While Iceland’s culture, food, music, art, and nightlife are all great reasons to visit the small island country, it’s the natural wonders here that really set the destination apart from all others. From the Northern Lights to thundering waterfalls, geysers and glacial lagoons, volcanoes, caves and hot springs, here are our top picks for the top natural wonders of Iceland – an incredibly diverse range of landscapes, geological oddities and beautiful sights.
Iceland’s unique position on the mid-Atlantic ridge, the border of the tectonic plates that form the North American and Eurasian continents, means that the land here is always moving (the plates are actually very slowly moving apart from one another). This movement is responsible for the country’s hot springs and volcanoes, as well as the beautiful rift at Thingvellir National Park.
11% of Iceland’s landscape is covered by glaciers, some of which conceal volcanoes or form glacial lagoons like Jokulsarlon. 8% of the country is covered by a single glacier, Europe’s largest, called Vatnajökull, which visitors can actually climb on. Visitors can also climb on a select few of the more than 130 volcanoes that dot the country. Only 40 of these have erupted in the last millennium, forming beautiful valleys full of moss-covered cool lava, or forming underground cave tubes where lava once flowed. Volcanic ash has also contributed to some of Iceland’s beaches, such as the black sand beach at Vik in south Iceland.
Iceland is also home to several large waterfalls, like Gulfoss, on the Golden Circle route, which is one of the most famous, or Seljalandsfoss, a 200 foot curtain of water that you can actually walk behind. The largest waterfall in Europe, Dettifoss, is also here in the north of Iceland.
One of Iceland’s most beautiful natural wonders only makes an appearance during certain times of the year, and even then seeing it is never guaranteed. The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, streak the sky with greens, blues and reds, on clear nights from September to March.
See some of Iceland’s natural wonders on a half-day tour of geysres and Gulfoss waterfalls.