Iceland’s landscapes are dramatic and strange, perfect for avid photo-takers, and the country remains relatively uncrowded, even at peak tourist season. As otherworldly as it may sound, travel to Iceland is actually quite easy. Wondering what to do in Iceland? Read this article which will lead you to all the magical spots of this unique country.
A favorite stop along the Golden Circle is the highly active Geysir Hot Spring Area with boiling mud pits, exploding geysers and the lively Strokkur which spouts water 30 meters (100 ft) into the air every few minutes. The newly opened Geysir Center offers exhibits and informative presentations year round.
The area became active more than 1000 years ago and comprises more than a dozen hot water blow holes. Although Geysir is less active these days, it did lend its name to hot springs all over the world.
A truly unique experience offered is Geysir or ‘hot spring bread’ where visitors assist a chef to boil eggs outside in a hot spring, and dig up rye bread that has been ‘baking’ underground for 24 hours.
2. WHALE WATCHING
There are many reasons for the success of whale watching in Iceland; including the number of whales species, accessibility and the success rates of the tours. The summer months have generally been considered the high season for whale watching in Iceland but the winter months have increasingly proved an exciting and adventurous whale watching period.
We encourage guests to choose an IceWhale operator for boat-based whale watching in Iceland. Don’t forget – you can also watch whales from land in some parts of Iceland.
3. GULLFOSS WATERFALL
A ride along the Golden Circle in the south reveals the breathtaking Gullfoss ‘Golden’ Waterfalls where traversing a narrow path provides close-up views of the massive, two-tiered waterfall below.
In winter the view is spectacular when the waterfall freezes over into undulating waves of glistening ice. On sunny days visitors are treated to thousands of rainbows, a natural reaction with the clouds of spray from the tumbling falls.
4. BLUE LAGOON
Located a mere 40 minute drive from the Reykjavik city center, the Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa is one of Iceland’s most visited sites with more than 400,000 visitors annually. It was voted ‘the best medical spa worldwide’ by Conde Nast Traveller and recognized as one of National Geographic’s 25 ‘wonders of the world’.
The lagoon holds six million liters of geothermal seawater, which is renewed every 40 hours. The Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater is a part of an ecocycle where nature and science work in harmony. The seawater originates 2000 meter beneath the ground where it is heated by earth’s natural forces. At this depth the temperature is 240°C and the pressure is 36 times the pressure on the earth’s surface. On the way to the surface the geothermal seawater comes into contact with cooling magmatic intrusions and captures the earth’s minerals, resulting in this unique natural source known for its healing power and actives
5. JOKULSARLON GLACIAL LAGOON
Iceland’s south coast boasts the constantly changing Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon, where blue, white, turquoise and black streaked icebergs shift and creak about in an icy dance. The icebergs are 1,000-year-old chunks of the retreating Oraefajokull glacier that have broken off and are floating out to sea.
The mystical lagoon is enormous and has provided the backdrop for many major feature films and programs including ‘Batman Begins’ and most recently ‘Game of Thrones.’
The lagoon is open to the sea and contains a mixture of salt and freshwater, giving it a unique blue-green color. During summer months boat rides on the lagoon are offered and there are opportunities to hike around the perimeter year round. There are seals hanging out atop the icebergs during winter and the lagoon supports many species of fish, as well as some of the rich birdlife Iceland is famous for.
6. KIRKJUFELL MOUNTAIN
No, you’re not in a dream. This dazzling mountain is called Kirkjufell, and it really, truly exists. The mountain is near Grundarfjörður, a teensy-weensy town in western Iceland. With a summit 1,500 feet above sea level, Mount Kirkjufell the biggest landmark in the village of about 900 residents.
Kirkjufell stands on a little peninsula of its own, a stunning backdrop for the multicolored Icelandic sky.
7. HALLGRÍMSKIRKJA CHURCH
Hallgrímskirkja church is Reykjavík’s main landmark and its tower can be seen from almost everywhere in the city.
It was designed by the late Guðjón Samuel in 1937, who was often inspired in his endeavours by the fascinating shapes and forms created when lava cools into basalt rock. Construction of the church began in 1945 and ended in 1986, with the tower completed long before the rest of the building. The crypt beneath the choir was consecrated in 1948, the steeple and wings completed in 1974 and the nave consecrated in 1986.
The church features, most notably, a gargantuan pipe organ designed and constructed by the German organ builder Johannes Klais of Bonn.
8. BLUE ICE CAVES
Located on the frozen lagoon of the Svínafellsjökull glacier in Skaftafell, Iceland, the blue ice caves is a rare wonder to behold.
Formed from centuries-old ice from the slopes of Öræfajökull that has transformed into highly pressurized glacier ice containing hardly any air bubbles, the ice caves are almost transparent, except that it is filtered by the blue fraction of light visibl to the naked eye. However, this blue ice can only be seen under certain conditions, mostly during winter after a long season of rain, when the glacier’s surface layer has been washed away.
Streams of melt water from glacier ice pour enter the glacier through its crevices, creating bigger and bigger holes through the ice, and thus the ice tunnels or ice caves are formed. Sediments eroded by the streams remain in the muddy cave floor while the top of the cave is a genuine crystalline blue, an amazing sight to behold.
9. SEE THE PUFFINS
Iceland is home to one of the world’s largest puffin colonies and these charismatic creatures are certainly worth looking out for.
The puffins arrive in April and depart in August and can be seen around the coast during this period. Some of the best places for bird watching are Cape Dyrhólaey in the south, Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands) off the South Coast and Látrabjarg Cliff in the Westfjords.
10. SNORKEL BETWEEN TECTONIC PLATES
This really is a once in a lifetime opportunity as the Silfra in the Thingvellir National Park is the only place in the world where you can swim between two tectonic plates.
The plates are pulling apart at a rate of about an inch a year and the crystal clear glacier water creates some of the best snorkeling and diving in the world, with visibility of around 120 metres.
Although there is no wildlife to be seen, swimming along the great gap between the Eurasian and American tectonic plates is a pretty surreal experience and one definitely not to be missed. If you are worried about the cold, don’t be – the water temperature varies between 2-4C during the year.