Iceland Hidden Gems: off the beaten path Iceland
Do you love adventure, hikes in untouched nature, and would like to see the Northern Lights with your own eyes? In that case, travelling around Iceland is the perfect choice!
Iceland, known for its breathtaking landscapes and unique natural wonders, has become an increasingly popular travel destination in recent years. However, as tourist numbers continue to soar, many visitors are looking for alternatives to the well-trodden path. For those seeking a more authentic and off the beaten path experience, Iceland has plenty to offer.
Venturing off the typical tourist routes on your visit in Iceland can lead to discovering hidden gems that are often overlooked by the masses. From secluded hot springs nestled in the rugged countryside to untouched remote fishing villages, there are countless opportunities to explore the lesser-known aspects of this Nordic island.
One of the benefits of going off the beaten path in Iceland is the chance to escape the crowds and experience solitude in the midst of its awe-inspiring landscapes. Whether it’s hiking through pristine valleys, gazing upon untouched glaciers, or witnessing the mesmerizing Northern Lights away from the bustling tourist areas, there is a sense of tranquility and serenity that can only be found in the untouched corners of Iceland.
For those seeking authentic hidden gems in Iceland your trip to Iceland will offer a wealth of opportunities to explore its hidden treasures and create memories that will last a lifetime.
Every nature lover will find something to their liking in Iceland. The land of fire and ice will offer an incredible view of a beautiful landscape of volcanic origin and relaxation in soft moss that even a luxurious bed cannot compare to. The fresh air and wild sheep around you will add a unique charm to this experience.
Those who prefer relaxing in the water will appreciate the natural hot springs in Iceland. And suppose you’re lucky enough to have a clear, cloudless evening sky before you fall asleep. In that case, the aurora borealis will conjure up breathtaking patterns in the sky that change every moment.
And the best form of transportation? You can rent a car and drive around the island. Driving in Iceland is not difficult but they do drive on the right hand side of the road which is great for North American drivers but the Brits should keep that in mind. However, from our experience, even hitchhiking is fine here in the summer.
- Iceland Hidden Gems: off the beaten path Iceland
- Iceland hidden gems and off the beaten path secrets
- Hraunfossar & Barnafoss
- Reykjadalur Hot River
- Kerid Crater
- Morsárfoss Waterfall
Iceland hidden gems and off the beaten path secrets
Here are 8 ideas to get off the beaten path in Iceland:
- Hraunfossar & Barnafoss
- Reykjadalur Hot River
- Kerid Crater
Þakgil will be loved by hikers, for whom the local landscape will seem like paradise on earth. Þakgil proudly belongs to the best places in Icelandic Highlands. It is full of waterfalls, canyons, ravines, and you can also experience melting glaciers here it’s one of Iceland’s hidden secrets.
You can only visit in summer when the hiking trails are open. There are three main hiking trails in Þakgil. The most interesting and, at the same time, least known is the Austurafréttr and Mælifell circle.
Crowds avoid these routes probably because of their difficulty. The circle route combines the eastern part of the Yellow Trail and the western part of the Red Trail. The views from these parts are simply stunning.
How to Get There
Þakgil is located quite close to the town of Vík. The only way to get to Thakgil is to use the gravel road 214, Kerlingardalvegur. Since the trip is 16 kilometers (10 miles) long, you must rent a car or hitchhike. There is no bus service to Þakgil.
Probably the most beautiful unmarked detour is to the Huldujökull glacier. You can only find it on local maps. The ascent to the glacier and back takes about 2.5 hours.
Secondly, the Þakgil campsite is one of the most beautiful camps in Iceland, located right in the heart of Þakgil. But there are also other accommodation options, like cottages for rent, but they are significantly more expensive.
Kerlingarfjoll is an incredible volcanic mountain range. There are numerous hiking trails in these orange mountains that are mostly safe and comfortable. Moreover, also hot springs can be seen in the Hveradalir area.
How to Get There
From the capital city of Reykjavík, you can reach the Hveradalir area in less than 3 hours by taking road number 1 towards Selfoss. At the roundabout before the town, you connect to road number 35, from which you turn onto the F347 (Kerlingarfjallavegur).
If you prefer places without tourists and don’t mind a more challenging walk, go to the highest peak of this mountain range – Snækollur. You will have a view of Kerlingarfjoll that will be etched in your memory forever.
The start of the Snækollur trail is only a few hundred meters from the main geothermal area of Hveradalir. The best time for hiking on Snækollur is from mid-July to mid-September, when the tracks are free of snow.
Besides the season, focusing on the weather and visibility is essential. Otherwise, there’s no point in going here because you won’t be able to see anything from above.
