Top Tours in Iceland, Europe

Iceland tours.

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  • The ranking of tours, activities, and experiences available on Tripadvisor is determined by several factors including the revenue generated by Tripadvisor from these bookings, the frequency of user clicks, and the volume and quality of customer reviews. Occasionally, newly listed offerings may be prioritized and appear higher in the list. The specific placement of these new listings may vary.

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1. Iceland South Coast Full Day Small-Group Tour from Reykjavik

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2. Golden Circle, Blue Lagoon with Ticket and Kerid Volcanic Crater

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3. Reykjavik Food Walk - Local Foodie Adventure in Iceland

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4. Silfra: Snorkeling Between Tectonic Plates - meet on location

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5. #1 Northern Lights Tour In Iceland from Reykjavik with PRO photos

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6. The Original Classic Whale Watching from Reykjavik

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7. Dynjandi Waterfall & Iceland Farm Visit Tour

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8. Whale Watching Tour from Akureyri City Central

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9. 3,5-Hour Sightseeing Tour To Dynjandi Waterfall

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10. Big Whales & Puffins RIB boat tour from Húsavík

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11. Lake Myvatn, Hot-Springs & Godafoss Waterfall Tour from Akureyri

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12. Golden Circle and Secret Lagoon Full Day Tour from Reykjavik by Minibus

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13. Golden Circle Classic Day Tour from Reykjavik

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14. Golden Circle, Volcano Crater and Blue Lagoon Small-Group Tour

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15. New Volcanic Eruption Area Helicopter Tour in Iceland

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16. South Iceland Glaciers, Waterfalls and Black Sand Beach Day Tour from Reykjavik

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17. Golden Circle Full Day Tour from Reykjavik by Minibus

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18. Speedboat Whale Watching Small-Group Tour in Reykjavik

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19. Golden Circle, Secret Lagoon and Kerid Crater Tour from Reykjavik

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20. Fimmvorduhals Small Group Hike

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21. Glacier Hike, South Coast Waterfalls and Black Sand Beach Tour

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22. Reykjavik Food Lovers Tour - Icelandic Traditional Food

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23. Puffin and Volcano Minibus Tour - Guided by Ebbi

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24. Twin Peaks ATV Iceland Adventure from Reykjavik

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25. Golden Circle Small-Group Afternoon Tour from Reykjavik

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26. Golden Circle and Secret Lagoon Small-Group Tour from Reykjavik

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27. Ice Cave Tour in the National Park of Vatnajökull

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28. Whale Watching in Húsavík with Friends of Moby Dick

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29. Golden Circle with Kerid Volcanic Crater Day Trip from Reykjavik

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30. Whale Watching & Dolphin Yacht Cruise

What travellers are saying.

Alexandra F

  • Taylor B 0 contributions 0 5.0 of 5 bubbles 1000% Recommended. 5 whale sightings!! Such a great time!! We were incredibly lucky to see 5 whales. 1 minke, 3 humpbacks, and 1 blue whale. We were told the minke and blue whales were rare to see so we were beyond grateful for the experience. It was also cool to see the guides as excited as we were. Our guides were great! Also puffin island was awesome. Nothing like sitting under a tornado of puffins flying around. Read more Review of: Big Whales & Puffins RIB boat tour from Húsavík Written 11 May 2024 This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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10-Day Self-Drive Tour of the Complete Ring Road of Iceland with Top Attractions & Snaefellsnes

Unforgettable 6-day summer vacation package with jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, epic 13-day self-drive tour of iceland's complete ring road with snaefellsnes peninsula & westfjords, amazing 5-day summer vacation package in iceland with jokulsarlon glacier lagoon & golden circle, top tours in iceland.

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Helicopter Tour over the Volcano Area on the Reykjanes peninsula from Reykjavik

Inside the volcano thrihnukagigur tour with transfer from reykjavik, snorkeling tour between continents in silfra with free underwater photos & snacks, the katla ice cave tour, skaftafell glacier hiking tour on vatnajokull, family-run husavík whale watching tour, 1-hour zodiac boat tour of jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, best ice cave tour in vatnajokull glacier starting from jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, top attractions in iceland.

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Enjoy the soothing warm water in Iceland's most famous attraction, the Blue Lagoon

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18 Things To Do & Places to Visit In Iceland

18 Things To Do & Places to Visit In Iceland

Best Attractions by the Ring Road of Iceland

Best Attractions by the Ring Road of Iceland

The Top 10 Best Tours in Iceland: Popular and Unique Excursions

The Top 10 Best Tours in Iceland: Popular and Unique Excursions

The 30 Best Hot Springs and Geothermal Pools in Iceland

The 30 Best Hot Springs and Geothermal Pools in Iceland

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Northern Lights in Iceland - When & Where To See the Aurora

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The 17 best iceland tours: northern lights, waterfalls & more.

Enjoy glacier hikes, whale watching cruises and the northern lights on these Iceland tours.

The Best Iceland Tours

Aerial drone view of Seljalandsfoss waterfall at sunset, Iceland

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With terrain shaped by volcanic eruptions and shifting tectonic plates and the surrounding waters filled with glaciers, icebergs and whales, Iceland is like no other place on Earth. It's also an ideal spot to observe a seasonal phenomenon above the Earth: the northern lights  (or aurora borealis).

The following Iceland tours, determined by U.S. News to be the best available thanks to expert input and traveler sentiment, provide ideal ways of experiencing all that this extraordinary place has to offer. All of these excursions are conducted by knowledgeable guides eager to share their insights into their country's special features.

Ice Lagoon Adventure Tours – Zodiac Boat Tour

Price: Adults from 14,900 Icelandic króna (about $108); kids from 8,900 króna (about $65) Duration: 75 minutes

Explore the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon – part of Vatnajökull National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to Europe's largest glacier – aboard an inflatable rigid boat on this expedition. In addition to icebergs and the glacial wall, you might also spot wildlife like seals and various bird species. Tourgoers consistently describe the guides as passionate and knowledgeable, and say photo opportunities abound. Trips are available from May through October several times a day, with departures in both the morning and the afternoon. The park containing the lagoon sits in the southeast part of the country, about 236 miles from Reykjavik . Ice Lagoon Adventure Tours also runs private excursions.

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NiceTravel – Golden Circle, Blue Lagoon & Kerid Volcano

Price: Adults from $218; kids from $123 Duration: 11 hours

Visit the Golden Circle's top sights, including Thingvellir National Park and Gullfoss, plus a volcanic crater and a pristine lagoon on this daylong journey. The park is of both geological and historical significance as it straddles a fault line between two tectonic plates and was the site of a Viking parliament that ruled for hundreds of years starting in A.D. 930. Other highlights include Geysir, a hot spring that shoots plumes of vapor into the air; Gullfoss (aka the Golden Waterfall) over which water cascades down more than 100 feet into a narrow canyon; Kerid, a colorful red-earth volcanic crater; and a two-hour stop at the heated waters of the popular Blue Lagoon. Tour-takers invariably find the scenery spectacular and the guides friendly and informative, though a few found the bus to be too small for the number of people on the tour. Tours happen daily all year long. Pickup from various locations in Reykjavik occurs between 8:30 and 9 a.m. and minibuses return to the city around 8 p.m.

