I have a "Bucket List" and a "Must Do Again" Bucket List. Iceland is on both!
I fell in love with Iceland! I regret that the time I spent there was way too short! There is truly so much to see and do in this magnificently unique country. My bad. I was naive. Listen to me now and hear me later - Iceland is one of the most amazing places on Earth.
We were heading to Denmark to do a Scandinavian bus tour through Denmark, Sweden and Norway. When I learned Icelandair offers a lay-over deal – up to 7 nights in Iceland at no extra cost on airfare, I thought 3 days was going to be enough. I was very wrong.
There are so many amazing jaw-dropping sites in this phenomenal country. Are you a beach person? Go to one of Iceland’s impressive beaches. Are you a winter hiker? Iceland has a glacier for you – a few of them in fact. Would you like to experience 24-hour sunshine? Summer Solstice is in June. Or maybe you'd like to experience one of the best displays of the Northern Lights in the world? Well, you can do that too, between September and March, in Iceland. You see where I am going with this? A short trip is only a tease.
My next trip is a plan for the perfect driving trip, exploring the entire Ring Road. Here are just a few highlights that attract me to the top of the world and the reasons why Iceland is number one on my Bucket Lists.
The Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s most famous attraction. An enormous and luxurious natural geothermal spa of turquoise coloured seawater. The Blue Lagoon is a most relaxing and wonderful thermal experience not to mention, it is said that the water has healing properties, as it contains silica and many other minerals that help treat skin conditions and ailments.
You can also book an appointment at the luxury spa for additional treatments or purchase a bottle (or two) of the skin care line from the Blue Lagoon store to take home. Enjoy, a delicious meal in the restaurant overlooking the lagoon or sip a refreshment or 2 at the swim up bar while enjoying a Silica Mud Mask.
Suggestion: Book your visit ahead of time. Go when you arrive directly from the airport or on departure on way back to the airport. Be sure to leave lots of time to stay and enjoy your experience. This is definitely something you don't want to rush through.
We had an overnight flight so booked our visit for first thing after landing at Keflavik Airport, the transfer took us directly to Blue Lagoon for a morning of sheer bliss before heading to our hotel in Reykjavik in the afternoon. What a way to start a 3-week vacation??
Unique landscape formations that date back to almost every era since the Ice Age with Snaefellsjokull glacier lying within the park. Visitors can roam and explore the many hiking trails throughout the park while observing the flora and fauna throughout the area. You will be awed by the moss-covered lava fields formed over the centuries of eruptions.
A most spectacular waterfall that I've heard referred to as “The Thunderer”. Consisting of 7 tiered cascades dropping 100 meters. They are easily accessible and perfect stop for a picnic or stay longer and go camping in the nearby campground - Can you imagine listening to the sound of a waterfall all night? Keep your eyes open for the old turf farmhouse ruins.
A little geography lesson – in short – this is the place where a mid-ocean ridge can be seen on land. The point between North America and Europe where the plates are shifting away from each other causing cracks, rivers, lakes and gullies. This is one of the few areas in the world where you can observe the 2 major plates above sea level.
Our tour guide took us down a path and had us stand in the middle of one of the large cracks and said, “Now you are NOWHERE. You are neither in North America nor are you in Europe. You are in between.” It was the best explanation. For any Game of Thrones fans, this location was also the backdrop to several scenes.
Travel back in time to the Viking Age in this open-air museum. One of my personal favourites as I've always had an interest in Viking history. Here you can explore a replica of the 9th century Viking ship Islendingur (Icelander) that sailed across the Atlantic to Newfoundland and New York in 2000 in celebration of Leif Ericsson’s voyage. Make sure to visit the fascinating section on Norse mythology.
The Black Lava Pearl Beach in the west of Iceland where the rock formations resemble trolls, elfin churches. Here you will see the Gatklettur, the arch-like rock with a hole through it where you can view the Snaefellsjokull glacier. You will need your camera for this picturesque beauty, as you will also find two stunning freshwater lagoons nearby said to have “healing properties”
AAAhhh!! The piece de resistance. I dream of this opportunity! Most often between the months of September and March, if you are lucky and the weather right, this is the ionization and excitation of atmospheric constituents that emit light of varying colour and complexity. Sometimes more active than others but gives the effect that the sky is dancing in greens, blues, pinks and reds.
Although you can see the northern lights from many other places in the world as they are present from both polar regions, Iceland is known to be one of the best areas.
Located at the top of the hill in the capital city of Reykjavik is this majestic Lutheran parish church and is the largest church as well as the tallest structure in Iceland. Designed to resemble the trap rocks, mountains and glaciers of Iceland’s landscape the construction took over 40 years to be completed.
Have a peek inside to see the large pipe organ, you might even get to hear it being played. Then take the elevator up for a panoramic view of the city from the viewing deck. In the courtyard is a Leif Ericson monument, the Norse explorer who discovered North America approximately 500 years before Christopher Columbus.
We did the Golden Circle Route on a tour bus. This route is definitely, a “must see” although it is a popular tourist zone in the southern portion of the country. It's an approximately 300 km loop with stops at some of the most popular but spectacular sites in Iceland.
Strokkur Geyser is one of the most famous geysers erupting every 5 to 10 minutes and up to 40 meters high since 1789 when an earthquake unblocked it's conduit. Suggestion: wear a rain jacket.
Þingvellir National Park is a valley caused by the separation of the Tectonic Plates. Follow the path between the river and the cliff wall. This is also the site of Iceland’s founding parliament. You will also see the ruins of old stone shelters and the Þingvellir church. Go to the top for a breathtaking view of the valley.
Gullfoss Waterfall (Golden Falls) is Iceland’s most famous waterfall on the Hvita River. Walk down along the path to the lower base of the falls or along the top for the amazing view from above. This is a wide curved 3 tier waterfall plunges into a 20-meter-wide crevice.
Iceland is the most intense volcanic places in the world consisting of over 130 active and inactive volcanos in total. Hekla is in the top 4 most active volcanoes in the country and often referred to as the Gates of Hell.
Still, the upturned boat shaped volcano has been used as a backdrop to many films over the years and is a popular hiking and camping destination.
Take your pick of one of the many boat tour trips that go out several times a day in all seasons where you can expect to see any of the 23 various kinds of whales including the humpback or minke whale.
You can see dolphins as well as puffins in the summer months! Although the puffin is not Iceland’s national bird, the Atlantic puffin is only found in the Northern Hemisphere.
You may like a bird’s eye view of this spectacular country/ Nordurflug offers a wonderful variety of tours up to 2 hours with an areal view of the capital city of Reykjavik. Of course, Iceland’s weather can be unpredictable and change quickly, therefore a helicopter tour is dependant on this factor but well worth it if they can take you out. Many of the tours include landings with time to explore.
Fire & Ice tour – amazing views over waterfalls and includes 2 landings, one on a glacier and the other on a volcano.
Countless Craters – flies over the lava fields, you’ll see the coastline and revel over the layers and layers of volcanic lava that formed the island. Soar over the “moonlike Reykjanes Peninsula” and the numerous volcanic craters, Seltun geothermal area, Blue Lagoon and Lake Kleifarvatn.
Geothermal – will take you over the most active volcanic areas in Iceland and lands in the Hengill geothermal area.
After one short trip, if you ask me to describe Iceland in one sentence, I would say… Iceland is the land of utter inspiration unlike any place I have ever been, it is the land of fire and ice, rugged and phenomenal beauty.
In the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, “I’ll be back” - and if I have it my way more than once.
Beth, Out of Office