Situated on the fringe of the Arctic Circle, Iceland’s abundant and diverse natural wonders are enough to make your jaw drop. The destination is sometimes called the Land of Fire and Ice because of its rumbling volcanoes, bubbling earth and shifting glaciers, which are still shaping the unique and stunning landscape. Combine this striking natural beauty with crisp, clean air, and you have an outdoor enthusiast’s dream come true.
However, Iceland is not only for adventure-seekers. The people who inhabit this Nordic country have a fascinating culture that embraces literature, music, fashion, cuisine, ancient sagas, and even a few mythical creatures. Read on to see the incredible things visitors can see and do in this country of vivid beauty and intriguing culture. And keep in mind, this list only scratches the surface!
Visit Natural Hot Springs
There is no denying that the Blue Lagoon deserves to be among Iceland’s top attractions. The steamy, aquamarine water, set against the contrasting black, volcanic landscape is too alluring to pass up. However, if you desire hot springs but are averse to crowds, there are numerous spots where you can soak in a mineral-rich bath while taking in a stunning view.
Walk on a Glacier
Secure a guide (that’s important!), strap on some crampons, and grab an ice pick, for a thrilling and gorgeous stroll over a massive ice formation. It’s not something you get to do every day. Although glaciers are impressive from far away, they are truly extraordinary when you’re right on top.
See the Northern Lights
This bucket-list-worthy phenomenon is never a guarantee, but your chance of seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland is quite high. This is especially true in the shorter, darker, winter months, though don’t rule out April or September.
Ride an Icelandic Horse
The Icelandic horse is sometimes referred to as a pony, yet that doesn’t aptly define the combination of grace and power that this unique animal possesses. Beautiful and a real treat to ride, this hardy breed has mastered a special gait that helps it navigate over the rough Icelandic terrain.
Watch Great Geysir Explode
If you’ve witnessed the blast of a geyser in the past, perhaps you didn’t know that its namesake originated in Iceland. Great Geysir is the oldest known geyser in Europe and the word geyser comes from the Icelandic verb geysa, meaning “to gush”. It’s a timely and extraordinary sight, for young and old alike.
Hike Behind a Waterfall
It’s true that Iceland is covered in magnificent waterfalls of all shapes and sizes, and you’ll never tire of their splendor and beauty. At Seljalandsfoss, it’s possible to get up close and personal with one of the best, as you walk behind the powerful force of cascading water.
Indulge in Authentic Food
Icelandic cuisine has a long history and is an important part of the country’s culture. Like many other Nordic countries, the necessity of preservation during long, harsh winters made pickling and fermentation a popular ritual. Dried and fermented shark are specialties in Iceland (pictured below), though I much prefer the small, delicious lobster (also pictured below). You can read more about Icelandic food here.
Take a Boat on a Glacial Lagoon
Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is a result of the rapidly retreating Breiðamerkurjökull glacier. Gleaming blue ice drifts through this spectacular spot, creating astonishing ice sculptures, which can be seen from shore. Better yet, hop on a boat for a tremendous ride across the other-worldly lagoon.
Hike Around Landmannalaugar
Adding to the list of must-see places that are difficult to pronounce, Landmannalaugar is a wondrous nature reserve, consisting of mountains and valleys of swirling earth tones unlike anywhere else in the world. Whether a day-trip from Reykjavik or part of a multi-day hiking itinerary, it’s a favorite with locals and visitors alike.
Visit Thingvellir National Park
Located in a rift valley along the Mid-Atlantic ridge, it would be amiss not to mention Thingvellir National Park. This location is home to the Icelandic parliament, which is the oldest in the world, established by Vikings is AD 930. It is a place of immense natural beauty, and is also a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its historical, cultural and geological importance.