Crowded or even overcrowded places and attractions in Iceland and how to find alternative places
Some of the most popular attractions in Iceland are sometimes described as overcrowded. This is true during the high season in summer and often during the peak hours on a busy day in other seasons. However, this applies to five or six places in Iceland, like Gullfoss, Geysir, Almannagjá, Seljalandsfoss waterfall, and Skógafoss waterfall. On the other hand, it does not pertain to a minimum at least 300 other places and natural wonders you can visit and admire, without much traffic or worries that the place might be overcrowded. Surprisingly, you might easily find yourself alone in many such places, even during the high season in summer.
What does overcrowded or crowded mean exactly?
In places like Gullfoss, Geysir, and Almannagjá, a large number of visitors at the same time does not necessarily prevents you from enjoying and experiencing the thrill of viewing the natural wonders, the landscapes or a spectacular view. Most of these places can easily accommodate hundreds of visitors, simultaneously enjoying their visit. The problem is more of a practical nature, like too much traffic on the road, lack of parking space when you arrive, and inadequate sanitary facilities. Apart from lack of parking space and sanitary facilities, the main problem at Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss is related to the paths, especially in wet weather or slippery paths during winter. Many pathways in the natural surroundings near the waterfalls are easily spoiled during rains and bad weather and can easily become dangerous. The paths are also difficult to use during winter when the temperature is below minus. The problems mostly comprise infrastructural issues, due to the rapidly growing tourism, far beyond expectations of the concerned authorities. Such issues that will take some time to be resolved. Fortunately, this is not the case with many other places around the country, although some of them could offer better overall service, sanitary service, and parking lots at the arrival point. So, an overcrowded or crowded place does not necessarily imply that you will not be able to enjoy the natural wonder, but that you may be annoyed. However, there are alternatives if you prefer to avoid the crowded areas or even if you want to be alone.
Overcrowded Gullfoss waterfall
Gullfoss waterfall looks magnificent from many viewpoints along the west bank. Almost all the visitors view the waterfall from the west bank, because the best view to see the overall beauty of Gullfoss is from the banks near the upper parking lot and along the walking path from the service center. Sigfús Eymundsson was probably the first photographer ever to capture the waterfall Gullfoss at the end of the 19th century. He chose the angle from the upper bank on the west side, and nothing has basically changed since then, except the traffic. Interestingly, Mr. Eymundsson was photographing for the Tourist Board of Iceland for an Icelandic tourist attractions’ brochure, in 1896. The view from the lower level of the lower parking lot is also stunning. To go all the way down to the waterfall and stand by the extensive volume of the stream falling in the canyon isn't necessarily the best place to enjoy the natural wonder. Also, it is not the best angle to take photos. You actually have a lot of places along the west bank of Gullfoss to enjoy and take photos. If you really want to avoid traffic and even have the entire waterfall by yourself, remember that there is daylight in Iceland almost 24 hours during the whole month of June. The light is sometimes stunning by the waterfall at eleven in the evening or at four-thirty in the morning. It is not difficult to find a time during summer to visit Gullfoss, when it is not crowded.
Overcrowded Geysir hot spring area
The tireless hot spring Strokkur continues to blow boiling water and steam into the air at the Geysir hot spring area every day, every week, and every month of the year. It is a magnificent sight to see the blows 20 - 30 meters into the air every 10 to 20 minutes. A group of one hundred visitors and more can witness the sight without difficulty each and every time, right in front of the hot spring. It is a thrill each and every time. The whole Geysir area is quite large and can easily welcome hundreds of visitors every hour. If you want to see Strokkur blow up close and personal and a crowd has gathered around it, you can just wait for a few minutes by looking at it and photograph some of the wonderful other interesting geysers, boiling water and boiling clay in addition to all the extensive geological formations and colors. There is a lot to see, but during peak hours from late morning until late in the afternoon, the main problem is traffic and finding a parking space. As with Gullfoss, you can also choose to visit Strokkur and the Geysir area in late May, June or early July, during the evening or early morning, when the sun is still up, and few visitors are around. You might even find yourself alone there with Strokkur. You can also come early around daylight, before the bus tour visitors arrive. It is all about planning and the time of the day. In summer, daylight in Iceland is around the clock, for 24 hours.
