Iceland is a small island, however, there are so many hidden gems off the beaten track, not known to the visitors of the Golden Circle and the South Coast. If you are planning a trip to Iceland but looking for an authentic experience, read on we will share top-10 of the hidden gems in Iceland.
Sky Lagoon - A New Thermal Spa in Town
If standing in long queues and bathing in a crowded spa, that is the Blue Lagoon, is not how you prefer to spend your time, then we recommend checking out a new spot.
Sky Lagoon is located in Reykjavik and is a brand new, very well-designed spa with an ocean-view pool and sauna. It is popular with locals as anything new, however it is less crowded and spacious while offering the Ritual, a unique seven-step experience and of course the bar. Check out the Sky Lagoon website.
Reykjadalur - Hot River Valley
It´s been a long tradition to bathe (sometimes naked) in Icelandic hot springs, and believe me this is a true Icelandic experience you should try! And the Reykjadalur Valley is a perfect spot to do so – it is full of steaming hot springs, and has a hot river landscaped for bathing.
The river is long providing enough space for large groups. A small tip – the higher up the river you go, the hotter water is. And don’t forget to bring some snack and beverages to enjoy it to the fullest.
Hengifoss – The Second Highest Waterfall in Iceland
Hengifoss falls from 128.5 meters high, it drops into the Fljótsdalur valley in East Iceland. To see it up close you need to hike to the waterfall uphill for about 1 hour. But the view worth it!
What makes this waterfall unique is layers of red clay between the basaltic layers that are 5-6 million-year-old from volcanic eruptions in the Tertiary Period. The multiple red stripes are sediments and old soil from the oxidation of the iron. Close to the Hengifoss waterfall is another one – the Litlanesfoss, famous for the basalt columns surrounding it.
Stuðlagil Canyon – Best Instagram Spot
This canyon is a truly hidden gem, as up until 2019 Stuðlagil remained unknown to locals and tourists. It was submerged under the Jöklá river and not visible until the hydroelectric power plant was build nearby. The canyon opened a picturesque view to 20-30-meter-high basalt columns and turquoise-blue water.
And now it is one of the most photographic scenes in Iceland. However, to get to the bottom of the canyon one should be prepared for a hike. For those who would like to enjoy the view from atop, there was build a view point. Here is a tip how to get to the most picturesque part of the canyon: take the Ring Road, by Skjödólfsstaðir turn south to road nr. 923 and drive to the farm Klaustursel (around 14 kilometers). You will see a bridge and a parking lot near it, leave the car and walk over the bridge to the east riverbank. Then take a hike about 4 kilometers to the canyon. We recommend to stop in the middle of your hike to enjoy the basalt column waterfall called Stuðlafoss. Ream more about this place in our blog.
Dynjandi – The Glittering Jewel of the Westfjords
Another hidden gem awaits you in the Westfjords. It is the biggest waterfall in the area, stunning and dramatic when it cascades down around 100 meters and spreads at 60 meters wide at the bottom.
The name to this waterfall was given after Icelandic word ‘thunderous’, well, it deserves every bit of it. During the scenic hike up to see the Dynjandi water veil you will pass 6 other waterfalls. The waterfall area is preserved as a natural protected monument and all visitors are asked to stay on the marked paths to preserve this beautiful place. Dynjandi waterfall is located by Dynjandisvogur bay and Arnarfjörður fjord, which is the second biggest fjord in the Westfjords.
Galdrasafnid: The Museum of Icelandic Witchcraft
If you like Icelandic folklore, Old Norse mythology and even fairy tales this place is for you – it is a museum of witchcraft! Galdrasafnið is without a doubt one of the most unique museums you can find in Iceland. It is located in Hólmavík Village, on the east side of Westfjords.
All types of demons, trolls and magical creatures are exhibit here to see in their literary and visual disguise. Of course, you could try to summon one of them using old Icelandic traditions, however, be afraid of being ill-treated by hidden people (Icelandic elves) for joking around. The museum gives you a glimpse into some intriguing ceremonies you will ever hear of, and the magical runes give great inspiration for many artists.
Hvítserkur Rock – An Elephant or a Rhino?
This standing-alone rock in the North-West of Iceland is called Hvítserkur translating as a ‘white shirt’ and is a 15-meter-tall sea stack that looks like an animal for some people. Some see a rhino and others see an elephant…
Hvítserkur is relatively easy to get to, from the Ring Road drive road 711 and you´ll get there. Best if you take a professional camera to get the best shots, especially in winter with gloomy days.
Látrabjarg – Seabird Paradise
Látrabjarg is a huge cliff in the Westfjords that is considered to be the largest seabird cliff in Iceland and also one of the westernmost parts of Europe.
Látrabjarg is over 440 meters high and 14 km long – you can only imagine how many birds nestle here! But of course, most of the visitors come here to enjoy watching little cute puffins. Just keep in mind, that the Atlantic puffins stay in Iceland from mid-May until late in August each year to raise their chicks. And you can take close-up photos of these fearless birds, however, don´t try touching them it will only harm the birds. Remember, that the puffins dig 70-100 cm long burrows where they lay their one eggs, thus, being close to the cliff´s edge is not safe. Consider not crossing a white line that is there for your safety.
Árbaersafn – Hidden Gem in the Heart of Reykjavik
Árbæjarsafn or Árbær Open Air Museum is an open-air museum in the capital area. You could experience first-hand how Icelanders lived before. Iceland’s early history is restored in a series of turf houses. The turf houses at Árbæjarsafn Museum were built around 1890-1918 and have been reconstructed through the years, now you’ll meet costumed guides, grazing animals, and traditional crafts in there. You will be able to see how from a few farms Reykjavik has become a modern city
Daily guided tours in English are available all year round, at 1 PM – no booking necessary. Museum open hours: JUNE – AUGUST Open daily 10 AM – 5 PM, SEPTEMBER – MAY Open daily 1 PM – 5 PM. It is better to acquire the Reykjavík City Card – it gives you access to Árbæjarsafn museum plus many more museums and galleries in Reykjavík, the swimming pools and buses.
More info at the museum website.
Elliðaárdalur – A Rabbit Park
Elliðaárdalur is another hidden gem in the heart of the capital. This valley is a peaceful recreation area that is mostly known to locals. This oasis has some easy hiking routes, a river that runs through the valley with a few waterfalls, and the main attraction – a farm with rabbits.
It is a perfect place to come with kids or by yourself to feed cute rabbits carrots. And you could even combine it with a trip to the Árbæjarsafn museum located not far away. It’s the perfect place if you have some extra time in the capital but aren´t ready to leave the nature for a megapolis yet.
Iceland has so much to offer if you travel with the group or if you are exploring it off-the-beaten-path by yourself. Hopefully, our Top-10 list will be a great addition to your bucket-list on what to see in Iceland.