If we had just one word to describe Iceland, that word would be EPIC! Seriously, there are countless reasons to go and especially if you like your adventure with a few extra doses of thrilling thrown in. Also known as the “Land of Fire and Ice,” Iceland is one of the youngest landmasses on earth. One of the more interesting facts about Iceland is its small population of just around 360,000 people who are mostly living in the coastal areas. That fact leaves you plenty of pristine natural environments to explore without rubbing too many elbows.
There are volcanos, glaciers, geysers, waterfalls, caves, rivers, lakes, lava fields and spectacular coasts for you to enjoy. Iceland’s incredible display of nature is so vast and diverse, you’ll never get bored with the views. There are also more than enough amazing things to do here, so much so, you will probably find it challenging to choose what activities to engage in. Favorites for active travelers include kayaking, horseback riding, skiing, and hiking. For those looking for cultural experiences, there are interesting museums and historical tours to learn more about Iceland’s intriguing history.
Iceland is the perfect place for a solo adventure, or for couples and groups looking for unique experiences. Iceland is especially so for those with children. Whether you fly in or cruise in on an expedition ship or ferry, you’ll find that Iceland is fairly easy to get around with a proper vehicle. Renting a 4x4 is by far one of the most popular ways of touring the island. Depending on how ambitious you are, Highway 1 circles most of the island, giving you the chance to explore more of the off the beaten path places. We suggest visiting Iceland at the very least twice and during different times of the year so you can fully appreciate the nuances between the seasons here.
Reykjavík - Iceland’s capital with the bragging rights of being the most northern capital in the world is a small city with a captivating ambiance. Walking tours of Old Reykjavík are a great way to start off your holiday and get your bearings while enjoying some of the great food here. One interesting thing to do within close distance to Reykjavík are the lava tubes at Raufarhólshellir. This is one of the longest tubes in the country and easily combines with other excursions to Black Beach or The Golden Circle. During the season, there are tours which combine a Northern Lights hunt to double your pleasure.
The Golden Circle - For stunning scenery and experiencing the diversity of Iceland’s natural environment, this is one of the most popular things to do. With none of the locations being further than a 2 hour drive from Reykjavík, many visitors make this a day trip to see the Gullfoss Waterfall, Thingvellir National Park and the Geysir geothermal area.
Snæfellsnes Peninsula – In western Iceland and one of Iceland’s must-see, here you will find the Snæfellsjökull National Park and a wealth of things to see and do. Just a few of the highlights here are geothermal pools, the stunning Eldborg Crater, lava-tube caves, the Gerðuberg Cliffs, Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge, the iconic Mount Kirkjufell, and of course, the Snæfellsjökull Glacier.
Beyond the South - Having covered a couple of Iceland’s most touristic places in the south where most visitors concentrate, we highly recommend getting off the well-beaten paths and visiting Iceland’s east, west and north where you will have landscapes to die for and will be sharing them with fewer people. The spectacular Aldeyjarfoss Waterfall in the North is beautiful and peaceful place which makes for perfect days exploring nature. At Strandir in the remote Westfjords, you will find the Krossneslaug geothermal infinity pool with where you can relax and enjoy the views. In the east is Víknaslóðir, which is a perfect place for hiking.
Puffins - About 60% of the world’s population of Atlantic Puffins come in from the sea to breed in several locations circling the coast of Iceland between late May and August. Some of the best spots include Heimaey Island off the south coast and Papey Island on the east coast. (See Gallery for more info)
Geothermal Pools - While the Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions with about 80% of visitors to the island visiting here, most people don’t know this is actually a man-made lagoon that has become somewhat of a tourist trap, but may still be worth considering for a pleasant spa day if that is what you seek. There are loads of natural geothermal baths to visit for those who wish for a truly authentic experience. Landmannalaugar is a great place to experience a lovely bath with a stunning backdrop of colorful mountains within a more rugged environment. The Mývatn Nature Baths are another excellent spot. This is a perfect winter location with the added bonus of boiling mud pits, volcanic cones and steaming lava.
When To Go
While Iceland can be enjoyed anytime of the year, choosing the best time to go is an important consideration and depends on what your goals are for your trip. Climate wise, Iceland has long and fairly mild winters when considering Iceland's location. Summers are short, yet refreshing with pleasant temperatures. Bear in mind, weather conditions can change quickly and being prepared for this is a great idea.
If you are going to Iceland with plans to see the Northern Lights, there are a few things you will need to do to increase your chances of seeing them. The first thing is to plan to go somewhere between September and April. After that, just pray to the Roman goddess of the dawn, Aurora because you’ll need clear skies, the right weather and some guidance. Hunting the Northern Lights is an adventure itself. Fortunately, there are experts who can lead the way and give you your best shot.
For whale watching, Reykjavík offers tours all year with the very best times to spot whales being June through August. In other places like Húsavík, tours are offered from the end of April through October.
From mid-May to late August, there is no rest for the wicked! 24 Hours of daylight, and for those going to see the Midnight Sun, the peak is around the summer solstice. For nature lovers and photographers, this is an especially beautiful time to be in Iceland making it also a very popular time for tourism and locals to be out enjoying nature.
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