Reykjavik Sailors – Whale Watching

Price: Adults from 11,990 króna (about $87); kids from 5,995 króna (about $44) Duration: 3 to 3.5 hours

While April to October is considered peak season for whale watching off Iceland's coast, humpback, minke and orca whales, as well as porpoises and dolphins, inhabit the waters all year. Reykjavik Sailors, located on Reykjavik's Old Harbour, offers whale watching boat trips throughout the year. Tourgoers report spotting ample wildlife, and appreciate the knowledgeable, friendly guides.

Transportation from area hotels is available for an additional fee. Snacks and beverages are available aboard the boat, which features outdoor viewing platforms as well as heated indoor space. Reykjavik Sailors also operates tours of the northern lights, among other options.

Arctic Adventures – Crystal Ice Cave Tour Iceland

Price: Adults from about $161; kids from around $137 Duration: 2 to 3 hours

Take a ride in an off-roading vehicle from the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon to the edge of the massive Vatnajökull glacier and then hike to a natural ice cave on this small-group excursion. The tour, which is limited to 14 travelers, also allows you to witness the result of calving – the process of icebergs breaking off of glaciers. Tourgoers frequently praise the capable and personable guides. Many reviewers called this the highlight of their trip to Iceland.

Trips depart from the lagoon daily from October to mid-April beginning at 9:20 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. While the hike to the cave is rated as easy, children younger than 6 are not allowed on this trip. All of the necessary safety equipment is included in the cost of the tour. Arctic Adventures conducts a variety of ice cave tours, glacier hikes and more.

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BusTravel Iceland – South Coast Waterfalls, Glacier & Black Sand Beach Tour

Price: Adults from 13,990 króna (about $103); kids from 6,995 króna (about $52) Duration: 10 hours

This daylong outing affords opportunities to explore the glaciers, volcanos and other distinctive features of Iceland's southern coast . Highlights include Skógafoss, a nearly 200-foot waterfall beside the Eyjafjallajökull volcano; the slightly taller Seljalandsfoss waterfall; Reynisfjara, a beach on the north Atlantic Ocean with black volcanic sand and basalt columns; a stop for lunch in the fishing village of Vik; and Sólheimajökull glacier. Tour-takers consistently call the scenery extraordinary and the guides informative, though they do warn that it is a long day.

Transportation from various Reykjavik locations is available for an additional charge. Pickups occur between 8 and 8:30 a.m. Prices do not cover any food and drink in Vik. Note: Reaching the glacier involves walking on uneven ground. BusTravel Iceland also leads tours exploring the Golden Circle, the northern lights and more.

Your Friend in Reykjavik – Walk With a Viking

Price: Adults from $45; kids from $29 Duration: 2 hours

See the sights of Reykjavik on this two-hour walking tour of the city's center. Highlights include Harpa (an incredible performance venue), Hallgrímskirkja church, the Parliament building and Reykjavik harbor, as well as the first Viking house. Tour-takers find this stroll to be a great way to get to know the city and recommend taking the tour on one of your first days in Iceland. Reviewers consistently describe the guides as great storytellers and eager to answer any questions.

Groups of up to 12 depart from Ingólfur Square daily at 10 a.m. and 1 and 5 p.m. Your Friend in Reykjavik offers a variety of tours, including food tours, cooking classes, adventure tours and more.

Troll Expeditions – Snorkeling in Silfra

Price: From 19,900 króna (about $145) Duration: 3 hours

Snorkel between tectonic plates in the only place where that's possible during this adventure. Located in Thingvellir National Park about a 30-mile drive northeast of Reykjavik, Silfra fissure lies in the space where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates have slowly moved apart. Its water, from the melted ice of the Langjökull glacier, is exceptionally clean, boasting visibility of about 330 feet. Snorkelers laud the attentive, professional guides as well as the one-of-a-kind experience.

Snorkeling trips are available year-round at least twice a day; start times vary depending on the season. Groups are limited to six people. There are age, weight and health restrictions for this tour; check with the company before you book to ensure you meet all the necessary requirements. Troll Expeditions also offers guided glacier hikes, day trips and multiday excursions around the country to the South Coast, Ring Road and more.

Wake Up Reykjavik – Reykjavik Food Tour

Price: Adults from 16,900 króna (about $123); kids from 9,900 króna (about $72) Duration: 3 hours

Sample an array of Icelandic cuisine on this walking tour of downtown Reykjavik. Try eight traditional dishes, including fish and grass-fed lamb, as well as ice cream and street food. (Vegetarians and those with allergies or other dietary restrictions can usually be accommodated.) Between stops, you'll stroll past notable sites, such as the Parliament building and city hall. Travelers praise the pace of the tour and the dishes featured. Reviewers also applauded guides for their humor and the depth of their knowledge about Iceland's history and culture.

Tours start outside Harpa concert hall every day beginning at 10:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Wake Up Reykjavik also organizes day trips to the Golden Circle, the South Coast and more.

Adventure Vikings – Silfra Drysuit Snorkeling

Price: From 18,990 króna (about $138) Duration: 2 to 4.5 hours

Explore the pristine glacial waters between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates on this snorkeling tour in Silfra, one of the world's top dive sites. Part of Thingvellir National Park, Silfra fissure is the result of the two tectonic plates separating at a rate of about 2 centimeters per year. The fissure is filled with water from Langjökull glacier that's been filtered through lava fields, making it incredibly pure. Snorkelers rave about the Silfra fissure's beauty and praise the guides for their attention to safety.

The tour lasts up to 4.5 hours depending if round-trip transportation from Reykjavik is needed. Prices include use of snorkeling equipment. You can rent a wearable GoPro camera for an additional 6,900 króna (around $51). Tours are available year-round. Snorkelers must be at least 12 years old; groups have no more than six people per guide. Participants preferring to don a less restrictive (but also less warm) wetsuit instead of a dry suit have that option. There are height and weight requirements for this tour. Adventure Vikings also leads surfing and stand-up paddleboarding tours, among other outings.

The Best Iceland Tours

Special Tours – Northern Lights by Boat

Price: Adults from 12,990 króna (about $95); kids from 6,495 króna (about $48) Duration: 2 to 3 hours

Enjoy the unique opportunity to observe the northern lights from the ocean on this two- to three-hour boat ride. You'll depart from Old Harbour in Reykjavik and be in the perfect viewing location away from the city lights after about a 20-minute cruise. Along the way, guides regale passengers with stories, myths and scientific facts about the aurora borealis. Travelers praise the amazing views as well as the humorous, helpful guides. Others appreciated the company's backup plan: If the conditions aren't favorable for viewing the lights from the water, you can hunt for the lights by bus, or choose one of the company's other tours (such as a daytime whale watching excursion) at no charge.

Cruises are available nightly in the fall and winter. Departure times vary by time of year, but boats typically sail at 10 p.m. in September and mid-March to mid-April; they depart at 9 p.m. from October to mid-March. Food and drinks are available for purchase on board. The company also offers whale watching excursions, fishing trips and more.

