The Most Underrated Places in Iceland
There are so many wonderful places to visit in Iceland from glaciers and ice caves to lava fields and geysers. You could easily spend your whole vacation seeing all of these famous sights and having an incredible time. But often there is an urge to visit the more secret places too. To escape the more crowded stops on the tourist trail and see something different.
Some of these underrated places in Iceland are quite tricky to get. Others could be just around the corner from some of the main sights but for some reason have been overlooked. For example many people visit the Thingvellir National Park on the Golden Circle. It is one of the main sights on the most famous sightseeing route after all. But few people take the time to explore the further reaches of the park. There are some really special hiking routes here where you will almost have the trails to yourself.
Of course there are guided tours that will take you to some of these more hidden places. But the best way to see them is to explore independently. If you hire a car or rental camper in Iceland you will be able to do just that. There are many underrated places to visit in Iceland. But here are a few of our current favourites.
The Bridge Between Continents
The Bridge between continents is located on the Reykjanes Peninsula just beyond the capital. In fact the whole of this peninsular is somewhat of a hidden gem. Despite its proximity to the capital most people only come here to visit the Blue Lagoon. It is also home to the Keflavik International Airport. One of its treasures is the Bridge Between Continents. It is very much as the name suggests and it is a remarkable place to experience. This is where the mighty Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet. And at this amazing place you can walk between the two.
Gerðarsafn-Kópavogur Art Museum
Often overlooked this excellent gallery displays a changing program of works by international and Icelandic artists. The galley is a little hidden away in the Reykjavik suburb of Kópavogu but it’s well worth a trip. The emphasis is on contemporary and modern art and performance. The museum was built in honour of the important 20th Century female artist Gerður Helgadóttir. She made fascinating works of sculptural abstract art using glass. As well as visiting exhibitions there is a permanent collection of over 1000 pieces including many by Helgadóttir.
Friðheimar Tomato Farm
This is an excellent quirky lunch stop if you are driving around the Golden Circle. It is located just outside of the small town of Reykholt. If you are hiring a motorhome then pop it in the Sat Nav and arrive hungry in time for lunch. On the menu you will find all things tomato. Tomato soup is always the dish of the day here. It is served up with cucumber salsa and freshly baked bread. You can even round things of with some delicious tomato ice cream! Icelandic people love an unusual ice cream flavour. The opening hours are 12-4 and you can enjoy your lunch out in the warm greenhouse amongst the vines.
This is in fact the highest waterfall in Iceland so it is quite surprising that it’s not more visited. This is partly down to the building of the Hvalfjörður fjord tunnel back in the late nineties. There is now no need to drive past unless you are making the trip specifically to see it. The other factor is that it is quite a hike to the waterfall. It is a relatively easy going route but it will take about three hours to complete. The waterfall is a series of thin plumes of water dropping nearly two hundred metres down between beautifully mossy cliffs. The name Glymur translates as echo and it is a wonderfully atmospheric place that feels really hidden away.
Tucked away in the far northern reaches of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula you will find the unique Stykkishólmur Church. Designed by architect Jón Haraldsson the church has a futuristic style and is painted a bright white. The sweeping bell tower is reminiscent of a whale vertebra. Inside there is a striking installation piece consisting of dozens of hanging lights. It is a great off-the-beaten path place to visit. Especially so if you are particularly interested in the architecture or churches of Iceland.
Lake Mývatn Nature Baths
This is the North Iceland answer to the Blue Lagoon but it’s far quieter. It is in fact pretty well known. However the whole of north Iceland is much less visited in general than the south. There is no need to book ahead at this wide thermally heated hot spring lake. This is one of the largest geothermal area hot springs in Iceland. So there is plenty of space for all amidst lovely scenery. No trip to Iceland would be complete without a good soak in a hot spring pool. The Mývatn Nature Baths are a great choice. If you are driving a rental camper van around the Ring Road then there is an excellent campsite here too. It makes a great home base from which to go in search of other less-visited sights.
If you are hiring a motorhome and driving around north Iceland there are many hidden gems to discover. Within a short distance from the campsite at Lake Mývatn you will find some fascinating places. In the Vesturdalur Valley the Hljóðaklettar or the Sound Rocks make an excellent stop. This is a place of bizarre and interesting rock formations and unique basalt columns. Nearby the Red Hills of Rauðhólar are another remarkable sight. Volcanic black and yellow peaks contrast with the predominant vivid red of the landscape.
Hofsós Swimming Pool
This wonderful infinity pool was built in 2010 and is relatively unknown outside of the area. The miniscule village of Hofsós in the far north of Iceland sits right on the edge of the Skagafjörður fjord. It is a truly beautiful and dramatic setting for an infinity pool. Both the hot tub and pool are outdoor and thermally heated to a balmy temperature. So bathers can soak in warm waters and gaze out across the water at the sky and the changing light. It is particularly impressive if the Northern Lights put on a show.