Note: Some tour providers on this list may be running more limited operations due to COVID-19 or may impose testing or vaccine requirements. Check with your tour operator about availability before you book.
With terrain shaped by volcanic eruptions and shifting tectonic plates, and the surrounding waters filled with glaciers, icebergs and whales, Iceland is like no other place on Earth. It’s also an ideal spot to observe a seasonal phenomenon above the Earth: the northern lights (or aurora borealis). The following top-rated tours, determined by U.S. News to be the best available thanks to expert input and traveler sentiment, provide ideal ways of experiencing all that this extraordinary place has to offer. All of these excursions are conducted by knowledgeable guides eager to share their insights into their country’s special features.
Ice Lagoon Adventure Tours – Adventure Tour
Explore the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon – part of Vatnajökull National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to Europe’s largest glacier – aboard an inflatable rigid boat on this expedition. In addition to icebergs and the glacial wall, you might also spot wildlife like seals and various bird species. Tourgoers consistently describe the guides as passionate and knowledgeable, and say photo opportunities abound. Trips are available from May through October several times a day, with departures in both the morning and the afternoon. Tours take approximately an hour and 45 minutes, including transportation between the check-in point and the dock and at least an hour on the boat. Tickets cost approximately 12,900 Icelandic króna (about $101) per person ages 15 and older; children ages 6 to 14 can join for 7,900 króna (approximately $62). Riders must be at least 6 years old. The park containing the lagoon sits in the southeast part of the country, about 235 miles from Reykjavik. Ice Lagoon Adventure Tours also runs private excursions.
NiceTravel – Golden Circle, Blue Lagoon & Kerid Volcano
Visit the Golden Circle’s top sights, including Thingvellir National Park and Gullfoss, plus a volcanic crater and a pristine lagoon on this daylong journey. The park is of both geological and historical significance as its straddles a fault line between two tectonic plates and was the site of a Viking parliament that ruled for hundreds of years starting in A.D. 930. Other highlights include Geysir, a hot spring that shoots plumes of vapor into the air; Gullfoss (aka the Golden Waterfall) over which water cascades down more than 100 feet into a narrow canyon; Kerid, a colorful red-earth volcanic crater; and a two-hour stop at the heated waters of the popular Blue Lagoon. Tour-takers invariably find the scenery spectacular and the guides friendly and informative. Tours happen daily all year long. Pickup from various locations in Reykjavik happens between 8:30 and 9 a.m. and minibuses return to the city around 8 p.m. Prices start at around 25,900 króna (about $204) for adults, 21,900 króna (about $172) for teenagers ages 14 to 15, and 14,900 króna (about $117) for children 5 to 13 and covers admission to all attractions (but not lunch or bathing suits). NiceTravel also runs tours to Iceland’s black sand beaches, Snaefellsnes National Park and other top sites.
Arctic Adventures – Fagradalsfjall Volcano Eruption Site Tour
Hike Geldingadalir Valley to marvel at the Fagradalsfjall volcano eruption site on this daylong excursion. During the tour, you’ll have the chance to observe the active volcano from a safe distance and watch the valley fill with lava as steam rises from the molten magma. The lava fields’ proximity to the village of Grindavik and their confinement to the valley make them accessible to visitors. While the roughly two-hour hike to the fields is not especially taxing, waterproof hiking shoes and jackets, as well as warm clothes are recommended. Volcano-viewers find the scenery spectacular and the guides friendly and knowledgeable. Tours take place year-round and last four to six hours (including the drive to and back from the site). Pickups from Reykjavik start at 8 a.m. from mid-March through mid-September and at 10 a.m. from mid-September to mid-March. Tickets start at $87 per person and the price includes transportation and use of headlamps. Note: Hikers must be at least 8 years old. Arctic Adventures runs multiple different hiking trips, as well as multiday tours.
