Your Icelandic “to do” list likely hinges on your planned ports of call. From a seaside capital ringed by glaciers to the legendary stomping grounds of fearsome trolls, this northern nation has a lot to offer sightseers, shutterbugs and cruisers hooked on adventurous shore excursions.
Most cruises of Iceland involve a stop in its largest city, Reykjavik. Iceland’s administrative capital doubles as a capital of culture -- here, an opera, symphony orchestra, theaters and dance companies thrive. The local nightlife is a source of great pride, and the best bars and clubs can keep their patrons dancing until 5 a.m. or later. Unique natural attractions border the city, including the Blue Lagoon, a pristine geothermic pool, and Puffin Island, a popular outpost for Arctic sea birds.
Akureyri is perched on Iceland’s longest fjord, the mighty Eyjafjordur. The city is home to the “waterfall of the gods,” Godafoss, as well as glaciers, fishing fleets and top whale-watching spots, where 18 species come to spawn each year. Volcanic activity in the region created other stirring attractions, including craggy lava fields, piping-hot steam vents and bubbling mud pools. Akureyri’s blooming botanical gardens are a top draw, too, offering chilly Iceland a touch of fragrance and color no matter the outdoor temperature.
But there are plenty of activities that can be enjoyed in any Icelandic destination. The nation’s famed, sure-footed horses grant access to hard-to-reach spots in the country’s craggy interior. Spelunkers love Iceland’s multiple cave systems, carved by roughly 13,000 years of volcanic activity. You can tour glaciers on foot or, if hiking isn’t your thing, hop aboard a four-wheeler for a comfier view of towering ice formations. You also might try a historic excursion -- popular options include Stokkseyri, a fishing village founded around A.D. 900, and Borgarnes, where the Icelandic Settlement Centre explores Viking heritage.