Iceland is one of my favorite destinations to visit as a wheelchair user because it’s a safe, friendly environment with spectacular scenery and plenty of accessible things to do. I love exploring the capital city of Reykjavík, but it’s also nice to venture into the countryside.
Whether you want to visit the black sand beaches, view towering waterfalls, or swim in the Blue Lagoon, Iceland offers something for everyone.
There are at least 17 reasons why you should visit Iceland as a wheelchair user. Iceland is a very wheelchair accessible destination and with the help of an accessible tour company known as Iceland Unlimited, I have had no problems seeing as many sights as I can in the land of fire and ice.
There’s plenty to do and Iceland should definitely be a destination you consider traveling to as a wheelchair user. Here are 17 reasons why you should pack up your suitcase and visit Iceland as a wheelchair user –
Why Visit Iceland in a Wheelchair?
1: Swim in the Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa located 15 minutes from Keflavik International Airport. This is a must visit destination and its location makes it the perfect first, or last, stop on your trip to Iceland.
I chose to stop first thing during my September 2015 trip and it was a great way to relax and get rid of some of the jet lag I was carrying from my day of air travel.
Swimming in the Blue Lagoon is an amazing way to relax, recover, and pamper yourself. The pools are heated to upwards of 115 degrees Fahrenheit, but usually stay around 102. If you get too hot during your soak, move around and you’ll find a cool spot.
In addition to taking a swim, this is a great opportunity for an Icelandic spa day. From white silica mud facials, which you can do while you float and swim around in the pools, to a full spa treatment. There are several facials and massage packages you can add to your visit.
Be sure to dine at the Blue Lagoon’s Lava Restaurant after your spa day. This was one of the best meals I ate in Iceland and it is a very popular restaurant, so be sure to make a reservation well ahead of time.
The Blue Lagoon is extremely wheelchair friendly and I had great experiences. I emailed the facility well before my trip and was surprised to see that it was even more accessible than they mentioned through our correspondence.
There is an accessible private changing room, complete with a roll-in shower, adult-sized changing table, and a shower chair. The Blue Lagoon has ramps to enter the water and an amphibious chair as well, so getting in is a breeze.
2: See Icelandic horses
Iceland has a unique history in terms of horses. No horses can be imported into Iceland, which means all of the horses currently in the country were bred and raised in Iceland.
This has led to a very unique and interesting breed of horse that can walk, trot, and gallop, as well as move at a flying pace. These horses are smooth and fast given their size, and it’s quite an experience to see them.
The best place to experience the Icelandic horses is at the Sólvangur Icelandic Horse Center, 40 minutes outside of Reykjavik. The horse center has been breeding and training horses for years and offers lessons as well.
They also offer a stable tour, a gift shop, and a cafe for a whole afternoon of fun. Be sure to call ahead and make a reservation for the stable tour, as this gives you a better chance at a private tour.
If you’d just like to see and pet the horses, you can stop by any time during business hours and visit the gift shop and cafe as well.
3: See waterfalls
Waterfalls are one of my favorite things to see and visit when I’m traveling, and the Seljalandsfoss waterfall is very impressive to see. Located less than 2 hours from Reykjavik, this waterfall is a spectacular sight on the South Coast.
Seljalandsfoss is 200 feet high with a narrow cascade of water. My favorite part about seeing this particular waterfall was how wheelchair accessible it was.
I could get really close to the fall itself by using the paved path from the parking lot to the waterfall. It was amazing to be so close to the falls that I could feel the mist and got a little wet from the spray.
Another wheelchair accessible waterfall I visited was Skogafoss, which is a short drive from Seljalandsfoss. Be sure to take lots of photos during your stop, as this waterfall is one of the most picture perfect I’ve visited in all of Iceland.
The waterfall itself isn’t as accessible as Seljalandsfoss, but it is a great photo opportunity and a beautiful sight. The waterfall is 80 feet wide and 200 feet tall, which is amazing from far away.
There is a path to get close to the falls, but it’s a bit bumpy for wheelchair users. I went about halfway on the path, which was close enough for a nice view, and got some great photos.
4: Be in awe of the Northern Lights
I’ve always wanted to see the Northern Lights and when I visited Iceland for the first time, it was one of the top things I wanted to do while there.
