Sparkling turquoise water. Bright blue skies. Steam rising slowly, surrounding a mud-masked face staring serenely into the distance. We’ve all seen the iconic Blue Lagoon Instagram photo that screams “I’m in Iceland!” — it’s almost a rite of passage to enter the country. But beyond Blue Lagoon lie dozens of incredible, Instagram-worthy sights that few travelers take the time to visit. I’m talking secret waterfalls, moon-like lava fields and natural hot springs that give Blue Lagoon a run for its Krona.
If you’re planning a trip to the breathtaking land of fire and ice, make sure these lesser-known sights and experiences are on your Iceland itinerary.
1. AKUREYRI, NORTH ICELAND
Akureyri is Iceland’s second-largest city, but that doesn’t mean it’s just a mini Reykjavik. Oh no. With snow-covered scenery, a quiet vibe and a safe, peaceful waterfront, Akureyri is its own destination and is definitely worth exploring. It’s also a great “home base” for other North Iceland adventures.
2. AURORA BUBBLE HOTEL
Why stay in a fancy Reykjavik hotel when you can stay in a… wait for it… plastic bubble? No seriously. The Aurora Bubble Hotel is a “bubble bedroom” right off the Golden Circle. Its clear plastic walls and ceiling make for quite a night of stargazing and – if you’re lucky – Northern Lights viewing.
3. DIMMUBORGIR LAVA FIELDS
Iceland is known for its other-worldly landscapes, and nowhere is this more apparent than Dimmuborgir Lava Fields. You can actually hike through the winding lava-rock formations, and, if you’re up to it, ascend the mighty Hverfjall Crater in the distance.
4. GLJUFRABUI WATERFALL
Many experience Seljalandsfoss, a waterfall visitors can hike behind, but few make it past the trail and into the hidden, breathtaking Gljúfrabúi waterfall. Access to Gljúfrabúi is a bit tricky (you have the hike through a stream, so bring extra socks!), but it’s well worth it for this once-in-a-lifetime waterfall view.
5. MYVATN NATURE BATHS
Remember when I said Blue Lagoon has some competition? Well, ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to one of my favorite hot springs in all of Iceland, Myvatn Nature Baths. Located way up in northern Iceland, Myvatn Nature Baths are much less touristy than the Blue Lagoon. The pools also stay open late, which means you can get some epic sunset and starry night shots … from the (very warm) water. Hello, heaven.
6. OXARARFOSS WATERFALL
If you’re visiting Iceland, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll be stopping by Thingvellir National Park. While you should definitely see it once, Thingvellir is one of the most touristy spots in Iceland, so make sure to stop by the lesser-known Öxarárfoss Waterfall, located down the road from the main path. This waterfall does draw a crowd (it’s the Golden Circle after all!), but it’s much more subdued than the throngs of tourists strolling through Thingvellir’s tectonic plates.
7. VIOIMYRARKIRKJA CHURCH
With a grass roof and gorgeous mountainous backdrop, the Víðimýrarkirkja Church is one to add to your list. It may look hobbit-esque on the outside, but the Víðimýrarkirkja church is more than just a pretty picture — it’s also one of Iceland’s few remaining turf churches.
While you should absolutely grab an Instagram shot at the Blue Lagoon (I did!), don’t stop there. Iceland is most captivating in those lesser-known, hard-to-reach places, so strap in, prepare your maps and get ready for the Icelandic adventure of a lifetime!