Iceland’s Hidden Gems: Explore the Unseen

Iceland’s built a well-deserved reputation on incredible, often very accessible, scenery. Our glaciers, volcanoes, waterfalls and canyons are in equal parts dramatic and extraordinarily beautiful – always impressive. But there’s something extra special about exploring the parts of the country that the majority of travellers overlook, particularly if it’s during a tailormade itinerary that’s been designed exclusively for you.

Discerning travellers value curated itineraries aimed at those who wish to venture off the beaten path in Iceland without sacrificing quality. Unique private experiences exploring the country’s breathtaking yet overlooked locations are the ultimate luxury. If you’re an adventure seeker or nature enthusiast who values personalised travel experiences, our approach could be for you.

We’ve put together some of our favourite hidden gems in Iceland to introduce you to the unparalleled beauty and seclusion of some of its most spectacular yet under-the-radar natural wonders. We hope this list gives you plenty of inspiration to help you get the ball rolling. Why not let us help you create a memorable and exclusive Iceland tour?

A luxurious private super jeep splashes through a river in Iceland's rugged landscape, offering an exclusive safari adventure against a backdrop of lush green hills.

Stakkholtsgjá Canyon

Þórsmörk (the valley of Thor) is wild, untamed and compelling. It’s a must for any intrepid visitor to South Iceland. Stakkholtsgjá Canyon is one of its undisputed highlights. Verdant and dramatic, it distils the essence of this staggeringly beautiful region. Vertiginous, faulted walls rise steeply from the valley bottom, in which a steady stream of water continues its relentless erosion.

The landscape you see has been carved over many centuries. The further in you go, the more this towering canyon narrows. It closes in as you hike the 2 km-long gorge to reach a secluded waterfall. In places, the almost vertical canyon walls soar to 100 metres, creating a surreal atmosphere.

It’s no surprise that this location was used for filming Game of Thrones. However, being off the beaten path, this incredible spot is rarely visited by tourists. Reaching it requires a modified vehicle and local expertise.

In the Highlands, roads get more challenging and reaching places like Þórsmörk often involves fording rivers or driving over uneven terrain. Travelling with us, you can relax as our skilled guide takes the wheel to get you to the trailhead. Then, we will guide you along the trails safely while sharing stories about the land or, if you wish, leaving you free to appreciate the scenery. Our private tours can also offer exclusive access at quieter times and various routes for the more adventurous.

Nauthúsagil Ravine and Waterfall

Nauthúsagil is an extraordinary hidden gem, unparalleled in its beauty. Towering moss-covered walls envelop you, creating a magical, narrow slit through which the sky peeks. This enchanting gorge, with its secret waterfall, offers a uniquely rewarding and unforgettable experience for those who venture off the beaten path. Reaching your destination involves stepping stones to cross water and coping with slippery rocks. Yet, the opportunity to reach the waterfall is more than worth it.

Nauthúsagil was once a place where animals used to graze – the name translates as Bull Shed. The inhabitants abandoned the farm here in the latter part of the 18th century but you’ll sometimes still see sheep hanging around under the tree and pottering about the rocks in this bucolic spot.

It is another secret gem of the Þórsmörk region, nearby the Stakkholtsgjá Canyon. Out Private Thórsmörk tour includes both of these stops, among others. Among the many benefits of a guided private tour is the reassurance that a skilled local who knows the terrain well guides you, ensuring you safely navigate the sometimes challenging terrain. In addition, they’ll provide interesting commentary to help you make sense of what’s around you, from the native flora to the local geology.

Ljótipollur Crater Lake

Icelandic speakers might not have high hopes for this place, as its name translates as “ugly puddle”. Yet in reality, Ljótipollur is nothing like its name suggests. This photogenic crater lake is a delight to see, its deep blue water forming a striking contrast against the red-brown slopes that rise behind it.

Iceland has many such explosion craters, thanks to its many volcanic systems, 41 of which are still active. Yet this crater, part of the Veiðivötn volcanic fissure system, receives fewer visitors than some, adding to its appeal to those who love to venture off the beaten track to reach somewhere in splendid isolation.

Ljótipollur, situated near Landmannalaugar in the southern Highlands, benefits from the latter’s fame. While Landmannalaugar draws numerous visitors during the summer, Ljótipollur remains a hidden gem, offering a tranquil and less crowded alternative for those seeking stunning landscapes.

This is an area relatively hard to reach outside the summer season. However, you’ll be glad you hired a knowledgeable guide to bring you here. They can fill you in on its history and help you identify the best place to photograph it so you can capture the entire lake in one image – around 1.5km long.

Sigöldugljúfur Canyon

This enchanting canyon is another gem of the Highlands. The Tungnaá River has carved a winding path through the mountainous countryside to leave a fabulous gorge. Numerous small waterfalls cascade down the sides of the canyon, filtering through heaps of fallen boulders and flowing into the vivid turquoise water below. Coupled with the green moss, it’s quite a contrast with the often barren, rocky terrain that typifies the Icelandic interior.

