Essential Iceland Helicopter Tour | Golden Circle & Highlands
Witness the highlights of Iceland’s incredible landscapes in the most exciting way you can, with a helicopter tour. Those who want to pack as much sightseeing and adventure as possible into one day should make sure they book this thrilling excursion.
You will take off from Reykjavík’s Domestic Airport with an experienced, knowledgeable pilot and guide; from the moment you lift into the air, you will see why this activity is so popular.
The cityscapes of Reykjavík, while beautiful from the vantage points of capital, do not even come close to comparing to the views achieved in a helicopter. You will be able to marvel over the iconic sites and brightly coloured houses as they shrink beneath you.
After enjoying the beautiful city from above, you will set out on the most famous tourist trail in Iceland, the Golden Circle, albeit in the most unconventional and exhilarating of ways. The first destination on this route is Þingvellir National Park; from this height, you will be able to see clearly the rift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.
Next, you will visit the Geysir Geothermal Area. As you hover above its steaming and seething mud pits, you might see the geyser Strokkur erupt to heights of over twenty metres several times. The third and final location on the Golden Circle is Gullfoss waterfall, and your photographs of this feature from the sky will be the envy of all.
In spite of the sites of the Golden Circle being completed, your tour will continue. You will soar around the mighty peaks of Hekla, Eyjafjallajökull and Katla, three of Iceland’s most active and explosive volcanoes, the latter two of which are covered by glaciers. You will see long stretches of black sand beaches and deserts, and the forested valley of Þórsmörk, before finally heading to Landmannalaugar.
This spectacular highland region is home to bubbling hot springs and colourful rhyolite mountains. In this area, or somewhere similarly scenic, your pilot will land, and your group will enjoy a picnic in a beautiful setting.
After hours of adventure in the air, you will gradually make your way back to the Domestic Airport in Reykjavík. Once you land, you will no doubt be pumped with adrenaline, with a camera full of photographs.
See some of Iceland’s most incredible sites with this unmatched helicopter tour. Check availability by choosing a date.
- Available: Apr. - Nov.
- Duration: 4 hours
- Activities: Sightseeing, Helicopter
- Difficulty: Easy
- Languages: English, Icelandic
The Golden Circle is a 300 km route to the 3 most popular natural attractions in Iceland. The Golden Circle consists of Geysir, Gullfoss and Thingvellir.
See this for Golden circle tours.
Geysir is a geyser that gives its name to hot springs all over the world. But although Geysir itself is not active anymore the area features spectacular hot springs such as the powerful Strokkur (spouting a vast amount of water every 10 minutes, regularly about 15-20 meters into the air), Smidur and Litli-Strokkur.
The 'Golden Waterfall', is the second part of the Golden Circle, and one of the most beautiful and powerful waterfalls in Iceland, plummeting 32 meters into the river gorge of the popular rafting river Hvita. It is Iocated about 10 km from Geysir.
Thingvellir national park
The largest attraction of the Golden Circle is Thingvellir National Park. The Icelandic parliament was founded there in 930 and remained until the year 1798.
Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important places to visit in Iceland, not just for its historical and cultural values, but for also its magnificent landscape.
Thingvellir is surrounded by a beautiful mountain and volcano range and is the site of a rift valley, where the tectonic plates meet, marking the crest of the Mid-Atlantic ridge.
Of particular note at Thingvellir are the magnificent Almannagja gorge, and the beautiful lake Thingvallavatn, the largest lake in Iceland. The popular Gjabakkahellir lava cave is also in the area.
The fissure Silfra is located by Thingvallavatn, Iceland's largest lake, and is famous for its clear waters and popular for diving and snorkeling, as you can literally swim between continents.
Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and the northernmost capital of a sovereign state in the world.
Despite a small population (120.000 and more than 200.000 in the Greater Reykjavik area), it is a vibrant city that draws an ever increasing number of visitors. It is the financial, cultural and governmental centre of Iceland. It also has a reputation of being one of the cleanest and safest cities in the world.