ĺshestar – Lava Tour

Price: Adults from 15,900 króna (about $117); kids from 11,925 króna (about $87) Duration: 2 hours

Admire the green hillsides and lava fields just outside Reykjavik on this two-hour small-group horseback riding tour. The stables are located about 10 miles south of the city center; round-trip transportation is available if you don't have your own car. Travelers frequently describe riding an Icelandic horse as a fantastic experience, and they generally appreciate the professionalism of the staff who lead the outing.

Rides depart every day at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The cost includes the use of helmets and boots, as well as post-ride coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Round-trip transportation from Reykjavik is available for an additional fee and starts an hour before the tour. Groups are limited to 20 participants; all must be at least 7 years old and weigh less than 240 pounds. No prior horseback riding experience is necessary. Longer, multiday trail rides, as well as private tours are also available.

BusTravel Iceland – Snaefellsnes Peninsula Tour

Price: Adults from 16,990 króna (about $125); kids from 8,495 króna (about $62) Duration: 11 hours

In addition to its tours of the southern coast, BusTravel Iceland offers a daylong tour of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, an area northwest of Reykjavik that boasts black sand beaches, lava fields, beautiful waterfalls , rock formations and more. Highlights include Berserkjahraun lava fields, which date back to a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago; the 1,520-foot Kirkjufell (aka Church Mountain); the nearby Kirkjufellsfoss waterfalls; Snaefellsjökull National Park and the cliffs of Arnarstapi harbor, once a bustling fishing area. Travelers typically enjoy both the dramatic landscapes and the guides' commentary.

Tours last approximately 11 hours. Pickup from various Reykjavik locations is available for an additional fee. Tours are available daily starting at 8 and 9 a.m.

CityWalk Reykjavik – Free Walking Tour Reykjavik

Price: Free Duration: 2 hours

Stroll among the main attractions of downtown Reykjavik , including the statue of Jón Sigurðsson and the Harpa concert hall, on this approximately two-hour, 1.3-mile tour. Guides will regale you with stories concerning Icelandic history, as well as lore involving elves, Vikings and more, which tour-takers deem highly entertaining.

Walks start at 10:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. every day at the Austurvöllur (the city's main square) and conclude at city hall. Bookings open up about five days in advance. While there's no fee for this tour, guides do appreciate tips. There are no age or group-size limits. CityWalk Reykjavik does offer a slightly longer, small-group tour for a fee.

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The Best Iceland Tours

GeoIceland – Premium Golden Circle Tour

Price: Adults from 18,900 króna (about $140); kids from 14,900 króna (about $110) Duration: 9 hours

Visit the rift between two tectonic plates, the powerful waterfall and the geothermal area comprising Iceland's famed Golden Circle and more on this daylong tour. In addition to the high cliffs of the rift valley in Thingvellir National Park, the often rainbow-adorned Gullfoss waterfall and the hot spring Geysir, this tour stops at the Kerid volcanic crater, as well as a tomato farm. Tour-takers frequently cite both the stunning scenery and the friendly, amusing guides as highlights of this journey.

Buses depart from the Aurora Reykjavik museum daily at 9 a.m. and return approximately nine hours later. Prices include admission to all attractions, but exclude lunch at the tomato farm's restaurant. GeoIceland also runs tours that depart from other cities in Iceland, including Akureyri and the Lake Mývatn area.

Iceland Everywhere Tours – Northern Lights Midnight Adventure Tour

Price: From 15,800 króna (around $115) Duration: 3 to 5 hours

Spend the night searching for the northern lights on this seasonal outing. During the trip, guides not only provide information about the aurora borealis, local history and Icelandic culture, but also assist participants with finding the right setting on their cameras or smartphones to capture the best images. Free professional photographs are also available if you'd prefer to simply admire the sky. Reviewers rave about the colorful lights and appreciate the small size of the group. Several travelers also called out the insightful guides as a highlight.

These minibus rides happen every night from September to mid-April starting at 9 p.m. and last from three to five hours. Transportation from area hotels is available. There is a maximum of 15 participants per each tour. Iceland Everywhere Tours also offers guided excursions to the South Coast and the Golden Circle.

Funky Iceland – The Funky Food & Beer Walk

Price: Adults from 18,000 króna (about $131); kids from 7,500 króna (about $55) Duration: 3 hours

Enjoy a culinary adventure on this three-hour walking tour of Reykjavik. The tour has five food stops featuring nine traditional Icelandic dishes, such as lamb stew, dried fish and fermented shark, as well as five locally crafted beers. Foodies tend to relish the savvy guides' insights into Icelandic culture and cuisine. Tours start outside the Hallgrímskirkja Church at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Groups range in size from two to eight people.

Icelandic Mountain Guides – Blue Ice Experience

Price: Adults from 18,999 króna (about $138); kids from 13,299 króna (about $97) Duration: 3.5 hours

Hike among the ice formations, crevasses and frozen ridges of the enormous Vatnajökull glacier on this small-group expedition. Outings of up to 15 people commence at the welcome center at Skaftafell (about 200 miles southeast of Reykjavik) and last about 3.5 hours, including up to 1.5 to two hours on the ice. Past participants consistently describe the scenery as stunning and the guides as professional and informative.

Tours are available multiple times a day, beginning at 9 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Children younger than 10 may not join the tour. Prices include the use of ice axes, harnesses and crampons. Icelandic Mountain Guides operates a variety of glacier walks, snowmobile tours and guided hikes.

You might also be interested in:

  • The Best Hotels in Reykjavik
  • The Northern Lights in Iceland: How to See Them
  • The Best Northern Lights Alaska Cruises for 2024 & Beyond
  • The Best Places to Visit in Europe
  • The Best International Travel Insurance

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Top Tours in Iceland, Europe

Iceland tours.

  • Ports of Call Tours
  • Sightseeing Tours
  • Historical & Heritage Tours
  • Up to 1 hour
  • 1 to 4 hours
  • 4 hours to 1 day
  • 5.0 of 5 bubbles
  • 4.0 of 5 bubbles & up
  • 3.0 of 5 bubbles & up
  • 2.0 of 5 bubbles & up
  • Likely to Sell Out
  • Special Offers
  • The ranking of tours, activities, and experiences available on Tripadvisor is determined by several factors including the revenue generated by Tripadvisor from these bookings, the frequency of user clicks, and the volume and quality of customer reviews. Occasionally, newly listed offerings may be prioritized and appear higher in the list. The specific placement of these new listings may vary.