Reykjavik Sailors – Whale Watching
While April to October is considered peak season for whale watching off Iceland’s coast, humpback, minke and orca whales, as well as porpoises and dolphins, inhabit the waters all year. Reykjavik Sailors, located on Reykjavik’s Old Harbour, offers whale watching boat trips throughout the year starting at 1 p.m. with additional 9 a.m. departures from March through mid-November and 5 p.m. departures from mid-May through September. Tourgoers report spotting ample wildlife, and appreciate that the guides take the time to point out and identify the various sea creatures. Trips generally last from two to 3 ½ hours. Tickets cost approximately 10,490 króna (about $82) for adults and 5,250 króna (about $41) for children 7 to 15. (Kids 6 and younger can tag along for free.) Transportation from area hotels is available for an additional fee. Snacks and beverages are available aboard the boat, which features outdoor viewing platforms as well as heated indoor space. Reykjavik Sailors also operates tours of the northern lights, among other options.
Arctic Adventures – Crystal Ice Cave Tour Iceland
Take a ride in a rugged vehicle from the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon to the edge of the massive Vatnajökull glacier and then hike to an ice cave on this small-group excursion. The tour, with up to 14 travelers, also allows you to witness the result of calving – the process of icebergs breaking off of glaciers. Tourgoers frequently praise the capable and personable guides. Trips depart from the lagoon daily from October to mid-April at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., though additional times may be available depending on the month. Tours last two to three hours. Tickets, which cover transportation to and from the cave, as well as use of safety gear, cost approximately $155 for adults and $115 for youths ages 6 to 15. While the hike to the cave is rated as easy, children younger than 6 are not allowed on this trip. Arctic Adventures conducts a variety of ice cave tours, glacier hikes and more.
BusTravel Iceland – South Coast Waterfalls, Glacier & Black Sand Beach Tour
This daylong outing affords opportunities to explore the glaciers, volcanos and other distinctive features of Iceland’s southern coast. Highlights include Skógafoss, a nearly 200-foot waterfall beside the Eyjafjallajökull volcano; the slightly taller Seljalandsfoss waterfall; Reynisfjara, a beach on the north Atlantic Ocean with black volcanic sand and basalt columns; a stop for lunch in the fishing village of Vik; and Sólheimajökull glacier. Tour-takers consistently call the scenery extraordinary and the guides informative. Fees start at around 10,990 króna (about $86) for adults and 5,495 króna (about $43) for children 8 to 15. Transportation from various Reykjavik locations is available for an additional charge. Pickups occur between 8 and 8:30 a.m. and in all the bus trip lasts approximately 10 hours. Prices do not cover any food and drink in Vik. Note: Reaching the glacier involves walking on uneven ground. BusTravel Iceland also leads tours exploring the Golden Circle, the northern lights and more.
Your Friend in Reykjavik – Walk With a Viking
See the sights of Reykjavik on this two-hour walking tour of the city’s center. Highlights include Harpa (an incredible performance venue), Hallgrímskirkja church, the Parliament building and Reykjavik harbor, as well as the first Viking house. Tour-takers find this stroll to be a great way to get to know the city and consistently describe the guides as friendly, educational and enthusiastic. Groups of up to 12 depart from Ingólfur Square daily at 10 a.m. and 1 and 5 p.m. Prices start at $44 for adults and $25 for children 7 to 15. (There’s no charge for children 6 and younger.) Your Friend in Reykjavik also offers private walking tours.
Wake Up Reykjavik – Reykjavik Food Tour
Sample an array of Icelandic cuisine on this three-hour walking tour of downtown Reykjavik. Try eight traditional dishes, including fish and grass-fed lamb, as well as ice cream and street food. (Vegetarians and those with allergies or other dietary restrictions can usually be accommodated.) Between stops, you’ll stroll past notable sites, such as the Parliament building and city hall. Food enthusiasts generally appreciate the accommodating guides’ extensive knowledge about both culinary and historical topics. Tours start outside Harpa concert hall every day at 11:30 a.m. and 12:30, 4 and 5 p.m. Tickets start at around 15,550 króna (about $120) for adults and 9,990 króna (about $77) for children 4 to 12. Wake Up Reykjavik also organizes daytrips to the Golden Circle, the South Coast and more.