The city of Reykjavik is located in southwest Iceland by the creek of the same name. Throughout the ages, the landscape has been shaped by glaciers, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and the area is geothermal. Much of the current city area area was subglacial during the Ice Age, with the glacier reaching as far as the Álftanes peninsula, while other areas lay under the sea. After the end of the ice age the land rose as the glaciers drifted away, and it began to take on its present form.
The coastline of Reykjavik is set with peninsulas, coves, straights and islands, most notably the island of Videy, and seabirds and whales frequent the shores. The mountain ring as seen from the shore is particularly beautiful. Mount Esja is the highest mountain in the vicinity of Reykjavik and lends its distinct feature to the whole area. This majestic mountain is also highly popular for climbing. Other notable mountains that can be seen from the seaside are Akrafjall and Skardsheidi and on clear days one may even see as far to the legendary Snaefellsjokull glacier, at the end of the Snafellsnes peninsula.
The largest river to run through the city is Ellidaa in Ellidaardalur valley, which is also one of Iceland‘s best rivers for salmon fishing.
There are no trains or trams in Iceland, but most people travel by car. The city also operates a bus system. There are two major harbours in town, the old harbour in the centre and Sundahofn in the east. The domestic Reykjavik Airport is located at Vatnsmyrin, not far from the city centre and close to Oskjuhlid and Perlan. The international Keflavik Airport at Midnesheidi heath then lies around 50 km from the city. Cars, jeeps and bicycles can be readily rented in the city and many organized tours are also being offered.
What to See & Do in Reykjavik
The local arts scene is strong in Iceland, with both annual events and single ones, many of whom have hit the international stage. For the annual ones please check our articles Best Annual Events in Iceland and the Top Ten Festivals in Iceland. Major events taking place in Reykjavik include the Iceland Airwaves, Gay Pride, RIFF (The Reykjavik International Film Festival), The Reykjavik Literature Festival, Cultural Night, the Reykjavik Arts Festival, Food & Fun, the Reykjavik Fashion Festival and the Sónar music festival.
Among famous people from Reykjavik are artists Bjork Gudmundsdottir, Sigur Ros, writers Halldor Laxness (born in Laugavegur) and Arnaldur Indridason and mayor Jon Gnarr. For more well-known and fairly-well known Icelanders, check our article on the subject.
You might also want to check our article on some of the many things to see and do in Reykjavik, such as visiting the city‘s many museums, exhibitions and galleries, checking out live music, visiting the Harpa music hall or the theatres, visiting the lighthouse at Grotta, the main shopping street of Laugavegur, visiting the old harbour and the flea market, going on a bird- and whale watching tour or visiting Videy island. We also have a top ten list of things to do.
Make sure to visit the public square of Austurvollur, one of the city‘s most popular gathering places, where you‘ll also find the national parliament, Althingi, the state church a statue of independence hero Jon Sigurdson, as well as cafés, bars and restaurants. Austurvollur was central in the 2008 protests, along with Laekjargata, home to the House of Government. You are also not likely to miss the great church of Hallgrimskirkja that towers over the city from the hill of Skolavorduholt, wherefrom you‘ll get a great view of the city.
Try a walk by the city pond, greet the many birds that frequent the area and visit the city hall, stationed by its banks. The Hljomaskalagardur is a beautiful park that lies by the pond, it ideal for a nice walk and sometimes concerts get held there. Further off is the campus of the university of Iceland, the Nordic house and the Vatnsmyri wetland, a particularly pleasant place, but be mindful of not disturbing the wildlife there and keep to the pathways.
For a nice swim on a warm day, we particularly recommend Nautholsvik beach.
Visit the Laugardalur valley, home to one of the city‘s best swimming pools, as well as the Asmundarsafn gallery, a beautiful botanical garden and a domestic zoo. A walk by the Aegissida beach, with it‘s old fishing sheds, in the west part of Reykjavik also holds a particular charm. The aforementioned Elllidaardalur valley is also a popular resort.
