This post is also available in: Nederlands
Are you planning a trip to Iceland and looking for some true hidden gems? I got you covered! I can guarantee that these places will leave you in absolute awe and that there won’t be a lot of other tourists to deal with!
When traveling to Iceland most people only stick to the typical route. They drive the ring road and visit the main sights that are located right next to it. And while this is a good option, Iceland has so much more to offer!
While visiting Skógafoss and the glacier lagoon at Jökulsárlón is a must, you’ll always be visiting these places together with a ton of other tourists. And somehow it takes away a big part of its magic. What if I told you there is an even more beautiful glacier in Iceland, and that you can have it almost all to yourself?
Keep reading this guide to find my favorite secret places in Iceland that are off the beaten path and less discovered by tourism.
13 Crazy Beautiful Hidden Gems in Iceland
1. Kvernufoss – a secret waterfall right next to Skogafoss
This beautiful hidden gem is a secret waterfall located only 5 minutes away from Skógafoss and is a must see when visiting Iceland!
How to reach Kvernufoss
Park your car at the Skogar Museum. From here walk to the right (when facing the mountains) and go around the hangar. At the end of the trail there will be a ladder going over the fence. This means that you’ll be entering private property but that the owner actually allows you to visit. So remember to be respectful, don’t leave any waste and don’t damage the property.
It would be a shame if because of this you can’t visit the waterfall anymore in the future! Once you’re over the ladder walk alongside the little river into the canyon. You’ll reach Kvernufoss after 10 minutes of hiking.
Why should you visit Kvernufoss
Just like with Seljalandsfoss you can walk behind the waterfall. Just minus the 300 other tourists. Sit down and take in this amazing view and the tranquility that comes with it.
2. Kolugljúfur Canyon – My favorite hidden gem in Iceland
This hidden gem in Iceland is one of my absolute favorite secret places in the entire country. I think it speaks for itself that on my last trip to Iceland I made a 5 hour detour just to see it again! The canyon is located between Reykjavik and Akureyri and is a must see if you’re driving the ring road.
How to reach Kolugljúfur Canyon
When it comes to following directions this one is pretty standard. Simply put in this location in your GPS. The last part of the drive is a non gravel road so always make sure to take it slower here. You can park either in front of the bridge or drive across it and park on the other side. Once parked you hike down across the bridge, either on the left or right. Always be aware of your surroundings when walking around here.
Why should you visit Kolugljúfur Canyon
Did I already tell you that besides a canyon there is a waterfall as well? You heard me right! You get two for the price of one here. When I visited this place in November we were the only ones there for 2 hours straight. This time around in the summer there were around 10 other people, which isn’t all that bad compared to other places in Iceland!
Located on the beautiful Snæfellsness Peninsula, this beautiful church is often overlooked. Most people simply visit Búðakirkja and Kirkjufellsfoss. But this Peninsula has a lot more to offer and actually holds two of these hidden gems in Iceland!
How to reach Ingjaldshólskirkja
Ingjaldshólskirkja is located on the Northern side of the Peninsula and can be easily reached by car! There is a long driveway up, which is an amazing photo spot and there is parking at the top of the church. If you’re travelling with a Camper Van the best camp site to stay at is the one at Olafsvik. It offers a beautiful view of the coast and the mountains in the back are drop dead gorgeous.
Another gem that often gets passed up for it’s more famous counter part at Arnarstapi.
How to reach Londrangar
If you type in this location on Google Maps you will end up at the lighthouse. This is in my honest opinion not the best starting point. Rather park your car here. Once parked you simply walk up and be amazed by the view that lies before you. If you look to your right you will see a small pathway that you can follow down. Definitely do this and go take a look at the cliffside from up close! Also, the drive up here is epic!
5. Fjallsárlón – a secret glacier in Iceland
This magnificent glacier is now my all time favourite place in entire Iceland! Imagine this: you drive up to the parking lot to see it empty. You start a small hike up the hill and then you see it. A glacier so beautiful it actually brought tears to my eyes! I can’t emphasise enough on how magical this place actually is. It’s what I call: Iceland at it’s very best.
