Deploying an intoxicating mix of otherworldly landscapes, natural wonders, and rich cultural experiences – Iceland is an inspiring destination that surpasses expectations. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie, an experiential photographer, a wildlife enthusiast, a gourmand or a nature lover – Iceland offers endless opportunities to enjoy, engage, and explore..
Come, let’s immerse ourselves into the magnetic charm of Iceland – journeying through dense moss-laden lava fields, marvelling at gleaming glaciers, dipping in soothing hot springs, tasting exotic cuisine, and bearing witness to the stunning aurora borealis. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll navigate through the top experiences that Iceland has to offer.
Waterfalls That Speak Volumes
Iceland, bestowing the title ‘the land of fire and ice, also commands the title ‘land of waterfalls’. With an abundant presence of more than 20 waterfalls, the charm is unvarying – each waterfall tells a thrilling tale of its origin, all while offering a visual spectacle. Let your journey begin from Seljalandsfoss, one of the most famous waterfalls hobnobbing with the rhythm of your heartbeat. Admire the cascading torrents of Skógafoss, and stand before Gullfoss – the mighty cascade that powerfully splits the earth in two.
With safe walking trails snaking around them, getting close to these thundering waterfalls is an unforgettable experience that leaves you drenched in their primal energy. This is just the tip of the iceberg – there are countless waterfalls silently shimmering and thundering in the remotest corners – ready to be discovered by intrepid travellers.
National Parks That Resound With Mighty Echoes
Iceland’s national parks are a gateway to time, where the present overlaps with the past, and natural beauty blooms boundlessly. Wander across the varied textures of the three national parks – Thingvellir, Vatnajökull and Snæfellsjökull. Þingvellir National Park allows you to walk through history, standing at the site of the original Althing, the Icelandic parliament. Next bask in the grandeur of Vatnajökull, home to one of the largest glaciers in Europe and several active volcanoes. Finally, stride across Snæfellsjökull, Iceland’s unique national park, with a varied landscape stretching right to the sea, offering an impressive bird watching experience. All offer opportunities for hiking, horse riding, fishing, and camping, for those wanting a closer brush with Iceland’s vibrant wildlife.
Soothing Hot Springs & Pools:
The Blue Lagoon might be on everyone’s bucket list, but this is just one of the many thermal baths populated in Iceland. Drawing from Iceland’s volcanic activity, geothermal energy springs out in the form of hot springs and man-made pools sprinkled throughout the country. Whether you’re slipping into the famous Blue Lagoon with its mineral-rich beneficial waters, relaxing in the rustic “hot pots,” or taking a dip in naturally heated rivers – every experience is unique and melt-your-stress away soothing. While you’re at it, don’t miss out on a visit to Secret Lagoon, a less crowded but equally mesmerizing geothermal pool located in Flúðir.
Whale & Puffin Watching Extravaganza
With Iceland ruling as home to 60% of the world’s Atlantic puffin population and acting as a refuge for migrating whales, it offers a heady cocktail for wildlife enthusiasts. Summer season sees the coast brimming with cute little puffins taking their inaugural flights, while Minke whales, humpback whales and orca whales call the deep surrounding waters their playground. To bask in this wilderness, hunt for tours starting from Reykjavík – it’s during June and September that you get the best glimpse of this mesmerizing spectacle.
Experiencing the Northern Lights
Imagine a dark sky suddenly being painted with magical hues. The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis is a spectacular sight that one can witness in Iceland because of its location in the high northern latitudes. To enjoy this ethereal phenomenon, you will need to travel away from the urban light pollution, under a cloudless, dark sky. While they’re fairly common, viewing them is never guaranteed as it’s dependent on solar activity. The window to witness these celestial fireworks flexes from September to April, peaking through October to March.
Walk on the Wild Side – Volcanoes & Geothermal Areas
Sit alongside the colliding tectonic plates, in a hotspot region, Iceland is one of the most volcanically active regions. This forms a surreal landscape – think, steamy geothermal areas, sprawling lava fields stretching to the horizon, raven black sand beaches, and exploding geysers. Visit the Eldhraun Lava Field for panoramas that stretch out into the distance before upping the ante with an excursion to dormant but mighty Volcano Þríhnúkagígur. For another stunning experience, visit the Strokkur geyser, which woos admirers with its dramatic play of water bursts interspersed with steamy spectacles, every 10 minutes.
Horse Riding Across Iconic Landscapes
The robust Icelandic horses make for great companions on a trail across the craggy lava fields, serene farmlands, and scenic riverside paths. Known for their calm demeanour and unique ‘tölt’ gait, riding them on a horseback tour is an unmissable experience that allows you to relate with the stunning Icelandic landscapes more intimately.