Another place that offers one of the city‘s best (and free) views is Perlan, up in Oskjuhlid hill. The hill itself is a popular resort, with over 176.000 trees and great opportunities for walking and cycling.
Travel to Alftanes to see the president‘s house at Bessastadir, which is also a historical site in it‘s own right, having been the educational centre of Iceland for centuries. Nearby is a beautiful lava field, Galgahraun, well worth a visit, though there is currently an environmental struggle going on as to it‘s future state.
The city is furthermore a short drive from many of Iceland‘s major attractions, most famously the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon. In close vicinity you‘ll also find the Heidmork preservation area, a favourite pastime resort of the people of Reykjavik, as well as the Blue Mountains, one of Iceland‘s most beloved skiing venues.
Check our Best of Reykjavik guide further for tips on the best cheap things to do in Reykjavik, some of the best restaurants in the city, happy hours, the top ten value places to eat and our two articles on the famous Reykjavik nightlife; Nightlife in Reykjavik and Nightlife and mating.
Finally, we‘d like to stress that these are only some suggestions of the many things you might check out in Reykjavik. Whatever you choose to do, we hope you‘ll be able to make the most of your visit and we wish you a pleasant stay in our capital.
Landmannalaugar ("The people's pools") is a vast area of stunning and unique beauty, the true heart of Iceland's southern Highlands.
Landmannalaugar is a truly rare area, both geologically and aesthetically. The area can be found nestled beside the raven-black Laugahraun lava field, a sweeping expanse of dried magma which originally formed in 1477. Landmannalaugar itself is made up of windswept rhyolite mountains, a rock type that creates a full spectrum of dazzling colour on the mountainside. Shades of red, pink, green and golden yellow all change their tone, keeping in movement with the sun rays and creating an area of wilderness that resembles no place else on earth.
Landmannalaugar is primarily known for its natural geothermal baths, hence its name "The People's Pools". For centuries, Landmannalaugar has served as an area of shelter and respite for weary travellers who use these soothing springs as a means to relax after tiring excursions. Today, visitors to the highlands should always bring a swimsuit and towel, just in case one of these naturally occurring hot pools should crop up along the hiking trail.
The most popular road leading to landmannalaugar, Sigölduleið, takes you past multiple stunning natural features, including Bláhylur lake, a magnificent body of water nestled in a dormant volcanic crater.
The area marks the northern end of the Laugavegur, one of Iceland's most popular hiking trails. It is also home to many other notable trails, however, including the path onto the mighty Mt. Brennisteinsalda ("Sulphur Wave"). Visitors can also traverse the trail up the Bláhnjúkur ("Blue Peak") volcano, whose summit allows for a sweeping view of up to five glaciers on clear days.
Multiple operators run daily tours to Landmannalaugar from mid-June to mid-September, during which time The Icelandic Touring Association operates a small shop, three camp sites and a mountain hut equipped with sleeping bags and accommodation for up to 80 visitors.
- Find Highland Tours here
Nestled between the glaciers Eyjafjallajökull, Mýrdalsjökull, and Tindfjallajökull is Þórsmörk (Thor's Valley), a nature reserve in the southern Icelandic highlands. Þórsmörk is one of Iceland's most popular hiking destinations.
Strictly speaking, Þórsmörk is a valley and a mountain range between the Krossá, Þröngá, and Markarfljót rivers. Locals, however, often use the name "Þórsmörk" when referring to a much larger region that is composed of the area between Þórsmörk proper, and the Eyjafjallajökull glacier volcano.
Landscapes and Geology
Contrasting vistas of lush oases and roaring glacier rivers cutting through black desert expanses not only make Þórsmörk unique to Iceland but to the entire world. Parts of the valley are rich with moss, fern, and Birchwood, while jagged mountain ridges and ice-capped peaks crown the horizon.
