Check out the best day trips in Iceland! There are so many magnificent adventures in Iceland – many of which can be explored on a day trip. On this list witht he 10 best trips you will only find the tours that are worth 5 out of 5 stars – in my personal opinion of course. Yes, I have been on them all. And yes, they are all extraordinary.
You might also want to check out full lists of many more day trips from Reykjavík and from Akureyri.
Landmannalaugar is an absolutely beautiful location in the Icelandic highlands.
The area can only be seen by going on foot. Therefore, this adventure requires that you enjoy hiking. There are several hiking routes in Landmannalaugar. The shortest and most frequently visited by tourists is fairly easy. However, to get the fullest out of the experience it is recommended that you are in strong physical shape and fully capable of climbing steep areas on the mountain sides.
Make sure to dress appropriately in hiking attire and bring your swimsuit and a towel to go for a dip in the base camp’s natural geothermal hot spring. It is a real treat. One of the really cool things about Landmannalaugar is that it is a geothermal area, which means that you will experience areas with steam coming out the mountain sides. It is pretty cool.
Þórsmörk is absolutely gorgeous, very wild and an incredible place to visit. The dramatic cliffs and massive mountainscapes are truly humbling to walk amongst.
Like Landmannalaugar, Þórsmörk is a hiking area. You can only get there by 4×4 vehicle as the road to Þórsmörk requires that you cross rivers – which by the way is a pretty cool experience. There are several hiking trails in Þórsmörk and also a trail from Þórsmörk to Landmannalaugar, which can be completed in approx. 4 days of hiking.
To get the most out of Þórsmörk it is recommended that you are in good shape. If you want to visit the high point of Þórsmörk, which requires some climbing, it is best to have no fear of heights. It is a long way down, very steep and there are no safety rails. It is not a place for a rookie. However, you don’t have to climb the mountain to appreciate the landscape.
Make sure to dress in appropriate hiking attire when visiting Þórsmörk.
Glacier hiking and ice climbing
From Reykjavík – also available from other locations
There is nothing like an up-close experience with a glacier. Many tours allow you to observe a glacier from a distance, but hiking on one is a whole different and mind blowing experience. Only when you stand on top of the ice can you really wrap your mind around how enormous the glaciers are and what magnificent forces of nature are into play here. Glacier hiking and ice climbing is definitely two things very worthy to be called one of the best day trips in Iceland.
When going on a glacier hike you will be equipped with crampons (metal braces with spikes for your shoes) in order to walk and stay sturdy on the ice. For those who haven not tried a hike with crampons yet, this is in itself a fun experience.
If you are in good shape it is highly recommendable that you choose a tour that includes ice climbing. This is a very empowering experience and adds an extra activity to your glacier hike apart from taking in the breathtaking scenery.
However, if you have a fear of heights this might not be for you. Ice climbing involves lowering oneself down an ice wall, which you will then climb up using ice hacks, crampons and of course the appropriate safety equipment.
Make sure you wear appropriate and warm clothes for your adventure. Hiking boots are essential and if you are going ice climbing it is highly recommendable that you rent a pair of boots for this specific purpose.
Glymur is an incredible hike and the advantage of this trip is that it is only approx. a 1 hour drive from Reykjavík. Therefore, this trip can be made in half a day, which makes it a good choice if you are pressed on time, but want to squeeze a hike into your itinerary. It is without doubt one of the best day trips in Iceland.
Glymur waterfall, which is the destination of this hike, is the second heighest waterfall in Iceland (198 metres). It used to be the tallest one but was surpassed in 2011 by new falls in one of the glaciers.
The trip to Glymur takes you through Icelandic forest landscape, through a small cave and requires that you cross a river before you get to the foot of the mountain, where you start hiking up towards the waterfall.
The view on this hike is amazing and Glymur is an absolute beauty to behold. The sight of this waterfall is very rewarding. The hike is intermediate, but not hard. A fear of heights can be a slight issue, but keep away from the mountain side and you will be fine.
