10 Reasons To Skip Iceland And Head To Oregon Instead

10 reasons to travel to oregon vs iceland

Visiting Iceland is a dream for many travelers, but there is no secret that Iceland is one of the most expensive and sought-after destinations to travel to.

A week-long trip to Iceland will easily cost anywhere from $2-$5K to cover van rental, flights, food, and gas. We know personally because we spent a whole week driving around Iceland’s Ring Road in a campervan rental and it was to date the most expensive trip we’ve ever splurged on.

If this is out of your travel budget don’t be discouraged because it doesn’t mean that you should miss out on all the awesome sights that have made Iceland such a great travel destination.

From black sand beaches to waterfalls, volcanoes and hot springs, a trip to Oregon offers many similar attractions to Iceland but for a fraction of the cost.


crater lake oregon volcano vs iceland


We’ve already covered how to travel to Portland, Oregon for $30 round-trip using Spirit Airlines’ Penny Fares, so a trip to Oregon is well within everyone’s budget.

Here are 10 amazing equivalents in the ultimate battle of Oregon vs Iceland that will make you forget all about Iceland and change your course to Oregon, USA.


1. Black Sand Beaches

Both Iceland and Oregon are filled with volcanoes and the remnants of when those volcanoes where actively erupting and changing the landscape. A similar trait that both Oregon and Iceland share as a result of the past volcanic activity are black sand beaches.

The Secret Beach in Oregon is an amazing little gem with beautiful beaches and epic cliff views made of black basaltic rocks, similar to the Fauskasandur black sand beach in Iceland.


2. Deep Carved Waterfalls

Toketee Waterfall Oregon vs Aldeyarfoss in Iceland

One of the best parts about visiting both Oregon and Iceland are the endless waterfalls that can be found just about everywhere. After living in Oregon for a year, hunting for waterfalls has become quite the fun hobby for me.

You can imagine my excitement when I found out that some of the waterfalls in Oregon and Iceland share a similar trait of basalt columns that have formed around the waterfalls as a result of volcanic lava tubes. Both Toketee waterfall in Oregon and Aldeyjarfoss waterfall in Iceland share this similar trait and both are equally stunning.

For a full list of my 10 top favorite waterfall hikes in Oregon, you can read more here.


3. Mossy Canyons

Oneonta gorge in Oregon vs Fjaðrárgljúfur Iceland

The Oneonta Gorge in Oregon and the Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon in Iceland are true miracles of nature.

Both are deep canyons carved by the river below with beautiful mossy green cliffs surrounding you from every side. Where the Icelandic canyon is much bigger and wider, the Oneonta Gorge is a more adventurous hike with a rewarding waterfall at the end of it.

The Oneonta Gorge is only 30-minute drive from Portland so it’s the perfect short hike for anyone visiting Portland for the weekend. For other awesome waterfall hikes near Portland, check out our guide to the Columbia River Gorge waterfalls in Oregon.


4. Colorful Hills

Painted Hills in Oregon vs Landmannalaugar in Iceland

While most people visiting Iceland stick around the Ring Road drive, the central inland area has some amazing colorful hills called Landmannalaugar.

These mountains are quite remote and hard to get to so most people skip this area on their trip. In Oregon, the Painted Hills are equally mesmerizing and colorful and are just a short drive away from Bend, OR.


5. Cave Waterfalls

Silver Falls Park Oregon vs Seljalandsfoss in Iceland

One of the most popular waterfalls in southern Iceland is the Seljalandsfoss falls. Visitors can walk up to and behind this grand waterfall into a small cave that leads around it, just like the waterfalls at Silver Falls State Park in Oregon.

The Silver Falls State Park is famous for its 8-mile loop around the park that features 10 amazing waterfalls and caves.


6. Hot Springs

Umpqua Hot Springs in Oregon vs Landbrotalaug hot springs in Iceland

There’s nothing better after a long day of chasing waterfalls than hanging out and taking a dip in some relaxing natural hot springs.

Landbrotalaug hot springs in Iceland, a popular spot for both the locals and tourists alike, offers a great place to relax after a long day of driving Iceland’s Ring Road. But few hot springs can compare to the serenity of Umpqua hot springs in Oregon, which offers multiple hot spring tubs cascading on a mountainside, nestled deep in the midst of nature.


7. Crater Lakes

Crater Lake Oregon vs Kerid Crater Iceland

Similar to Kerið Lake in Iceland, Crater Lake in Oregon formed inside a volcanic crater and is one of the main attractions for tourists visiting the area. Both are equally breathtaking, but they do come in a variety of colors.

