In recent times, Iceland has gained undeniable popularity as being one of the top places to travel. Given its small size, one of the best ways to see this gorgeous island country is by taking a road trip. There is also just one main highway that spans around the entire country called the Ring Road or Highway 1, making it incredibly difficult to get lost!
Here are five of the top hidden gems that this mystical destination has to offer its visitors. Definitely make an effort to seek them out if you find yourself on your own Iceland adventure. You may regret it later if you don’t!
1. Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool
Although definitely more well-known than it used to be, the Seljavallalaug swimming pool still houses a serene magic of its own. This manmade pool carved into the side of a cliff and nestled in a valley between rugged mountains allows visitors to experience an enchanting and peaceful moment in southern Iceland. The pool is naturally heated, and there is a small changing room located there. However, keep in mind that the changing room is not very well maintained and there isn’t much privacy. When I was there, I had to change facing away from a few others, but there was really nothing to worry about!
How to get there: From Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik, drive west along the Ring Road/Highway 1. Seljavallalaug swimming pool is located between two of South Iceland’s main waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss. So after you’ve passed (and hopefully stopped at!) Selljalandsfoss, be on the lookout for a turnout onto Route 242 – Raufarfellsvegur. Turn left and drive as far as you can before having to park in a rocky and gravelly parking lot. From there, it’s about a 10 to 15 minute easy walk to the pool.
2. Seydisfjordur, Iceland
Seydisfjordur may possibly be my favorite little village in Iceland (among those I visited or drove through). Though a bit further from the Ring Road, I was pleasantly surprised at how adorable the town was. A small fishing village located directly on one of Iceland’s numerous fjords, Seydisfjordur was full of little treasures and charms. Chatting with some locals, it was recommended that I hike in the mountains overlooking the village and the fjord. It’s safe to say that I wasn’t disappointed. In addition to the quirky art fixtures along the hike (including a British-style telephone booth sculpture and also the Tvisongur sound sculpture, I came across some of the most gorgeous views I’d ever seen.
How to get there: Traveling north along the east coast of Iceland on the Ring Road/Highway 1, take Highway 93 after passing the town of Egilsstadir. Head over and through some mountains (look out for snow and fog – even in the summertime!) and the road will eventually drop you off right in the middle of town.
3. Grjótagjá Cave
The Grjótagjá Cave is probably one of the most magical wonders Iceland has to offer. Seeming as though it comes straight out of an episode of Game of Thrones, this geothermal pool is surrounded by masses of heavy rock and steam from the hot water. It was incredible to climb down between the rocks and through the semi-narrow opening in order to reach the pool beneath. I had previously planned on taking a dip in this mystical pool, but upon arriving, I soon realized that swimming was simply not an option, as the water was so incredibly hot. Depending on the earth’s geothermal activity at any given moment, the water temperature can drastically change. Even so, I was content to bear witness to the cave (even if I could barely tolerate one single toe in the water)!
How to get there: Continuing along the Ring Road/Highway 1 through northern Iceland, make a right when you reach Highway 860 and the cave won’t be far away. I stopped at a swimming pool and tourist center to ask for specific directions, but I had already been on the right path had I only continued a bit further.
4. Aldeyjarfoss Waterfall
Aldeyjarfoss Waterfall was definitely a bit off the beaten path, as in it wasn’t as close to the Ring Road as some of the other destinations on this list. However, that is not to say that it wasn’t completely worth it to find this waterfall! It was my absolute favorite waterfall of my entire trip – most probably because it seemed so remote – truly one of Iceland’s purest gems. I was originally drawn to the location after seeing a photo on Instagram with a girl in a small pool facing the massive waterfall. However, upon arrival, I was sad to see that the small pool wasn’t there. Regardless, just sitting in front of the majestic falls was enough to make me forget everything and appreciate one of Mother Nature’s most magnificent gifts!
How to get there: Upon approaching the major city of Akureyri from the east along the Ring Road in northern Iceland, turn right (head south) on Highway 842 for around 30 minutes until you reach Highway F26, and take that for the rest of the way. Be aware: highways with “F” and a number usually signal that all-wheel drive is needed, as the roads may not be very safe for other cars. From the Ring Road, getting to Aldeyjarfoss waterfall takes around 40 minutes.
5. Hofsós Infinity Pool
Before arriving to this amazing swimming pool, I had the impression that it would be some popular (and expensive) tourist destination – something akin to Iceland’s Blue Lagoon. Actually, though, it was nothing of the sort. In fact, the Hofsós Infinity Pool is simply just the city of Hofsós’ local swimming pool. Just a note – swimming pools are very popular in Iceland and swimming in one is a very Icelandic thing to do when visiting any city or town in Iceland (I learned from some locals). Some of them are more beautiful than others, and the Hofsós infinity pool definitely takes the cake for the prettiest pool in Iceland.
How to get there: Driving along the Ring Road/Highway 1 in northern Iceland, heading west and away from the town of Akureyri, hang a right and head north onto Highway 76. A beautiful route, you will eventually be driving alongside a fjord and have expansive and stunning views of the ocean – seeming as though you are at the end of the world!