Though the Sigalda hydroelectric power plant led to a drop in the water level of the Tungnaá River, this has only served to enhance its beauty, revealing more of the canyon walls and allowing the verdant moss that carpets exposed rock faces to flourish. In some respects, there are similarities with Studlagil Canyon in East Iceland, though the latter is much busier.

Sigöldugljúfur Canyon is a remote place, accessible only to hikers on foot or by modified vehicles capable of navigating extremely rugged terrain. This isolation and its distinctive appearance make Sigöldugljúfur Canyon especially attractive to photographers.

On a Superjeep small group tour or a private tour arranged by Activity Iceland, your guide can ensure you find the best spots to park your tripod so that you can capture some mesmerising shots. The water that has been held back forms Krókslón reservoir, which is also worth a look.


Iceland’s home to more than 10,000 waterfalls. Some of them are so small or seasonal that they don’t even warrant a name. But those in the top tier are literally jaw-dropping for a variety of reasons. Some are so tall that from the bottom, you’ll need to crane your neck to see where the water’s coming from; others are noteworthy for the volume of water that flows over the rock.

In the case of Brúarfoss, the intense colour of its water is why you’ll want to visit – in fact, many people reckon this is the bluest waterfall in Iceland. This vibrant shade comes from the glacial sediments suspended in the water. Brúarfoss lies within the famous Golden Circle region, yet it receives a fraction of the visitors that flock to better-known sites like Gullfoss.

Though since 2023 there has been a car park close to the falls, the best way to appreciate Brúarfoss and its magnificent setting is by walking along a riverside trail. It’s possible to do this hike without a guide, but accompanied by someone who knows the area well, you’ll learn so much more about the landscape and reduce the chance of taking a wrong turn along the way.

You’ll begin in a birch forest – particularly photogenic when the leaves turn gold in autumn – before emerging to view a couple of other pretty waterfalls called Hlauptungfoss and Midfoss. Continue on to Brúarfoss itself, as rivulets of water that resemble bridal veils cascade into the river channel. Finally, step onto a wooden bridge for a stunning view of the falls as water runs beneath you. In winter and spring, icicles adorn the rock and snow further accentuates the vivid blue.

Rauðfeldsgjá Ravine

Rauðfeldsgjá Ravine is a breathtaking canyon located on the north-western tip of the Snæfellsnes peninsula . Water has carved out the moss-covered rock to create deep clefts. At the bottom, birds soar high overhead as water tumbles over strewn boulders. During the colder months, a dusting of snow adds to its beauty, but at any time of year, you can’t fail to be impressed.

This majestic gorge features in an Icelandic saga dating from the 14th century. It tells the story of Bárðr, who was part human, part troll. He had a half-brother called Þorkell, and their children used to play together. One day, Þorkell’s son Rauðfeldr was larking about with Barðr’s daughter Helga. She clambered onto an iceberg, and he pushed her out to sea. The current caught the iceberg, and it drifted, with Helga still aboard, all the way to Greenland.

Helga was fine. She arrived safely and made a new life for herself there. But Bárðr was distraught and took his frustration out on Rauðfeldr, whom he blamed for his loss. Bárðr shoved the boy into the Rauðfeldsgjá Ravine. An angry Þorkell fought with Bárðr, breaking his own leg in the process. But in some respects, he won as Bárðr moved away.

Whether you believe in the sagas or not, hearing the folklore tales associated with this Snæfellsnes peninsula hidden gem will certainly add an extra dimension to your visit. By booking a private tour, you can listen to this and other local legends and stories that will enrich your experience.

Vatnshellir Cave

Snæfellsjökull is a snow-capped strato-volcano that last erupted more than 1800 years ago and currently lies dormant. It’s a remarkable sight, the jewel in the crown of the Snæfellsjökull National Park. On a clear day, you might see it from as far away as Reykjavik, but getting a close-up look is highly recommended.

And that doesn’t just mean confining yourself to what you can see at ground level. One of Snæfellsjökull’s most extraordinary features, Vatnshellir Cave, is actually underground. Accompanied by an experienced guide – this is definitely not the kind of place for independent exploration – you’ll experience a lava tube from the inside. They’ll supply you with the essential gear to keep you safe – a helmet and torch are necessary in such a dark place.

Descend via spiral staircases to subterranean walkways that lead into an 8000-year-old lava tube deep below the surface. It’s a bit claustrophobic, but if you can cast your fear aside, it’s truly remarkable to think about the processes that led to its formation. As the light bounces off the rough surface of the lava walls and ceiling, you’ll learn that the only thing that can survive down here is harmless bacteria.

Stalactites inside a dimly lit Vatnshellir cave, one of Iceland's hidden gems

Exploring unseen Iceland through customisable private tours and activities offers the chance of a unique perspective on how nature has shaped the landscape. It will also give you a deeper appreciation of the island’s hidden gems.

Booking a private tour of Iceland will allow you to go beyond typical tourist experiences and create something much more personal that offers the opportunity for a deeper connection with nature away from the crowd.

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