Where Crater Lake is a deep blue color that is hard to truly capture on camera, Kerið crater is aqua blue with red sand walls surrounding it all around.


8. Ocean Cliffs

Cape Kiawanda in Oregon vs Longdrangar cliffs in Iceland

While driving around Iceland, visitors can enjoy endless coastal views, each just as awe-inspiring as the last. One of the most beautiful areas to go hiking in Iceland is the Longdrangar cliffs viewpoints in Snaefelles Peninsula.

Similar to Iceland, Oregon has its own breathtaking coastline drive. Cape Kiawanda is a perfect example of the beauty found on Oregon’s coast with endless hiking possibilities, cliffs, caves, enormous sand dunes, and beautiful nature all around it.

Our article on 15 Things To Do Along the Oregon coast covers more on Oregon coastline’s beauty and the best places to visit on a road trip along the Oregon Coast.


9. Peaky Mountains

Mt Hood in Oregon vs Kirkjufell in Iceland

The Kirkjufell Mountain is one of the most photographed places in Iceland, but Mt Hood in Oregon stands close to it in both beauty and popularity.

Mt Hood is a great place to visit year round for activities like skiing and snowboarding, but one of the most breathtaking places to fully capture its grandeur in full scale is from Lake Trillium.


10. Hidden Waterfalls

Abiqua waterfall vs Svartifoss in Iceland skip Iceland and head to Oregon Instead

The Svartifoss waterfall in Iceland is almost a split image of the Abiqua waterfall in Oregon.

Both waterfalls share the orange-brown basalt columns supporting the plunging water above and both waterfalls require a 30-40 minute hike into a cove at the base where hikers are rewarded with a stunning, intimate view of the towering waterfall right before their eyes.


umpqua hotsprings oregon vs iceland hot springs


You don’t need to fly halfway around the world to enjoy some of the most beautiful locations on Earth.

While Iceland is trending as one of the top travel destinations right now, Oregon has many of the same traits as Iceland without the ridiculously high cost or tourists crowds. While Oregon is still very low key and under the radar, our prediction is that it won’t stay that way for long.

Which one was your favorite, Oregon USA or Iceland? Share your favorite destination with us in the comments below!


Related Article:

29 Amazing Places To Visit In Iceland

Top 20 Things To See And Do In Ireland

How To Choose The Best Beginner Camera

Leave a Reply

27 Comment threads
34 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
33 Comment authors

Laura, what time of year did you go to these spots in Oregon? Are they close together?


Awesome post!!! I’d have to say, Oregon won in a lot of your photos!!!


I’m a Portland native planning a trip to Iceland in September, I’m excited about Iceland but I’ll always love Oregon best.

One thing people don’t always know about Oregon is that there are plants that will thrive in Oregon and only one other place in the world. So it’s a gardeners dream location! We have plants from South America, China, Japan, etc all living happily side by side. No other place in the world can beat it!


Awesome article!! Been wanting to do Iceland for awhile, but might give Oregon a go!


Wow amazing comparisons! Thanks for sharing this!

Samantha Thomas

This is an AMAZING post thank you! I can see a lot of work put into it with the comparisons! Just planned my road trip next week and added about five of these stops to it! Easy planning!

Tiana Bantis

These are amazing spots! I love all your posts of Oregon, I can’t wait to visit in November!!


Are you here in Oregon? I live here. Wouldn’t live anywhere else because of the beauty. Lots of waterfall and pristine very clear lakes that you can see the bottom of them. Waldo area in the summer for a walk about and camping on several secluded lakes that make me cry everytime I see them. The Gorge and McKenzie hwy( out of Springfield Eugene)and the north umpqua out of Roseburg. Beautiful breathtaking rivers and lakes


I have been to Iceland but this article definitely made me want to plan a trip to Oregon to get that feeling I had without the price. I saw the question as to what time of year is best to go and understand you lived there. What would you suggest is the best to visit to get the most out of the experience?

Brooke of Passport Couture

International travel always sounds glamorous, but I’m glad you brought up an alternative local option that is affordable and offers the same results. It’s great to know that Oregon is just as amazing as Iceland and nowhere near the same cost.


Can you see the Aurora borealis from Oregon?


