20 Hidden Gems in Iceland: Go Off the Beaten Path

Iceland is a land forged by nature’s powerful forces. This is where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, where volcanoes and geysers erupt, and enormous glaciers creep down mountainsides.

These conditions have created many famous attractions here in the Land of Fire and Ice, all of which are well worth visiting.

But Iceland is also home to even more hidden gems off the beaten path—and in this blog, we’re going to show you some of our favourites!

At Ice Guardians, we provide a range of thrilling adventure trips and courses in Iceland, so we’ve spent countless hours exploring the quieter corners of this unique country.

Scroll down to read our picks for some of the best hidden gems in Iceland. If you have any questions for us in the meantime, please get in touch.

Kerlingarfjoll mountain range on the Iceland, volcanic origin, magic place, in the summer

Kerlingarfjöll: The Colourful Highlands

Kerlingarfjöll is a geothermal wonderland tucked away in the central highlands of Iceland, wedged between two glistening glaciers. 

Imagine hiking vibrant rhyolite mountains, where steam vents and hot springs paint the landscape in rusty hues of red, orange, and yellow.

Walking through this surreal landscape is an experience you will never forget.

A scenic shot of an arctic fox lying on the snow in Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, Iceland during winter

Hornstrandir Nature Reserve: A True Wilderness

Prepare to be captivated by the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, widely considered one of Europe’s last wildernesses. 

Located at the furthest tip of the isolated Westfjords, this remote area offers breathtaking hiking opportunities and a chance to witness Arctic foxes in their natural habitat. 

If you’re a nature lover seeking solitude, Hornstrandir is the perfect place to disconnect.

Aerial view of lake Lake Oskjuvatn and lake Viti in Askja region, Iceland

Askja Caldera: Volcanic Majesty

In the heart of Iceland’s interior lies the majestic Askja Caldera. Venture through the rugged landscape to discover a serene, milky blue lake nestled within this volcanic wonder. 

Jaw-dropping vistas are the reward for the challenging hikes here.

And to prove just how hidden this gem is, Apollo astronauts have trained in Askja because the landscape is so remote and otherworldly!

You can only access Askja in the summer using a 4-wheel-drive vehicle.

Read our Complete Guide to Hiking in Iceland for more information about hitting our country’s stunning trails.

Basalt stack Hvitserkur on the Vatnsnes peninsula, Iceland, Europe in low tide time. Great purple sky glowing on background. Landscape photography

Vatnsnes Peninsula: Seals Galore!

The Vatnsnes Peninsula is a hidden gem for wildlife enthusiasts. Countless seals call this place home, and you can often spot them lounging on the rocks. 

Be sure to have your camera ready, as this peninsula offers some of the best seal-watching opportunities in Iceland.

You can also find the Hvítserkur monolith here, a striking basalt rock formation. Legend has it that Hvítserkur is a troll who was unable to find shelter before sunrise!

The beautiful wild puffin on green grass in the Icelandic village Borgarfjordur eystri

Borgarfjörður Eystri: Puffin Paradise

Borgarfjörður Eystri, a fishing village in east Iceland with a population of around 100 people, is a puffin paradise. 

These charismatic seabirds flock here during the summer months. Witnessing puffins in their natural habitat is a heartwarming experience and a dream come true for birdwatchers.

Aerial view of Hengifoss Waterfall in Iceland.

Hengifoss: The Red Waterfall

Staying in the east, this region is also home to Hengifoss. At 128 metres high, this is Iceland’s third-tallest waterfall.  

What makes Hengifoss truly unique is the rock formation surrounding it. Striking strands of red clay are sandwiched between the darker basaltic layers.

The hike to reach Hengifoss is an adventure in itself, offering stunning views along the way.

Looking for even more high-adrenaline travel inspiration? We think you’ll love our recommendations for the most exciting things to do in Iceland.

Scenic footage from the Glymur waterfall in Iceland.

Glymur: A Hidden Giant

How should we follow Iceland’s third-highest waterfall? Well, with the second-highest, Glymur!

This towering cascade stands at 198 metres and is tucked away in a narrow gorge. 

Accessible via a scenic hike, this Iceland hidden gem provides an opportunity to get up close and personal with the roaring falls, as well as offering panoramic views of the lush valley.

Drangurinn Rock: A Boulder Rich in Folklore

Sitting below the Eyjafjöll Mountains in the south of Iceland, Drangurrin Rock is a giant boulder with its fair share of mystery.

According to folklore, a legendary outlaw dropped the rock in its current location after tearing it from Mount Hrútafell. The rock then became home to elves who would help farmers’ cows give birth.

Whichever version of events you prefer, the isolated boulder is a mesmerizing sight, complete with old houses built into it!

If you’re starting to wonder how to prepare for your Icelandic adventure, we’ve got you covered. Our blog How Should I Plan My Trip to Iceland? is packed with useful tips and advice.

Gjain watrfall cascade, colorful lava rocks valley, lush green moss and vegetation and blue water streams in south Iceland.

Gjáin: A Lush Oasis

Gjáin is a hidden oasis nestled in Þjórsárdalur Valley. Surrounded by rugged terrain, this green canyon is adorned with small waterfalls, emerald pools, and vibrant flora. 