Unfortunately I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to see them when I arrived in late September, as it can be tricky to get the timing right and have the weather cooperate in order to see the Northern Lights. If this is a must-see for you, make sure you schedule your trip during peak Northern Lights season (winter) to give you the best chance of seeing them.
I worked with Iceland Unlimited to have the best chance to see the lights and it was well worth it. Iceland Unlimited uses a fleet of wheelchair accessible vehicles, which made travel so easy and gave me a great vantage point to see the sights as we drove searching for the lights.
Seeing the Northern Lights is a magical experience. I luckily got to see them on my trip, even though we pulled over on the side of the road in order to take them in. The entire sky was lit in a way I’ve never seen before. It really is almost indescribable.
Seeing this event is breathtaking, so be sure to get a good look and take a few photos to remember your experience. I’d recommend a DSLR camera, as my smartphone didn’t take great photos.
5: See penises from every species… seriously
There’s plenty to do in Iceland, including visiting the Phallological Museum in Reykjavik. This is hands-down one of the most unique museums in the world, so if you’re going to visit Iceland you should seriously consider making a stop here.
This is obviously a very different experience, as you can see all kinds of species on display, over 280 penises, including molds of the 2018 Icelandic Handball Olympic team. If you enjoy visiting weird and unique locations, definitely plan to visit the wheelchair accessible Phallus Museum for an hour or so.
For more information on the Phallological Museum, including prices, hours of operation, and information on current exhibits, please visit their website. I used a Reykjavik City Card to save 20% on my admission.
6: Watch a geyser shoot from the ground
Another amazing outdoor experience is getting to see a geyser shoot from the ground. This is a great way to take in the natural landscape of Iceland and visit a very active geyser.
Strokkur is the name of Iceland’s most impressive geyser and it erupts as frequently as every 5 to 10 minutes, almost guaranteeing you an opportunity to see it in action no matter when you visit. It’s known as one of the most active and reliable geysers in the world, so you’re definitely going to see it on your trip and it makes for another great photo opportunity.
You can see the geyser erupt from the parking lot, but a paved path from the lot to the geyser makes the whole space very wheelchair accessible.
After seeing the geyser erupt and taking a few photos, there’s enough space to take in the scenery and visit the gift shop. The gift shop has two levels of everything you could imagine and is very accessible. There’s an elevator and an accessible bathroom, as well as a couple of restaurants for quick service or seated dining.
7: See icebergs at Jökulsárlón
After visiting Iceland, you may find Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon to be your favorite place and your favorite stop of your whole trip. This is definitely a must-see location. Who wouldn’t want to see icebergs while in Iceland?
Jökulsárlón is a glacier lagoon that is literally full of icebergs. This is also the home of Iceland’s deepest lake, and getting to see the collection of icebergs in this lake was an amazing opportunity. This is a rare experience, so take advantage if you can.
As far as wheelchair accessibility, the path from the parking lot to the lagoon isn’t paved, which made for a very bumpy ride, but it was well worth it. You have to get up close and experience this one first-hand, as the pictures just don’t do it justice.
Sure, I took plenty of photos, but the real memories are made by being there and looking out on the lagoon in awe. There are some spectacular views and it’s really amazing just being close to nature that’s existed for thousands of years.
8: Taste fermented shark… just once in your life
Iceland has a wonderful variety of foods to try and meals you should consider, but one thing I think should be on everyone’s list is “hakarl”, which is fermented shark. It’s frequently on lists of “the most disgusting foods in the world”, but you should try it at least once for the experience.
If you’re going to try this Icelandic delicacy, I would suggest you try it at one of the best restaurants in Reykjavik, Islenski Barrinn. This is a great restaurant that has the atmosphere of a gastropub and isn’t really a tourist stop. Islenski Barrinn is a place where tourists mix with locals for a chance to sample strictly Icelandic beers and spirits along with amazing meals.
This restaurant is special diet friendly and offers lunch, dinner, and drinks. The menu has a variety of Icelandic options, including fermented shark. I’d recommend eating it here because the waiter will tell you how to eat it and answer any questions you may have.
I found this restaurant to be very wheelchair accessible, but I would recommend calling ahead as they will need to provide a ramp to get your wheelchair over the front step. Making a reservation is also a good idea to ensure there’s space for you during the time you’d like to dine.
9: See a black sand beach
If you’re a fan of going to the beach, you’ll definitely need to make sure you stop at a black sand beach and take in the atmosphere while in Iceland. Looking at pictures online showcases only a fraction of the beauty. Being there and seeing it in person is worth the trip.
The sand is actually black and can be such a treat to experience, as most beaches are white sand. I felt like I was in a fantasy world at Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. And no wonder I felt like that… Game of Thrones has filmed here.
The sand is black because it is from eroded volcanic rock. Iceland is a location of more volcanoes than other islands, which gives Iceland’s shores black sand.
It’s important to note that Reynisfjara is wheelchair accessible to some degree, but does not offer beach wheelchairs. There is some harder packed sand near the parking lot, which I could easily roll on, but the softer, less packed sand was difficult to maneuver. It is well worth the trip though and I’m glad that portions of the beach can be accessed with a wheelchair.
10: Experience Iceland with an accessible tour company
If you are serious about wanting to visit Iceland and experience both the city and the natural landscapes, I highly suggest you tour with Iceland Unlimited. They offer accessible tours with accessible transportation, which lets you thoroughly enjoy your trip.
Working with an accessible tour company helps alleviate some of the stress of planning an international trip and gives you unique opportunities to go beyond the basic tourist stops, including the black sand beaches and hunting the Northern Lights.
Iceland Unlimited provided amazing tours when I was in Iceland and is an excellent company founded by a wheelchair user. Check out their website to see their services and how they excel at providing wheelchair accessible tours.
Your tour can be customized to the destinations and experiences you’d like to include in your trip, which can take your Icelandic vacation to a new level compared to planning on your own. Each time I’ve visited Iceland, I’ve booked tours with Iceland Unlimited because the experience has been truly remarkable each time.
11: Buy an authentic wool sweater
Between your visits to amazing natural landscapes, you may be wondering what would be the best souvenir to bring home from Iceland. The answer is an authentic Icelandic wool sweater.
Bringing home a t-shirt from a destination or the airport is typically how many travelers remember their trip, but Iceland is home to a uniquely knit wool sweater and taking one home can seriously change how you choose souvenirs in the future.
Icelandic wool sweaters aren’t your average sweater. They are knit with wool from Icelandic sheep, which provides a unique and welcome balance of thick warmth and breathability. Beyond the materials, most Icelandic sweaters have iconic patterns and designs.
The Icelandic wool sweater is a symbol of hard work and resilience, as it takes hours to complete one sweater and that same sweater will keep you warm through most types of weather. Icelanders wear their sweaters on an almost daily basis, much like others may wear a hooded sweatshirt or fleece jacket.
Wool sweaters are typically sold in tourist shops but can also be purchased in smaller villages and at farmer’s markets. Keep an eye out for a unique color, pattern, or the sweater that speaks to you and you’ll have a great souvenir that will last far longer than many traditional options.
12: See Puffins
If you get the chance while you’re out exploring the beaches and the landscapes, try to see some puffins! Seeing a puffin had been on my Icelandic bucket list for a while and I told my tour driver this. He knew just the spot.
I finally saw puffins at Dyrhólaey, which is a peninsula where Puffins nest in the cliffs during the summer months. I was really surprised to spot one within minutes of arriving at Dyrhólaey.
The puffins were flying, resting on the cliffs, and it was really quite a show. Of course, I took photos to help document my experience, but honestly it was just amazing to be able to complete an experience that had been on my bucket list for quite some time.
The viewing location at Dyrhólaey to see the puffins was gravel, but my wheelchair did fine. There weren’t too many bumps and it was easy enough to navigate.
I tried to venture up the hill to another viewing spot, but my wheelchair got stuck. I’d suggest sticking to the lower section if you’re visiting in a wheelchair, as you’ll get to spend more time observing the puffins.
13: Roll in Iceland’s tallest church, Hallgrímskirkja
A visit to Reykjavik wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the main landmark, the tallest church in Iceland, Hallgrímskirkja. The church can be seen from pretty much everywhere in the city and it’s definitely exciting to see it up close and explore inside.
The architecture was inspired by the shapes lava takes when it cools and forms into rock. It’s pretty impressive to see how Iceland is inspired by nature and brings the landscapes into their cities.
One of the highlights inside Hallgrímskirkja is the impressive pipe organ. It’s very tall, almost 50 feet, and weighs upwards of 25 tons. 4 pedals and over 5,000 pipes produce the powerful notes that fill the large space.
There are summer and winter hours, so be sure to check out the website before planning your visit. There is a Sunday mass held here as well, so take that into consideration when planning your excursions.
14: The locals are friendly
Traveling abroad can be intimidating for many travelers, but also intimidating for wheelchair users as there are so many unknowns about accessibility and accommodations. In my experience I’ve found that Icelandic people are very friendly and most of the time are willing to lend a hand if I need one.
As an example, I once went to a restaurant in Reykjavik and when I got there, there was a step to get inside. The chef/owner saw that I was at the entrance, so he ran outside and lifted my 300+ lb wheelchair up over the step. Similar scenarios have happened a couple times on my two trips to Iceland.
Of course, there are situations where it can be helpful to try and plan ahead or make reservations, but honestly in all my travels I’ve found that simply asking someone, from seeing if a ramp can be installed to if there’s another entrance or another path around goes a long way.
Many people are happy to answer my questions or help me get unstuck on the beach, or give directions. Iceland is an especially welcoming place, which is why I’ve already visited twice!
15: See a volcanic crater in the land of fire and ice
There are so many natural destinations to visit in Iceland, which is amazing both in terms of the view and the experience, but it’s also amazing that so many of them are wheelchair accessible. Another great place to visit is the Kerid Volcanic Crater.
This destination is 20 to 30 minutes from the Golden Circle and not too many tourists visit, but it’s very impressive compared to some of the other surrounding sights.
Kerid is a volcanic crater lake that is thousands of years old. The surrounding landscape is red, much like the surface of Mars, and the water is very deep blue green. I was surprised at how beautiful the sight was, as I didn’t expect to see such an impressive lake.
Another reason to stop here is that it’s very wheelchair accessible. The path is smooth and there’s a large viewing area. The viewing space is perfect for taking selfies with the crater lake, as well as documenting the impressive view and surrounding area.
Many trips don’t tend to lead to the crater lake, but seriously consider it as a stop on your trip. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
16: The midnight sun
In the summer months, Iceland can have up to 24 hours of daylight, which is a reason in itself to plan a visit to Iceland.
If this is something you’d like to see, I’d definitely suggest doing serious research, as the timing of the sun changes throughout the year. The ultimate best time to visit to see the official midnight sun is on the summer solstice in June for peak viewing. From May to August, there is light around midnight, but the sun sets just before midnight. May to July is the best time for seeing the brightness and the longest days of the year.
The midnight sun can be seen anywhere in Iceland. You won’t need to travel to a specific location to see it, but some locations may have better views or natural landscapes for optimal photography.
On the opposite side, Iceland is also home to days and months with very little daylight, some days only 4 or 5 hours each. The shortest days in Iceland are from December to January, where the days lengthen about 2 minutes per day from December to June.
17: Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world
The final reason why you should visit Iceland as a wheelchair user is because Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world.
I did my research before planning a trip to Iceland and found that Iceland is the leading country in terms of safety, with a 94 out of 100, and seated in the number 1 spot on the list. For comparison’s sake, the United States is number 49 on this list and has a 68 out of 100.
I’ve been to Iceland twice, which should tell you something about how my trips went as a wheelchair user. I enjoyed myself so much the first time that I went again! I didn’t have any issues with accessibility, as I traveled with Iceland Unlimited, and found plenty of things to do, places to see, and dining options, all while feeling very safe, comfortable, and excited to explore.
Hopefully these 17 reasons why you should visit Iceland as a wheelchair user have helped not only convince you to travel to Iceland, but also got you excited to plan your own trip.
Using an accessible tour company like Iceland Unlimited will help you get to the amazing destinations I mentioned and will help you focus on the experiences and not the transportation.
There are so many wonderful things to do in Iceland and if you’re a wheelchair user who is curious about international travel, definitely put Iceland on your bucket list of destinations to visit. It’s a place unlike anywhere else in the world.
*Thank you to Iceland Unlimited for showing me the best things to do in Iceland! While my experiences were complimentary or discounted, all opinions expressed are authentic and my own.