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1. Iceland South Coast Full Day Small-Group Tour from Reykjavik

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2. Golden Circle, Blue Lagoon with Ticket and Kerid Volcanic Crater

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3. Reykjavik Food Walk - Local Foodie Adventure in Iceland

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4. Silfra: Snorkeling Between Tectonic Plates - meet on location

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5. #1 Northern Lights Tour In Iceland from Reykjavik with PRO photos

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6. The Original Classic Whale Watching from Reykjavik

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7. Dynjandi Waterfall & Iceland Farm Visit Tour

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8. Hiking with Husky in Akureyri

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9. 3,5-Hour Sightseeing Tour To Dynjandi Waterfall

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10. Big Whales & Puffins RIB boat tour from Húsavík

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11. Lake Myvatn, Hot-Springs & Godafoss Waterfall Tour from Akureyri

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12. Golden Circle and Secret Lagoon Full Day Tour from Reykjavik by Minibus

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13. Golden Circle Classic Day Tour from Reykjavik

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14. Golden Circle, Volcano Crater and Blue Lagoon Small-Group Tour

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15. New Volcanic Eruption Area Helicopter Tour in Iceland

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16. South Iceland Glaciers, Waterfalls and Black Sand Beach Day Tour from Reykjavik

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17. Golden Circle Full Day Tour from Reykjavik by Minibus

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18. Helicopter Tour to Volcano Reykjanes Eruption in Iceland

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19. Speedboat Whale Watching Small-Group Tour in Reykjavik

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20. Golden Circle, Secret Lagoon and Kerid Crater Tour from Reykjavik

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21. Glacier Hike, South Coast Waterfalls and Black Sand Beach Tour

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22. Reykjavik Food Lovers Tour - Icelandic Traditional Food

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23. Puffin and Volcano Minibus Tour - Guided by Ebbi

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24. Twin Peaks ATV Iceland Adventure from Reykjavik

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25. Golden Circle Small-Group Afternoon Tour from Reykjavik

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26. Golden Circle and Secret Lagoon Small-Group Tour from Reykjavik

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27. Ice Cave Tour in the National Park of Vatnajökull

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28. Whale Watching in Húsavík with Friends of Moby Dick

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29. Golden Circle with Kerid Volcanic Crater Day Trip from Reykjavik

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30. Whale Watching & Dolphin Yacht Cruise

What travellers are saying.

Alexandra F

  • Taylor B 0 contributions 0 5.0 of 5 bubbles 1000% Recommended. 5 whale sightings!! Such a great time!! We were incredibly lucky to see 5 whales. 1 minke, 3 humpbacks, and 1 blue whale. We were told the minke and blue whales were rare to see so we were beyond grateful for the experience. It was also cool to see the guides as excited as we were. Our guides were great! Also puffin island was awesome. Nothing like sitting under a tornado of puffins flying around. Read more Review of: Big Whales & Puffins RIB boat tour from Húsavík Written May 11, 2024 This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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A man sits in a hammock looking out at Concepción volcano in Nicaragua.

Should I Use a Travel Agent? Our Travel Expert Says It Makes All the Difference.

The new age of travel agents know how to find deals, book off-the-beaten path adventures, and get you out of any jam. Especially if you know who to use.

A man sits in a hammock looking out at Concepción volcano in Nicaragua.

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I’ve always thought that planning my own trips was the most cost-effective way, but I’ve been hearing more about travel agents making a comeback and saving their clients a lot of money. What kinds of outdoor trips should I turn to a travel agent for, and are there any who specialize in working with adventurers like me?

Technically, I’m a professional traveler. As a journalist, it’s my job to research and connect with locals to get beneath the surface of a destination. So I have never really used travel agents. What could they plan better than I could?

A lot, it turns out. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know many travel specialists, and I consider them magicians. My big aha moment happened two winters ago on a trip to Iceland . A massive storm shut down internal flights for a day, causing me to miss my return flight to the U.S. Normally, I would have spent frustrating hours on hold with the airline. But because I’d paid $65 to have Ana Gloria Garcia, an air-support specialist at the travel agency EmbarkBeyond, find and book the most affordable and convenient flight option for me, she handled the rebookings while I soaked in the Blue Lagoon.

A woman soaks in Iceland’s Blue Lagoon.

During the pandemic, agents became advocates helping travelers get refunds on canceled flights and trips. As travel has come roaring back, an agent’s superpower is now their access to the best hotel rooms, most in-the-know guides, free amenities, and more, says Cory Hagopian, senior vice president of sales and partnerships for Virtuoso , a global network of travel agencies.

And they’re attracting a young clientele. According to a recent industry survey , 38 percent of millennials and Gen Zers are opting to use travel agents as opposed to booking on their own trips. That number is far greater than Gen Xers and baby boomers, of whom only 12 and 2 percent respectively use agents.

What Do I Gain from Using a Travel Agent?

I recently had a friend tell me she spent close to 40 hours researching a family trip online. She probably could have gleaned the same intel from an hourlong conversation with a travel adviser. Knowledge is priceless, and advisers act as your insiders. They know what you don’t and fill in the blanks for things you might not have considered, says Erika Richter, a spokesperson for the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA). Their firsthand knowledge, vast network, and on-the-ground connections all combine to provide a unique perspective for crafting the perfect itinerary for you.

Kayak, paddle, raft—a river trip down Costa Rica’s Pacuare is good fun. And Danielle Meyer of Coastline Travel likes to book clients in the riverfront, all-inclusive, 20-suite Pacuare Lodge. “The way to get to the property is by whitewater rafting, so you truly begin with adventure!”

Most travel advisers specialize in certain regions and countries and travel to them frequently, so they have up-to-date intel on not only the best safari camps but the perfect tent to book for the most incredible views and the best local restaurants you won’t find on Tripadvisor. They want their client’s trips to go well to keep them coming back, so it’s in their interest to have sussed out hotels and itineraries before they send you out into the world.

Nicole Forster, 29, considers herself a savvy traveler. She’s been to 20-plus countries and enjoys destination research. But when it came to planning her honeymoon in Africa, she felt overwhelmed, so she reached out to Danielle Meyer at Coastline Travel Advisors , which specializes in bespoke itineraries. “Originally, I wanted to go to South Africa, Victoria Falls, and Madagascar,” Forster recalls. “Danielle convinced me that if we wanted to relax, we should stay in South Africa and save the other countries for separate trips.”

Over five phone conversations and multiple emails, they crafted a 15-night itinerary that included Cape Town, the winelands, the Cape Peninsula, and a safari at the Thornybush Game Reserve. Forster established her budget early in the process, and Meyer sent her a variety of lodge options to choose from.

“I initially wanted to start with the safari, but she pointed out that we’d be jet-lagged and would need to wake at sunrise for game drives,” says Forster. “The safari was our highlight, so it was a perfect way to end the trip.”

A man sitting in an open-air vehicle while on safari in South Africa smiles at the camera while an elephant is just over his shoulder, approaching.

Not only did Meyer book all of the flights, hotels, and transfers, but she created a detailed, day-by-day trip app for the couple that included useful information like check-in times at hotels and how much to tip guides .

Agents also act as advocates. If something goes wrong during your travels, they’re on call 24/7 to handle it. When Forster left the battery and charger for her camera at a hotel, Meyer arranged for an on-the-ground contact to go to a camera store and buy new ones that would be delivered to her hotel the next day.

The cost for the honeymoon planning: $150 per person. “I wouldn’t use a planner for a trip to Hawaii ,” Forster says, “but if I ever took a big trip like this again, I’d 100 percent work with an expert.”  

When to Consider Using a Travel Agent

For savvy trip planners, the best time to use a travel agent is for complicated international travel. It can save you hours of planning and peace of mind that if anything goes wrong in your chosen far-flung destination, there’s someone a What’sApp message away to handle it.

Domestically, I’d consider using a travel agent when planning a multi-week national park trip or multi-island trip in Hawaii. They will save you time, guarantee you get the best guides, and help you land reservations at always-booked lodges and hotels.

