Iceland | The hidden gems of Iceland | 5 Alternatives to tourist traps in Iceland

The hidden gems of Iceland: 5 Alternatives to tourist traps in Iceland

I’m currently living in the middle of the Golden Circle, the most visited place in Iceland outside Reykjavik. That’s not to say that these places aren’t lovely. They are beautiful but sometimes it’s nice to escape the crowds and have the place to yourself. With that in mind here are some ideas of alternatives to tourist traps/the most visited spots in Iceland. These are just some hidden gems in Iceland that I’m particularly fond of and I hope to add to these so if you have any suggestions I’d love to hear them!

Gullfoss v’s Seyðisfjörður

Gullfoss is gorgeous but it gets a lot of visitors every day. What about a whole valley of more than fifteen waterfalls that you can have practically to yourself? And if you visit on a day that doesn’t have a ferry departure/arrival you won’t even hear any traffic.

Misty water in the Valley of waterfalls, Seyðisfjörður, Iceland
Valley of waterfalls, Seyðisfjörður, Iceland

Seljalandsfoss or Skógafoss v’s Kvernufoss

Another pretty waterfall with approximately seventeen gazillion visitors every day (according to my scientific headcount last time I went). But just at the other side of town there is a beautiful waterfall that hardly anyone knows about and (when it’s not icy) you can walk behind it like Seljalandsfoss.

Iceland - Road trip to Jökulsárlón Lagoon - Kvernufoss
Iceland – Road trip to Jökulsárlón Lagoon – Kvernufoss

Landmannalaugar and the Laugavegur Trail v’s Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Did you know that the Laugavegur Trail is named after Reykjavík’s busiest shopping street for a reason? What about heading to Snæfellsnes where you have glaciers, multicoloured hills, waterfalls, lava fields and peace and quiet? Most days I met only one or two walkers out here. Check out the excellent Cicerone Walking in Iceland by Paddy Dillon for routes and other ideas.

Iceland The jewel in the crown Snæfellsnes
Iceland The jewel in the crown Snæfellsnes

Geysir v’s Hverarönd

Geysir is cool and fun but very crowded. Don’t believe the picture. Hverarönd doesn’t have steam jets but it does have bubbly mud, stinky sulphur and usually is much less crowded. There’s no coffee shop. This is a bonus.

Iceland Road trip to the Icelandic Highlands Route 35
Iceland Road trip to the Icelandic Highlands Route 35

The Blue Lagoon v’s Myvatn Nature Baths/The Secret Lagoon (or any swimming pool)

I confess I haven’t been to the Blue Lagoon in years, when you didn’t have to book in advance and it was busy. Now it feels just … like a very uncomfortable experience to be honest so I’m not pushed about going back. Myvatn Nature Baths are much less crowded, with a nice view of volcanos and trails. Laugarvatn Fontana gets some buses but is much less crowded and you can swim in the lake and I also want to go to the Secret Lagoon on my next day off. Which can’t be that secret if it has a website… Don’t neglect your local swimming pool either if you want a soak in a hot tub! My local pool in Selfoss has three types of hot pots, a plunge pool, five swimming pools, two slides, a steam room and sauna and is ridiculously cheap and almost exclusively frequented by locals.

If you’ve been to any of these places or you have your own suggestions I’d love your feedback – please get in touch!


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

February 21, 2019 at 5:13 pm


I’m planning on visiting Iceland in June. I would love to discover a few secret places that are not full of tourists. Do you have any ideas for me? I will be there from June 2nd to June 17th.

Thank you,


March 1, 2019 at 10:13 am
– In reply to: Sabrina

Hi Sabrina
Along with the ones in this post I would really recommend the Westfjords and Seyðisfjörður. Here are some tips to avoid those big bus tours – have a great time!

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