Iceland is one of the most incredible countries I have visited. Found on the edge of the arctic circle winters are chilly with very little daylight and summers are bright and warm as Iceland becomes the land of the midnight sun. Whichever time of the year you choose to visit you are sure to have a blast. Breathtaking landscapes, very friendly locals and the lovely city of Reykjavík full of nordic charm, cool bars and quirky places to eat are sure to win you over. Iceland is easy to get around, hire a car, catch a bus from the airport or book on to a small group tour with transport provided. There is so much to see and do in Iceland so to help you plan your own trip here are my favourites…
1. See the Northern Lights
If you go to Iceland during the winter look out for the Northern Lights, watching them dance across the nights sky, ever-changing in shape and colour is unforgettable. The Icelandic Met Office is a great website for checking the Aurora forecast and upcoming weather conditions. It has a helpful scale to indicate the likeliness of seeing the lights. Hunt for them yourself or go out with a guide. When I was in Iceland last year I went on a Super Jeep tour with Iceland Travel, it was a fantastic night. Not only did I see the Northern Lights I also got to experience the thrill of exploring Iceland at night in a Super Jeep. Huge wheels meant the 4×4 could plough through the deepest of snow drifts and go where others couldn’t. We stopped at two different locations and got to witness a lot of Aurora Borealis action, once they disappeared at the first location we moved on to the next. Finishing off the night with a hot chocolate topped with an optional glug of vodka helped to keep us warm in the freezing weather conditions.
2. Swim in a hot spring
Iceland is famous for its geothermal activity and what better way to celebrate this than with a dip in a hot pool. The Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s most famous geothermal spa, located in a lava field it is a must visit. This is not the only hot pool though, there are plenty of others to be discovered. The Blue Lagoon was sadly closed for refurbishment when Matt and I were in Iceland, so we visited the Secret Lagoon instead, a lovely small geothermal pool which we stopped at while exploring the Golden Circle.
3. Climb to the top of Hallgrímskirkja
The very impressive Hallgrímskirkja church can be seen throughout Reykjavík, its magnificent structure was designed to look like the volcanic basalt stacks which can be spotted around Iceland. Inside, the beautiful architecture continues and includes a huge organ with 5275 pipes. Take the lift to the top of the 73 metre tower, it costs 900 ISK (around £6) and is well worth it. The views of Reykjavík and the surrounding landscape are breathtaking.
4. Walk on a glacier
It’s not everyday you get to visit a glacier and Iceland is the place to do it. Mýrdalsjökull glacier near Vik was incredible to see and get up close to. Unfortunately as I was six months pregnant I couldn’t hike it but it was fun to watch others making the trek up and along this impressive landscape. Hearing the cracks and seeing the incredible blues of the ice is just out of this world. If you get the chance to walk on one, do it!
5. Walk along the black sand on Reynisfjara Beach
This beach near Vik is famous for its black sand, caused by volcanic activity it is a beach like no other and worthy of taking plenty of photos. Stroll along the mysterious shoreline looking out for the huge basalt columns jutting out from the cliffs and the basalt stacks out at sea. Icelandic folklore suggests that mischievous trolls trying to drag a ship to shore were unwittingly turned into these imposing structures. Watch out for the waves here, there are dangerous undertows and the water can be unpredictable. Be sure to stay out of the water and admire it at a safe distance from the shoreline.
6. Stroll between tectonic plates
Walking between tectonic plates is a unique experience, head to Þingvellir National Park (Thingvellir) the sight of the world’s oldest parliament for a great walk full of beautiful views. Walk through Almannagjá canyon created by the division of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. For more information take a look at Þingvellir National Park website.
7. Watch Strokkur geyser exploding
A highlight of the Golden Circle, this geothermal area is awesome! Water bubbles away at 100ºC and huge plumes of steam rise from the ground. Watch the mighty geyser Strokkur explode into action, the giant jet of water erupts every 5 – 10 minutes and is an incredible sight.
8. Say hi to the local wildlife
Iceland’s resident horses are very friendly, take the time to stop for a selfie with them amongst the gorgeous landscape. Standing between 13 and 14 hands high they could be mistaken for ponies, in Iceland they are horses so be sure to get it right or risk offending a local!
9. Marvel at the beautiful waterfalls
One of Iceland’s most famous and beautiful landmarks are the waterfalls. There’s nothing quite like watching water majestically fall over rugged hillsides, especially in the winter with snow underfoot and icicles hanging from the edges of the falls. My favourites are Gullfoss, which can be seen on a tour of the Golden Circle. It is one of Iceland’s most popular falls and it’s not hard to see why. Standing up close to this powerful beauty and watching water thunder down below is an exhilarating experience. Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss are both found in the south of Iceland. Skógafoss is one of Iceland’s largest waterfalls, you can get really close to it which is fantastic for capturing photos. Seljalandsfoss is a must see, go behind the falls for a completely different view point, it is worth noting that the path is often closed in winter months due the danger of slipping. Whichever waterfall you choose to visit in Iceland you certainly won’t be disappointed!
For more on what to see and do in Iceland click on the links below…