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The Land of Fire and Ice: Your Guide to the Regions of Iceland

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To explore Iceland is to see Earth at its most primeval, yet most beautiful. This is a place where continents collide, forging towering peaks. Over thousands of years, enormous glaciers and fiery volcanoes have shaped the landscape with unimaginable force.

There’s nowhere else like Iceland in the world, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Whether you stick to the well-trodden exploits of the Golden Circle or Route 1, the ring road that circles the island, or head off the beaten path across meadowland home to the huldufólk (hidden people or elves), you’re never far from an adventure in Iceland.

At Discover Scandinavia Tours, our US-based specialists have designed luxury Iceland private tours and Iceland group tours that showcase the best this incredible country has to offer. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions about our itineraries.

We have used our first-hand travel experience to put together this guide to the regions of Iceland. We’ve broken down each distinct area below, highlighting some of the must-see landmarks and attractions.

The Stunning, Secluded Westfjords

Only around 10% of all visitors to Iceland make it to the Westfjords region. Those who do immediately see why it is often included in so many ‘Best of…’ travel lists. The region has a mystical, edge-of-the-world quality that is truly captivating.

In the south of the region, you can find sweeping, multi-colored beaches and jagged cliffs where various sea birds nest. Rough dirt roads pass over the central mountains and wind around awe-inspiring coastal fjords. These routes lead to tiny fishing villages that preserve a traditional way of life.

The Hornstrandir Nature Reserve crowns the Westfjords in the north. This secluded corner is home to spectacular hiking trails, beautiful ocean vistas, an array of birdlife, and Arctic foxes.

This region’s sparse population has helped preserve its unspoiled nature. Just some of the highlights here include:

  • Dynjandi Waterfall
  • Rauðasandur Beach
  • Reynisfjara Beach
  • Latrabjarg Cliffs
  • Flatey Island


Discover the Natural Wonders of West Iceland

Located immediately to the south of the Westfjords, this region of Iceland is probably the most geologically diverse. With numerous fjords, caves, volcanoes, glaciers, and hot springs to explore.

At Vatnshellir Cave, you can follow in the footsteps of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, while at Víðgelmir Lava Cave, you can descend into one of the largest such formations in the country.

Enjoy a geothermal bath with water from Deildartunguhver, Europe’s most powerful hot spring, and in the Snæfellsnes peninsula, you view some of the locations used for Game of Thrones.

The Snæfellsnes peninsula is often referred to as Iceland in miniature as it has an impressive collection of sites in a concentrated area. These include a stunning mountain ridge, the majestic Snӕfellsjokull glacier and national park, the Gerðuberg cliffs, and the Lóndrangar rock pinnacles, to name just a few.

Remember, whichever regions you visit, you should always pack for every kind of weather! This is point number one on our list of five things to know about Iceland before you go! Being prepared ensures you can travel in comfort, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in every experience.


Reykjanes Peninsula — Home of the Blue Lagoon!

Most travelers will begin their visit to Iceland in the Reykjanes region as it is home to Keflavik International Airport. What’s more, one of Iceland’s most popular attractions is here too — the Blue Lagoon.

The lagoon is around 30 miles from Reykjavik, and its world-famous healing waters attract over one million visitors a year! Our own Stories of Iceland: Winter, Iceland Luxe Summer, and Iceland Luxe Winter tours include trips to this iconic geothermal spa.

The region is geologically fascinating too as it is the meeting point for two tectonic plates. As such, this peninsula in southwest Iceland is volcanically and seismically active.

East Iceland is One of the Country’s Hidden Gems

Eastern Iceland, or Austurland as it’s known locally, is another off-the-beaten-path region that tourists tend to overlook. The region’s hub, Egilsstaðir, is on the Ring Road, so people circumnavigating the island tend to stop here but do little by way of exploring.

