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.
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.
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.
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.
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!