Overcrowded Almannagjá at Þingvellir National Park
The whole area of Almannagjá and Þingvellir is huge and can easily accommodate hundreds of visitors each hour. There is much to see and explore, like Öxarárfoss waterfall, Drekkingarhylur and its dark history, Lögberg and the whole Þingvellir field and lava. If the parking lot by Hakið, Almannagjá service center is full, you can park near the church or even by the service center at Þingvellir and walk to Almannagjá. If you want to explore this place before traffic, you should arrive before the main bus traffic early in the morning or even at night or early morning during summer, when it is bright for 24 hours. If there is a time when Almannagjá is overcrowded, it is probably because of a parking problem or traffic, rather than a problem in viewing all the interesting places at Þingvellir.
Overcrowded Seljalandsfoss waterfall
Seljalandsfoss waterfall is both beautiful and a lot of fun. Access is also quite easy, as the waterfall is basically on the Ring Road in Iceland. Also, it is unique because of the path leading you behind the waterfall, which is an experience many seek to enjoy. Like many other popular natural wonders and attractions in Iceland, traffic at Seljalandsfoss has increased immensely in recent years. The response to build necessary facilities and increase parking space has been difficult. This also applies to the walking path behind the waterfall. At times during peak season and peak hours, especially when it is also raining, the traffic is just too much. Local authorities are responding to such problems and hopefully, things will get better sooner than later. However, the same applies to Seljalandsfoss as any other place that is becoming crowded in Iceland; you can definitely find hours during the morning and evening in summer when there are few visitors or no visitors at all. As we have pointed out on our website, it is also more interesting to photograph Seljalandsfoss in the afternoon rather than morning. If the crowd is overwhelming on your arrival, you can take a short walk and view the magnificent neighboring waterfall Gljúfrabúi, in the meantime until the crowd reduces.
Overcrowded Skógafoss waterfall
Skógafoss waterfall is easily accessible just like Seljalandsfoss from the Ring Road. It is a simple and beautiful rectangular waterfall. It has been a popular attraction in Iceland, as long as anyone can remember. With increasing tourism, its popularity has also increased and so has traffic near the waterfall. Unfortunately, necessary facilities are not as good as they should be. Just like Seljalandsfoss, the response has been too slow, when it comes to parking and proper sanitary facilities. The area around the waterfall is quite large and can easily welcome hundreds of people each hour to enjoy the waterfall. Although sometimes during peak hours and peak season the waterfall is a bit overcrowded, it is also a place where the stop is much shorter than at many other crowded attractions. If the traffic is overwhelming, you can take some time and visit the fascinating and popular Skogar Museum and also the beautiful waterfall Kvernufoss, both at walking distance from Skogafoss. You can also visit the waterfall early in the morning or late in the evening. In Iceland there is always the option to visit the waterfall at any hour during summer, when we have daylight for 24 hours.
Several other alternatives
Iceland has hundreds of natural wonders and attractions. Although the above mentioned might be the most popular and extremely beautiful ones, there are many alternative sites. If you are in Reykjavík two of the most obvious options are the Reykjanes Peninsula and the Snæfellsnes Peninsula drives. Both drives are highly interesting road trips with stunning natural wonders to view and experience. To see a great geothermal area and hot springs, the Reykjanes Peninsula drive is a perfect option. In summer, you can visit the waterfalls like Háifoss and Hjálparfoss in the southern region and include Gjáin for a stunning day tour. A visit to Reynisfjara is also an unforgettable experience, not to mention the Jökulsárlón and Fjallsárlón lagoons. If you travel to the north-eastern part of Iceland, you will enter the most beautiful and the most interesting part. Here, you can visit beautiful waterfalls like Dettifoss, Selfoss, and Guðafoss to name a few. Jökulsárgljúfur canyon with all its many natural wonders offers the most interesting landscape in Iceland. Námaskarð and Mývatn are places everyone visiting Iceland should have on their list. To skip the overcrowded places and head to the Westfjords is an option no one should regret and the same goes for the eastern fjords if you should choose the Ring Road option. Both regions have stunning waterfalls, natural wonders, and beautiful landscapes, ideal for long and scenic drives. Both have hundreds of options, where you can find a peaceful place and avoid anything even remotely resembling an overcrowded place. Also, you have the option in all the regions to stay overnight and visit some of the many wonderful small towns and villages around the shoreline. There are many places where you will find a good swimming pool, nice restaurants, good accommodation, and usually interesting local travel options. So, if you want to visit Iceland and avoid crowded areas it is easy to plan your trip to hundreds of peaceful and not so crowded places.