The valley's climate is warmer and calmer than usual in south Iceland, which often causes Þórsmörk's mountains to be cloaked in a veil of mist that materialises when the warm valley air ascends and mixes with the descending cold breath of the glaciers above.
Þórsmörk's surrounding hills, slopes and mountains are beset with small valleys and gullies that make for some of Iceland's most astonishing hiking routes. Experienced hikers, therefore, have a wealth of trails to trek, varying in distances and difficulty. In fact, Þórsmörk offers two of the most popular trails in Iceland, the Fimmvörðuháls and the Laugavegur.
Fimmvörðuháls is a 30km trail that takes you into the hills beneath the Eyjafjallajökull glacier volcano and to the volcanic craters Magni and Móði, which are still steaming from the eruption of 2010. The 55 km Laugavegur path takes you from Þórsmörk to the Landmannalaugar geothermal area which is home to an incredible wealth of hot springs and rhyolite mountains of vibrant colours. A short but demanding hike from Þórsmörk up Mt.Útigönguhöfði is suitable for those who are looking for stunning views and don't mind a little physical challenge.
Accommodation and How to get there
During winter (October 16th - April 30th) the road into Þórsmörk is impassable. In summer (May 1st - October 15th) a special 4x4 mountain bus runs three times per day from the BSÍ bus terminal in central Reykjavík. Once there you have the choice setting up base in a small hut in Húsadalur valley, a private room, a dormitory or in Þórsmörk's campsite. Please note that the huts, private rooms and dormitories must be booked well in advance.
The stratovolcano Hekla in the south of Iceland is undoubtedly one of the island's most famous and active volcanoes, with over 20 eruptions since settlement.
Hekla is part of a 40 kilometers long volcanic ridge but the most active part is the fissure Heklugja, considered the volcano proper. Hekla has produced one of the largest amounts of lava of any volcano in the world. Last time Hekla erupted was in 2000.
In the Middle Ages Hekla was considered to be the gateway to Hell, and it continues to inspire. It’s referenced in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, poet and artist William Blake banishes Winter to Hekla in his poem Winter and Icelandic composer Jon Leifs, inspired by Hekla’s power, composed one of the loudest pieces of classical music ever, Hekla Op 52.
Travelers from all over seek out Hekla and it is a popular hiking place. In addition to hiking you can ski there in the spring, summer offers easy mountaineering routes and you can snowmobile to the top in winter.
Geysir is a famous hot spring in Haukadalur valley in South Iceland. Part of the ‘Golden Circle', Geysir gives its name to hot springs all over the world.
Though Geysir itself is hardly active anymore, the area features spectacular hot springs such as the powerful Strokkur, which spouts a vast amount of water every 10 minutes, around 15-20 meters into the air, Smidur and Litli-Strokkur.
North of Geysir are fumaroles, i.e. unlike the hot springs that emit hot water, only steam and gas emanate from these. You may be able to observe bright yellow stains at the fumaroles, this is native sulphur, which crystallizes from the steam. At the southern part of the geothermal area, called Thykkuhverir, you‘ll find various mud pots. Such mud pots are actually fumaroles that boil up through surface water/groundwater and may become steaming fumaroles during dry spells, rather than the usual boiling mud pots.
About 2 km from Geysir is an old preserved natural pool called Kúalaug. One can bathe in it and it has room for 3-5 people at a time, but care should be taken, as the area around the pool is very delicate. The temperature is 39-43°C, depending on how you are positioned in the pool. The water is slightly muddy, as the pool is built on soil, and the bottom is slippery due to algae, so caution is advised.
In Haukadalur there has also been tree planting in recent times and today the forest Haukadalsskógur is one of the largest in South Iceland. Aspen, various types of pine, and other plants have been tried out there and experiments and research continue. We also recommend visiting the tree museum, built in the memory of forester Gunnar Freysteinsson. There are good paths and roads in the forest and the wood is specially designed to accommodate wheelchairs.
Haukadalur has been a church site since ancient time. The current wooden church was last rebuilt in 1938 but the variety and appearance of the church dates back to 1842, making it one of the oldest of its kind in Iceland.