Dream Trips Delivered

Jessica Cook and her husband both work in the travel industry. Decision fatigued, they handed their honeymoon logistics over to the team at Askari Travel , an agency that specializes in South Africa. Their original plan was also an African safari, but just as they were about to put a deposit down, the Omicron variant of the coronavirus made headlines. Worried about getting stuck abroad, they reached out to Askari’s founder, Muriel Truter, who is from Zimbabwe, and upon her advice, changed their focus to South America.

Knowledge is priceless, and advisers act as your insiders. They know what you don’t and fill in the blanks of things you might not even have considered.

Truter suggested they stick to Colombia rather than country-hop. Cook supplied a budget and a wish list: 12 days, no more than three destinations, a barefoot-luxe feel, and adventures like horseback riding and mountain biking. The rest was a surprise that Askari pretty much nailed, with the exception of one hotel.

“Everything felt so authentic, but this one hotel on Barú island felt really fabricated and was full of American tourists,” recalls Cook. She immediately messaged the Askari team, saying, “Hey, this place really isn’t our vibe,” and within an hour they were on a water taxi headed to Blue Apple, a B Corp hotel—and an Outside pick for tropical adventures —on Tierra Bomba island. “It was honestly the best trip we’ve ever taken,” she says.

Tierra Bomba, a 15-minute boat ride from the Colombian capital of Cartagena, is an affordable Caribbean destination with a relaxed pace and soft white sands.

Are Travel Agents Expensive?

It depends. Cost varies. Some travel agencies won’t charge any fee, as they receive a commission from the bookings, while some high-end agencies will charge pricey annual membership fees for their services. Still others charge nominal “professional” fees starting at $150. Fees often fluctuate based on the length and intricacy of a trip and how far out you do the planning (6 to 12 months is recommended). You may occasionally come across agents who charge a percentage of the total trip price or hourly rates.

Basic travel enquiries are generally free. In 2016, Leah Smith, founder of Tafari Travel , opened an old-school brick-and-mortar location in Denver’s Cherry Creek neighborhood so her services would feel less intimidating to first-time users. “With our retail-office location, we’ve become part of the community, and both clients and non-clients are welcome to pop in and ask whatever questions they may have, no charge,” she says.

Matt Lindsay, founder of the surf-guiding and travel company LuxSurf Travel , builds relationships with resorts and property owners to get discounted rates that he can then pass on to guests.

Matt Lindsey of LuxeSurfTravel can arrange a surf safari on a 165-foot boat, complete with dive masters. surf guides, and a spa. Guests spend a week cruising around atolls in the Maldives seeking out perfect swell and swimming with whale sharks and manta rays.

Dominic Allan, the founder of Real Latin America , specializes in travel to Belize and Nicaragua and caters to independent travelers who are happy to book their own flights and hotels but are seeking his local intel. Allan’s three-tier pricing structure starts at $300 for up to three hours of phone calls, during which he might weigh in on where to eat (or not to), the best room to request in a certain lodge, or whether you really need a guide to hike.

”Totoro Eco-Lodge, in Nicaragua, has always been one of our favorites,” says Dominic Allen of Real Latin America. In addition to its laid-back vibe, it’s spectacuarly placed on Ometepe Island, with views out to the active Conception volcano. Allen recommends volcano hikes, rainforest excursions, tours of a chocolate farm, and sunset paddles in search of caiman.

Value Versus Savings

If you’re just looking for deals and steals, you might not be ready to work with a travel adviser, says Richter of the ASTA. “Anything you invest in with a travel adviser comes back to you in the form of amenities, customer service, peace of mind, better access to unique experiences, and handcrafted itineraries,” she says. “You could save money by cutting your own hair, too, but most people go to someone who knows what they’re doing.”

Agents work with preferred partners who can guarantee perks for clients, such as free upgrades, early check-in or late check-out, and resort credits. Those add-ons often translate into savings, says Justin Huxter, cofounder of the UK-based Cartology Travel . “We had a client go to Maui for a week, and because of our partnership with the resort, breakfast was included,” he says. When breakfast costs $120 for two, that’s a savings of $840.”

A meerkat sits atop a man wearing a ball cap and scans the horizon of Botswana’s Makgadikgadi Pans.

Some of the Best Travel Agents in the Adventure World

Some of my go-to resources for finding a person to work with include travel expert Wendy Perrin’s annual Wow List of tried and trusted agents, the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s adviser network , and the ASTA’s advisor directory .

In addition to the agents mentioned throughout this story, others I highly recommend for adventurous travelers include:

  • Dan Achber of Trufflepig , for Africa and the Middle East
  • Miguel Cunant of Sri Lanka in Style
  • Javier Echecopar of Journey Costa Rica
  • Daniel Fraser of Smiling Albino , for Southeast Asia
  • Elizabeth Gordon of Extraordinary Journeys , for Africa
  • Kleon Howe of the Art of Travel , for French Polynesia
  • Jay Johnson of Coastline Travel , for Hawaii and California
  • Antonello Losito of Southern Visions Travel , for Puglia, Italy
  • Rabia Malik of Fora Travel , for general worldwide travel
  • Robyn Mark of Mayamaya Travel , for Africa, the Alps, Patagonia, and Japan
  • Marisol Mosquera of Aracari , for Peru and Bolivia
  • Zach Rabinor of Journey Mexico
  • Raluca Spiac of Beyond Dracula , for Romania

The author immersed in the hot waters of Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, with mud on her face. It beats being on the phone trying to reschedule a flight cancellation.

Travel-advice columnist Jen Murphy is now a believer in using a travel agent. Thanks to their expertise and connections, she’s avoided dozens of trip catastrophes. 

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The 25 Best Beaches in the World to Put on Your Must-Visit List

The world's best beaches.

P icture this: The crystal blue waters are lapping at a serene beach, the sand feels like silk and the palm trees are gently swaying. There's gorgeous surf as far as the eye can see, the sun is shining and you are happy in the knowledge that you are at one of the best beaches in the world.

How can you find such paradise? In 2023, TripAdvisor released their Traveler's Choice Awards, where they analyzed millions of reviews submitted by global travelers over the past 12 months. They evaluated both the quality and quantity of ratings for beach experiences and then created this fail-proof list of the absolute best beaches in the world. You can also learn more from us about the best beach in every state .

From the warm aqua water of Hawaii to the black sand of Iceland—and let's not forget the best Florida beaches —these global options literally have a beach for everyone. Whether you want to stay in affordable beachfront hotels , the best all-inclusive resorts or you're looking for cheap beach vacations , all you have to do is choose your favorite.

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Baia do Sancho, Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

TripAdvisor named this stunning stretch of sand the No. 1 beach in the world, but it is not easy to get to. It's on a volcanic island more than 200 miles from Brazil's northeast coast, and the beach is only accessible by ladder. But after that, it's all easy beach life as you enjoy the stunning turquoise waters and white sand beach surrounded by verdant tree-covered cliffs. This beach is also known for its vast array of wildlife.

What to do: Dive or snorkel in the warm clear waters for glimpses of sea turtles, rays, dolphins and reef sharks.

Where to stay: NANNAI Noronha Solar dos Ventos has a perfect location on a white sand beach with stellar views of the water. Reviewers on the TripAdvisor site all agree about the resort property: There's excellent service from start to finish, impeccable rooms and delicious food at the onsite restaurant.