I lived in Oregon for 20 years (in Salem) and honestly never saw it. Maybe in a different part of Oregon it is possible but the chances are very slim if any

Aleksandra Pavlova

Oregon is absolutely stunning, I had no idea! You just made me want to visit <3

Luke Chambery

I’ve lived in Oregon for about 75% of my life. born and raised here, and spent most of my time here, but the military and an interest to work on a fishing boat in Alaska took me away for a few years here and there. But mostly I’ve lived next to the sights in this article, and I can honestly say, that Oregon is by far the best place I have lived in my entire life, and I’ve gotten around. Some may say “biased”. But what the article DOESN’T mention, is that we have Mt. Hood, that has two ski… Read more »


Umpqua Hot Springs is a gross spot as of 2018. Luke warm waters which probably isn’t sanatary with clothes and garbage left behind. It is a pretty view though. Maybe in the winter the springs feel hotter and It’s not kept up like it might have been.

Oregon is a beautiful state. And I am proud to live here.


It’s not even comparable… Not at all. I’ve been to both destinations dozens of times, and Iceland wins hands down.


Thank you for this post! I’m moving to Portland in a few months and can’t wait to check all of these out.

Bailey S

I was so inspired by this post that I planned my spring break road trip to visit as many of these spots as I could! Oregon did not disappoint! Thank you for sharing and for inspiring me to explore such a majestic place!


Hey! wonderful blog and amazing pictures of Oregon. After seeing your pictures, I also wanna visit in Oregon. But I wanna ask you till I did not see any post about India. I traveled most highlighted places in India. Next trip What about India tour with Palace on wheels luxury train, it covers various places of India.

Debbi C.

I had the awesome pleasure of living in Iceland for three years as a teenager, due to my father being stationed there in the U.S. Navy. 25 years later, I had the (also) awesome pleasure of living on the Oregon coast. I have said many times over the years that I am hard put to decide which I liked best, as I love them both! I wish you had included some photos of the lighthouses in both locations, as I am a lighthouse lover and thus was in heaven in both Iceland and Oregon due to the abundance of lighthouses.… Read more »

Tara Davis

Hi Laura, We are arriving in Portland on August 23, 2019 and driving to Merlin where we’ll meet OARS for a 5-day rafting trip on the Rogue. I’m trying to figure out what to do that entire first day in or around Merlin (or even in Portland and then drive later in the day to Merlin). Then, we have two days after the trip before we fly home on September 1 and I’m trying to figure out where to go with my husband and 13 year-old-son – the coast? Crater Lake National Park? Secret Beach? The Hot Springs? Any ideas… Read more »


Planning a trip to Bend in October. Any must-see suggestions near Bend?

Jennifer Oblander

This is a great post! I really enjoyed reading and I’m pinning this to my travel boards. Thanks for sharing!

William. S

Laura, you look so pretty! What time of year do you suggest to visit Oregon? I may plan for my next visit soon.


So my husband and I will be going to oregon for an anniversary party in portland, we want to drive their and on the way to portland from Minnesota we want to stop places. I would really like to visit Umpqua hotsprings, the hidden beach, and a waterfall, are we able to access these in January you think? maybe you have better suggestions for Early January trip from Minnesota on the way to portland?

It will depend on what car and tires you have. The hidden beach can be accessed all year long since there’s no snow on the beach, but the others are in the mountains where it snows pretty heavily in the winter. We were able to access Umpqua hot springs and several waterfalls in the winter but we had a car with all wheel drive and snow rated tires. Even then we had to do a good amount of hiking since some roads, like the one that goes to Umpqua hot springs, are closed when it snows too much.

Jim Chamberlain

I have always known this from talking to friends that have been to Iceland (as well as other destinations).
Hopefully this can be kept a better secret. This year I was the only camper in the most awesome waterfall area in June!

Dan Klinger

I’ve been to both and had a wonderful time at both. I would suggest that Iceland is far more dramatic but certainly costs more. I would strongly suggest visiting both. The only caution about Iceland is the targeting of tourists going back to the airport. The speeding fines (regardless how minor) are Extreme and they make you pay via credit card on the spot or go to jail.


Oregon looks similar and very beautiful. However, I don’t think you can see the Northern Lights like you can in Iceland and that’s the main reason I visited Iceland a few years ago! Loved every minute of it and would go back again. I live on the east coast so actually, Iceland was closer for me! Loved the article though.


Hi there! I am planning to take a quick weekend trip late January. We are a little worried about the weather. Any recommendations/changes you’d make based off of weather conditions?