One of the best European travel tips I can give you involves a stopover in Reykjavík and some really interesting Iceland attractions.
How come, you may ask?
You will be surprised to find it is cheaper stop in Iceland for a couple of days whenever you’re traveling to or from Europe.
I discovered this travel hack when traveling from Morocco to Puerto Rico. I saved a good USD $600 on my transatlantic journey by carefully researching open-ended flights and choosing to stay in Iceland between 2-6 days–instead of flying straight from London to Boston, then onward to San Juan.
Who said stopovers have to suck, though?! So I picked the full 6 days and explored the island proper with one of my friends.
With those things in mind, I will do the final push to convince you to book those open jaw journeys by showing you my favorite things to do in Iceland.
Iceland Attractions for a Unique Stopover
Rent a Car and Explore the Golden Circle
Iceland is blessed with the Ring Road. As its name suggests, this road makes a perfect circle around the entire circumference of the island.
In retrospect, we should have gone for a car rental in Iceland instead of booking a full-day Golden Circle tour. Don’t get me wrong: we had an incredible time as our guide Gummi was outstanding. Yet, there were some spots we wished to linger at, but could not due to other travelers…
If you have six days like my open jaw ticket allowed me, you will have enough time to explore the Golden Circle at your own pace– in addition to a few of the other outworldly attractions that I recommend below.
Some of my personal Golden Circle highlights include:
- Þingvellir National Park
- Geysir explosions at sunset
- Snæfellsjökull stratovolcano
- Skógafoss and Gullfoss waterfalls
- Kerið volcano crater, where Bjork once had a concert (!)
So pick up a map, rent a car, and go exploring!
Yes: I count hanging out with the locals as an attraction.
Icelanders party, hard. If you’re not into that kind of thing though, you will find a very addicting artistic and musical scene. Quirky galleries and chill bars / coffee shops with live bands are found everywhere.
For these reasons and many more, Couchsurfing was the best decision we made for our trip. Not only we had free accommodation for six nights, but we’ve had our own a private room and Icelandic flatmates.
We hitchhiked around Reykjavík. We went to an odd Icelandic rave / electronica concert. We tried different types of Icelandic food.
Let’s just say, our trip wouldn’t have been the same without our local hosts!
The non-touristy version of the Blue Lagoon
Speaking of hidden gems, Laugarvatn is one of those Iceland attractions that only locals know about.
I know, it’s hard to get past those gorgeous light-blue hues splattered all over promotional Iceland brochures. But think about this: for a fraction of the price, Laugarvatn also offers natural hot springs, steam rooms, a lake, and even a beach.
Better yet? Laugarvatn is a bit less than an hour away from Reykjavík, so it is an easy addition to any Golden Circle itinerary.
A slight detour off the Ring Road will take you to the Sweet Ass Mossy Canyon, known in the local language as Fjaðrárgljúfur (not kidding). It is arguably one of the island’s most stunning canyon hikes, with towering peaks and rushing streams.
To get there, simply go toward Kirkjubæjarklaustur on the south coast. If driving from the capital, the Canyon will be on your left right before reaching Church Town Convent (a.k.a. Kirkjubæjarklaustur).
Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon and Diamond Beach
Imagine crystal-clear icebergs, coming in different shapes and sizes — a glacial lagoon that will make you feel like you’re visiting some obscure corner of either the Arctic Circle or Antarctica.
Yup, that’s Jökulsárlón. Make sure you stop by while you travel along the South Coast of the island!
Not far away from this eerie lagoon is Diamond Beach, another one of my favorite Icelandic attractions. The beach takes its name from several pieces of ice scattered along its black-sand landscape, which sparkle like diamonds under the sun.
As dreamy as imagining your beau go down in one knee, I promise.
Close to the popular southern coast village of Vík í Mýrdal is yet another spectacular, commonly-deserted Icelandic landscape.
Dyrhólaey is a small peninsula, mainly known for its quite picturesque, volcanically-formed arch.
Other interesting volcanic formations and a jaw-dropping viewpoint over Reynisfjara Beach are among the highlights of the area — the latter being my favorite black sand beach in the entire country.
I know: I’m obsessed with those.