Austurland is home to Iceland’s largest forest, Hallormsstaðurm, and picturesque fishing villages perched at the foot of towering Fjords. In fact, the eastern coast, or Eastfjords, has a remarkable collection of tiny villages surrounded by stunning scenery. Just some of our favorites include Seyðisfjörður, Fáskrúðsfjörður, and Mjóifjörður.

The Vök Baths, another welcoming geothermal pool, is a true East Iceland highlight, as well as Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, Stuðlagil Canyon, Hengifoss, the Hafnarhólmi puffin colony, and Europe’s largest glacier by volume, Vatnajökull.

The region also hosts many arts and music festivals, so it’s always worth looking to see if your visit coincides with a local event.

South Iceland is the Star of the Show!

In a country packed with incredible sights and experiences, South Iceland is the region with the most famous. A trip through this part of the country can take you to:

  • Geysir Geothermal Area
  • Gulfoss Waterfall
  • Þingvellir National Park
  • Skógafoss Waterfall
  • Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
  • Dyrholaey
  • Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
  • Westman Islands

You may know Geysir, Gulfoss, and Þingvellir National Park better by their collective name — The Golden Circle. This route in South Iceland is one of the country’s most famous attractions.

The south coast’s black sand beaches have an otherworldly beauty, while the Westman Islands is home to the largest puffin colony in the world as well as a beluga whale sanctuary.

You will feel like there is a natural wonder around every corner in South Iceland, but that’s because there is! This is a truly special place that deserves all the attention it receives.

Our Stories of Iceland: Summer and Stories of Iceland: Winter tours provide year-round small-group tours that explore South Iceland. For private experiences in the region, both our Iceland Luxe Summer and Iceland Luxe Winter tours also venture into this part of the Land of Fire and Ice.

Experience Nature’s Power and Beauty in North Iceland

The North is home to Iceland’s second-largest urban area, Akureyri, located in Iceland’s longest fjord, Eyjafjörður. Akureyri is rich in culture and history and has a charming downtown full of late nineteenth-century wooden houses.

You will also find the Húsavík Whale Museum and the Icelandic Seal Center in Hvammstangi here. Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe, is a sight to be seen, heard, and felt! Another must-see location is Lake Mývatn, where visitors can enjoy an exceptional variety of waterbirds, rock formations, and the Mývatn Nature Baths.

Dettifoss and Lake Mývatn, along with the historical and picturesque Goðafoss, the crescent-shaped Ásbyrgi canyon, and the bustling fishing town of Húsavík, make up the Diamond Circle, North Iceland’s answers to the Golden Circle.

The north of Iceland is only marginally outside the Arctic Circle, so it’s also a great location to experience the extraordinary midnight sun phenomenon and the Northern Lights.

Our Iceland Luxe Summer tour explores this region, as well as the south, and includes a visit to Akureyri, a whale-watching boat tour, the wonders of the Lake Mývatn area, and much more!

Reykjavik: Iceland’s Lively, Welcoming Capital

Reykjavík is a city that is both cosmopolitan and small-town; vibrant and sophisticated; young-at-heart and yet full of history. It has a compelling mix of old and new monuments and buildings. One of the latter includes the Harpa Concert Hall, an oceanfront music and conference center that is a treat to explore.

Everything in Reykjavík is close by, making it easy to get around the museums, galleries, theatres, and cafés by foot or bike. Wherever your itinerary takes you, you’re sure to return home with a myriad of tales worthy of an Icelandic saga.

Our Iceland Tours are Your Gateway to Adventure!

We hope this guide to the regions of Iceland has inspired you to start planning your trip to the Land of Fire and Ice. Discover Scandinavia Tours is here to help you have the experience of a lifetime. Browse our range of Iceland group tours and luxury Iceland private tours to find out more about the adventures waiting for you.

Do you want to visit other Nordic destinations on your trip? Our Nordics Diamond Scandinavia tour is a 22-day, cultural journey through Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, and Finland.

If you have any questions for our US-based Scandinavia specialists, please feel free to get in touch.

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