Eagle Beach, Aruba

Aruba is known for its year-round temps of 82 degrees and sunny skies, as well as fabulous sand and surf—all of which come together at stunning Eagle Beach to give it the No. 2 spot. The beach is also famed for its divi-divi trees, which have twisted trunks that tilt its greenery into a low swoop that makes a perfect shady beach canopy. Did you know there are beaches without sand as well?

What to do: There's a plethora of water sports here to try out, including kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling and windsurfing.

Where to stay: With just 72 rooms and suites, each facing the ocean or lush gardens, Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa is among the most private all-inclusive resorts in Aruba. Just outside your room lies a quiet stretch of Eagle Beach, one of the best beaches on the island, and the resort offers an optional all-inclusive package that includes all meals and an open bar.

Cable Beach, Broome, Australia

According to TripAdvisor traveler tips about this sunny spot in Western Australia, "Cable Beach is an iconic place in Broome with pristine white sand that stretches for many miles." It's popular with locals and tourists alike who enjoy activities ranging from swimming and sunbathing to walking and running. It's also a perfect place to relax.

What to do: Plan to stay at—or return to—the beach when the sun starts to go down, since the beach is known for its beautiful sunsets .

Where to stay: Cocos Beach Bungalows won TripAdvisor's 2023 Best of the Best award from travelers for its spacious two- and three-bedroom bungalow accommodations. All bungalows have full kitchens and are separated by gardens for a leafy and peaceful stay. And the property is just a 10-minute walk from the beach.

Reynisfjara Beach, Vik, Iceland

If the dramatic rock formations towering over the black sand beach look familiar, it's probably because Game of Thrones also thought this scenery-stealing stretch of sand was noteworthy. However, with ice-cold water and waves that can reach up to 131 feet, this is a beach for admiring and photo taking—not swimming. While you're in Iceland, you can also check out one of the world's strangest food museums .

What to do: Reynisfjara Beach is popular with birdwatchers for the various types of seabirds spotted nearby, most famously, puffins.

Where to stay: Tucked into the sandstone cliffs and directly across from the beach, the Hótel Vík í Mýrdal has a completely glass facade, so you're sure to get views of the water—and maybe even a spot a puffin or two—before you even step foot outside. The clean and spacious modern rooms and on-site restaurant are a few of the reasons this property was a TripAdvisor Traveler's Choice award winner for 2023.

Grace Bay Beach, Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

This idyllic, 13-mile stretch of the Caribbean coastline boasts warm, shallow water that stretches into the sea, allowing beachgoers to walk out quite far while remaining above water. Lavish resorts can be found up and down Grace Bay Beach, each one offering everything from parasailing to catamaran cruises. But with a beach this gorgeous, the best thing to do may be relaxing under the shade of a casuarina tree.

What to do: Swimming and snorkeling are popular here, and avid divers love the mammoth undersea coral wall off Grand Turk.

Where to stay: Those craving a boutique hotel stay need not look further than The Palms Turks and Caicos . Spanning 12 acres, this resort features a 25,000-square-foot spa, tennis courts and complimentary non-motorized water sports such as Hobie Cats, snorkeling gear and kayaks. Children ages 12 and under stay for free and have access to the Conch Kritters kids club.

Praia da Falesia, Olhos de Agua, Portugal

"Stunning" is the word TripAdvisor commenters use over and over again to describe the ocher cliffs plunging down to golden beaches in the Algarve's most picturesque beach area—and one of the best beaches in the world. You can rent loungers for a relaxing day on the sand before you dive into the calm and warm aqua waters.

What to do: Hiking lovers can walk along the shore to explore the picturesque caves and orange-hued cliffs that have been molded into tall columns by the wind and surf over millennium.

Where to stay: The 3HB Clube Humbria is one of the best all-inclusive resorts in Portugal. It has large apartment-style accommodations and is especially popular with families who appreciate the in-unit kitchens, mini water park, separate kids and teens club and playground on the property. They also have two large pools across the street from the soft sands of the beach.

Radhanagar Beach, Havelock Island, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India

One of the top beaches in Asia, Radhanagar Beach is situated between Vijaynagar Beach and Dolphin Yatri Niwas, and it offers the perfect combination of sun and shade. With lush trees that line one side of the beach, this is a great spot for families looking for some shade for the little ones. And if you can't travel that far, these are some of the other best beaches to visit with your family this summer .

What to do: There is world-class diving in the cerulean seas off this coral ringed island.

Where to stay: It's hard to beat the location and setting of the Taj Exotica Resort & Spa , directly on Radhanagar Beach, surrounded by mangroves and comprising 46 private acres of lush gardens and shady coconut and palm trees. There are 54 villas—plus multiple restaurants—and a large pool if you want a break from the beach.

Spiaggia dei Conigli, Lampedusa, Islands of Sicily, Italy

This southern Italian beach with its aqua waters and soft sand reminds some people of the Caribbean. TripAdvisor writes, "For a beautiful, small beach with no waves, warm crystal clear water, fish, soft white sand and a ton of sun on a small, friendly Italian island, this is the place!" The only downside: The 15-minute walk down a dirt path to reach the sand.

What to do: Hire a motorboat for a tour of the island along the coast, especially at sunset.

Where to stay: El Mosaico del Sol has a perfect five-star rating on TripAdvisor. Almost all the reviews mention gracious owner Renato, who "will pick up and drop off at the airport, show you around town, provide a rental scooter, recommend restaurants and anything else you may need—all included in the price of the room." The hotel has bright and clean rooms, a pool, a rooftop lounge area and a perfect location near the center of Lampedusa.

Varadero Beach, Varadero, Cuba

This is considered the best beach in Cuba—and one of the best beaches in the world—as much for its crystal aqua water and wide sand beaches as for the fabulous array of hotels and restaurants nearby. Extra bonus: Plenty of shady palapas (banana leaf umbrellas) to relax under with a rum-enhanced beverage.

What to do: Soft white sand and some of the clearest water on earth make this a prime beach for swimming and floating in the calm, warm waters.

Where to stay: Iberostar Selection Varadero, located right on Varadero Beach, offers five restaurants and bars, plus a Cuban cigar lounge and nighttime entertainment featuring a Cuban orchestra. There's also an enormous pool complex for even more fun in the sun.

Ka'anapali Beach, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

Ka'anapali Beach comes in at No. 10 on the international list but takes the No. 1 spot in the U.S. With three miles of powder white sand and crystal-clear water, this palm-tree-lined island paradise is just about as perfect as it gets.

What to do: There's fantastic snorkeling in the transparent water at Black Rock, surfing on breaks further south and swimming in gentle waters along the most popular sections of the beach between the two. (Find out more reasons Maui is considered the best Hawaiian island .)

Where to stay: Lovingly referred to as "Hawaii's Most Hawaiian Hotel," the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel prides itself on the stewardship of Hawaiian culture and is one of the longest-standing independent properties on Ka'anapali Beach. The hotel also offers myriad complimentary activities for hotel guests—everything from pineapple cutting to hula lessons.

Siesta Beach, Sarasota, Florida

The only Florida entry in this year's top beaches list, this sandy expanse is located on a barrier island in southwest Florida's Gulf Coast. It's a favorite beach vacation for families for the smooth white sand that's as soft as talcum powder. It's not the regular sand you're used to either—it's 99% pure quartz, washed down from the Appalachian Mountains and always cool to the touch. Part of a county park, the beach offers plenty of room for building sandcastles or kicking back with a good beach read without bumping into your neighbor. It's common to see dolphins playing just offshore.