Delve into Icelandic Legends and Lore
Lean into the land of sagas, where folklore bristles and the locals, although a majority of whom are now city-dwelling modernists, still believe in elves and trolls. Hear tales of elves, trolls, and ‘huldufólk’ (hidden people) living in the rocks. The entire country is steeped in Nordic lore and exploring it can turn into an informative treasure hunt.
Stroll on the Dreamy Beaches
Iceland’s beaches are alien-like landscapes frequented less by sunbathers and more by nature-loving explorers. The black sand beach of Reynisfjara with its towering basalt columns is a prime example of Iceland’s volcanic heritage. Equally mesmerizing is the Diamond Beach, a jet-black volcanic sand beach where icebergs from the nearby Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon beach themselves. For something even more unique, head to the golden sands of Nauthólsvík in Reykjavík, where you can lounge by a geothermally heated lagoon.
Tantalizing Icelandic Cuisine
In Reykjavik, gastronomy takes a delightful turn, mixing traditional Icelandic ingredients with modern techniques. Whether it’s relishing a bowl of hearty lamb soup, biting into a tasty pylsur hot dog, or savoring the fresh catch of the day – you can be assured Icelandic cuisine covers it all. Don’t miss out on tasting skyr, a unique dairy product that’s similar to yogurt but technically a cheese, and indulging in the local’s love for ice cream – even during icy winters!
Beyond the Tourist Trail
While the Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon are top-of-the-list for first-time visitors, going beyond the tourist trail can offer some of the most rewarding experiences in Iceland. The Westfjords are a raw and remote landscape that few take the time to explore – and their captivating beauty might just make them your favorite part of the Icelandic visit. Visit the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, witness the mesmerizing beauty of the Dynjandi Waterfall, or simply bike around the Rauðasandur Beach – an extraordinary stretch of sands painted in hues of red, orange, and pink.
Glacier Lagoons That Mesmerise
Glacier lagoons, wild and wonderful, are another fantastic feature of Iceland’s extreme landscape. Most famous among them is the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, where shiny icebergs float around, breaking and shattering into a thousand pieces. Breiðárlón and Fjallsárlón, fed by the same glacier as Jökulsárlón, offer equally impressive sights.
Into the Glaciers – Ice Caving
Stepping into a glacier ice cave can feel like entering another world altogether. The naturally occurring ice caves at Vatnajökull glacier offer an enchanted surrounding of brilliant blue ice. If you’re visiting in the winter, when the meltwater freezes solid, this should be high on your to-do list, but remember – safety first! These are formidable works of nature, forever changing, thus it’s essential that you undertake this adventure under the guidance of a trained tour guide.
Hiking Over Glaciers
While most people are content admiring the glacial beauty from a distance, hiking over one offers a uniquely exhilarating experience. With proper safety gear and under expert guidance, traverse over the ice cap of these intimidating structures
– a venture that offers a rush of adrenaline and unforgettable views. Sólheimajökull, an outlet from the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, and Skaftafell Nature Reserve’s glacier could be your icy trek’s destination.
Diving and Snorkeling in Crystal Clear Water
Surprising for many, but Iceland is home to the celebrated dive site – Silfra. Lying in the Þingvellir National Park, Silfra is a fissure filled with spring water that boasts some of the clearest waters on Earth, bestowing visibility exceeding 100m. In summer, Garður, located on the tip of the Reykjanes peninsula, unveils extensive kelp forests brimming with marine life.
Navigating the Rugged Highlands in a 4×4
Thrill-seekers, take note: the Highlands of Iceland are your adventure playground. However, negotiating the challenging roads requires a sturdy 4×4 vehicle and experienced guides. Misty mountain trails unravel a stunning hidden side of Iceland. Visit Landmannalaugar – revered for its vibrant rhyolite mountains and soothing hot springs, and be rewarded with jaw-dropping panoramas every step of the way.
A Snowmobiling Sojourn
Iceland offers a white carpet welcome to snowmobile enthusiasts. You can soar across Langjökull glacier or race over the snowy plains of Akureyri, no matter what, a snowmobile ride in Iceland guarantees an adventurous exploration of the country’s frozen wonders.
Engage With the Locals
The heart of Iceland beats within its people, who are famously friendly, open, and hospitable. From folklore tales to fishing tips, chatting up with locals enriches your journey like nothing else. Plus, the quintessential Icelandic phrase “þetta reddast” – essentially a belief that everything will work out alright – can be a wonderful way to adapt their resilient, optimistic spirit.
Iceland is more than just a destination. It’s a land that inspires, excites, and moves you. It’s an odyssey that awakens your senses, immerses you in unparalleled beauty, compels you to break away from the mundane and celebrates the magnificence of nature. So come and fill your senses with the essence of Iceland, as you tour across this remarkable country accompanied by the harmonious hymn of the wind, fire, earth, and water.