18 amazing, free things to do in Iceland

Sandra Oberg

Travel, Travel News, Work & Play Guide

Iceland is a country unlike any other in Europe. The landscapes are magnificent: you can see anything from lagoons and hot springs to glaciers and canyons – it truly is a dream destination for any explorer. If you are looking for some free things to do in Iceland, you’ve come to the right place!

  1. Ring Road
  2. Gunnuhver Hot Springs
  3. Black Sand Beach
  4. Selfoss Geyser Hot Pools
  5. Godafoss Waterfalls
  6. Hallgrimskirkja
  7. Reynisfjara Beach
  8. Hoffellsjokull Glacier
  9. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
  10. Thingvellir National Park
  11. Fjadrargljufur Canyon
  12. Skogafoss
  13. Golden Circle Route
  14. Dyrholaey
  15. Skaftafell National Park
  16. Seljalandsfoss
  17. Kirkjufell Mountain
  18. Krysuvik

1. Ring Road

Rent a car in Reykavik and start your adventure by driving around Iceland’s amazing Ring Road. Make sure to take your time and enjoy the stunning landscapes. This route offers a bit of everything – waterfalls, coastlines, glaciers, and volcanic and geothermal sites. The driving is easy since there’s not much traffic, especially away from the South Coast. It’s perfect if you love nature and enjoy a bit of peace and quiet.

Couple holding hands on the Ring Road, Iceland
Ring Road – Courtesy of Hans Hamann (Unsplash)

2. Gunnuhver Hot Springs

Gunnuhver hot springs is a really fantastic sight. You don’t need long, but it’s well worth it. The springs are close to the airport in Keflavík (45 minutes away) so if you’re close by head over for a peek.

Gunnuhver Hot Springs
Gunnuhver Hot Springs – Courtesy of Genna Weber (Unsplash)

3. Black Sand Beach

It’s impressive that you can find so many free things in Iceland that are actually worth the trip – and Black Sand Beach is certainly one of them: volcanic black sand as far as the eye can see!

This is a spectacular beach featuring cliffs and sea caves, with a variety of basalt columns of all sizes and twists that are really mesmerising. Do look up the weather before travelling to the beach though, as it can be dangerous if very windy as the waves can be quite big.

Black Sand Beach
Black Sand Beach – Courtesy of Kristian Ranstrom (Unsplash)

4. Selfoss Geyser Hot Pools

The smell of sulfur hits you as soon as you open your car door! This is a great place to explore without paying for a guide, and has free parking as well! You’ll see multiple small pools of hot water (some with bubbles) and the main geyser sprays water high into the air.

There’s a cosy café and restaurant by the visitors centre where you can grab some food before continuing the road trip to the next place.

Do bring hiking shoes though, because not all the trails are paved and there is red clay that can get muddy when it rains.

Selfoss Geyser Hot Pools
Selfoss Geyser Hot Pools – Courtesy of Gian-Reto Tarnutzer (Unsplash)

5. Godafoss Waterfalls

Godafoss waterfalls is a very popular site for tourists, even early in the morning. However, there is a reason why it’s on our list of free things to do in Iceland – the waterfalls are incredibly beautiful. The falls are 100 feet wide and drop 40 feet, and there are several viewing levels that are easily accessible. You can find plenty of free parking on the right-hand side of Godafoss: it’s a bit of a walk, but the amazing view is worth the walk.

Godafoss Waterfalls
Godafoss Waterfalls – Courtesy of Claudio Büttler (Unsplash)

6. Hallgrimskirkja (church)

You just cannot miss Hallgrimskirkja, a gorgeous church with stunning architecture in Reykjavik that took over 40 years to build. It’s free to enter, so do go inside as well to look around – and the view from the top is amazing as well.

Hallgrimskirkja (church)
Hallgrimskirkja – Courtesy of Cassidy Dickens (Unsplash)

7. Reynisfjara Beach

You must check out Reynisfjara Beach, a place you’ll remember forever. There’s a wonderful view of the Dyrholeay arch and islands from the car – but do take the signs seriously, the waves are strong even on a calm day. The basalt formations are mind-blowing, and you might also spot some puffins swimming off-shore if you’re lucky.

Reynisfjara Beach
Reynisfjara Beach – Courtesy of Rostyslav Savchyn (Unsplash)
Someone holding black sand from Reynisfjara Beach
Reynisfjara Beach – Courtesy of Alexandr Voronsky (Unsplash)

8. Hoffellsjokull Glacier

Hoffellsjokull is a spectacular glacier lagoon without tonnes of tourists! There are also some beautiful hikes near the glacier – but most importantly, don’t forget your hiking boots!

