An insider’s guide to unforgettable experiences
How to engage into the myths of Iceland when finally there? This article will let you In on some of the lesser known parts of Iceland worth visiting whilst, with recommendations, but also showing what is the most popular and common things to experience while there
Iceland, often referred to as the Land of Fire and Ice, is simply a breathtaking destination where you can explore landscapes that seem to defy logic and imagination. A country of striking contrasts, Iceland is home to incredible geological wonders, including glaciers, volcanos, and stunning black-sand beaches. The nature boasts of striking colors, and even how the light hits the land is giving its unique character. I remember my first visit back in 2017, it was breath-taking. The air, the light, the colors and the people (and also the sulphur-smell of the warm water coming from the geothermal springs my nose don’t seem to forget!). If you are planning to embark on a journey to this captivating island, you’ll easily find yourself immersed in rich history, unique culture, and diverse natural beauty that envelop Iceland like a spell. But, if you want to go a layer deeper and not just follow the more touristic recommendations, I will give you some tips here to a more exploratory journey that gets you into the landscape and stories of Iceland. First off, is an introduction to Iceland in general, and following that, our recommendations for what you should see and do while there.
Greetings from the weather of the North
The climate of Iceland is as unpredictable and diverse as its landscapes, and can change rapidly over short distances. You might witness bright sunshine, followed by rain, fog, or even snow, all in a single day. The average summer high is 18 degrees Celcius, though don’t travel without a wool sweater and rain clothes. My first journey there was in September, my second experience in Iceland was in March. September is quite optimal for breathtaking light conditions, surreal natural colors of the grass and leaves of the trees, and even a bit less of a mass tourist experience. March is harsher, truly living up to the wild climate that can be with sudden change of weather. Though the nature is still incredible, mystic and out of this world.
One can only imagine how it was for the first settlers on this island back in 874. (Allegedly, the first settlers was in fact a Norwegian chieftain, Ingólfur Arnason and his family, though others claim Irish monks came first gave up to settle due to harsh weather conditions. Unlike the North of Scandinavia and even Greenland, Iceland is said to not have had a native population and that the first settlers indeed came from the North of Europe.
Even climate change and increased cultivation of the land has had noticeable impacts on Iceland’s environment, with retreating glaciers and shifting ecosystems. The famous Golf Stream that provides Iceland and Norway with warmth enough to make the lands habitable is also said to possibly alter its course due to changing salinity and fresh water balance in the oceans. Volcanic activity affects the climatic condition as well. Litli Hrútur erupted in 2023 and seismic activity levels are high throughout the years. Icelanders are prepared in case there is an eruption, ready to leave their belongings and flee to the sea in matter of minutes. This simply adds to the understanding that the people of Iceland are living on a geological hotspot, making it even more intriguing. Your journey through this ever-evolving landscape will be nothing short of an enriching and possibly life-changing experience.
Arriving to Iceland
Upon arriving on Keflavik International airport, there are three other domestic airports accessible with small planes that allows you to cross the island in a faster way. If not, you will have to manage with driving – which is highly recommended as part of your journey (unless you’d prefer travel by horse or by walk, making it a very long trip) . Iceland´s transport system is reflective of a scattered population across the island, and also the fact that the middle part of the island is significantly less populated and nature-rich (and simply stunning!). You can’t access without an offroad car in the center part of the island, but don’t worry, Iceland have plenty of cars available for renting if needed, though at a relatively high cost. We rented SUV´s with full insurance, though they were not offroad cars, which meant we couldn’t drive ourselves to the central parts of the Iceland as we had to actually pass a high-river on the way.
Another way to arrive to Iceland is by boat, a ferry. This ferry departs from Hirtshals in Denmark and only goes in the Summer months of June to August. That is a significantly longer route, though it allows for you to bring your own transport (motorbike, car, camper or caravan) if traveling. This ferry is expected to take 2-3 days, so be prepared to stay on the water and follow the motion of the waves for a few days – which can be quite tranquilizing. For updated information about the ferry and travel options, go to this site: https://booking.smyrilline.fo/en/.
Airlines that get you there: https://yourfriendinreykjavik.com/fly-to-iceland/
Your start point Reykjavik
Starting from Reykjavík, the vibrant and colourful capital of Iceland actually can throw some surprises. Modern museums, thriving foods, authentic (and some fake, be aware) wool clothes outlets, brand stores (slightly touristic) accompanied by stunning historical buildings such as the Hallgrimskirka built between 1945 and 1986. You can also venture beyond the familiar tourist trail, Laugavegur, of Reykjavik and gives you the possibility to explore a more hidden side of this island nation. However, being a small population of You’ll not only explore the stunning landscapes, but also have the opportunity to observe the fascinating wildlife that thrives in Iceland’s varied habitats. As you traverse the Land of Fire and Ice, you’ll come to understand the true magnificence of nature’s wonders and develop a deeper connection with our planet and its delicate balance.
Glorious Glacial Landscapes
Majestic Fjords and Rivers
Iceland’s glacial landscapes feature stunning fjords and rivers carved out by glaciers during the Ice Age. They create breathtaking scenes that are unique to the country. Vast Vatnajökull glacier, the largest in Europe, is a prime example of Iceland’s spectacular glacial features. As you explore the numerous fjords and glacial rivers, take in the mesmerising beauty that the country has to offer.
Landmannalaugar to Vatnajökull
One of the most popular hiking trails in the country connects the geothermal region of Landmannalaugar to the icy giant, Vatnajökull. As you make your way through this contrasting landscape, you’ll experience a variety of geological wonders. From steaming hot springs and vibrant moss-covered lava fields to the towering ice sheet of Vatnajökull, this trail allows you to fully appreciate the diversity of Iceland’s landscapes.
