Hallgrímskirkja Church is visible from almost any point in Reykjavik. On a clear day, it’s worth going to the observation deck at the top for breathtaking views of the city from up above.
5. Reynisfjara Beach
Iceland isn’t exactly a beach vacation destination, but the black sand and rock formations at Reynisfjara Beach on the south coast are worth visiting for the views—even if you have to wear a coat.
Iceland’s interior is largely uninhabited and difficult to get to. But if you can access the right kind of car to get through the rough terrain, the otherwordly landscapes you’ll see at Landmannalaugar—including multicolored rhyolite mountains—will be a highlight of your trip.
Adventurous types can go snorkeling or diving in the rift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.
8. Vík í Mýrdal Church
While there are plenty of pretty churches dotting Iceland’s countryside, the one in the village of Vík looks like it was made for Instagram with its bright red roof and location at the foot of a massive mountain range.
9. Kirkjufell Mountain
The beauty of Kirkjufell Mountain is in its nearly symmetrical shape and freestanding location—which is probably why it’s the most photographed mountain in Iceland. It’s also a particularly beautiful spot to watch the Northern Lights when they’re active from October to March.
10. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Located in southeast Iceland, the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon gets its vivid blue color from the mixture of fresh and saltwater where the lake meets the open sea.
11. Ice Caves
While you’re at Jökulsárlón, take the time to explore the incredible ice caves underneath the Vatnajökull Glacier. Note that they are only accessible during winter when it’s cold enough to safely explore the caves.
12. Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon
For an easy hike with amazing views follow the walking path located on the edge of Fjaðrárgljúfur, a canyon located just off the Ring Road in Southeast Iceland.
13. Goðafoss Waterfall
Goðafoss means “Waterfall of the Gods” in Icelandic—a moniker this heavenly place completely deserves.
14. Strokkur Geyser
Nearby Geysir might be the most famous geyser in Iceland, but Strokkur is much more reliable erupting every 8 to 10 minutes and is just as beautiful to watch.
15. Harpa Concert Hall
Fans of music and architecture shouldn’t miss Reykjavik’s Harpa Concert Hall, whose unique glass facade was designed by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson.