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

66 thoughts on “10 Reasons To Skip Iceland And Head To Oregon Instead”

    1. Hey Amy!

      We lived in Oregon for a year so we visited these places at different times and seasons. Some of them are close together like Toketee waterfall, Umpqua Hotsprings and Crater lake are all in the same region, about 5 hours south from Portland. Abiqua Falls and Silver Falls State Park are also close to each other, like an hour south from Portland. All other places are mostly scattered through the state. The Secret Beach is on the Oregon-California border by the beach. Oneonta Gorge is right by Portland, like 40 minutes east. Cape Kiwanda is 2 hours west of Portland. Mt Hood about hour south-east. If you are planning to go there, I can help you come up with a weekend itinerary of the must-see spots, let me know : )

      Laura

      1. Hi-we are planning to fly into Portland Oct 25 for 4 days for Fall foliage, mountains,etc. romantic getaway-Can you help with must sees? We don’t care about night life- and like to picnic etc and be outside..

        1. Hi Laurie!

          Portland is the perfect place to see fall colors and enjoy the outdoors! My top recommendation for visiting Portland is to take a drive down the historic Columbia River Gorge highway, only 30 minutes outside of Portland. There are tons of gorgeous waterfalls along this route and beautiful outdoor scenery. Here’s my article on the top things to see in the Columbia River Gorge area.

          If you have extra time, I also recommend taking a trip out to Mt Hood and Lake Trillium for mountain scenery. Mt Hood is about an hour and a half outside of Portland but well worth the drive through beautiful winding mountain roads with a detour to Lake Trillium.

          For a romantic getaway, I recommend staying a day or two at Cannon beach. It’s a quaint little town with cute restaurants and hotels with a beachfront access to the beautiful Cannon Beach. My favorite part of Cannon Beach is watching a sunset and setting up a bonfire on the beach after, super romantic.

          Hope this helps! Please let me know if you have any other questions. Enjoy your trip!

          Laura

      2. Thank you so much for the info! I was wondering what was the best place to fly in to as we are from Florida. Looks like Portland will be it! I will start getting this trip planned 🙂 Looks amazing!

        1. Hi Alicia,

          If it’s your first time visiting Oregon, Portland is the best place to fly into since most of Oregon’s best attractions are located within a few hour drive from Portland. I highly recommend starting with Columbia River Gorge area and exploring other areas from there on. Let me know if you have any other questions!

          I hope you enjoy your trip!
          Laura

    1. Thank you! Oregon is one of my favorite places to visit. Iceland was amazing too and there is so much to do and explore on the island, but Oregon will always be my favorite : )

  1. 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!

  2. 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!

    1. Thank you so much, Tiana! Hope you have a wonderful trip in November. Fall in PNW is such a great time to visit with the cooler temperatures and fall colors. Enjoy!

      Cheers,
      Laura

    2. 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

      1. Hi Renee,

        I lived in Portland for a year but we are currently in California for work. But one day I would love to move back to Oregon, hopefully we can make it happen in the future. There is just so much to do and so much natural beauty.

        Laura

  3. 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?

    1. Hi Jewell,

      Oregon is amazing! Yes, I did live in Portland for a year so I got to explore Oregon in different seasons. My favorite seasons were spring around April-May when everything is starting to look lush and green. I also enjoyed fall for the fall colors and lesser crowds. I would avoid going late November to February because the weather gets super cold and many hikes get closed due to snow and harsh conditions.

      I hope you make a trip out to Oregon! It’s so beautiful and well worth it : )

      Cheers,
      Laura

  4. 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.

    1. Hi Brooke,

      Happy to provide the comparison and an alternative to the expensive international travel : ) Iceland is one of the most beautiful places in the world and such a sought-after destination right now but during our trip there, we kept saying “Wow, this waterfall looks just like the one in Oregon” and “Doesn’t this beach remind you of the one in Oregon?”. Oregon has such a diverse landscape and really is just as breathtaking in nature and scenery as Iceland, just for a fraction of the cost.

      Cheers,
      Laura

    1. Hi Diane,

      That’s a great question! I have personally never seen Aurora Borealis from Oregon but I did some reading on it and it seems that occasionally it’s possible when the weather conditions are just right (high K-index of geomagnetic activity, clear skies, no moon, etc). Here’s a link to a Facebook page that is used to track Aurora Alerts.

      Cheers,
      Laura

    2. 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

    1. So glad you thought that! I wish I had discovered Oregon sooner myself. I lived in California for 15 years without knowing how amazing Oregon was and it’s only a day drive north! Hope you get to visit it soon : )

      Cheers,
      Laura

  5. 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 resorts, only an hour from Portland. And when you get back to Portland, and depending on how early of a riser you are, and motivated, drive an hour in the other direction and ahoy, the Pacific ocean. There are countless gems in Oregon besides the ones mentioned in this article. Plus Seattle is a three hour drive (closer to Portland than Crater lake)174 miles where Crater Lake is about 469 miles from the city, but still very worth the trip. if you dont believe me, fine. Too much traffic now anyway…

  6. 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.

    1. Oh no! That’s unfortunate to hear. When we visited it was quite lovely, clean and warm. We did go in the winter and we were the only people there.

      Oregon is such a beautiful state! We loved living there and can’t wait to return in the future.

      Cheers,
      Laura

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

    1. Iceland is no doubt an incredible destination to visit. We had it on our bucket list for a while but international travel wasn’t always in our budget. I just wanted to provide an alternative option to other people that might be in the same situation. Happy travels!

