The top Iceland Landmarks give you a diversity that is unimaginable. Some of the best landmarks in Iceland lie in the wild landscape all across the country: stunning lava fields, beautiful waterfalls, vast glaciers, expansive fjords, black sand beaches and more. Here are some of the top Iceland landmarks for you to visit.
You can explore all of them easily if you embark on an Iceland ring road itinerary across the country. This is much easier to do on a self-drive road trip during spring or summer months when the daylight hours are longer.
This list covers the top 2 landmarks in Reykjavik, the 3 main attractions on the Golden Circle route, and several other landmarks spread over the country.
Top Landmarks in Iceland
Reykjavik Landmark: Hallgrimskirkja
This is the iconic church in Reykjavik that looms over most other buildings in the capital city. Hallgrimskirkja is the tallest church in Iceland, standing at 74.5 metres in height. You can climb up and get wonderful views of the city all around.
What makes it a wonderful landmark in Iceland is its unique architecture. You may have come upon many impressive churches but have you seen one that draws inspiration from nature (basalt rock columns found in the country) and mythology (The hammer of Thor inspires the top part of the church building).
Reykjavik Landmark: Sun Voyager Statue
There are many statues all over Reykjavik but none as impressive as the Sun Voyager statue. Its location is stunning, with the Mount Esja as the backdrop. The artist Jon Gunnar imagined the Sun Voyager to be a boat of dreams, to epitomize moving forward and the need for discovery.
Stroll along the main promenade that overlooks the Flaxafloi Bay and you will come upon this seaside statue.
South Iceland: Reynisfjara
Iceland has many black sand beaches which look dramatic against the strong ocean current. Reynisfjara beach is the best amongst all of them in my opinion. This beach lies near the town of Vik and is one of the main attractions of south coast of Iceland. The basalt rock columns on Reynisfjara beach are amongst the tallest and you can reach them easily, climb on them, take photos.
The ocean here has dangerous ‘sneaker’ waves, so it is best to stay away. The beach has a car park and a small restaurant. But there are much better dining options close by in Vik.
South Iceland waterfall: Skogafoss
Iceland has more than 10,000 waterfalls so it is difficult to finalise which ones to be named as landmark destinations. I have added 3 waterfalls in this list, and Skogafoss in South Coast of Iceland is one of them. This waterfall is visible from the main ring road when you drive from Reykjavik to Vik.
But the fun is to get up-close-and-personal with this beautiful waterfall. There is a car park and a restaurant close to the waterfall. You must cross that and reach the bottom of the falls. This is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland with a height of about 60 meters. It is possible to walk close to Skogafoss but be prepared to get wet due to the heavy mist around the falls. You can see a rainbow looming over the falls due to the heavy mist when the day is sunny.
There is a staircase with over 500 steps to take you to the top of the falls. But, in my opinion, the bottom part of the falls is far more beautiful than the top view.
South Iceland: Vatnajokull
You cannot visit South Iceland and leave without viewing a glacier. There is Solheimajokull glacier but the biggest one in the area is Vatnajokull glacier. A popular activity is to hike on the glacier. A guide is mandatory for this activity. You would need crampons and ice pick to walk on the ice. So best to book a tour for this experience in Iceland.
You can choose a simple 1-hour walk on Vatnajokull or even a strenuous activity that involves ice climbing and going further inside the glacier. There is a meeting point at Skaftafell from where all tours to Vatnajokull begin. This area has a large car park, an on-site restaurant and toilet / bathing facilities.
North Iceland: Lake Myvatn area
Lake Myvatn is a beautiful area and a landmark in North Iceland. You can choose it as a base to explore several attractions nearby, including waterfalls such as Dettifoss, Selfoss and Godafoss. I enjoyed the short visit to Hverir or Namaskaro geothermal area and its bubbling mud pools. There is a strong sulphur smell in this area so don’t spend more than an hour here.
Dimmuborgir lave fields, with its gnarled rock formations, is another popular site close to Lake Myvatn. And the climb to Hverfjall volcano crater with its impressive 1 km diameter width of the rim is a fun activity.
North Iceland waterfall: Dettifoss
Dettifoss is Europe’s most powerful waterfall and lies on the Diamond route in Iceland. The waterfall can be viewed from both the west and the east side. There is a car park on the west side of Dettifoss but no other facilities. The west side has railings and steps so that you can walk down to the waterfall easily. The east side gets you closer, but you need to be extremely careful on the large boulders. There is nothing between the boulders and the falls!
There are easy steps made from the car park to this waterfall. And the thunderous sound gets louder as you get closer. Dettifoss is 100 meters wide and drops 45 meters deep into Jokulsargljufur canyon. If you are visiting Akureyri or Lake Myvatn area in north Iceland, you cannot miss a stop at Dettifoss.
West Iceland: Kirkjufell
Kirkjufell is the highlight of Snaefellsnes Peninsula in West Iceland. This landmark has the distinction of being the most photographed mountain in Iceland. Together with Kirkjufellfoss (the waterfalls across the road), it makes for a postcard perfect picture.
You park your car and walk down a bit to explore the waterfalls. The mountains looms across the road.
Golden Circle Route: Thingvellir National Park
Thingvellir national park is the most popular park in Iceland, partly due to its proximity to Reykjavik that makes it a year-round destination. This is the best attraction on the famous Golden Circle route in Iceland. Mainly because of its unique geology and historical importance. There is no other place on the planet where you can see the rift between continental plates (the North American and the Eurasian one) so clearly above land. What more, you can snorkel or dive in the fresh cold water between these tectonic plates!
Thingvellir also has important place in the political history of Iceland. It was here that the first parliament got made to govern the country. The site has the distinction of the longest running parliament before it was shifted to the capital city.
Golden Circle Route: Strokkur
Geysir geothermal area is another popular attraction on the Golden Circle route. This area has geysers, hot springs and colourful earth to view. You must ensure to remain on the designated walking paths in a geothermal area, and not touch any water source.
The famous Geysir (which lent the name geyser) itself is no longer active, but you can see Strokkur nearby. The eruption of Strokkur geyser occurs every 6 to 10 minutes. So best to keep your cameras ready!
Golden Circle Route: Gullfoss
Gullfoss or the ‘Golden falls’ is perhaps the most popular waterfall in Iceland due to its proximity to Reykjavik. This attraction also lies on the popular Golden Circle route. Gullfoss has 2 stages: a shorter cascade of about 11 meters height, and then a higher waterfall with a drop of about 21 meters. The canyon walls on both sides of the falls descend deep into the Gullfossgjufur Canyon.
There are several walking trails and viewing platforms around Gullfoss. But make sure to stay on the marked paths, as the terrain is slippery and may prove dangerous.
Iceland has many geothermal springs: Myvatn Nature Baths in North Iceland, Sky Lagoon and more, but the appeal of Blue Lagoon remains. It is the most popular attraction close to Reykjavik so book your tickets in advance.
Blue Lagoon is a manufactured pool where water is brought up from deep within the earth. This water rich in silica and other minerals is supposed to have healing properties. Being a popular attraction, it gets crowded. If you can time your visit in the early morning hours or late evening hours, that would be the best to get less crowds. Soaking in the warm water at Blue Lagoon after a day of sightseeing is heavenly. Blue Lagoon has 2 famous restaurants, a spa and every other amenity that you may need.