Let me start by saying how much I LOVE Iceland. It’s probably in my top 5 on a long list of countries I’ve visited because it offers so many interesting and unique experiences. To share some of the love and get us on the same page, here are my recommendations for what to do with some notable mentions at the bottom. Enjoy!
Note: My visits to Iceland were in two different Winter seasons. With the exceptions of seeing the lights and seeing snow, all of the following are applicable in Summer (but don’t forget to take advantage of more outdoorsy adventures like the midnight sun, horse back riding, volcano tours, etc)
1. Chase the northern lights – Imagine a beautiful, mystical green mist dancing in the sky in front of you. Nothing is guaranteed but if you do see them, auroras are truly a phenomenon you’ll remember forever. In comparison to their Scandinavian counterparts, Iceland is one of the most accessible and easy to navigate places to see the lights. Either draw up a plan yourself, hire a guide or jump on a bus tour. It took me two trips to see them and using a different approach the second time, I saw them flare up three times, one of which, was in a hot tub. Drinking wine. I’ll share my approach in a later post but for now, if you go during the months of August to April, there’s a chance you’ll get to see them.
(Apologies for the blurry photos, just goes to show how difficult to capture they are if you don’t have the right equipment)
2. Kick back and relax in a geothermal pool – Along with being a hot spring naturally heated by mother nature, due to higher mineral content in the water, the pools are also meant to be quite therapeutic. And therapeutic they were! The pick of the litter is the famous Blue Lagoon, located in a lava field. Apart from the unique cloudy blue water, they have crates of mud you can rub on your face and an in-lagoon bar allowing you to drink in the pool while you get some serious R&R.
3. Dog sledding – Not only is it fun to use the local, carbon free transportation and feel like an Eskimo explorer (or Santa) but there’s a nice side benefit of being able to take in a nice view of the country side. The dogs are also super friendly and playful. Highly recommended, just getting to interact with the dogs was worth the price of admission alone.
(Note: In Summer, dog sledding is still available but on a trolley cart instead of a sleigh)
4. Visit the Golden circle – The name for a 300km route showcasing 3 main attractions of Iceland:
Geysir – a gushing spout of water that periodically erupts and spurts high into the sky? It doesn’t last long, but it’s pretty cool to see mother nature hard at work.
Gullfoss Waterfall – seduced by the beauty, the power and the vastness of the mighty Golden falls, this was hands down my favourite out of the three Circle sites. A must see.
Þingvellir national Park – The historical site said to be responsible for the founding of the nation of Iceland, it houses the former parliament, great walks and sites where tectonic plates meet, causing cracks on the fault lines. There have also been suggestions this is a good place to see the lights due to the wide canyon without any obstructions blocking your view.
5. Drive the country side – one of the best drives I’ve experienced. There’s a reason why numerous big budget, Hollywood films shoot here. The landscape is out of this world yet magnificently stunning and extremely scenic. There were times my brain was trying to convince me I was on another planet. Films include: Interstellar, Tomb Raider, Prometheus, Batman Begins, Die Another Day, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty among others. More than likely, you’ll also be able to spot some very handsome Icelandic horses with stylish manes, on road side paddocks.
– Jökulsárlón (The Jökulsár Lagoon) – A eye popping glacial lake. Everytime I go to Iceland, I plan to go here but due to being situated in Southeast Iceland, it’s inconvenient to get to if you don’t have anything else nearby you want to see
– Be adventurous with Icelandic cuisine
- Food – try whale, shark, puffin and horse if you’re game
- Hotdogs from Islendingar borda SS pylsur are cheap and delicious
- Beers are great – I recommend trying Viking, Brio or doing a beer tasting
- For something non alcoholic, try the traditional Icelandic soft drink, Malt og Appelsín, which is refreshing, sweet and malty.
– Lake Mývatn – A remote lake great for birdwatching, crater hiking and an underground bakery. Not many food options available but the Cowshed Cafe (because there are cows in the shed) has a pretty tasty menu. We ate 5 meals in a row there.
– Hallgrimskirkja (in Reykjavik) – The largest Church in the country is architecturally impressive. See for yourself: