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When it comes to wild and rugged adventures, you won’t find a country that offers this more than Iceland. It’s quickly becoming one of the hottest destinations to visit, and as such, there are very few hidden gems left to explore for the more adventurous traveler.
For those travelers who like to get off the main tourist trail and explore more unknown destinations, you’ll be pleased to know there are still some great places to get off the beaten path in Iceland.
From exploring ice caves to less crowded natural hot springs to glaciers and volcanoes, there are plenty of places to explore where the big bus tourists don’t visit.
To help you plan your trip to Iceland, here are where you can get off the beaten path in Iceland as alternatives to the well known, most famous attractions in Iceland.
- Where To Go Off The Beaten Path In Iceland
- 1. Fjallsarlon Iceberg Lagoon Instead of Jokulsarlon
- 2. Leirhnjukur Instead Of Haukadalur
- 3. Berserkjahraun Instead of Dimmuborgir
- 4. Aldeyjarfoss Instead of Svartifoss
- 5. Myvatn Baths Instead of Blue Lagoon
- 6. Akureyri Instead of Faxaflói Bay
- 7. West Fjords Hornstrandir Nature Reserve Instead of Thingvellir National Park
- 8. Studlagil Basalt Canyon Instead of Sigoldugljufur Canyon
- 9. Raudaskál Crater Instead of Kerid Crater
- 10. Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach Instead of Víkurfjara Black Sand Beach
- 11. Hvitserkur Instead of Reynisdrangar
- 12. Vatnsnes Peninsula Instead of Snaefellsnes Peninsula
- 13. Hengifoss Waterfall Instead of Morsárfoss Falls
- Map Of These Hidden Gems in Iceland
- Final Thoughts
- Tours in Iceland
- More Iceland Travel Tips
Where To Go Off The Beaten Path In Iceland
A rental car is necessary to explore Iceland. The earlier you book your rental car, the cheaper the prices. This is because car hires are in such high demand in Iceland, that if you wait until last minute, only the expensive cars will be left.
You may even want to consider booking a camper van, to save on accommodation.
We recommend using DiscoverCars.com to find your car rental company. They browse all the rental companies in Iceland and find you the best price. Check Prices & Availability For Discover Cars in Iceland Here!
Below are some of the top Icelandic hidden gems to add to your itinerary…
1. Fjallsarlon Iceberg Lagoon Instead of Jokulsarlon
When looking for icebergs and glacier lagoons, everyone stops at Jokulsarlon in Vatnajökull National Park. It is the place that “puts the ice in Iceland”.
Located right next to the main road, the lagoon is always filled with icebergs detaching from the glacier and making their way towards the ocean. Big buses and people touring the Ring Road all stop at this must-see attraction.
An alternative is its little brother, Fjallsarlon. Just a 5 min drive from the Ring Road, its lagoon is smaller but rewards the visitor with great views of the glacier and surrounding mountains.
Because there is no exit to the ocean, some of the icebergs get really close to the shore allowing you to fave fun around them. No facilities at Fjallsarlon but plenty of space to take a break and listen to the cracking of the ice.
There are now some great facilities at Fjallsarlon including an onsite restaurant called Frost.
2. Leirhnjukur Instead Of Haukadalur
When it comes to geothermal areas, Iceland is paradise. One of the most popular places to visit in Iceland is Haukadalur on the Golden Circle Route in Iceland. It is home to the famous but dormant Geysir.
But the main attraction is the Strokkur geyser, which erupts every 5 to 8 minutes. If you go early you can avoid the crowds shouting ‘ohhh’ and ‘ahhhh’ every time. But during the day it is one of the most crowded places as everyone looks at the same spot waiting for the big splash.
But if you go to North Iceland, take a detour to walk through Leirhnjukur. It will give you another perspective of the volcanic activity in Iceland.
This lava field is still steaming 30 years after the last volcanic event! Stay on the track if you don’t want your soles to melt and reconnect to the power of the Earth.
3. Berserkjahraun Instead of Dimmuborgir
Much of the Icelandic landscape is shaped by lava. One of the most famous areas to walk through is Dimmuborgir near Myvatn.
Created by the mix of water and lava, the formations are said to be the home of elves. During the day, visitors take over the delimited paths scaring the elves away.
To avoid the crowds, drive on a small gravel road (558) on the Snaefellesnes peninsula to the lava field of Berserkjahraun. The geology and shapes are different, but the views as impressive. And most visitors stay on the main road and miss it.
4. Aldeyjarfoss Instead of Svartifoss
Even though hiking is required to reach Svartifoss, it’s still one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland.
Photographers love the amphitheater of basalt columns said to have inspired the architecture of the Reykjavik Cathedral. The little path around it fills up pretty quickly.
Another option is to go off road in North Iceland (a 4WD is required for the last 5 kilometers) to discover Aldeyjarfoss, a 20-meter drop waterfall surrounded by intricate basalt shapes.
The surrounding area is bare making the location even more intriguing.
5. Myvatn Baths Instead of Blue Lagoon
Swimming in a hot bath is a must-do in Iceland. Most people experience it at the famous Blue Lagoon, a man-made swimming area filled with the water taken underground to generate electricity.
If you’d like to enjoy the warm thermal waters of a hot spring pool, then the off the beaten track alternative is the Myvatn Baths in North Iceland, which will give you a more intimate experience.
It does not have a bar in the middle of the pool but you will enjoy more peace and quiet while soaking up in the “magical” waters.
Top Tip: Don’t forget to attach your hair and remove your jewelry as silver will turn black…
6. Akureyri Instead of Faxaflói Bay
If you want to go whale watching in Iceland, you’ll find most boat tours leave from Reykjavik and depart from Faxaflói Bay.
To avoid the crowds of people on these tours, head to Akureyri instead.
