Iceland is a country that is divided into eights regions and these regions have within them 63 towns and villages. For every tourist coming to Iceland, these towns are some of the most important places Iceland is known for. Almost all of these towns has excellent lodging for visitors as well as convenience stores, campsites, gas stations, and more. Many of these towns also houses some of the historical museums, restaurants, swimming pools, hot springs, hiking trails, etc.
Also, the towns and villages are not too far from each other. The longest distance you can cover from one town to the next shouldn’t be more than 200 kilometers (125 miles) apart. This is why traveling around Iceland’s Ring Road isn’t only adventurous but an enjoyable trip
As it is, Reykjavik is the only city in Iceland. However, there are towns and villages which share the same beauty and even more historical background that makes them a go-to place for tourists.
Here are some interesting places to visit when you are in Iceland.
Akureyri is a mountainous region in the North of Iceland and is situated just 100 kilometers (62 miles) away from the Arctic Circle. This town is termed the capital of the northern territory. It’s located in the fjord Eyjafjörður in North Iceland with a population of about 17,800 and is the second largest municipality outside of Reykjavik.
If you are looking for an area close to a lake to enjoy geothermal swimming or bird watching, Akureyri is an ideal location for such activities. Nearby Lake Mývatn and the highest mountain in the region make it an ideal location for tourists.
There is a university in Akureyri and for decades the town offers pre and post-primary education for residents living there. Also if you want to visit the museum or a botanical garden, you can find this in this town.
This town has one of the highest incomes per family when compared to other towns in Iceland. This could be attributed to its short distance from the capital city of Reykjavik and its population of over 14,000 people. The town is more of a suburb rather than township as there is an overflow of people from the capital city taking up residence here.
Garðabær is one of the prosperous cities in Iceland and also a very large municipality boasting of two of the best golf courses in Iceland. Urriðavöllur located in the southeast edge of Garðabær and also the Garðabær golf club located near Vífilsstaðir.
From Garðabær, if you are standing at an elevated position you can see the Snæfellsjökull glacier volcano and the neighboring city of Reykjavík. You can also see the town of Kópavogur and while looking south, the mountain of the Reykjanes Peninsula. All of this beautiful scenery is part of what makes this town a tourist delight.
This town also has a characteristic of a suburb because of its close proximity to the capital city. It is the third-largest town in Iceland with a population of over 28,000 people and is mostly a residential township but also having two industrial areas including a very important harbor.
Hafnarfjörður which is translated to mean ‘the bay of harbor’ has history to its name. That is why from June 14th-17th every year, (before the summer solstice) the town is turned into a celebration of ‘Viking’ paradise for people who are interested in the Viking lifestyle to reenact the good old Viking era. This festival is very popular and it’s a tourist delight as more and more tourist looks forward to witnessing this growing modern-day celebration.
With a population of over 34,000 residents, this town is the second largest town in Iceland and is the second largest in landmass next to the capital city Reykjavik. The town is located in the capital region of the city and stands the largest compared to all towns bordering Reykjavik.
The town derives its name from the colonies of seal that reside close to the seashore located in the town’s oldest port. Kópavogur is translated to mean ‘Seal Pup Bay’ and has two culturally important centers for tourists to visit: Salurinn, and Gerðarsafn – one is for music lovers and the other for fine art addicts. These event centers were named after one of Iceland’s most influential glass artists and sculptors, Gerður Helgadóttir.
Kópavogur is also home to Smáralind, one of Reykjavík’s two biggest shopping malls, which was built in 2010. The town also has other interesting places for visitors to stop by including the Smáratorg which is also a popular shopping area close to the shopping mall and also Smáraturn which houses the tallest building in Iceland. Tourists can also find a library, a concert hall, and a national museum.
Reykjanesbær or Keflavík
If you are visiting Iceland for the first time, this is where your first arrival point is. The town houses the international airport and also doubles as part of the Reykjanes Peninsula drive.
Keflavik which translates to ‘Driftwood Bay’ is on the southwest coast of Iceland. It rests along the Reykjanes coast which is 29 miles (47 kilometers) away from Reykjavik.
In 1995, Njarðvík and Hafnir merged with Keflavik to form Reykjanesbær which altogether has a population of over 15,000. The merger is what makes people refer to the town as Keflavik and Reykjanesbær.
Interestingly, the international airport in the town came from the US military stationed at Keflavik by that time. During the Second World War, they built an airstrip in Iceland as a stopover for aircraft refueling. It also later served as an important Allied vantage position against Germany. The military airstrip was then referred to as Naval Air Station Keflavik.
Egilsstaðir was a practically non-existent village or town prior to 1944. It now stands as the largest town in the eastern territory of Iceland. The uniqueness of this town is that it’s one of the few towns in all Iceland with no direct boundaries to any sea or shoreline. It also boasts a domestic airport.
Today, if you visit Egilsstaðir during spring, summer and autumn it is one of the busiest and as tourism grows in Iceland. And especially during winter, this town welcomes more and more visitors.
With a population of over 2,500 people, the town is close to the river Lagarfljót. It’s not far from the wide valley of the fertile Fljótsdalshérað district. It is an ideal place for visitors traveling along the Ring Road. They can rest and refresh before continuing with their journey.
Call it ‘the Earthquake Town’ or ‘the Hot Spring Town’ and you won’t be far from the truth. Compared to all the towns and villages in Iceland, Hveragerði is quite a very different town. Many know this town for its underground hot spring and hot water. This uniqueness is also the reason why people here are quite different in terms of livelihood. Instead of fishing or fish farming, this town has health spa services, greenhouses, and botanical gardens.
The town is located in the southwest of Iceland and is about 28 miles (45 kilometers) from the capital city. The town has over 2,000 people.
The towns are in a highly geothermal region. The underground surface area has running boiling water. This culminates into many hot springs in the nearby hills. Many consider this town the center of botany here in Iceland.
Located in the northwest part of Iceland, this town is the largest. Considered the capital of the Westfords of Iceland, it has a population of over 2,500 people. Ísafjörður is the center of trade, in the whole region including tourism, fishing, and commerce.
The climate is very cold during winter and cool during summer. This is because of its location in the fjord and the steep mountains that surround it. During the winter solstice, the town doesn’t get to see the rays of the sun for weeks.
For tourists, this place is ideal to watch birdlife including other interesting and fascinating species of animals. You might spot Arctic foxes, seals and if you’re lucky, a whale while there.
This town is on a peninsula on the shores of Borgarfjörður. Borgarnes stands as the commerce center for most neighboring towns in western Iceland. It lies to the north of Reykjavik. You can reach it by going through Route 1 (Ring Road) which encircles Iceland. It has a population of 2,000 people.
From Borgarnes to Reykjavik there is a six-kilometer (3.7 mile) tunnel beneath the fjord of Hvalfjörður. From the tunnel you go to the second-longest bridge in Iceland. This town is probably one of the busiest for tourists. Those who seek to pack some food, buy gas, or rest and refresh will find luck here. It by far the most beautiful location when compared to any town in Iceland.