Iceland is such an incredibly beautiful country with no shortage of jaw dropping scenery on display and plenty of adventurous activities to enjoy!
I would definitely put Iceland on my list as one of my top favourite places to visit in Europe and it was extremely challenging to decide on what my top 10 favourite things I experienced in Iceland.
Tip: Make sure you book your activities in advance as we saw quite a few people disappointed who drove a very long distance to do an activity only to be told that it was fully booked. A lot of outdoor activities are also subject to weather conditions.
Skogafoss Waterfall is breathtaking, falling from a cliff that was once Iceland’s coastline. The waterfall is 25 metres wide and plunges 60 meters down from the cliffs edge. It is said that there is a hidden treasure in a cave behind the waterfall which was placed there by one of Iceland’s first settlers. Skogafoss is situated by the main highway and towers over the majestic Myrdalsjokull and Eyjafjallajokull Glaciers.
Wearing Canada Goose Jacket
2. GLACIER LAGOON
As the name suggests, Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is a lagoon filled with enormous ice blocks, broken off from Breioamerkurjokull Glacier, floating and tumbling toward the sea 1.5 kilometres away. The lagoon has been popular as a location for Hollywood movie producers: Die Another Day, Tomb Raider and Batman Begins all have scenes shot in the area.
Good to know: During Summer, there are exciting boat tours available where you can sail amongst the white and blue icebergs and might even spot some seals.
3. NORTHERN LIGHTS
The northern lights are one of the biggest draws to visiting Iceland, however they are also one of the most elusive and unpredictable attractions this country has. There are a lot of variables to consider for seeing them including season, weather, length of stay, location and a bit of luck.
Darkness is the first important factor. The best season to see the northern lights in Iceland is from September to mid-April. These are the months where there are full dark nights.
Another factor is the weather, in order to see the northern lights the skies need to be very clear. This often coincides with some of the coldest nights (I highly recommend dressing warmly as the weather can be below freezing).
The length of stay is also an important factor. To have the best odds of seeing the northern lights, it is recommended you stay at minimum of seven nights in the country. The northern lights usually tend to be very active for two to three nights, then low for four to five nights, in ongoing cycles.
Good to know: I highly recommend using the Aurora forecast website to check before heading out. We found it extremely useful.
4. BLUE LAGOON
The Blue Lagoon is a bathing area that came into existence in 1967 completely by accident. The lagoon lies in the midst of a vast lava field, the result of the operations of the nearby geothermal power plant. Today this is one of Iceland’s most visited tourist sites and one that I was most excited to see. Despite the sheer number of tourist, it was still a relaxing bath experience with surreal surroundings. Don’t forget to try the silica mud mask to rejuvenate and soften your skin.
Good to know: Pre-booking is required as availability is limited. There are three packages to choose from – Standard, Comfort and Premium.
Dettifoss Waterfall is the most powerful waterfall in Europe and quite a sight! It is 100 meters wide, plunges down 44 metres into Jokulsargljufur Canyon and can be approached by visitors from both sides. Witnessing this amazing sight and hearing the roaring of the water, you can’t help but feel humbled.
Good to know: If you are travelling in Winter, the roads leading to the fall might be impassible. When we were there, there was a lot of snow and ice on the roads to the fall. I recommend driving with extreme caution.
Wearing Canada Goose Jacket
6. STROKKUR GEYSER
Stroker is a fountain geyser in the geothermal area beside the Hvita River in Iceland. It is one of Iceland’s most famous geysers, erupting about every 8-10 minutes 15-20 metres high, sometimes up to 40 metres high.
Good to know: Due to its popularity with tourists, I would suggest getting there early. We arrived at sunrise and even then we encountered a few bus loads of tourists.
7. BLACK SAND BEACH
I’m sure you have seen photos before, the 40-something year old weather-beaten aircraft has become one of Iceland’s most dramatic photography spots due to its remote location on a desolate black sand beach. It looks like a scene out of a post-apocalyptic movie. It was recently featured in Justin Bieber’s music video “I’ll show you”.
On Saturday Nov 24 1973, a United States Navy airplane was forced to land on Solheimasandur’s black sand beach in the south of Iceland after experiencing some severe icing. Luckily all crew members survived the crash.
Good to know: If you don’t know where to look, it can be a difficult place to discover on your own. The airplane wreckage is located on Iceland’s South coast between Skogafoss waterfall and the town of Vik. After driving past Skogafoss going East on Route 1, you will cross a bridge with blinking yellow lights. Keep driving East for another 2 kilometres and keep you eyes open for a dirt road turnoff with a gate on your right. If you end up driving over a 2nd bridge, you have gone too far. After this there are markers that lead you to the site.
Gullfoss Waterfall is one of Iceland’s most majestic waterfalls, plunging down 32 meters into the canyon in two stages. As one of Iceland’s most popular attractions, the waterfall provides a memorable site, especially on sunny days when the mist from the waterfall creates rainbows giving the waterfall a beautiful crown.
9. ICELANDIC HORSES
The Icelandic horse is a breed of horse developed in Iceland (not native to Iceland). Although the horses are small, at times pony-sized, many still refer to it as a horse. They are the only breed of horse in Iceland. Icelandic law prevents horses being imported into the country and exported animals are not allowed to return to prevent the spread of disease.
These Iceland horses are found all over Iceland. You can simply stop by the side of the road and get up close to them! They are super friendly and love having their photos taken.
Try your hand at horse riding while you’re there as well. We went horse riding at Hestasport. We would highly recommend it. Our guide was professional, knowledgable and accommodating. We were lucky that day as we were the only group so essentially it was like a private horse riding tour! We were told that in the summer time though, it gets extremely busy! We felt like true Icelanders riding around Iceland admiring the amazing natural sights!
Hallgrimskirkja Lutheran Church is a well-known landmark which towers majestically over the capital. The church reaches 75 metres in height, making it the tallest churching Iceland. Hallgrimskirkja is designed to resemble the basalt rock formations found in several areas around Iceland.
The church offers an amazing panoramic view over the city. The statue of Leif Eiriksson in the forefront, the first European to set foot in North America 500 year before Christopher Columbus. The statue is a gift to Iceland from the people of the United States.
Good to Know: For entry to the tower for panoramic views, you can purchase tickets on the day (adults: ISK 800 and children 7-14 ISK 100).
Tjornin (The Pond)
Take a visit to Tjornin, Reykjavik’s city pond, with its brigades of ducks, geese and swans. The nearby park, Hljomskalagarour is also a nice place displaying a number of beautiful sculptures.