This is the fifth largest town in Iceland, located in the north, and is a great place to catch the northern lights if you time your visit right.
As well as being a beautiful town surrounded by fjords and wildlife, it’s also a great place to embark on a whale watching tour.
The whale watching experiences pass through Eyjafjord, which is the longest fjord in the country, and is a prime viewing area for humpback whales who visit these waters in the summer.
Remember to wrap up warm, it can get cold and windy here!
7. West Fjords Hornstrandir Nature Reserve Instead of Thingvellir National Park
If you want to get out into the wilderness and embark on a hike, then head to West Fjords Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, which makes for a great alternative to the popular hikers’ paradise of Thingvellir National Park.
While Thingvellir National Park may be famous for its historical and geological significance, Hornstrandir has an untouched wilderness and more secluded landscape that is worthy of exploring.
Imagine hiking through rugged fjords, encountering Arctic foxes in their natural habitat, and witnessing breathtaking views of towering cliffs and cascading waterfalls? This remote reserve offers a chance to disconnect from the tourist crowds and immerse yourself in the raw, unspoiled beauty of nature.
8. Studlagil Basalt Canyon Instead of Sigoldugljufur Canyon
Those looking for an adventure will probably be considering a jeep tour of Sigoldugljufur Canyon, also known as Valley of the Tears.
This rugged, craggy canyon is known for its waterfalls, towering cliffs and bright blue water, but it is also one of the busiest canyons to explore in the country.
Studlagil Canyon has its own allure. Nestled in East Iceland’s Glacier Valley, Studlagil boasts the largest number of basalt rock columns in the country, creating a striking contrast against the turquoise glacial river that flows through it.
This hidden gem has a much more unique landscape with flat, towering cliffs that reach a height of up to 30 meters.
While you don’t need a jeep to explore the canyon (though you might need a 4×4 in the winter due to wet ground conditions), you will still find an impressive scenery here with fewer crowds.
9. Raudaskál Crater Instead of Kerid Crater
Iceland is not short of volcanic craters, the most famous being Kerid Crater in South Iceland. If you want to get off the beaten path in Iceland and see a lesser-known crater, consider Raudaskál Crater instead.
Raudaskál Crater, also known as Apple Crater, is one of the most remote craters in the country and is only accessible by hiking trails or by driving a 4×4 vehicle.
Although not often visited by tour groups, it’s not that hard to find. You only need to drive a few kilometers off the F225 towards “Hekla F-road”, before turning left onto an off-road section for a few hundred meters. From the parking lot there is a hiking trail that takes you the rest of the way.
With its vibrant colors and untouched beauty, this captivating, moon-like crater is a gem waiting to be discovered in the Icelandic wilderness.
10. Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach Instead of Víkurfjara Black Sand Beach
Iceland is also famous for its black sand beaches, which are formed by eroded volcanic material. There are plenty of these beaches in Iceland, typically on the South Coast. Visiting one is certainly one of the highlights of any trip to Iceland since they are so unique and not commonly found throughout the world.
If you’re looking for a more remote beach to visit, consider visiting Reynisfjara instead of Víkurfjara (the most famous black sand beach in Iceland).
While both offer stunning landscapes, Reynisfjara is much quieter because it’s not as easy to access.
This world-famous beach is located near the charming fishing village of Vík í Mýrdal and is known for its mesmerizing basalt columns, powerful waves, towering cliffs, and the iconic Reynisdrangar sea stacks.
It is one of the most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world, and should not be skipped off any Iceland itinerary.
11. Hvitserkur Instead of Reynisdrangar
Reynisdrangar is the most famous rock formation in Iceland, but a lesser known rock formation to visit is Hvitserkur in Hunafjordur Fjord.
While Reynisdrangar holds its own allure, Hvitserkur has a distinct shape resembling a mythological dragon, making it one of the most beautiful natural wonders in Iceland that ignites the imagination.
The area is also a great place to witness seabirds nesting along its cliffs.
12. Vatnsnes Peninsula Instead of Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Known for its seal colonies and incredible rocky landscape, Vatnsnes is a true hidden gem in Iceland.
While most people choose to visit Snaefellsnes in East Iceland, Vatnsnes Peninsula is much quieter, more remote, and very rarely busy.
Experience the thrill of spotting seals along its rugged coastline, explore the mystical lava formations, and indulge in the peaceful ambiance of this lesser-known gem.
13. Hengifoss Waterfall Instead of Morsárfoss Falls
Morsárfoss is the highest waterfall in Iceland and is a wonder to behold. However, another powerful and impressive waterfall known for its size, though not as well known as Morsárfoss, is Hengifoss Waterfall.
Located in the lesser-explored East Iceland, Hengifoss is unique in that it’s made up of vibrant layers of red and black basalt columns surrounding the 128 meter falls, creating a picturesque scene.
To reach Hengifoss, you must hike through the stunning landscape of green moss and basaltic strata for around 2 hours each way. The hike isn’t too strenuous and the views are incredible.
Map Of These Hidden Gems in Iceland
To help you plan your visit, here is a map that shows the location of these off the beaten path locations in Iceland…
So there you have it, those are some of the most unknown and remote hidden gems in Iceland.
Whether you want to see untamed scenery, wildlife, or magnificent displays of nature, be sure to add some of these off the beaten path locations to your Iceland road trip.
We hope this guide helped you plan your trip and gave you some inspiration for where to visit.
Tours in Iceland
More Iceland Travel Tips
Need more inspiration for your trip to Iceland? Here are some other helpful guides…
- Places to Visit in Iceland
- Essential Tips for Visiting Iceland with kids
- Things To Know Before You Go To Iceland
Do you try off the beaten path alternatives during your trips? Can you suggest places to visit in Iceland besides the obvious?