Make sure to wear appropriate hiking attire for this trip and most importantly wear waterproof shoes. The water height in the river pass that you will cross varies from top dipping to knee height, where you will have to take of your shoes and socks and get in.
South Shore Adventure
Not all of the best trips of Iceland require hiking or climbing. Luckily some are more easily available for those less fit and families. One of them is the South Shore Adventure, which is definitely one of the most popular trips, but also definitely one of the best day trips in Iceland.
There are many variations of the so-called South Shore Adventure trip, but they all basically start from Reykjavík and take you on a beautiful trip to the South coast of Iceland to see the two exceptionally beautiful waterfalls: Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss.
If you love waterfalls this trip is highly recommendable as Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss are guarenteed to amaze you. You can walk all the way up-close to the bottom of Skógafoss and feel its power. You can also take the stairs to the top and go for a walk (the beginning of the Fimmvördurhals hike) where you will se plenty of more waterfalls along the path. Seljalandsfoss is incredible as you can walk behind this waterfall and really feel the mist of pure Icelandic water on your face. On days with sunshine Seljalandsfoss is also famous for its stunning rainbows.
Black sand beach
Apart from this you will also get to see the black sand beach, Reynisfjara, with the stunning rock formations, Reynisdrangar. This scenery is breathtaking and very characteristic of Icelandic nature.
Please be careful when visiting Reynisfjara! Never turn your back on the water as this beach is notoriously famous for its “sneaker” waves, which come highly unexpected out of the blue and sweep people of their feet and in worst case into the cold ocean waters with extremely strong currents.
Usually the south shore trips also allows you to take a peek at the glacier Sólheimajökull from a distance, and on a clear day you can have also have a peek at Eyjafjallajökull from the road. Eyjafjallajökull is not the most recent volcanic eruption. However, it is by far the most famous one as it stopped all air traffic in Europe in 2010.
Apart from this you will also get to visit the town Vík, which will give you a small look into what Icelandic towns on the countryside are like.
In brief, the south shore trips show you various iconic aspects of Icelandic nature and conveniently transports you from one to the other by bus.
Borgarfjörður in West Iceland aka The Silver Circle
The Silver Circle trip takes you to see various aspects of Icelandic nature. It can be recommended if your are looking for a trip that combines different types of sights, but also allows you to dig a little further into some of them. This is what makes Borgarfjörður one if the best day trips in Iceland.
The Silver Circle allows you to take a beautiful walk on one of the volcanic craters of Grábrókargigur.
One of the highlights of this trip is that you get to see two stunning waterfalls: Hraunfossar and Barnafoss. Hraunfossar is actually not just one waterfall, but a whole area where water flows between the layers of lava and into a glacier river. It is a magnificent and very unique sight – especially if it has been raining a lot.
The trip also takes you to visit a lava cave – or actually a lava tube to be more exact. Víðgelmir, which means white worm, is an underground channel that has led lava and is now a perfect place to get an in-depth experience and understanding of the geology of Iceland. In Víðgelmir you can observe and learn about different types of lava, minerals and rock formations. You also get to experience complete darkness, which is pretty cool.
Part of the Silver Circle is a dip in the wonderful geothermal waters at Krauma. At Krauma you will be able to soak in hot pots of various temperatures and experience the relaxing effect of Iceland’s geothermal waters. Krauma is located by Deildartunguhver, which is Iceland’s most powerful hot spring. So while you’re there you can check that off your bucket list too.
What you don’t get to see on this trip is a geysir and a glacier. Unfortunately the only day trip that includes a trip to the geysir Strokkur is The Golden Circle. To see a glacier a glacier hike is recommended.
Eventhough The Silver Circle is a fairly easy trip, as you go by bus from location to location, beware that the lava tube, Víðgelmir, includes walking on some uneven surfaces in dark surroundings. The lava tube is fairly big most of the way, so unless you are highly claustrophobic this should not be an issue.
