A magical combination of glaciers, geysers and volcanos make Iceland a truly unique landscape. A place where you can experience the joys of wilderness, the warmth of the locals and the true power of earth and Mother Nature.
It is the stark juxtaposition of the fire from the volcanos and ice from the glaciers that give Iceland its staggering landscape and distinctive opportunities for experiences like no other for tourists. In just a day you can soak in a geothermal lagoon, walk on lava fields and black sand beaches, stand atop ice-covered volcanos and under ice cold waterfalls, and take in the sparce and captivating glaciers.
Iceland has more than 125 volcanic mountains, of which many are still active. This knowledge that you are standing atop a thermal hot spot, where nature is at its most unpredictable, is very humbling.
This breathtaking country, which rests just on the edge of the Arctic Circle, is a top destination for visitors across the globe at the moment. Most people, like us, fly into the Keflavik Airport which is around a fifty minute drive from the capital city, Reykjavik.
The city of Reykjavik is a modern and lively hub of colourful architecture, trendy bars, minimalist design and incredibly friendly people. It’s a small capital compared to many of its European neighbours, however for what it lacks in size it certainly makes up for in culture.
You can easily experience all that Reykjavik has to offer in a day, and then use the city as a base to return to after your days out in the vast interior wilderness of the island. Sample local cuisine such as whale, shark and warming soups, and try some of the locally brewed craft-beers.
Three places worth a visit for dinner that we personally loved would be the chic Café Paris, the Frederiksen Ale House, especially for their local cuisine, and the incredible and edgy Hamborgarabulla for reasonably priced meat or vegan burgers.
Getting out on the road and exploring is key to having an incredible and memorable experience in the country with the world’s most northern capital city.
You can hire a car and drive around, or book on one of the many daily tours offered and led by locals. We chose the latter because Iceland is notorious for being unpredictable with the weather. Many roads get closed due to incredibly strong winds, and the ice-topped landscape is often best left to experts to navigate.
Visit the southern coast of Iceland and drive past lava fields, ice-topped volcanos and impressive mountain ranges as you journey towards the must-see black sand beaches at Vik. Stand under the many waterfalls running down between the Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull ice caps. A personal favourite had to be Skogafoss. You can experience the power of it and witness the incredible rainbows forming around it on a sunny bright day. Be prepared to get very wet though if you want to walk right up to it. To the right of the waterfall is a set of steps leading up to an observation platform, and it’s also a place where many people chose to begin a day long hike, after a night camping under the stars into the mountain ranges and many more waterfalls located above.
A hot-spring visit is a must, and there’s many to choose from across the country. Obviously the most famous and primary choice is the Blue Lagoon. Float around warm and misty waters, visit the swim up bars and mask-treatment huts, and experience true relaxation in the strikingly blue waters.
However if you fancy something a little less ‘touristy’ you could always visit the more remote, ‘secret lagoon’ where at night you may even witness the Northern Lights.
The golden circle is a top visit for most tourists in Iceland. Take in the iconic Gullfoss waterfall, and visit a rift where two tectonic plates meet.
Overall, there’s so much to see, do and experience in this country where nature really does rule supreme.
Top Tips For Iceland
Iceland is an expensive country to visit. Make sure you have budgeted properly to get the most out of your visit. You can do certain things to help keep the costs down. Book your tours in advance, pack light snacks to eat on your treks and hikes rather than buying out there, and visit the less touristy hot spots. Happy hours run in most bars between 4-6pm, making your beer cost a much more reasonable £5 a pint rather than the standard £10.
Book your Iceland adventures in advance
Airport transfers, the Blue Lagoon and tours get filled up quickly. Make sure you book in advance, with the Blue Lagoon its mandatory, to avoid getting stung with expensive airport taxi transfers because the buses are full.
Shuttle bus about Reykjavik
We didn’t realise but there’s lots of great free shuttle buses to help you adventure around the capital. Especially if you are heading out to the Perlan museum right on the edge of the town. They stop at most of the numbered main stops around the centre.
Decide on when is best to visit Iceland
June to August is high season, and prices increase during this period. Many people come to experience the great outdoors, slightly warmer weather and the midnight sun phenomenon.
May is good for fewer crowds and better prices, however the weather is still quite temperamental. Expect anything from snow showers to sunny days and pack accordingly.
The winter is good for snow-sports, magical winter sights and possible Northern Light viewing opportunities, however the weather may mean that roads are closed, and travelling around becomes difficult if not impossible.
Take stock of your activities and the time of year you are visiting, and pack accordingly. Good walking boots, a water and wind proof jacket and gloves are essential. The weather can change instantly, so many wearing many layers is your best option.
Seek out the locals
Iceland has a thriving artistic culture, and we were fortunate to experience many elements of this on our trip. From listening to a musician play and sing in her own home, to watching people DJ late into the night, or knit the famous Icelandic woollen clothing, try and immersive yourself among some of the world’s most cultural and creative people!
Expect the unexpected
Iceland is a country like no other, pack your guide books and camera, and prepare to be astonished by the true natural wonder of this small island.