How to reach Fjallsarlon
Fjallsárlón is located between Skaftafell camping and the always overcrowded Diamond beach. It is super easy to reach by car. Just one turn off from the main ring road!
Why you should visit Fjallsarlon
I will tell you again. When I visited I had this place entirely to myself. And that doesn’t happen very often anymore these days. Just sit down, relax and enjoy the amazing view.
6. Thakgil – A unique place to visit in Iceland
This incredible place has flown under the radar for so far and I have absolutely no idea how that’s even possible!
Thakgil is made of spiky green canyons, icy rivers, black sand, volcanoes and glaciers. I mean, how can you not want to see this place for yourself?
How to reach Thakgil
One of the reasons that Thakgil is less frequently visited is because there’s no actual public transportation leading here. The easiest and cheapest way to reach this marvelous place is to self-drive. Otherwise you have to either take a bus from Reykjavik or Selfoss up until Vik and from there you’ll have to order a taxi to take you more inland.
So yes, the best way to reach Thakgil is to go by car! If you’re coming from Reykjavik you’ll have to drive about 180km on the Ring Road until you reach the cute little town of Vik. From there it’s another 5km east until you make a left onto the 214. If you put in Hotel Katla into your GPS you can’t miss it. Simply make a left onto the gravel road and drive past the hotel.
Now, you better prepare for a bumpy ride! I’ve seen people doing this drive with a regular car and camper van but then you have to go very slow! The road is very rocky and bumpy and if you drive too fast with a regular car, chances are high you’ll damage the bottom which is never part of the insurance!
My biggest advice to you if you’re exploring places like Thakgil is to rent a 4×4. My favorite company to work with in Iceland has always been Happy Campers. And with their 4×4 camper van the drive up to the Thakgil campground went very smooth and easy.
Why you should visit Thakgil
Thakgil, also known in Icelandic as Þakgil, is a one of a kind place in the south of Iceland. Arriving here felt like a breath of fresh air after facing all of the crowded and more touristic places on the Ring Road close by.
Typical for Thakgil are the steep, mossy walls and the many canyons. And compared to the immensely popular Fjadragljufur canyon you can actually roam around freely here.
📖 FOR MORE INFORMATION MAKE SURE TO CHECK OUT MY FULL BLOG POST ON THAKGIL INCLUDING A LOT MORE INFO AND PHOTOS!
Sigöldugljufur is one of those incredible hidden gems in Iceland that actually looks even better in real life! Located in the heart of the Highlands this canyon is filled with some of the bluest water I have ever seen and has waterfalls as far as the eye can see.
How to reach Sigöldugljufur
Sigöldugljufur is located in the Highlands and only accessible with a 4×4. If you only have short period of time to visit you can combine it with a day trip to Landmannalaugar. You can park your car here and simply follow the hiking trail across the road. Now for the longest time you’ll think you’re in the wrong place. But once you step a little closer to the canyon you’ll actually see its beautiful landscape instead of a barren wasteland.
8. Studlagil Basalt Canyon – One of the new attractions in Iceland
The Studlagil canyon is one of Iceland’s latest discoveries cause a few years ago you couldn’t even see this canyon. Important to note is that the water inside of the canyon isn’t always this turquoise. In fact after a lot of rainfall the water becomes grey and there will even be a current. The best time to visit the Studlagil canyon is from June until August.
duHow to reach Studlagil Canyon
There are two parking lots but it’s only from the one on the East Side that you can access the canyon itself.
The other parking lot on the West Side will grant you access to a viewing platform.
From the East side parking lot, which is right next to a waterfall, it only takes the 40 minutes to reach the actual canyon!
Why you should visit Studlagil Canyon
The Studlagil canyon is gaining more and more popularity each year and if youplan your visit in the middle of the day you’ll already see a ton of other tourists. The best idea is to visit this place in the early morning or later in the evening.