Although the route is challenging, you do not need any special equipment. We recommend hiking poles, autumn hiking clothes, and being in good shape. If you have decided to go to Snækollur, drive to the Fannborg parking lot, where the only marked trail to Snækollur starts.
Hraunfossar & Barnafoss
Hraunfossar is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. Although it could be more impressive in power and bulk, it’s incredible anyway! Several smaller streams found their way into the Hallmundarhraun lava field, which flowed from the volcano under the Langjökull glacier.
The lava is very porous and allows water to seep out from underneath, creating cascades from stunning turquoise blue water flowing from the Langjökull mentioned above the glacier and into the Hvítá River. The waterfall has been a protected site since 1987 due to its unique natural scenery.
How to Get There
There is one parking lot for both Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls, which can be reached from Reykjavík in less than two hours heading west from the capital city.
Barnafoss is located less than 200m from the Hraunfossar waterfall. You can reach it along a lovely footpath around the Hvítá River. Along the way are several stunning viewpoints of the river and waterfalls. This waterfall resembles a series of rapids which are caused by water from the Hvítá River.
“Barnafossar” translates as “Children’s Falls”, and the name is linked to the legend of two boys who went to church to see their parents. While taking the shortcut they tried to cross the falls over a natural stone bridge but fell and drowned. The boys’ mother cursed the bridge, and an earthquake destroyed it shortly after.
Reykjadalur Hot River
Reykjadalur Hot River is a magical place in Iceland that you have to hike to. You can’t get here by car. But relaxing in this natural hot spring is even more pleasant than a hike itself!
When you reach a place called Klambragil, you will find all the equipment for swimming around the hot water river Reykadalsa. Then, you can just enjoy the hot water and the view of the fairy-tale surroundings. Maybe even with a glass of wine in your hand!
How to Get There
Reykjadalur Hot River is located approximately 50 km from the capital city of Reykjavík, near the town of Hveragerði. It takes only a 45-minute drive on road number 1 to reach.
When you arrive at the town of Hveragerði, head north, and you will find a parking lot where you can leave your car by the football field. If the parking lot is crowded, you may use another car park a few hundred meters away.
It is best to go early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the tourist crowds, especially in the summer. Just follow the sign indicating “Reykjadalur Hot Spring” from the parking lot. The hiking trail turns to the left, and your steps will lead upwards until the steam rising from the mountains appears in sight.
If you are not fit and can take on a challenging hike, we recommend visiting the hot springs in the summer. This way, undressing to your bathing suit and getting out of the hot spring will be much more pleasant, and there’s zero chance you will get sick!
Kerid is a volcanic crater lake formed after a cone-shaped volcano’s collapse. When the volcano erupted and emptied its magma reserves; the weight of the cone then collapsed into the empty magma chamber, and the current crater was formed. The depression is approximately 170m long and less than 55m deep.
The water at the bottom of the crater is not caused by rainfall. It is at the same level as the groundwater level, but the depth of the lake changes with rain.
Minerals from the soil cause the beautiful turquoise color of the water and create an excellent contrast with the dark red-to-black slope around the lake, which is covered with green moss in summer and white in places from accumulated snow in winter.
Although the slope around the lake is steep, on one side, it is gentler. There are also several steps that you can take safely down to the lake.
How to Get There
From Reykjavík, you can reach Kerid Crater in just one hour (69km). Take road number 1 towards Hveragerði and at the roundabout before Selfoss connect to road number 35.
Kerid Crater is right next to the main road, number 35. Below the crater, you will find a small parking. There is an entrance fee of 400 ISK, which you can also pay by card.
Swimming is not prohibited here, but the water is cold (approx.15°C). A better alternative for swimming is a natural hot spring, of which Iceland offers a large number. Instead of swimming here, you can enjoy an unconventional picnic in a fascinating place and admire lava stones of various shapes. There are a lot of them.
Morsárfoss is a stunning waterfall located in the remote and untouched highlands of Iceland. With a total drop of 228 meters, it is one of the tallest waterfalls in the country. The waterfall is fed by the Morsá river which flows through a narrow ravine before plunging dramatically into the abyss below. The roaring sound of the cascading water can be heard from a distance, adding to the mystique of this natural wonder.
Morsárfoss offers a mesmerizing sight with its powerful flow and the mist of water droplets in the air creating rainbows on sunny days. Due to its remote location and challenging terrain, it is not easily accessible, making it a hidden gem for adventurers and nature enthusiasts seeking a unique experience. Visiting Morsárfoss is a truly awe-inspiring adventure that allows one to connect with the untamed beauty of Iceland’s unspoiled landscapes.