River rafting: Whitewater adventure
Jökulsá is a glacial river in the North famous for river rafting. The East of the river is famous for its rapids that make it the perfect action adventure that is guaranteed to give you an adrenaline kick.
Do not go on this trip you don’t like getting wet or are afraid that your makeup might get smushed. Also, forget about taking selfies and pretty pictures of the canyon. The scenery is truly amazing, but the river is for mental pictures only, as you will need both hands on your paddle at all times.
River rafting on the “Beast of the East” is an adventure that you won’t forget and it is a beautiful and fun way to get close to the forces of Icelandic nature. This makes this adventure one of the best day trips you can take in Iceland.
If you are looking for a more family friendly adventure on the river then the West river is perfect for you.
River rafting is also possible on the river of Gullfoss waterfall in the South of Iceland.
Whale watching by RIB boat
From Akureyri, Dalvík and Húsavík – also available from other locations
Whale watching is spectacular in Iceland as there are many species of gentle giants in the waters surrounding this island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Humpback whales are one of the main attractions, but you can also spot other species such as dolphins and mink whales. During some seasons orcas, also known as killer whales and the wolves of the sea, are also to be seen in the Icelandic waters. The great variety of whales that you can spot in Icelandic waters makes whale watching one of the best day trips in the country.
If you like fast and fun rides going on a RIB boat can be recommended as these boats are the fastest and really fun, bumpy rides through the waves.
An advantage of going on a RIB boat is also that these are smallest and more flexible to navigate, which allows you to get closer and more in sea level with the whales. You get the best chances of a good look at a whale by going on a RIB boat.
Wear warm clothes for your whale watching trip including thick wollen socks, mittens or gloves and a beanie. You will also be given warm overalls to wear on top of your clothes, but make sure to have on plenty of layers underneath.
Iceland is the only place that allows you to go snorkeling between Earth’s tectonic plates. In the cool waters of Silfra you will experience looking down into the fissure while hovering weightless above the depths. Snorkeling in Silfra is a strangely serene and truly extraordinary experience that is almost meditative. It cannot be compared with snorkeling in tropical waters. It is something entirely different that cannot be compared, which makes the experience one of the best day trips in Iceland.
The Silfra fissure is located in Þingvellir, which is a very historic place. For instance it is where chieftains would meet to resolve political issues and discuss legal matters. It was also an important market place and place of trade.
It is possible to combine snorkeling in the Silfra fissure with a Golden Circle tour.
Inside the Volcano
Þríhnúkagígur is a dormant volcano not far from Reykjavík that can be visited. Roughly the name translates into “three knuckles crater”, which makes sense as the volcano has three peaks. One of them is where the Inside the Volcano tour takes you.
On the Inside the Volcano tour you will be lowered down 120 metres into one of the volcano’s craters. Inside the crater you will be able to see amazing rock formations and colors beyond belief created by Earth’s minerals.
To get to the Þríhnúkagígur base camp, from which you will be equipped, you must go for a small hike (approx. 45 minutes) through a lava landscape. The hike is flat and not demanding. However, it cannot be recommended to go on the Inside the Volcano tour if you are struggling with poor balance, poor eyesight, fear of heights or claustrophobia. Why? The crater is very dark and uneven. Also, your balance may be worse than usual as there is no horizon to help you stay balanced. You will be lowered down in the crater in a lift with a 120 meter drop. Claustrophobia? Well, it is a cave. It is quite big, but not a match for those with a fear of being trapped underground.
A trip down Þríhnúkagígur is certainly worth it if you are interested in geology. Is not, then this tour is not for you. However, if you do find volcanos interesting there is something extremely special about being inside one and observing the rock formations, colors and imagining the incredible forces of nature that have been at work when it was active. The Inside to Volcano tour really takes you into the belly of the beast, which absolutely makes it worthy of being on the list of the 10 best day trips in Iceland..