10 Icelandic Natural Wonders You Can See for Free

by Katie Hammel

10 Icelandic Natural Wonders You Can See for Free

by Katie Hammel
Easy Escapes

Like many Nordic countries, Iceland is pricey. But there's one major draw for budget travelers: Many of the country's most spectacular natural attractions are free. Here are 10 awe-inspiring sights in Iceland that you won’t spend a single króna to enjoy.

Like many Nordic countries, Iceland is pricey. But there's one major draw for budget travelers: Many of the country's most spectacular natural attractions are free. Here are 10 awe-inspiring sights in Iceland that you won’t spend a single króna to enjoy.

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Seljalandsfoss

Known by its (easier to pronounce) nickname of “the waterfall you can walk behind,” Seljalandsfoss sits on Iceland’s southern coast, where it plunges 200 feet over a cliff. Visitors can walk around the curtain of water to a shallow cave, where they'll get a one-of-a-kind view through the falls. While there, don’t miss the adjacent Gljúfurárfoss, a tall waterfall hidden in a slot canyon.

Known by its (easier to pronounce) nickname of “the waterfall you can walk behind,” Seljalandsfoss sits on Iceland’s southern coast, where it plunges 200 feet over a cliff. Visitors can walk around the curtain of water to a shallow cave, where they'll get a one-of-a-kind view through the falls. While there, don’t miss the adjacent Gljúfurárfoss, a tall waterfall hidden in a slot canyon.

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Gullfoss

One of Iceland’s most famous watery attractions, the wide and thundering Gullfoss waterfall is located on Iceland’s well-trodden Golden Circle route. One hundred feet tall and stretching nearly the length of a football field across the Hvítá glacial river, it can be viewed from above, where the river begins its plunge, or below, as the churning water rushes through the bottom of the deep canyon.

One of Iceland’s most famous watery attractions, the wide, thundering Gullfoss waterfall is located on Iceland’s well-trodden Golden Circle route. One hundred feet tall and stretching nearly the length of a football field across the Hvítá glacial river, it can be viewed from above, where the river begins its plunge, or below, as the churning water rushes through the bottom of the deep canyon.

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Dettifoss

At 300 feet wide, Dettifoss earns the title of Europe’s most powerful waterfall. It dumps enough water to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool every five seconds. While it’s hard to appreciate its scale from the top of the falls, its deafening roar and colossal splash—which soaks anyone who stands near the edge—will give you a sense of its might.

At 300 feet wide, Dettifoss earns the title of Europe’s most powerful waterfall. It dumps enough water to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool every five seconds. While it’s hard to appreciate its scale from the top of the falls, its deafening roar and colossal splash—which soaks anyone who stands near the edge—will give you a sense of its might.

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Dynjandi

Located in the remote Westfjords of northwest Iceland, Dynjandi is a series of six waterfalls that connect to form a thin veil of water, cascading down a tiered mountainside. Since only about 6 percent of all tourists to Iceland venture to this region, you might even find yourself the only one admiring this spectacular set of falls.

Located in the remote Westfjords of northwest Iceland, Dynjandi is a series of six waterfalls that connect to form a thin veil of water, cascading down a tiered mountainside. Since only about 6 percent of all tourists to Iceland venture to this region, you might even find yourself the only one admiring this spectacular set of falls.

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Goðafoss

Northern Iceland’s Goðafoss, or “the waterfall of the gods,” is named because legend has it that, in 1000 AD, a lawmaker named Þorgeir threw his statues of the Norse gods into the waterfall, renouncing his pagan religion and embracing Christianity. The 40-foot-tall waterfall spans 100 feet across and is so powerful you can see its mist rising into the air like smoke from a mile away.

Northern Iceland’s Goðafoss, or “the waterfall of the gods,” is named because legend has it that, in 1000 AD, a lawmaker named Þorgeir threw his statues of the Norse gods into the waterfall, renouncing his pagan religion and embracing Christianity. The 40-foot-tall waterfall spans 100 feet across and is so powerful you can see its mist rising into the air like smoke from a mile away.

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Jökulsárlón

The Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is the result of melted water and ice from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier as it recedes from the edge of the Atlantic. It’s been growing steadily for decades, increasing its size by 400 percent since the 1970s. While you have to pay for a boat ride through the lagoon, you can admire the icebergs bobbing in its waters from the shore for free.

The Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is the result of melted water and ice from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier as it recedes from the edge of the Atlantic. It’s been growing steadily for decades, increasing its size by 400 percent since the 1970s. While you have to pay for a boat ride through the lagoon, you can admire the icebergs bobbing in its waters from the shore for free.

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Reynisfjara

Located on Iceland’s southern coast, close to the town of Vík, Reynisfjara is a wild and windy black-sand beach ringed by basalt columns and 200-foot-tall rock formations found in the waters just offshore. This is no swimming beach; it’s one of the more dangerous places in Iceland, as tourists who get too close to the water’s edge have been soaked—or swept out to sea—by powerful rogue waves.

Located on Iceland’s southern coast, close to the town of Vík, Reynisfjara is a wild and windy black-sand beach ringed by basalt columns and 200-foot-tall rock formations found in the waters just offshore. This is no swimming beach; it’s one of the more dangerous places in Iceland, as tourists who get too close to the water’s edge have been soaked—or swept out to sea—by powerful rogue waves.

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Lake Mývatn

Near Akureyri in the north of Iceland, the 2000-year-old Lake Mývatn offers something for everyone: craters, wetlands, 100 species of birds, a crystal-clear lake, lava formations, and steaming hot springs. The landscape is so stunning and otherworldly that the Apollo 11 crew chose this spot to train for their moonwalks, because it was the place on Earth with conditions most similar to those on the moon.

Near Akureyri in the north of Iceland, the 2000-year-old Lake Mývatn offers something for everyone: craters, wetlands, 100 species of birds, a crystal-clear lake, lava formations, and steaming hot springs. The landscape is so stunning and otherworldly that the Apollo 11 crew chose this spot to train for their moonwalks, because it was the place on Earth with conditions most similar to those on the moon.

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Ásbyrgi

Norse mythology attributes the creation of Ásbyrgi, a 100-foot deep, mile-wide, horseshoe-shaped canyon, to Sleipnir, the god Óðinn’s eight-legged horse. When the horse’s hoof touched earth, legend says, it created the canyon, which is now a popular spot for camping, hiking, or taking in the sprawling view.

Norse mythology attributes the creation of Ásbyrgi, a 100-foot deep, mile-wide, horseshoe-shaped canyon, to Sleipnir, the god Óðinn’s eight-legged horse. When the horse’s hoof touched earth, legend says, it created the canyon, which is now a popular spot for camping, hiking, or taking in the sprawling view.

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Northern Lights

Don’t let the agencies selling Northern Lights tours fool you; you don’t need to pay to see the Aurora Borealis. What you do need is a dark night, clear skies, solar activity, and luck. Visible from September to March, they are best viewed away from light pollution, but you don’t have to venture far from Reykjavik to see them; when they’re particularly strong, they can even be seen in the city.

Don’t let the agencies selling Northern Lights tours fool you; you don’t need to pay to see the Aurora Borealis. What you do need is a dark night, clear skies, solar activity, and luck. Visible from September to March, they are best viewed away from light pollution, but you don’t have to venture far from Reykjavik to see them; when they’re particularly strong, they can even be seen in the city.

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