They always say, don’t do something just because someone else is doing it. And to that, we say, don’t do something just because someone else is doing it, UNLESS the thing they are doing is going to Iceland.
Part alien planet, part tough, but vibrant home to an incredibly resilient culture, there’s a reason all the cool kids are heading to the Land of Fire and Ice (which, now that we think about it, maybe Mr. R.R. Martin could have gone a little farther for inspiration?).
14. Golden Circle Route
The Golden Circle Route is easily your best bet on a day out from Reykjavik. Take a tour to explore Europe’s most varied topographical marvels (think waterfalls, dramatic geysers, vast lava fields and rare volcanic crater formations) on a single trip. Don’t miss the Thingvellir National Park—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—and Geysir and Strokkur geysers with eruptions every few minutes.
13. Blue Lagoon
Iceland’s most famous geothermal spa, located smack in the middle of Svartsengi National Park’s lava fields, is an ethereal-looking outdoor lagoon brimming with naturally hot geothermal water and a host of minerals, which are reportedly great for the skin. Swim in the pool, enjoy in-water spa treatments or people-watch at the adjoining cafe.
12. Gulfoss Waterfall
Located on Hvita River in western Iceland, Gulfoss, which plunges 105 feet, is one of Iceland’s many natural wonders. Watch the falls transform into a rushing flow of gold-tinged water when the glacial sediment in the water catches the sunlight. Wear sturdy shoes and carry a waterproof jacket. If you’re lucky, you’ll find an almost magical rainbow light up the sky over the falls on a bright, sunny day.
11. Akurey Island
Picturesquely nestled about half a mile from Reykjavik, Akurey (also known as Puffin Island) is known for housing a large puffin colony, in addition to seagulls, arctic terns, eider ducks and Northern fulmars. Tourists flock to catch a glimpse of the puffins during their nesting and feeding period when they are spotted in large numbers here, so go ahead and put a bird on it!
10. Myrdalsjokull Glacier
The 2,460 feet thick and 270 square miles long Myrdalsjokull Glacier is the country’s fourth largest glacier and one of the most visually stunning sights on a clear sky day. The entire ice cap nestles above Katla Volcano, one of the hemisphere’s largest active volcanoes, erupting every 40-60 years. Avoid exploring the glacier on your own (changing weather and unstable ice can make solo treks dangerous) and take guided tours to enjoy activities such as dog sledding and snow scooter rides.
9. Leidarendi Lava Caves
Featuring tunnels of multi-colored lava, dripping stalactites and unusual rock formations, the Leidarendi Lava Caves is almost like a subterranean galaxy. This fascinating, more than 2,000 years old, solidified lava network is nestled under the vast Stora-Bollahraun expanse, stretching underground for a good half mile, located in southern Iceland. Bring flashlights to navigate through its tapered passageways.
8. Mount Esja
On the horizon of northern Reykjavik, the looming Mount Esja offers a picture-perfect backdrop for the city and is a popular attraction on its own. The mountain cap is formed by rhyolite rock that changes colors in sunlight. Get ready to be stunned by incredible views of Reykjavik and its surrounding bay from the top.
7. Reynisfjara Beach
Located about 180 kilometers southeast of Reykjavik, Reynisfjara is a black sand beach encircled by crashing, unpredictable waves and fascinating basalt columns cliff. Be amazed by the numerous basalt stacks and abundant marine bird life (puffins, guillemots).
6. Reykjavik Walking Tour
What better way to explore Iceland’s storybook capital than on a walking tour? Take in the city’s most iconic attractions, including Harpa Concert Hall, the multihued Ãžingholt homes, the Hallgrimskirkja Church, the Sun Voyager and the old Harbor. Witness the fascinating culture, natural magnificence and traditions of Iceland firsthand.
5. Whale Watch at Husavik
Climb aboard a heavily used boat, and take off on a memorable whale-watching adventure from the tiny Husavik port into Skjalfandi Bay on the north coast, a mere 50 miles from the Arctic Circle. The vessel guzzles into the chilly sea until you spot the fascinating mammals gracefully lifting their heads from the water for a once in a lifetime experience.
4. Viking World Museum
Enjoy a glimpse into the fascinating lives of the erstwhile Vikings with a visit to the Viking World Museum, the showcase exhibit being the iconic Viking ship (a near-perfect replica of a 9th century Viking ship — the Icelander). Walk under the hull or take a peek on board. Other interesting memorabilia echoes Viking history, in addition to a Viking playground for kids, a cafe (offering sweeping oceanic vistas) and a Settlement Zoo.
3. The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)
Sitting right on top of several travel bucket lists, witnessing the Northern Lights phenomenon is truly a once in a lifetime experience. If you are fortunate, the Aurora Borealis natural light show can be seen in a majority of places throughout the country from September to April.
2. Mt. Kirkjufell, Grundarfjördur
The fairy tale fishing hamlet of Grundarfjordur is a half hour drive from Reykjavik on Snaefellsnes peninsula’s northern coast. Surrounded by picturesque mountains (Mt. Kirkjufell is the most noteworthy), this charming village is nestled in a postcard-perfect fjord. Visit the Eyrbyggia Heritage Centre for glimpses of the region’s maritime history.
Nestled approximately 200 kilometers from Reykjavik, the Landmannalaugar National Park offers a surreal landscape replete with rhyolite mountains, vast lava fields and the famous Hekla volcano. Go hiking or horseback riding from June to September. Stop by for raw and rough Icelandic natural beauty at its best.