What to do: While daytime here is lovely, check out the beach when the sun goes down too. Book a sunset sail with a local guide, or visit on a Sunday, when the Siesta Key Drum Circle kicks off one hour before sunset.

Where to stay: The Siesta Key Palms Resort gives you everything you want from a Florida beach vacation: tropical gardens, kid and adult pools, tiki torches, fire pits and hammocks—all within half a mile of the beach.

Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island, Georgia

The walking path to this quiet beach on Jekyll Island, one of Georgia's Golden Isles and the only other U.S. beach in the top 25, may be a bit hidden. But those who travel there are in for a treat. The surreal sun-bleached trees seem to emerge right from the sand—not to mention their branches look perfect for a hammock. At low tide, there's ample opportunity for young explorers to search for sea life and shells.

What to do: Rent a bike to cruise along 25 miles of trails or venture over to The Georgia Sea Turtle Center to view turtle rehabilitation in action.

Where to stay: Located on the Atlantic Ocean with a quarter-mile of private beach, Holiday Inn Resort Jekyll Island is the perfect location for a relaxing beach getaway that provides family fun for everyone. The hotel has an oceanfront swimming pool, whirlpool, kiddie pool, two outdoor fire pits, a kids club and ocean-themed playground, plus three restaurants.

Manly Beach, Sydney, Australia

Getting to this city beach is half the fun, as you can reach beautiful Manly Beach via a scenic 30-minute ferry ride from Sydney's Circular Quay. Once you arrive, this spot has it all: white sand, turquoise water, surf that ranges from gentle to surf-able waves and hundreds of spots to grab food and drinks. You can also shop till you drop at boutiques just beyond the majestic pines that frame this special beach.

What to do: Get ready to hang 10 at the beach known as the birthplace of surfing in Australia . Don't surf? Try snorkeling or swimming instead—the water's great here for all active pursuits.

Where to stay: The Manly Pacific hotel just finished a two-year, $30 million rejuvenation, now making it the freshest place to stay at the beach. In addition to 213 redesigned rooms, there's a rooftop pool and bar, a sundeck with an infrared sauna and a new bar in the lobby.

Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman

You come, of course, for the seven miles of tropical Caribbean beach, with its soft white sand and stunning azure water. But you'll want to stay on to feed, swim and even pet friendly stingrays in the crystal-clear waters at Stingray City.

What to do: Take an evening boat ride to spot bioluminescence, water that sparkles in electric hues of green and blue from naturally occurring algae bloom. You can also visit Cayman Turtle Farm and swim with yearling green sea turtles.

Where to stay: Kimpton Seafire Resort offers kid-friendly eats, activities and access to the island's first coastal walking and biking boardwalk—all right on the beach. While you're here, consider visiting these under-the-radar gems of the Caribbean .

La Concha Beach, San Sebastian, Donostia, Spain

Right in the bustling and beautiful city of San Sebastian, this crescent-shaped beach on the northern coast of Spain, with pristine golden sand, is praised by TripAdvisor reviewers. Although you can easily pop into San Sebastian, the beach is surrounded by a marine walk that hugs it on both sides of the entrance to the bay. If you're thinking of booking a flight soon, see the best time to buy plane tickets .

What to do: San Sebastian is known for its foodie scene, so after you spend time relaxing on the beach, try some of the traditional northern Spanish tapas called pintxos. Cafés that specialize in these small savory bites can be found as you walk through the Old Town area, or Parte Vieja .

Where to stay: The NH Collection San Sebastián Aránzazu is nestled in the old part of town, close to La Concha Beach and walking distance to some of the area's best restaurants. Large, bright rooms give you plenty of space, and the buffet breakfast here is a feast that can keep you fueled for your beach-day activities.

Kelingking Beach, Nusa Penida, Bali

With its multiple shades of turquoise, aqua and sapphire waters—surrounded by granite cliffs and verdant rainforest—Kelingking Beach, just off the southeast coast of Bali, looks like it stepped out of a movie about hidden magical beaches.

What to do: Snorkel along the pristine coral reefs to watch a rainbow of fish, and possibly even a giant ray, swim by.

Where to stay: The Hyatt Regency Bali has a beachfront location and 22 acres of beautiful tropical gardens. Each of the 363 comfortable rooms has modern Balinese touches, and you can choose views of either the lush gardens or the Indian Ocean. The property features three swimming pools, a white sand beach, two restaurants and a spa.

Playa de Muro Beach, Mallorca, Spain

This nearly four-mile-long beach has calm, shallow waters, which makes it a perfect spot for families. There's also a long pier that reaches out from the beach into the sea, and there are cafes, bars and play areas circling the beach. You can rent sun beds, umbrellas and personal lockers, plus there are also free showers. And, according to TripAdvisor, it's one of the safest beaches in the world, with plenty of lifeguards on duty and a thorough rescue system in place.

What to do: The placid waters here are popular for parasailing and jet skiing.

Where to stay: In addition to having a prime position on Playa de Muro, Grupotel Parc Natural & Spa hotel is directly across the street from the greenery of S'Albufera Natural Park, which offers shaded paths for strolling. The hotel has a large, beautifully landscaped pool and rooms that TripAdvisor reviewers say are modern, attractive and incredibly clean.

Playa Manuel Antonio, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio National Park—considered Costa Rica's crown jewel—has both lush tropical rainforests and this dazzling white sand beach, not to mention three-toed sloths and white-faced Capuchin monkeys. The snow-white coastline has been called one of the most peaceful places on earth with sounds of the sea mingled with the musical sounds of the rainforest's native fauna.

What to do: Explore the national park with a guide to get up close with monkeys, sloths, iguanas and birds.

Where to stay: Manuel Antonio's only luxury beachfront resort, Arenas Del Mar sits tucked between a verdant rain forest and the Pacific Ocean within a private, 11-acre nature reserve, which serves as an important corridor for the area's wildlife.

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Although Rio may have a reputation as a frenetic city, this pristine beach in the middle of it is a world unto itself. You'll see people sunbathing, playing beach volleyball and even dancing to samba tunes—all with views of the deep, blue sea ahead and lush green mountains in the background.

What to do: For those unafraid of heights, take a cable car to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain for 360-degree views of downtown Rio, the famous Ipanema beach and the Rio-Niterói Bridge crossing Guanabara Bay.

Where to stay: The Sheraton Rio Hotel & Resort sits directly on the beach and offers a tropical resort setting in busy Rio. You'll have direct access to the sand and surf, plus access to a large pool, landscaped gardens and a range of restaurants and spa experiences to truly make you feel like you're in a beach oasis.

Nungwi Beach, Zanzibar, Tanzania

With beautiful white sand, clear crystal water, palm trees and perfectly calm surf during both low and high tide, Nungwi Beach feels like a tropical paradise. There are bars and restaurants right on the beach, so you can sip a tropical cocktail and watch the rippling water of the Indian Ocean or the technicolor sunset with your toes in the sand.

