Iceland, the Land of Northern Lights, majestic waterfalls, volcanoes, mountains and such vast vistas. It is such a tiny island full of diverse and beautiful terrain which changes every now and then – from snowy mountains to stunning glaciers to verdant fields, Iceland has it all!
This place has seen an explosion in tourism in the recent years and has also become a lot more expensive. But what makes this island stand out so much as a bucket list travel destination? Let’s find out! Here are 10 things that would make you want to visit this Land of Fire and Ice and experience the incredible magic of this place.
1. Visit Jokulsarlon Glacier
Located in the southeast of Iceland, this glacier is only a couple of decades old and one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country. It is a still lake decorated with glittering icebergs that have broken off from the tip of Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier that float in the lagoon throughout the year.
You can get up close to these multi-colored icebergs between May and September in a Zodiac Tour Boat or observe them from the shore. In the winter, with the dramatic Northern Lights dancing above, this glacier is a treat to the eyes!
2. Witness the Northern Lights
The Aurora Borealis, or as it is commonly called the Northern Lights can be witnessed only at Earth’s highest elevations from September to April months. These dancing lights of purple, green and golden is an incredible phenomenon which requires a lot of patience, luck and darkness. The country towns to the north of Iceland are the best place to see the lights.
3. See the Golden circle
The Golden Circle is a popular tourist route that includes Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir and Thingvellir National Park. They make an easy one-day trip for people and is thus a popular tourist spot.
- Gullfoss: Fed by Langjökull, Iceland’s second biggest glacier, this waterfall is one the of most photographed ones with rainbows falling in to 33m plunge that Gullfoss takes during summers. However, these falls are known to freeze over during winter season.
- Geysir/Strokkur: Home to several bubbling pools and the ancient Geyser, Geysir seldom erupts anymore. But Strokkur which is nearby, spouts about 15-20 meters of water every 10 minutes. There are also other numerous hot springs in the area.
- Thingvellir National Park: This place is full of hiking trails and camping grounds but it’s the only place in the world where you can see and walk through two tectonic plates drafting apart above sea level. Although an easy walk, it takes about 2 hours to walk the entire park. Plus, you can also go scuba diving between the plates. Amazing, isn’t it? Its also been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its countless natural features.
4. Explore the Westfjords
The Westfjords is a large peninsula in north western islands with mountains all around. It is still an unexplored part of Iceland, visited by very few tourists. Its an area of mountains, waterfalls, fishing villages, tiny towns and lakes. In summers, whales and puffins call it their home. But in winters, the roads are closed by ice and snow for several months. The Westfjords are also known for its rich history steeped in folklore, mysticism and magic.
5. Soak in the Blue Lagoon
The huge milky-blue spa is fed by mineral-rich heater water from the nearby geothermal plant. Although an expensive one, this geothermal pool is one of the top attractions of Iceland. This island also has several other hot pools in Reykjavik, in the North, there is Myvatn Nature Baths and several other free hot springs all around the island.
6. Do a Glacial Trek
Iceland is defined for its frozen landscapes- floating icebergs, sweeping glacier tongues, dazzling blue glacier ice caves specially during the winters. The island’s greatest frozen attraction, the glaciers are accessible to explore throughout the year and there’s no better way to see them than to walk on them. Vatnajökull is one of the most popular glaciers to hike, although there are many others around the country as well. Time to put on your hiking shoes and release your inner Arctic Explorer!
7. Visit Reykjavik
This capital is awash with cafes, clubs, pubs and a brightly coloured old town full of wooden row houses. Although pretty small, this town is worth a few extra days in order to soak in the rich culture of the city. Almost everything in the city is at a walking distance.
8. Black Beaches in Iceland
The beaches of Iceland continue to attract tourists from all across the globe. What they lack in sub-tropical features, they make up for it with sheer extremity.
Close to the southernmost village of Vik, lies the world-renowned black pebble beach of Renisfjara. Its black basalt cliffs, enormous caves, gigantic rock formations and strong winds make it a perfect black beach. Another similar black beach to visit is Djúpalónssandur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, where visitors can also admire the wreckage of a stranded ship.
9. Visit the Icelandic Volcanoes
Iceland exists because of volcanic eruptions and there are still countless active volcanoes around the island. There are several volcanic tours which happen on the island, the most famous one being, the Þríhnúkagígur volcano tour. It is an excursion into the heart of a dormant volcano which show fiery shades of red, telling us tales of total destruction.
10. Go on a Whale Watching Tour
Icelandic oceans provide the ideal living conditions for over 20 species of whales and has thus become a renowned place for spotting these magnificent sea giants. Whale watching tours depart from three primary locations – Reykjavik, Akureyri and Husavik, which is considered as Iceland’s whale watching capital. In Husavik, there are chances you may spot the giant Humpback whale as well.