The Nordic Island country of Iceland has a landscape that consists of lava fields, mountains and glaciers, while it’s also home to museums, churches and so much more, making it a fantastic place to explore. Most of the country’s population lies in and around the capital city Reykjavik and from here there are many fantastic days out to enjoy.
The dancing colours of the Northern Lights
The Aurora Borealis is Iceland’s most famous attraction and walking out to a dark spot and looking up might be enough to catch a glimpse of this natural phenomenon. A partially clear night is required to see The Northern Lights, which are caused by electrical particles from the sun interacting with the upper atmosphere near the North Pole, so visiting at the right time of year is paramount. March is considered optimal, though any time from September onwards is ideal.
Tour operators offer unique excursions to see the lights coloured green, pink, white and purple dance amid the dark sky like disco balls.
Have a soak in the Blue Lagoon
This geothermal spa is famous all over the world for its warm blue waters, a colour that appears to be generated because of the silica in the water, while in the summer the algae gives it a green colour. However, both colours are actually a trick of the eye produced by the sun reflecting on the water. The average temperature of the lagoon, which is filled with an incredible nine million litres of water, is 37-40°C.
There’s a swim-up bar where you can order healthy smoothies, or simple sit back and just soak up the atmosphere of this remarkable lagoon, with its healing properties, and enjoy the fantastic views of the surrounding Grindavik volcanic lava fields.
Watch the thrilling Gullfoss Waterfall
This is one of Iceland’s most popular attractions, glowing a beautiful golden colour in the sunlight thanks to the glacial sediment in the water. All waterfalls are wonderful to watch, whether they’re small or large, but this one, which begins in the canyon of the river Hvita, cascades down three steps before finally plunging in two further stages. It’s quite a sight especially with the snow peaked mountains in the background.
Gullfoss is located in the furthest part of the Golden Circle, which is a route covering 300 kilometres, where other popular natural attractions are located such as Pingvellir National Park and Kerio volcanic crater. As you approach this waterfall, it might seem like it’s disappearing into the earth but this is just an optical illusion.
Go on a whale safari in Reykjavik
Travel just minutes from Iceland’s capital city Reykjavik, and you’ll have the chance to discover 23 different types of whale including minke and humpback whales, this is a great excursions for all the family to easily enjoy.
Trips depart from the Old Harbour or from Akureyri’s Downtown Pier. Whether you opt for going out on a more traditional vessel or a thrilling rib boat, you’ll have the chance to see white-beaked dolphins, harbour porpoises, and a variety of seabirds including puffins. Most tours run from April to October. This is a time when the Northern Lights won’t usually be visible, so whale safaris are a fun alternative.
Go underground at Europe’s second largest ice cave Langjokull glacier
Take a ride into the tranquil mountains to experience the second largest glacier area in Europe. Langjokull glacier ice cave is remarkable and visitors can even venture inside the cave, where you’ll discover an amazing 500-metre tunnel, which reaches down some 30-metres into the glacier.
There are interior man-made chambers, which are lit up with blue and purple LED lights. One of the most exhilarating ways to get to the glacier is by monster truck. But depending on the tour you choose, there are a few places they could stop off on the way to the glacier, such as Deildartunguhver geothermal spring, the most powerful geothermal spring in Europe, as well as Hraunfossar waterfall otherwise known as Lava Falls.
Visit the finest Black Beach in Iceland
Join an escorted tour, or make your own way to this striking beach. It extends quite far out, but the most popular area is Reynisdrangur near Vik Village in Southern Iceland. It boasts remarkable basalt columns, small caves and unusually-shaped stacks in the sea.
Walk a couple of hundred yards on the sand and pebble beach to reach the hexagonal-shaped rocks that make up the cliff face then wander into the caves to enjoy the spooky abstract reflections that appear when it’s wet. A guide will ensure you go at the right time of day to avoid the high tide and will be able to provide some interesting history about the area including folklore. At high tide the waves will crash against the rocks – something’s that quite striking to watch from above, while the views to Dyrholaey are also lovely. Don’t forget to look out for birdlife such as puffins and guillemots.
Enjoy a wonderful day out in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik
There are many things to do in this wonderful city. To get a birds-eye view of Downtown Reykjavik, the sea and hills in the distance, simply head to the top of Hallgrimskirkja Church. This is also the largest church in Iceland and the concrete design was inspired by the basalt columns of the Svartifoss waterfall in Southern Iceland, similar to those at Reynisdrangur Beach, and a source of inspiration for many Icelandic architects.
If you’re in the area over a weekend, get into the spirit of the Reykjavik way of life by visiting Kolaportio flea market by the harbour – the biggest flea market in Iceland. Here you can buy new and second-hand objects including Icelandic knitted jumpers called lopapeysa. Local food to try includes shellfish, and shark meat, which is considered to cure ailments. Both are popular delicacies.
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