Haukadalur is indeed a historical place. It was settled during the age of settlement and scholar Ari “The Wise“ Thorgilsson grew up there. The first pastoral school in Iceland was also built there.
For accommodation, Hotel Gullfoss is about 7 km from the Geysir area, and closer still is the Hotel Geysir.
Gullfoss (translated to ‘Golden Falls’) is one of Iceland’s most iconic and beloved waterfalls, found on the Hvítá river canyon in south Iceland. The water in Hvítá river travels from the glacier Langjökull, finally cascading 32m down Gullfoss’ two stages in a dramatic display of nature’s raw power.
Because of the waterfall’s two stages, Gullfoss should actually be thought of as two separate waterfalls. The first, shorter stage of the waterfall is 11m, whilst the second stage is 21m. The canyon walls on both sides of the waterfall reach heights of up to 70m, descending into the 2.5km long Gullfossgjúfur canyon (geologists indicate that this canyon was formed by glacial outbursts at the beginning of the last age.)
In the summer, approximately 140 cubic metres of water surges down the waterfall every second, whilst in winter that number drops to around 109 cubic metres. With such energy, visitor’s should not be surprised to find themselves drenched by the waterfall’s mighty spray-off.
In the early days of the last century, Gullfoss was at the centre of much controversy regarding foreign investors and their desire to profit off Iceland’s nature. In the year 1907, an English businessman known only as Howells sought to utilise the waterfall’s energy and harboured ambitions to use its energy to fuel a hydroelectric plant.
At the time, Gullfoss was owned by a farmer named Tómas Tómasson. Tómas declined Howell’s offer to purchase the land, stating famously “I will not sell my friend!” He would, however, go on to lease Howells the land, inadvertently beginning the first chapter of Icelandic environmentalism.
It was Tómas’ daughter, Sigríður Tómasdóttir, who would lead the charge. Having grown up on her father’s sheep farm, she sought to get the lease contract nullified, hurriedly saving her own money to hire a lawyer. The ensuing legal battle was an uphill struggle; the case continued for years, forcing Sigríður to travel many times by foot to Reykjavík if only to keep the trial moving. Circumstances became so difficult that Sigríður threatened to throw herself into the waterfall if any construction began.
Thankfully, in 1929, the waterfall fell back into the hands of the Icelandic people. Today, Sigríður is recognised for her perseverance in protecting Gullfoss and is often hailed as Iceland’s first environmentalist. Her contribution is forever marked in stone; a plaque detailing her plight sits at the top of Gullfoss.
Restaurant / Cafe
Besides Gullfoss, visitors can enjoy the views from Gullfoss Cafe, a locally run delicatessen that serves a wide variety of refreshments and meals. The menu has options to tantalise everyone’s taste buds; hot soups, sandwiches, salads and cakes. There is also a shop on site where visitors’ can browse and purchase traditional Icelandic souvenirs.
The area of the impressive volcanic mountain Hengill is a geothermal site and a source of energy for the south of Iceland.
Two power stations derive its energy from Hengill, the nearby Hellisheidavirkjun power station and Nesjavellir, which provides energy for th Reykjavik area. Not far from Hengill is the town of Hveragerdi, unusual for being situated in an area of such geothermal activity.
The glacier volcano of Eyjafjallajokull (1651 m) is located at the borders of the South Icelandic highlands. It featured prominently in world news in 2010 when ash from its eruption halted air traffic in Europe.
An ice cap of about 100 km with several outlet glaciers covers the caldera of Eyjafjallajökull that stands at the height of 1651 meters. The diamaeter of its highest crater is around 3-4 km2 wide and the rim has several peaks.
Eyjafjallajokull glacier volcano lies north of Skogar, and to the west of Myrdalsjokull glacier and the massive volcano there; Katla.
Eyjafjallajokull is thought to be related geologically to Katla in Myrdalsjokull and eruptions in the former have often been followed by eruptions in the latter.