The Mystique of Glacial Lagoons
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and its lesser-known neighbour, Fjallsárlón, are two of the most enchanting places in Iceland. These glacial lagoons, located at the edge of Vatnajökull Glacier, are filled with floating icebergs that create a mesmerising scene. At Jökulsárlón, the icebergs eventually drift out to sea, making their way onto the nearby Diamond Beach. The striking contrast of black sand and glistening ice makes this destination a must-see. Additionally, the ice caves inside the glaciers present a unique and surreal experience. Guided tours are available to safely explore these fascinating formations.
Iceland’s otherworldly glacial landscapes boast a vast range of breathtaking scenery, from impressive ice caps and pristine fjords to magical lagoons and ice tunnels. Your journey through these unforgettable landscapes will surely leave you in awe of nature’s power and beauty.
Exploring Volcanic Iceland
From Eyjafjallajökull to the Westfjords
In your journey across Iceland, you’ll encounter its incredible volcanic landscape, from the infamous Eyjafjallajökull to the rugged beauty of the Westfjords. Eyjafjallajökull, a glacier-capped volcano, gained notoriety after its 2010 eruptiondisrupted air travel across Europe. Nearby, Katla, another powerful volcano, remains closely monitored for signs of future eruptions.
Iceland’s Westfjords showcase an older, more weathered volcanic landscape. Crumbling basalt pillars, deep fjords, and scattered geothermal hot spots tell the tale of Iceland’s complex geological history. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge runs across the country, exposing the raw Earth’s crust and making this region a geological paradise for explorers.
Geothermal Activity and Hot Springs
As you explore Iceland’s volcanic terrain, you can’t miss its abundant geothermal activity. Hot springs, like the famous Blue Lagoon, offer both aesthetic beauty and therapeutic qualities. These naturally heated pools, created by the volcanic forces below the surface, draw visitors from around the world for their relaxing, mineral-rich waters.
Apart from hot springs, you’ll also find geysers dotting the landscape. These powerful forces of nature spout boiling water and steam high into the air, putting on a spectacular display for observers. Make sure to include a visit to Golden Circle, where the iconic Strokkur Geyser erupts every few minutes, offering an unforgettable experience.
East Iceland’s Hidden Gems
While West Iceland may be more popular, don’t overlook the volcanic treasures of East Iceland. Amongst the lesser-known gems, you can find the Askja caldera, an active volcanic area boasting vividly coloured geothermal features. The Vatnajökull ice cap, Europe’s largest glacier, covers numerous volcanic peaks, creating a striking contrast between lava and ice.
The Eastfjords provide an opportunity to observe basalt formations and volcanic rock that have shaped the coastline over millennia. As you explore this region, you’ll find yourself immersed in a world of stunning scenery, formed by the powerful forces of nature and the slow, inevitable march of time.
Unforgettable Outdoor Adventures
Iceland’s otherworldly landscape offers a range of unforgettable outdoor adventures. By exploring the snow-capped peaks, icy glaciers, and black sand beaches, you can truly appreciate the unique beauty of this Nordic country.
Snow-Capped Peaks for Climbing
Iceland is home to many impressive mountains, offering you the opportunity to engage in climbing activities while enjoying breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Embrace the challenge of ascending snow-covered peaks, with the reward of witnessing panoramic vistas of valleys, waterfalls, and lava fields. Remember to take caution during wintertime, as conditions can be more demanding due to the icy terrain.
Hiking in Langjökull
During the summer months, hiking in Langjökull is a popular activity for all outdoor enthusiasts, as the ice cap transforms into an accessible, yet magical environment. Explore its immense expanse while being surrounded by shimmering glaciers, volcanic craters, and vibrant basalt formations. Immerse yourself in Iceland’s pristine nature, and relish the unforgettable experience of traversing this striking region.
Black Sand Beach Escapades
Iceland’s black sand beaches are another must-visit feature of its fascinating landscape. Formed by volcanic activity and found along the southern coast, these striking shores provide a unique experience for visitors. Don’t miss the opportunity to stroll along these sandy stretches, and take in the dramatic contrasts between the ebony sand and the glistening waves. Be sure to have your camera ready, as the distinctive nature of these beaches provides awe-inspiring photo opportunities.
By diving into Iceland’s wondrous scenery and partaking in these unforgettable outdoor adventures, you will fully appreciate the unparalleled allure of this extraordinary country.
Iceland’s Medicinal Herbs
In the otherworldly landscape of Iceland, you can find a variety of unique and powerful medicinal herbs. One noteworthy example is Icelandic Moss. This lichen is native to the island and thrives in various environments, from the coast to the summertime meadows of North Iceland. It has been used traditionally for centuries as a remedy for respiratory issues, as it contains antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Today, you can still harness the benefits of Icelandic Moss in your own home, thanks to Icelandic herbs and their medicinal uses.
Iceland Volcanic Salt
Another fascinating resource Iceland has to offer is its volcanic salt. Created from seawater evaporated by geothermal power, this salt is rich in trace minerals and has various health benefits. It is commonly used as a natural additive in skincare products and therapeutic treatments. The unique properties of this salt, along with Iceland’s abundance of medicinal herbs, contribute to the country’s thriving alternative healthcare industry, making it a place of interest for those seeking holistic remedies.
As you explore the coast and the northern regions of Iceland during the summer season, you will come across various medicinal plants and natural resources that are inherent to its otherworldly landscape. By understanding and utilising these powerful Icelandic herbs and minerals, you can experience the healing power of nature in your daily life.