Tourism to Iceland has exploded in recent years — and for good reason! The Land of Fire and Ice is beautifully stark and boasts otherworldly views. While planning your trip, keep in mind that some of Iceland’s most beloved attractions tend to be extremely crowded. That said, we’ve compiled a list of equally impressive (and less swamped) swaps.
The Blue Lagoon → Myvatn Nature Baths
As one of Iceland’s most iconic landmarks and activities, the Blue Lagoon attracts around 700,000 visitors per year. It goes without saying that this beautiful place is often overcrowded and difficult to enjoy. When visiting Iceland, consider some lagoon alternatives, most notably the Myvatn Nature Baths, which are a similar blue hue without the crush of crowds. They’re a bit of a drive from Reykjavík (roughly five hours), but the views from your windshield will be more than worth it. Enjoy the relaxing atmosphere, gorgeous landscapes, warm water, and accompanying restaurant and forget about the stresses of the Blue Lagoon.
Reynisfjara → Rauðisandur
While tourists flock to the striking black-sand beach near Vík, Iceland is home to another uniquely hued shore. So, head to the town of Rauðisandur via Westfjords, and don’t forget your camera! Rauðisandur beach is stunning in its own right — the sand is a rusty, red color that changes according to the quality of daylight. It can appear orange, yellow, deep red, or even white, so spend some time at this peaceful and largely empty stretch of shore, and watch the expanse of sand change in tone as the sun moves across the sky.
Jökulsárlón → Fjallsárlón
Although Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon is largely considered the preeminent iceberg-viewing location in Iceland, nearby Fjallsárlón is far less-crowded and hotly contested as an even more beautiful spot. The two lagoons are only about seven mi (10 km) apart, so you’ll be able to visit both in the same day, if you so choose.
There is a well-marked turn for Fjallsárlón on the road to Jökulsárlón, so it won’t be difficult to find. While the Fjallsárlón lagoon is much smaller than its famous neighbor, it’s also nearly always empty and affords a stunning view of the glacier “tongue” (where icebergs meet the glacial water).
The Golden Circle → South Shore
The Golden Circle attracts a lot of attention from camera-wielding tourists, so be prepared for the company you’ll be in while visiting the attractions that make up this gorgeous loop. One alternative is to tour the South Shore instead — an experience that will delight nature lovers and photographers alike. Many tour companies offer this as an attraction and cover sights like the Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls, the Seljandsá river, Reynisfjara’s black-sand beach, and the Sólheimajökull glacier. It’s a breathtaking alternative, and one that will likely be less crowded.
Almannagjá → Fjaðrárgljúfur
While Almannagjá is known as one of Iceland’s most gorgeous vistas, it’s also one of Iceland’s most-visited locations. For an equally stunning view, visit Fjaðrárgljúfur on the southern edge of the island instead. Not far from the Ring Road, Fjaðrárgljúfur is one of the most picturesque canyons you’ll ever see. Resembling a scene straight from Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Fjaðrárgljúfur is still relatively off the beaten tourist path, meaning you’ll have the magical landscape largely to yourself and your camera. Capture the lush, green canyon walls and the crystal-clear river that runs through the canyon’s floor, then put the camera down and take it all in yourself.