It’s like stepping into a secret, delicate garden nestled in the rough, unforgiving Icelandic wilderness.

Vatnajokull Glacier National Park, Iceland. Horizontal shot

Vatnajökull Glacier: A Frozen Wonderland

While it’s difficult to call the largest glacier in Europe by volume “hidden”, Vatnajökull is still a gem that deserves its place on this list.

As a fertile ground for adventures, this huge ice cap is an absolute must-visit destination. 

Its icy expanse hides a world of excitement, from Iceland glacier hikes to private ice climbing on Vatnajökull

You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into another world as you traverse this frozen expanse.
Check out our Adventurer’s Guide to Vatnajökull National Park to learn more about this incredible place.

Ice Caves in Vatnajökull Glacier: Crystal Chambers

The Vatnajökull Glacier is also home to breathtaking ice caves. These natural wonders are accessible during the winter months, revealing a world of glistening blue ice and intricate formations. 

These crystal chambers are constantly changing, making your adventure truly one of a kind.

Iceland glacier ice cave tours are magical experiences that will leave you breathless.

Take a deeper dive into this topic by reading our blog All You Need to Know About Vatnajökull Ice Caves and our Ultimate Guide to Visiting Ice Caves in Iceland.

Raudasandur beach or Red Sands beach is a beautiful red beach in a very remote area in the Westfjords of Iceland, best known for offering long walks

Rauðasandur Beach: Red Sands and Endless Horizons

Rauðasandur Beach, located in the Westfjords, is a hidden gem boasting red-coloured sands and dramatic coastal scenery. 

The reddish hues are in stark contrast to the black sand beaches scattered around the rest of our country.

Rauðasandur is 10km long and offers an incredible sense of isolation. The road leading here is unpaved and winding, so drive with care!

Hraunfossar: The Lava Waterfall

Hraunfossar is a series of waterfalls that seem to flow magically from beneath the Hallmundarhraun lava field.

A volcanic eruption beneath the Langjökull glacier created this lava field, and now these rivulets cover a distance of around 900 metres before streaming over ledges and into the Hvítá River.

The clear glacial rivers create a striking visual contrast with the dark lava, making for a captivating sight.

Studlagil basalt canyon, Iceland. One of the most epic and wonderfull nature sightseeing in Iceland.

Stuðlagil Canyon: Basalt Column Beauty

Stuðlagil Canyon, often called the Basalt Column Canyon, is a hidden gem in a glacier valley called Jokuldalur, East Iceland.

The hexagonal basalt columns lining the canyon walls create an otherworldly atmosphere, and a hike to this hidden wonder is a must for anyone looking to get off the tourist trail.

There are many examples of basalt columns spread across Iceland, but those in the Stuðlagil Canyon are among the best.

arial view of Husavik city and beautiful ocean, Iceland

Húsavík Whale Museum: Maritime Magic

Visit the Húsavík Whale Museum for a deep dive into Iceland’s rich maritime history and its connection to these magnificent creatures. 

It’s an informative and entertaining stop that adds depth to your Icelandic adventure.

Sitting just below the Arctic Circle at 66° N, Húsavík is one of the best whale-watching destinations in Iceland.

Hofskirkja yellow church in town of Hof with mountain behind in Iceland

Hofskirkja: A Beautiful Turf Church

Hofskirkja, a picturesque turf church, stands proudly in the town of Hof. It’s a testament to Iceland’s architectural heritage and provides a unique insight into the country’s history and culture.

Plan even more adventures in southern Iceland with our sample Iceland south coast itinerary.

The Grafarkirkja turf church in Iceland against a gray cloudy sky

Grafarkirkja: Another Amazing Turf Church!

Grafarkirkja is another charming turf church, located in the Skagafjörður region. 

Its simple yet elegant design, set against a backdrop of rolling hills, makes it a hidden treasure worth seeking out.

Aerial view of Fjadrargljufur Volcanic Canyon Iceland on moody overcast weather.

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon: Nature’s Artistry

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is a winding masterpiece of nature. Hidden away from the crowds, it offers a serene escape where you can explore the meandering canyon and admire the raw, yet sometimes delicate, beauty of the Icelandic landscape.

The Elf School in Reykjavik: Mystical Encounters

Delve into Icelandic folklore and beliefs at the Elf School in Reykjavik. Learn about hidden people, trolls, and elves while gaining insight into the mystical side of Iceland’s culture. 

It’s a fun and informative stop in the capital city that helps you understand why 54% of Icelanders believe that elves exist or have existed!

Raufarhólshellir Lava Tunnel: Subterranean Wonders

Explore the subterranean world of the Raufarhólshellir Lava Tunnel, located near Reykjavik. 

Wander through this eerie, lava-formed cave network and witness the incredible geological forces that have shaped Iceland.

Get Off the Beaten Path with Our Iceland Adventure Tours 

Now that you know these 20 hidden gems in Iceland, it’s time to start planning your trip to the Land of Fire and Ice! There’s plenty more to discover!

If you want to explore the Vatnajökull Glacier and the surrounding areas, look no further than our range of Iceland adventure tours and courses.

For more information about any of our excursions, please contact us for all the answers you need.

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