      Cheers,
      Laura

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

    1. Amazing! We lived in Portland for a year and absolutely loved it. Portland is so fun and there is so much to see within an hour or two drive.

      Enjoy!
      Laura

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

    1. Hi Ankita,

      Glad you enjoyed the Oregon blog post. It certainly is a wonderful place to visit and hope you get to one day!

      I’ve never written anything about India because I’ve never been there. To provide better suggestions to my readers I only write about places that I have personally visited. I do hope to go there one day!

      Cheers,
      Laura

  11. 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. One advantage that Oregon does have over Iceland is the ABSENCE of tourists. They’re there, just not in huge numbers as in Iceland. The beaches in Oregon are blissfully uncrowded, and a body can be “alone” in Oregon if they so choose. Since a lot of people can’t afford the expensive trip to Iceland, I’d say they should try to go to Oregon if at all possible. A drive up the coastal highway will absolutely take your breath away….

    1. Hi Debbi,

      Thanks for your lovely comment! You summarized everything we love about Oregon so well. Iceland is no doubt one of the most beautiful places on Earth and Oregon surprisingly has so many similar landscape traits (minus the crowds as you mentioned). And yes, the Oregon coastal route is amazing! We’ve done it several times ourselves and each time we find new gems along this route.

      Cheers,
      Laura

  12. 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 for us? We love the outdoors (and if we’re talking Portland, I also love a great cup of coffee). : ) Thanks in advance!

    Sincerely,
    Tara

    1. Hi Tara,

      Your rafting trip sounds amazing! What a fun adventure.

      If you’re looking to stay in Portland for a day, there is a lot to do around the city like taking an air tram, visiting the famous VooDoo Doughnuts, trying Stumptown coffee, etc. We lived in Portland for a year and every time our friends or family would come to visit, I would take them to these spots:

      https://funlifecrisis.com/15-fun-things-to-see-and-do-in-portland-oregon/

      After the trip, you’ll be pretty close to the Crater Lake National Park and Umpqua National Forest. Some of my favorite places in this region are the Crater Lake, Toketee Waterfall, Watson Waterfall, and Umpqua hot springs.

      If you want to be closer to Portland after the trip, there is a whole area called Colombia River Gorge just 40 minutes East of Portland that has some of the tallest waterfalls in the US. Here is a list of our favorite things to see in this area:

      https://funlifecrisis.com/columbia-river-gorge-and-multnomah-falls-guide/

      Hope this helps!
      Laura

      1. Laura, you are amazing! Thank you so much! I can’t wait to read through all of these tonight. I’ll let you know what we end up doing. Have a wonderful day!!!

        Sincerely,
        Tara

    1. Hey Allen,

      In Bend, I highly recommend exploring Smith Rock State Park and hiking to the Tumalo Falls overlook. If you have extra time, the Black Butte hike is also really lovely. If you like breweries, the 10 Barrel Brewery in Bend is really fun.

      Hope you have a wonderful trip!

      Laura

    1. Aww thanks, William! You are too kind!

      Oregon honestly is amazing at any time of the year. My personal favorite is spring when all of the waterfalls in Oregon get extra water from snowmelt and everything looks super green and lush. Summer is another popular time to go but some places might get a bit crowded. The weather in fall and winter starts getting really cold and rainy and many of the trails get closed for winter so hiking can be pretty limited.

      I hope this helps with your trip planning!

      Laura

  13. 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?

    1. 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.

  14. 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!

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

    1. Hey, Linda!

      Glad you enjoyed the article! I’ve never seen the Northern Lights but it’s on my travel “wish list” : )

      I’ve read that you can occasionally see them from Oregon since Oregon is so far up north too, but it happens very rarely. I would love to return to Iceland one day and see them as well, I bet it’s quite the amazing experience.

      Cheers,
      Laura

  17. 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?

    1. Hi Angela,

      Are you planning a trip to Oregon or Iceland in January? If it’s Oregon, which places are you planning to visit?

      Laura

  18. I have traveled through Oregon on hwy 101 and interstate 5. In accuality the costal route was the most spectacular. Vern

  19. My husband and I were planning an Oregon trip from WV for mid June of 2020 before the pandemic hit. Any insight into whether that is still feasible and sites that may or may not be on the table.

    1. Hi Leigh,

      I don’t live in Oregon anymore so it’s difficult to say. I did read an article saying that Oregon plans to open up its parks and trails in stages in the upcoming months.

      From all the places listed in our article, I’d keep an eye on Silver Falls State Park, Crater Lake National Park, and Cape Kiwanda. These places are very popular so my bet would be that these will open up the last.

      Some of the trails listed in our post like Secret Beach, Abiqua Falls, and Toketee Falls might be accessible the soonest since they’re more remote, and fewer people visit them.

      Good luck!
      Laura

  20. Also it should be noted that Oneota Gorge has been closed since 2017 forest fire. It may never re-open or fully recover and is not safe for visitors anymore. Very glad we went there in 2014 before it closed.
    I have been living in Oregon since 2007 and have also lived in California and BC, Canada, and Oregon is my favorite place! We love the outdoors, hiking, kayaking, camping and all that fun stuff!

    1. Thanks for the update! I don’t live in Oregon anymore so that’s good to know but also sad to hear that Oneonta Gorge is now closed. It was one of my favorite places in Oregon and so close to Portland.

      Laura

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