Hoffellsjokull Glacier
Courtesy of Emma Francis (Unsplash)

9. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

This place should be at the top of your list of free things to do in Iceland. The icebergs on the lake are completely awe-inspiring, it’s very different to any other place in Europe.

Although this is a travel guide of free things to do in Iceland, to make the most of the Glacier Lagoon you should book a kayak to get closer to the icebergs. You can also do a combined walk across the road to Diamond Beach.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Jökulsárlón, Iceland – Courtesy of Jeremy Bishop (Unsplash)

10. Thingvellir National Park

The combination of history and natural geological features make this national park a must-see, and the area provides plenty of great walking. It’s free to enter, although there’s a fee for parking.

Just off the visitors centre is a glorious lookout over the rift. Follow the path down into the rift and walk between continents. The paths are well-marked and easy to follow. You can definitely spend up to two hours here, there is so much to see.

Thingvellir National park
Thingvellir National Park – Courtesy of Antoine J. (Unsplash)

11. Fjadrargljufur Canyon

Fjadrarglufur Canyon is a heavenly place full of energy and beauty. It takes about 20 minutes to finish the whole trail, but it’s worth taking your time at each viewing point. The canyon is located a few minutes’ drive from the ring road. The slip road is a gravel road so take care when driving.

Fjadrargljufur Canyon
Fjadrargljufur Canyon – Courtesy of Luca Florio (Unsplash)

12. Skogafoss

You will spot one enormous and very beautiful waterfall as soon as you arrive at the car park, but as you start walking along the trail there are even more cool waterfalls as you ascend.

And here is a secret if you have time. Drive over to the museum and park, then walk behind the museum and maintenance building to the scenic Kvernufoss trail. It’s about a 15-minute walk, but hardly anyone goes there!

 Skogafoss
Skogafoss – Courtesy of Balazs Busznyak (Unsplash)

13. Golden Circle Route

This is a great, easy self-guided route – especially if you are in Iceland for a short time. Start at the crater, then go to the waterfalls, Gullfoss, the active geysers, and stop at Thingvellir on the way back to see the tectonic plates and another incredible waterfall.

Golden Circle Route
Golden Circle Route – Courtesy of Bailey Zindel (Unsplash)

14. Dyrholaey

A fantastic opportunity to see some puffins close-up in a fantastic location. You drive up a steep gravel road to the top of a rocky outcrop on the coast.

Here you will find a lighthouse and breathtaking views of the mountains, glaciers, and the double-arched rock adjacent to you – don’t miss this!

Puffins at Dyrholaey, Iceland
Puffins at Dyrholaey – Courtesy of Michael Blum (Unsplash)

15. Skaftafell National Park

Skaftafell National Park offers a beautiful walk that is flat and not too long, and you can walk right up to one of the glaciers and touch it. The walk from the visitor centre is about 30 minutes, and once there you’ll get a good view of the lagoon and the glacier.

Skaftafell National Park, Iceland
Skaftafell National Park – Courtesy of Danny Jongerius (Unsplash)

16. Seljalandsfoss

You can walk all the way around this stunning waterfall. Although do be aware that at times the path around it is rocky and muddy, and there is no way you’ll make it through without getting a bit drenched. It’s best to ensure that you have waterproof shoes and clothes on!

Seljalandsfoss waterfall, Iceland
Seljalandsfoss – Courtesy of Yves Alarie (Unsplash)

17. Kirkjufell Mountain

If you have seen photos of Kirkjufell mountain and thought to yourself “Is it actually that amazing?” – then the answer is yes, it really is!

The swirling mountain has two waterfalls in the foreground, if you go in the right season you can also see the northern lights around the mountain. The mountain is visible from Road 54, and it takes about five hours to walk up for those who are brave enough.

Kirkjufell Mountain, Iceland
Kirkjufell Mountain – Courtesy of Landon Arnold (Unsplash)

18. Krysuvik

Krysuvik is easily accessible by car and has free parking. You can enjoy a picnic at the tables with a great view. It’s a wonderful place to see some interesting geothermal features against a scenic background.

Krysuvik, Iceland
Krysuvik – Courtesy of Krysuvik (Unsplash)

So there you have it – a long list of some fun, free things to do in Iceland. But don’t forget – good accommodation is the key to an enjoyable visit to Iceland, so make sure to browse our serviced apartments in Iceland for the best combination of comfort and convenience.