Despite the lack of palm trees and heat waves, Iceland is becoming one of the hottest destinations for a road trip. And, with a limited number of roads, the main attractions can become crowded especially during summer.
To help you plan your road trip around Iceland, here are 5 places to visit in Iceland that are off-the-beaten-path and alternatives to the “classics” of Iceland.
1. Jokulsarlon vs Fjallsarlon
When looking for icebergs, everyone stops at Jokulsarlon. 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.
Note: as of 2016, facilities are being added at Fjallsarlon. Due to the increasing number of tourists, more locations are sadly being put on the map.
2. Haukadalur vs Leirhnjukur
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 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. Dimmuborgir vs Berserkjahraun
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. Svartifoss vs Aldeyjarfoss
Even though hiking is required to reach Svartifoss, it is 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 (4WD 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. Blue Lagoon vs Myvatn Baths
Swimming in a hot bath is a must-do in Iceland. And most people experience it at the famous Blue Lagoon. A man-made swimming area, filled with the water taken underground to generate electricity.
Although not really off the beaten track, the alternative of the Myvatn Baths in North Iceland 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. (note: Don’t forget to attach your hair and remove your jewelry as silver will turn black…)
For more ideas about things to do on that road trip, planning information, beautiful photos, and practical maps to help you plan your travels, check out ZigZag On Earth’s eBook:
- The Road trip guide to Iceland
- The road trip guide to the Iceland Ring Road
- The road trip guide to Iceland in the winter
Plan Your Trip to Iceland
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Tours in Iceland
More tips for Iceland
- 10 places in Iceland to connect with earth and nature
- 11 tips for visiting Iceland with kids
- 7 insider road trip tips for Iceland
Do you try off the beaten path alternatives during your trips? Can you suggest places to visit in Iceland besides the obvious?