Klifbrekkufoss is one of Iceland’s local secrets and you don’t need to calculate in a lot of extra time to visit this place cause it’s right next to the road that leads into the peninsula.
How to reach Klifbrekkufoss
Klifbrekkufoss is located on one of the Eastern fjords in Iceland. The best part is that it’s actually super easy to reach! Simply drive down the road and park your car in the designated parking space. One thing you do have to keep in mind is that the top of the fjord can be extremely clouded and you’ll be driving through thick fog. So take it slow and be careful on your way down.
Why you should visit Klifbrekkufoss
Klifbrekkufoss is not necessarily the biggest waterfall in Iceland but what makes it so impressive is the endless amount of layers that make up this waterfall!
ALdeyarfoss is another unique place to visit in Iceland and is tucked away in the Northern Highlands. The waterfall is completely surrounded by basalt columns which makes it look a little like Svartifoss, just without the hundreds of other people.
How to reach Aldeyjarfoss
Aldeyjarfoss is located along F26, one of the most dangerous F-roads in entire Iceland. But not. to worry, the part leading towards this particular waterfall is still okay and doesn’t contain any river crossings. It is however very rocky and bumpy and may only be reached with a 4×4. There’s a small parking lot and from there you simply hike down to the waterfall.
11. Kerlingarfjöll – The most famous unknown place in Iceland
One would think that an incredible place like Kerlingarfjöll is visited by everyone that travels to Iceland. But that’s really not the case. During our visit in August there were only a handful of other people there which made the experience that much more incredible.
Kerlingarfjöll is one of the most precious natural attractions in Iceland and is located in the central Highlands. It’s part of an active volcanic system and is home to one of Iceland’s most impressive geothermal areas.
How to reach Kerlingarfjöll
Kerlingarfjöll is accessible via road F35, also called the Kjölur Route or Kjalvegur, from both North and South Iceland. The F35 is one of the best maintained F-roads on the entire island and from where you should drive inland totally depends on your itinerary.
There’s not a single river crossing along the entire F35 and only the last part that leads to the Kerinlingarfjöll Mountain Resort and the Hveradalir Parking is very bumpy and rocky.
Why you should visit Kerlingarfjöll
Honestly, in all my life I have never seen a place more mesmerizing than Kerlingarfjöll. There are several hiking trails so you can easily spend a couple of days here but you can also just spend a couple of hours and still see some of the most impressive parts.
12. Bruarfoss – a hidden waterfall in Iceland
This cute little waterfall might not be the biggest one out there in size but it sure makes up for it in beauty. The more unknown Brúarfoss is actually also located on the infamous Golden Circle but because it takes 1 hour of hiking to reach it not a lot of people visit it. So if you want to go a little bit off the beaten path in Iceland I highly recommend adding a visit to Brúarofss to your list!
How to reach Bruarfoss
All you have to do is drive to the official parking lot and start following the trail along the river. There’s room for a little over 25 cars so try to arrive a little earlier in the day. The hike from the parking lot to Brúarfoss is 3.5km one way and is mostly on flat terrain. It’s an easy hike that you can also enjoy if you’re traveling with younger children.
Haifoss is with its 122 meters one of the highest waterfalls in Iceland and it’s located close to the Hekla volcano, at the very edge of the Highlands.
How to reach Haifoss
To get there you don’t have to drive on an official F-road but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to be extremely careful if you’re not driving a 4×4. The gravel road leading up to the parking lot is very bumpy and your rental car is never insured against damage underneath the car. From the parking lot it’s only 5 minutes walking to reach one of the best viewpoints.
PIN IT FOR LATER
Charlotte Lint is the founder of Charlies Wanderings.
Charlotte has traveled all over the world and is based in Belgium where she also owns her very own dental practice.
She is an expert on writing efficient travel guides and finding unique places to stay.
Every month she helps over 134.000 people discover the most beautiful places in the world through her detailed travel guides.