The 2010 eruptions
The end of 2010 saw some small seismic activity that gradually increased and resulted in a small eruption in March of 2010, characterized by a flow of alkani-olivine basalt lava.
This first stage lasted until April 12th and created the volcanic craters Magni and Modi at the Fimmvorduhals trail. They are so far Iceland's newest vocanic craters, and still eminate steam with lava glowing under the surface.
However it was the second phase of the eruption that started on April 14th that created the huge ash cloud that rose about 9 km into the skies.
This eruption halted air traffic in Europe for days, and its estimated that as many as 107.000 flights may have been cancelled during the week it lasted.
The ejected tephra measured around 250 million cubic meters. This ash cloud lasted for six days and some more localized disruption continued into May. The eruption was officially declared to be over in October 2010, as the snow on the glacier had ceased to melt.
Future volcanic developments?
Eyjafjallajokull erupted in years 920, 1612 and again 1821-1823.
Its latest eruptions were the two that occurred in 2010.
Future volcanic developments remain unclear. The area is still highly active and can be quite unpredictable. It continues, however, to be closely monitored by The Icelandic Meterological Office.
Þingvellir is one of the most important sites to visit in Iceland for its landscape, history and cultural value.
The Icelandic parliament was founded in Þingvellir in 930 and remained there for centuries. Þingvellir is surrounded by a beautiful mountain range and is the site of a rift valley, marking the crest of the Mid-Atlantic range. Today it is a natural park, listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and considered a vital part of the ‘Golden triangle’ (with Geysir and Gullfoss). Of particular note is the magnificent gorge Almannagjá, which marks the eastern boundary of the North American plate and into which the beautiful waterfall Öxarárfoss falls.
Other notable attractions within the park include the beautiful lake Þingvallavatn, the largest lake in Iceland, the Silfra fissure, one of the world's top dives, Þingvallakirkja Church and Gjábakkahellir, one of Iceland's most interesting lava tubes.
Katla is an active volcano situated under the glacier Myrdalsjokull in South Iceland. It is one of Iceland's most well known volcanoes.
Katla's eruptions have produced many massive glacier bursts, with enormous amounts of water flowing, as the fire melts the ice. Its latest eruption was 1918. That eruption created the spit Kötlutangi, which is the mainland's southernmost tip.
The Laugavegur is one of the most popular hiking trails in Iceland. The scenery is breathtaking in its beauty and extremely varied, displaying examples of most all that Icelandic nature has offer.
The trail connects the nature reserves Landmannalaugar and Thorsmork. The most common route is to set off from Landmannalaugar, stopping by the huts at Hrafntinnusker, Alftavatn, Hvanngil, Laugahraun and Emstrur (Botnar). People usually divide the hike into 5-6 days. The whole trail is about 55 km.
Háifoss ('High Waterfall') is a waterfall in Fossárdalur valley, innermost of Þjórsárdalur valley in south Iceland.
Háifoss is held to be Iceland's second-highest waterfall, with a height of 122 metres. Near it is another waterfall called Granni, meaning 'Neighbour', i.e. a neighbour to Háifoss.
In order to reach Háifoss you will need to be driving a 4x4 car and hike for a short while.
The Hellisheidi Power Station is the largest geothermal powerstation in Iceland and the second-largest in the world.
The power station is located by Mt. Hengill in Southwest Iceland. Presently, Hellisheidavirkjun has a capacity of 303 MW of electricity an 133 MW of hot water, aiming at 400 MW which would make it the most powerful of its kind in the world, in terms of installed capacity.
Departure time : Flexible
East side of Reykjavík Airport, (behind Icelandair Hotel Natura)
A 3,5-4 hour helicopter tour
2 landings at scenic locations
What to bring:
Good to know:
Please arrive 20 minutes before the scheduled departure time. We are located behind Icelandair Hotel Natura on the East side of the Reykjavík Domestic Aiport, a short 5 minutes drive from the city center.