The Wanderlust Guide to the best of Iceland

Everything you need to know about the world's coolest destination

3 mins

Iceland is wild – outside the buzzing, artistic capital, Reykjavík, it’s the natural wonders and sweeping empty landscapes that captivate.

Iceland’s ‘Golden Circle’ grabs most visitors’ attention, and no wonder: the steaming thermal waters of the Blue Lagoon, thundering waterfall of Gullfoss and spouting geyser of, well, Geysir are pretty awe-inspiring.

But there’s much more to do in Iceland: whalewatching from Reykjavík or Húsavík; exploring the volcanic landscapes of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula; discovering the puffin-speckled Westman Island; striking out across the vast Vatnajökull icecap; and sailing around the isolated, silent West Fjords – home to seals, seabirds and Arctic foxes.

 Hot pool, Reykjavik (Wanderlust)

Looking for inspiration?

Clamber into the very heart of Iceland with Clare Wilson as she is lowered 120m into the magma chamber of Thrihnukagigur, a volcano 30 minutes from capital Reykjavík.

Or venture aboard a 60-foor clipper with Paul Bloomfield and sail the West Fjords, an extremely isolated area in an already empty land. ‘The idea that I was surrounded by magical creatures capering among the glaciers and misshapen rocks,’ says Paul, ‘seemed not just plausible but entirely probable.’

Saddle up with Jasper Winn and join in Iceland’s annual roundup, the réttir. The réttir is the autumn gathering-in of the hundreds of horses that spend the summer grazing the island’s hilly interior – part cowboy round-up, part folk festival, and part endurance challenge. Jasper reckons it’s just an excuse for far-flung farming families to get together and have a bit of a party.

And, finally, renowned naturalist, Mark Carwardine, reveals what keeps him coming back to the land of fire and ice – 67 visits at last count – and why it should be top of your list too.

More information

Inside an Icelandic volcano | Clare Wilson

Sailing the West Fjords, Iceland | Paul Bloomfield

Horseriding in Iceland | Jasper Winn

Iceland: Back to the land of fire and ice | Mark Carwardine

Inside an Icelandic volcano (Clare Wilson)  

Iceland’s secrets revealed

Reykjavik local Steinarr Lar risks the wrath of friends and family to reveal Iceland’s hidden secrets, including a thermal foot bath that he reckons is the most romantic place on the island.

Alistair Humphreys, on the other hand, has found what he regards as one of the best trails in the world and is surprised that it is virtually unknown outside of Iceland. Called the Laugavegur, this four-day trek that begins in a lava field, crosses rainbow mountains, passes bubbling pools and glacial ice, crosses a black ash desert, and finishes in green woodland at the foot of Eyjafjallajökull, the now-infamous volcano. What more could you ask of a trek?

Well, Clare Wilson reckons you should head to magical East Iceland, where there are even fewer people and even more undiscovered trails.

Will Gray sings the praises of watching wildlife in winter. It’s a bit chilly, he admits, but it’s the best time to spot feeding orcas. And if you’re lucky, you’ll see the northern lights as well.

For those who like their adventures a little more urban, check out DJ Alex Zane’s guide to Reykjavik.

More information

Iceland’s hidden secrets | Steinarr Lar

Iceland’s secret hike: The Laugavegur | Alastair Humphreys

Where to hike in magical East Iceland | Clare Wilson

Wildlife Watching in Winter Iceland | William Gray

Reykjavik’s top 7 highlights | Alex Zane

Orca (Will Gray) 

Capturing it all on film

Iceland is land of vast, empty landscapes – so big and so empty that capturing its epic scale represents a real challenge for photographers.

Fear not! Acclaimed landscape photographer David Noton lists 5 essential tips that will help you capture the essence of Iceland. And Steve Davey weighs in with his tips on shooting open spaces too.

Our readers’ photos are worth checking out as well...

More information

5 essential tips for landscape photography | David Noton

Photography tips: shooting open spaces |Steve Davey

Readers’ photos

 Geysers (Wanderlust)

Everything you need to know

Ready to start planning your trip? Our Iceland Travel Guide is the perfect place to start. Check out our Iceland Essential Info guide as well. And the list of 20 Icelandic adventures, each road-tested by Wanderlust staff.

If you have a particular questions, hop over to the myWanderlust forum where our knowledgeable community is ready to spring into action and divulge all that they know. Or check out the questions people have already asked about Iceland. The answer to yours might already be there.

More information

Iceland Travel Guide | Wanderlust Team

Iceland Essential Information | Wanderlust Team

20 Icelandic adventures | Various Contributors

Forum Q&A

 Eastern Iceland (Clare Wilson)

Ready to go?

Here’s a selection of fantastic tours offered by our partners. From family adventures and trekking tours to wildlife and city breaks, there’s something to suit every taste and budget. You’ll find the full list of tours available here.

More information

Trip Finder can help you find adventures in Iceland.

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