Top Five Unusual Things to Do in Iceland
(note: this post was updated in 2019)
The Guidebooks are great (especially DK’s Top 10 Iceland), but I’ve got 5 unusual things to do in Iceland that the guidebooks won’t cover.
We recently returned from a mid-winter’s trip and had the time of our lives. Here are the 5 must-do unusual things to do in Iceland.
1. Feet tired from walking and need a pick me up? Try a fish pedicure. For about $50, you put your feet into a fish tank of about 50 tiny fish for 20 minutes. Like a 1000 water piks attacking your feet, they chew away at your spots that even the best pedicurist would miss. When you’re done, your feet feel smooth, you’re relaxed, and you’re ready for number item number 2 below.
2. Take a free walking tour of downtown Reykjavik. Marteinn, our trip leader, takes his 26 years of energy and love of his home town, and turns it into a fact-filled, fun, 2-hour walking tour. You’ll see Reykjavik’s prettiest street, learn about how ballast created the waterfront, hear Iceland’s history, see the bar “where everything happens after 4 am” and even try some local licorice. We tipped him $20, and it was worth every last dime. Please tell him that EatWalkLearn sent you!
3. Feed Icelandic horses. We joined a tour bus (Reykjavik Excursions) that promised to take us to a horse show and to see the Northern Lights. You can do this trip on your own, but we were thrilled that our bus driver braved a blizzard that had closed 4 roads and 1-ft visibility to get us to our destination.
We arrived at our horse show to see a beautiful herd of Icelandic horses perform. Although the show was not fantastic, it was interesting and we learned about the five native gaits of Icelandic horses. But the real money was the opportunity to meet the horses and feed them in the barn afterward. There, you really experience the gentle temperament of these fabulous ponies. You don’t have to be a horse lover to enjoy this trip. And, yes, we saw the Northern Lights that night too, but you can read about those in many other places. Seeing the Lights was definitely a bucket-list winner.
4. Stay overnight on an airport runway. The Natura Hotel probably would not promote itself this way, but our room sat right next to the runway of the domestic airport in Reykjavik. If you’re an aviation buff, you’ll enjoy watching the planes take off and land. But what we found the most interesting was how the airport would suddenly jump alive when a plane approached. The biggest snow plows I’ve ever seen cleared the landing strip in 2 minutes. Unbelievable.
5. Eat traditional Icelandic soup. The travel books will tell you to go to Gullfoss, Europe’s largest waterfall. And of course, don’t miss it. But while there, enjoy its best-kept secret, all-you-can-eat Icelandic soup. This hearty, lamb-based, veggie-filled soup is perfect after a cold walk to the falls. You can have as much of it and the excellent brown bread as you want. Being vegetarian, I scoffed, until I discovered the all-you-can eat Cream of Asparagus soup. After two bowls, we were ready for our white-knuckled trip back to Reykjavik through every kind of precipitation you could possibly ever name.
Of course, when in Iceland, don’t miss the other fabulous stops including the Blue Lagoon. But you can read about those elsewhere. I hope you’ll enjoy at least three of these five activities. I wouldn’t trade any of them, and they are the best 5 unusual things to do in Iceland.