Troll Expeditions – Snorkeling in Silfra
Snorkel between tectonic plates in the only place where that’s possible during this adventure. Located in Thingvellir National Park about a 30-mile drive northeast of Reykjavik, Silfra fissure lies in the space where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates have slowly moved apart. Its water, from melted ice of the Langjökull glacier, is exceptionally clean, boasting visibility of about 330 feet. Snorkelers laud the attentive, professional guides as well as the one-of-a-kind experience. Snorkeling trips are available year-round at least twice a day; start times vary depending on the season, but with the earliest tour at 9 a.m. and the latest at 4 p.m. Prices begin at around 17,400 króna (about $135), which covers use of all necessary snorkeling equipment as well as underwater photos. Tours last about three hours, including instruction on how to snorkel, with about 50 minutes in the water. Groups are limited to six people and participants must be at least 12 years old. Troll Expeditions also offers guided glacier hikes, daytrips and multiday excursions around the country to the South Coast, Ring Road and more.
Adventure Vikings – Silfra Drysuit Snorkeling
Iceland straddles two tectonic plates and this tour also allows you to explore the pristine glacial waters between them. Snorkelers rave about the Silfra fissure’s beauty and appreciate the adept guides’ helpfulness. Fees start at around 15,490 króna (about $120) or 23,990 króna (about $187) if you opt for transportation between your Reykjavik hotel and Thingvellir National Park. Prices include use of snorkeling equipment. You can rent a wearable GoPro camera for an additional 6,900 króna (around $54). Tours take about two to three hours (or four to 4 ½ with transportation). They occur year-round with 9 a.m. and noon start times from March through October (and an additional 3 p.m. tour from July through August) and 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. start times from November through February. Snorkelers must be at least 14 years old; groups have no more than six people per guide. Participants preferring to don a less restrictive (but also less warm) wetsuit instead of a dry suit have that option. Adventure Vikings also leads surfing and stand-up paddleboarding tours, among other outings.
Reykjavik Excursions – Northern Lights – Small Group Tour
The kaleidoscopic colors of the northern lights typically appear above Iceland from late August to April, which is when this small-group bus tour occurs. The Reykjavik Excursions team studies the weather and aurora forecast each night to determine the best viewing locations away from the city lights, meaning buses may not go to the same location each tour. Tourgoers enjoy the informative guides’ commentary, as well as the opportunities to observe the aurora borealis. During the viewing season, trips with up to 25 participants are offered daily starting when it’s dark, around 9:30 p.m. Trips usually last three hours. Ticket prices start at around $80 per person ages 16 and older and around $40 for youths ages 6 to 15. Reykjavik Excursions also offers city tours and trips to the Blue Lagoon, among other outings.
See the green hillsides and lava fields outside Reykjavik on this small-group horseback riding tour. Travelers frequently describe riding an Icelandic horse as a fantastic experience, and they generally appreciate the professionalism of the staff who lead the outing. Rides last up to two hours and depart every day at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Prices start at 15,900 króna (around $125) for adults and 11,925 króna (around $93) for children 8 to 15. The cost includes use of helmets and boots, as well as post-ride coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Round-trip transportation from Reykjavik is available for an additional fee and starts an hour prior to the tour. Groups are limited to 20 participants, all of whom must be at least 8 years old. No prior horseback riding experience is necessary. Longer, multiday trail rides, as well as private tours are also available.
Special Tours – Northern Lights by Boat
Admire the northern lights from the water on this two- to three-hour boat ride. Along the way, guides regale passengers with stories, myths and scientific facts about the aurora borealis. Travelers praise the amazing views as well as the humorous, helpful guides. Cruises are available nightly in the fall and winter. Departure times vary by time of year, but boats typically sail from Reykjavik’s Old Harbour at 10 p.m. in September and mid-March to mid-April; they depart at 9 p.m. from October to mid-March. Prices are approximately 11,990 króna (about $93) for adults and 5,995 króna (about $47) for children 7 to 15. Children 6 and younger can ride for free. Prices include the use of overalls to keep riders warm. If you don’t see the aurora borealis on your first trip, you can take another one at no charge. Food and drinks are available for purchase on board. The company also offers whale watching excursions, fishing trips and more.
BusTravel Iceland – Snaefellsnes Peninsula Tour
In addition to its tours of the southern coast, BusTravel Iceland offers a daylong tour of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, an area northwest of Reykjavik that boasts black sand beaches, lava fields, waterfalls, rock formations and more. Highlights include Berserkjahraun lava fields, which date back to a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago; the 1,520-foot Kirkjufell (aka Church Mountain); the nearby Kirkjufellsfoss waterfalls; Snaefellsjökull National Park and the cliffs of Arnarstapi harbor, once a bustling fishing area. Travelers typically enjoy both the dramatic landscapes and the guides’ commentary. Tours last approximately 11 hours. Ticket prices start at around 16,990 króna (about $132) for adults and 8,495 króna (about $66) for youngsters 8 to 15; pickup from various Reykjavik locations is available for an additional 1,590 króna (about $12) per person. There are no fees for children ages 2 to 7. Tours happen daily starting at 8 and 9 a.m.
