9 things you need to do in Iceland….

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…
What to do with four days in Iceland
Adventures on the Golden Circle
Exploring Iceland’s South Coast
Chasing the Northern Lights in Iceland


Exploring Iceland’s South Coast…

I visited Iceland in January and was a blown away by this beautiful place!  My favourite experience by far was visiting the south coast, I went on an organised trip but it is also easy to hire a car.  Although I chose not to do this as with limited daylight hours in the winter months (when I was there sunrise was at 11am and sunset 4pm) and having heard how bad the weather can get I thought I would leave the driving up to the experts!  If you do choose to hire a car a 4×4 is a must, there is also a great app: 112 Iceland.  Punch in your location and it can be used to help track your whereabouts in case of an emergency.  It can also be used to make emergency calls, a very nifty app.
I booked my tour through Sterna Travel; we had an excellent tour guide who was really informative.  He had so much knowledge of Iceland as well as telling us about local myths and giving us snippets of what it was like to grow up in this incredible country.  I never really thought that group tours were my thing but I actually really enjoyed this one, there was plenty of time at each location to go off and do your own thing and it also included a few other stops I wasn’t expecting.
If you are planning your own south coast adventure here are a few must-sees:


This very hard to pronounce word is the name of the volcano that erupted in 2010 cancelling over 1000,000 flights worldwide.  There is a farm right at the base of this incredible giant and a lay by to stop in for photo opportunities.  I was so excited to see Eyjafjallajökull, this was one of the unexpected stops on the trip that I mentioned.  It felt quite surreal to be so close to the volcano that caused so much trouble all over the world.  I had been on a nightstop at work in Orlando at the time.  What should have been just a 24 hour stopover turned into a six-day trip, it felt quite strange at the time not knowing how long I would be stuck there for.  There was apparently up to 30cm of ash on the ground and it was so dark during the eruption you couldn’t see your hands in front of your face!  It was hard to imagine all this on the beautiful morning that we were there.


Eyjafallajokull volcano



Skógafoss is one of Iceland’s biggest waterfalls, it has a 200ft drop and legend has it that there is buried treasure in the cave behind, unfortunately it was too cold that day for me to find out!  With temperatures of around -7°c taking a glove off to take photos meant an instantly frozen hand, although this waterfall was too beautiful to miss a photo opportunity.  The icicles formed around it were incredible too.



Reynisfjara beach
A trip to the south coast would not be complete without stopping at a black sand beach. Volcanic activity has created striking basalt stacks, known as Reynisdrangar.  The stacks along with the black sand give this beach its uniqueness and make it a striking place for photos.  Cape Dyrhólaey, a short drive from the beach is definitely worth the steep drive up to the view-point.  From the top of the peninsula there are incredible panoramic views, ocean in front and a huge arch cut out in the rocks, looking back towards Reynisfjara and the basalt stacks, glacier and mountains behind and then more beach in the opposite direction.  In the summer puffins nest in the cliff face too.



Sólheimajökull glacier
I flew over glaciers in a helicopter in New Zealand which was breathtaking, so being able to walk right up to one in Iceland was incredible.  We stopped at Sólheimajökull, an outlet of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier.  I would loved to have gone on a glacier hike but being six months pregnant at the time I unfortunately wasn’t able to do this.  To just walk around the base of it was amazing, it is constantly moving and you could hear strange cracks and creaks from this.  The colours and edges of the ice were like nothing else I have seen before.



The pretty town of Vik is the most southerly village in Iceland, it is tiny and very picturesque so worth a stop if you get the chance.  There is accommodation in Vik, if you are looking to stay somewhere other than Reykjavík then this is a great area to be based, right on the coast by the black sand beaches, and all the beautiful southern waterfalls.


Crashed plane
If I had rented a car I would have loved to have gone looking for the famous ruins of a crashed DC 3 aircraft on a beach near Vik. I have read mixed opinions as to whether the plane is easy to find but there is plenty of information online of its whereabouts. TripAdvisor has a list of things to do and see on the south coast, the plane being one of them and there is lots of information on there of how to find the aircraft.


Seljalandsfoss waterfall
This well-known waterfall is a beauty, in warmer months you can walk right behind it, but being so cold the day I was there the staircase that leads behind the falls was totally encased in ice making it too dangerous to attempt.  There are also two viewpoints, one climbs up high above the waterfall.  I would love to visit it again in the summer; I’d imagine the landscape looks completely different.
For more on my adventures in Iceland head to: What to do with four days in Iceland and Northern Lights photography tips.


Seljalandsfoss waterfall