How to get there
To get there, you need to drive approximately 32 kilometers east from Höfn along Route 1, also known as the Ring Road. After passing the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, you will need to take a left turn onto a gravel road and continue for about 9 kilometers until you reach the parking area. From there, it is a short hike to reach the breathtaking Morsárfoss waterfall.
When visiting Morsárfoss, there are a few local tips to keep in mind. Make sure to wear proper hiking gear and bring enough food and water for the trip, as the hike to the waterfall can be challenging. It is also recommended to go early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid crowds. Lastly, be cautious of the slippery rocks around the waterfall and stay within the designated paths for safety.
Strokkur is Iceland’s most active geyser and has been spewing water up to a height of 15-30m roughly every 10 minutes for many years. The clear water allows for an exciting view of the fissure in the ground and the bubbles coming out of it before it gushes out.
This natural phenomenen is caused by the fact that more than 100°C water cannot maintain its volume and explodes. Strokkur can be found together with other geysers, fumaroles, and mud fields in the Haukadalur geothermal area.
One of the geysers, just a few steps from Strokkur, is the famous Geysir. It could just be a bit more active. The last known spew happened in 2009. When it was busy, it spouted water up to a height of 80m. It actually gave the name to all the geysers in the world!
How to Get There
Strokkur can be reached in 1 hour and 30 minutes from Reykjavík. You take road number 1 before Selfoss. You connect to road number 35 at the roundabout and follow it to the Haukadalur area. You can use the parking lot at one of the hotels.
Right next to the Haukadalur area is a campsite with clean sanitary facilities, and across the road, there are two hotels – Litli Geysyr Hotel and Hotel Geysir.
Þingvellir is currently a national park, and it formerly even served as the Athing-Parliament of Iceland. The nature here is diverse, from beautiful stone formations through a vast glittering lake and a beautiful waterfall to a visible chasm between tectonic plates.
It is a place of historical, cultural, and geological importance. Here, you may experience a pleasant walk around the largest natural lake in Iceland – Þingvallavatn.
You can also see the enormous waterfall Öxarárfoss, which flows from the river Öxará. At the foot of the waterfall is a pool full of stones, to which a wooden walkway leads for visitors. This waterfall is the most visited place in Þingvellir Park.
And last but not least, you will reach the gap between Europe and America. There is the possibility of diving between the tectonic plates, where you can also take a photo to commemorate this unforgettable moment.
How to Get There
Þingvellir is less than an hour from Reykjavík when you take road number one in the direction of Mosfellsbær until you reach a roundabout, where you connect to road number 36 and turn from it to 361, which will take you to the parking lot at Þingvellir National Park after a while.
If you are traveling with a backpack, you can camp by the lake near “Silfra”. There is no direct campsite here, but fishermen come here (of course, with permits!), so there is a basin for rinsing fish exclusively and a clean toilet for fishermen. Overnight, you can pay the ranger who cares about this area.
Iceland is a land of incredible beauty, with its stunning landscapes and natural wonders. While many tourists flock to the famous attractions like the Blue Lagoon and the Golden Circle, there are plenty of hidden gems, off the beaten path attractions and secret spots in Iceland that are worth exploring.
One such hidden gem is the Westfjords, a remote and rugged peninsula in the northwest of Iceland. Here, you can find untouched nature, majestic fjords, and charming fishing villages. There are no shortages of hidden places in Iceland from stunning landscapes: black sand beaches, smoking volcanoes, Iceland ice caves, glacial hikes – you name it, it has it.
Another off the beaten path attraction is the Reykjanes Peninsula, located just a short drive from Reykjavik. This volcanic landscape is famous for its dramatic cliffs, crashing waves, and geothermal activity.
One of the highlights of the area is the Blue Lagoon of the North, a hidden geothermal hot spring nestled in a lava field. If you’re up for an adventure, the remote Askja Caldera is a must-visit. Located in the uninhabited highlands of Iceland, reaching Askja requires a challenging drive on rugged terrain. However, the reward is well worth it – a pristine volcanic wilderness with a stunning blue lake at its center.
To experience the power and beauty of Iceland’s waterfalls without the crowds, head to the Westman Islands. This archipelago off the south coast of Iceland is home to some of the country’s most spectacular waterfalls, including the majestic Seljalandsfoss and the hidden gem of Þjófafoss.
Whether you’re seeking peace and solitude or an adrenaline-pumping adventure, wildlife photography, visiting the hidden gems and off the beaten path attractions in Iceland is sure to leave you in awe of the country’s natural beauty.
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