What to do: Go sailing on a dhow, a traditional wooden boat, to enjoy the gentle surf and spot sea turtles and dolphins.

Where to stay: Elewana Kilindi Zanzibar is an intimate property and one of the best luxury all-inclusives in the world . It has a unique history: It was originally designed for Benny Andersson of pop sensation ABBA. As a result, the boutique hotel has a mix of Scandinavian minimalism and tropical decor. All the rooms have private plunge pools and terraces, and there's an infinity pool and beachside access to the clear water and white sand.

Falassarna Beach, Crete, Greece

On the western coast of Crete, just a short drive from Kissamos, Falassarna Beach is known for its beautiful mix of colors: powdery white and gorgeous pink sand beaches and clear aqua water protected by a jet-black cove. The beach is also a protected nature reserve that's home to dozens of plant varieties.

What to do: Plan to stay until evening to watch the sunset reflect off the pink sand for a spectacular end to a beach day.

Where to stay: Panorama Hotel lives up to its name with fantastic views of Falassarna Beach and the ocean. There's a large pool and one of the best-reviewed restaurants in the area (that also provides complimentary breakfast in the morning). Ask for a room in the new wing for more space and terraces that overlook the beach.

Nissi Beach, Ayia Napa, Cyprus

The crystal clear waters in the Ayia Napa area of Cyprus, one of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean , make it an ideal beach destination for snorkelers and swimmers. The soft golden sand is connected to spectacular caves by a coastal pathway. The beach is equally popular with families who enjoy the gentle surf and crowds who come for the festive atmosphere of music, food and drinks.

What to do: If you're interested in seeing beautiful sea caves , you won't want to miss the ones at Ayia Napa, where you can explore hidden caverns, tunnels and rock bridges by foot at low tide. The caves' cliffs are also a hot spot for jumping into the azure sea.

Where to stay: TripAdvisor's top-rated property in Nissi Beach, the Amarande hotel combines ultra-modern design with ideal views of the sea for a perfect five-star rating. Expect contemporary rooms with an array of high-tech touches, multiple infinity pools and elevated food and beverage options. A gourmet breakfast is included in the room price.

Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Just a few miles north of Cancun's city center you'll find the laid-back island vibes of Isla Mujeres. Stretching for five miles along the island's northern shore, this sugar-white beach is a popular spot for sun and fun, including snorkeling in the warm indigo water.

What to do: A catamaran tour of Isla Mujeres is a great way to see the peaceful island.

Where to stay: Casa del los Suenos is the winner of a TripAdvisor Traveler's Choice gold seal for being "The Best of the Best." The resort, the site says, has "breathtaking views and an inviting atmosphere... as well as its warm and attentive staff." In addition to a restaurant, where a complimentary breakfast is served, there are three pools and a private pier where you can jump right into the clear blue water.

Magens Bay, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

Also named one of the top 10 beaches in the world by National Geographic, horseshoe-shaped Magens Bay beach is protected from the wind and tides. The calm, sapphire water is popular for kayaking and water sports, as well as swimming and sunning. The beach is a popular stop for cruise ship guests, and there's a charge to enter the main beach, but the "fringe" areas at the sides of the sand are quieter.

What to do: Take a break from the beach to visit the island's cultural highlights including Fort Christian, built in 1680; the second-oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere; and Danish-French Impressionist painter Camille Pissaro's childhood home.

Where to stay: The Picara Pearl Villa & Suites Magens Bay offers oceanfront views from expansive suites and private villas. The property is nestled in the secluded Peterborg Peninsula near Picara Point, directly above Magens Bay, so you'll get all the scenery without the crowds.

Balos Lagoon, Kissamos, Crete, Greece

If you're searching for the quintessential blue lagoon, this is what you've been dreaming of. To reach the Kool-Aid blue waters though, you'll have to put in a little bit of effort. You can take a ferry or a cliff-hugging car or bus ride, and then there's a nearly one-mile walk. But it's absolutely worth the journey for the breathtaking views.

What to do: Since you'll be wearing your walking shoes to get to the beach, explore a bit more on the coastal path here for stunning views of the gorgeous sea and surrounding cliffs.

Where to stay: The Nautilus Bay Hotel has both an outdoor pool and easy access to a sandy stretch of lovely beach. Bright, roomy apartment-style accommodations have kitchenettes to stash snacks (and breakfast is included too). Plus rooms all have furnished balconies with Mediterranean views.

The post The 25 Best Beaches in the World to Put on Your Must-Visit List appeared first on Reader's Digest .

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These Are the Safest Destinations for LGBTQIA+ Travelers in 2024, According to a Travel Index

The No. 1 spot is a five-way tie between Canada, Malta, New Zealand, Portugal, and Spain.

Matt Kirouac is a travel writer with a passion for national parks. He’s a culinary school graduate and a recent transplant to Oklahoma City after two and a half years of RV living. He covers LGBTQIA+ travel, food, and all things Disney.

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For LGBTQIA+ travelers, safety and inclusivity are important factors in vacation plans, and the latest Gay Travel Index once again sheds light on destinations that exceed expectations, fit the bill, or fall short. Since 2012, Spartacus has used a meticulous rubric for grading and ranking countries from the most queer-friendly to the least, providing a reliable metric — for locals and travelers alike — for which countries are improving, and which are getting worse.

The intensive rating system features 18 categories that range from anti-discrimination laws and transgender rights to oppressive religious influence, prosecution, and the death penalty. Zero points are the neutral mark, with points added or deducted based on human rights — or lack thereof. Both positive and negative, points are weighed against the severity of local law or customs. For instance, countries that still punish homosexuality with the death penalty get more deductions than countries that have the death penalty but don’t act on it.

In a five-way tie for first place this year, as the most queer-friendly destinations with 12 points each, are Canada, Malta, New Zealand, Portugal, and Spain, followed closely by Australia, Switzerland, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Norway, and Uruguay. The U.S. earned a lukewarm ranking of 41, with a total of just four points. On the opposite end, the most hostile countries remain Saudi Arabia, Iran, Chechnya, and Afghanistan, all of which still practice the death penalty for homosexuality.

Notable this year was Norway, rising from 17 to 8, thanks largely to its reversal of conversion therapies . Estonia also leapt up from 15 spots to 32, due to the nation legalizing same-sex marriage . Meanwhile, the United Kingdom tumbled from 9 to 21, losing points for diminished LGBT marketing and hostile locals. The U.S. also lost ground, falling from 35 to 41 due to religious influence and hostile locals. Russia took the biggest plummet, from 177 in 2023 to 205, losing an additional five points for its increased prosecutions of LGBT people.

The index also ranks the 50 states individually, with unique-to-U.S. categories like hate crime laws, gay and trans panic defense, and queer infrastructure, while the censorship category reflects the various “Don’t Say Gay”-style laws across the country. With 14 points, New York earns the No. 1 spot for its LGBT protections, lack of censorship and conversion therapies, and concerted efforts put into LGBT marketing and infrastructure. California, Colorado, Nevada, and Oregon are all tied for second, followed by Washington, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New Mexico. Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Montana are some of the least queer-friendly states, with Oklahoma in last place for the second year in a row, due to censorship, lack of trans rights, and — as tragically evidenced by the recent murder of non-binary student Nex Benedict — hostile locals.

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