GeoIceland – Premium Golden Circle Tour
Visit the rift between two tectonic plates, the powerful waterfall and the geothermal area comprising Iceland’s famed Golden Circle and more on this daylong tour. In addition to the high cliffs of the rift valley in Thingvellir National Park, the often rainbow-adorned Gullfoss waterfall and the hot spring Geysir, this tour stops at the Kerid volcanic crater, as well as a tomato farm. Tour-takers frequently cite both the stunning scenery and the friendly, amusing guides as highlights of this journey. Buses depart from the Aurora Reykjavik museum daily at 9 a.m. and return approximately nine hours later. Prices – approximately 14,900 króna (about $116) for adults and 10,900 króna (about $85) for children 3 to 12 – include admission to all attractions, but exclude lunch at the tomato farm’s restaurant. GeoIceland also runs tours that depart from other cities in Iceland, including Akureyri and the Lake Mývatn area.
Iceland Everywhere Tours – Northern Lights Midnight Adventure Tour
Spend the night searching for the northern lights on this seasonal outing. During the trip, guides not only provide information about the aurora borealis, local history and Icelandic culture, but also assist participants with finding the right setting on their cameras or smartphones to capture the best images. Free professional photographs are also available if you’d prefer to simply admire the sky. Reviewers often rave about the colorful lights and appreciate the knowledgeable guides’ insights and willingness to take pictures. These minibus rides happen every night from September to mid-April starting at 9 p.m. and last from three to five hours. Prices start at 8,900 króna (around $70). Transportation from area hotels is available. Iceland Everywhere Tours also offers guided excursions to the South Coast and the Golden Circle.
Funky Iceland – The Funky Food & Beer Walk
Enjoy a culinary adventure on this three-hour walking tour of Reykjavik. Try Icelandic dishes, such as lamb stew, dried fish and fermented shark, as well as local craft beer. Foodies tend to relish the savvy guides’ insights into Icelandic culture and cuisine. Tours start outside the Hallgrímskirkja Church at 5 p.m. every day from May through August and on alternating days (usually Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays) during the rest of the year. Tickets cost approximately 15,000 króna (about $117) for adults and half that for children 12 to 15. There’s no charge for kids 11 and younger. Prices include nine food samples and five beer samples at no fewer than five eateries. Groups range in size from two to eight people.
CityWalk Reykjavik – Free Walking Tour Reykjavik
Stroll among the main attractions of downtown Reykjavik, including the statue of Jón Sigurðsson and the Harpa concert hall, on this approximately two-hour, 1.3-mile tour. Guides will regale you with stories concerning Icelandic history, as well as lore involving elves, Vikings and more, which tour-takers deem highly entertaining. Walks start at 1 p.m. every day at the Austurvöllur (the city’s main square) and conclude at city hall. While there’s no fee for this tour, guides do appreciate tips. There are no age or group-size limits. CityWalk Reykjavik does offer a slightly longer, small-group tour for a fee.
Icelandic Mountain Guides – Blue Ice Experience
Hike among the ice formations, crevasses and frozen ridges of the enormous Vatnajökull glacier on this small-group expedition. Past participants consistently describe the scenery as stunning and the guides as professional and informative. Tours are available multiple times a day, typically at 9 and 9:45 a.m. and 2:15 and 3 p.m. Adult tickets start at 13,500 króna (about $105), but fees are discounted to 12,500 króna (about $97) for the last tour of the day. Corresponding costs for youngsters 10 to 17 are 9,900 króna (about $77) and 8,900 króna (about $69). Children younger than 10 may not join the tour. Prices include the use of ice axes, harnesses and crampons. Outings of up to 15 people commence at the welcome center at Skaftafell (about 200 miles southeast of Reykjavik) and last about 3 ½ hours, including up to two hours on the ice. Icelandic Mountain Guides conducts a variety of glacier walks, snowmobile tours and guided hikes.