The land of fire and ice boasts of wild beauty and an array of natural wonders. It holds the power to inspire you, astound you, mystify you, excite you and brim you with life. Iceland has a plethora of mighty volcanoes, thundering waterfalls, gushing geysers, hot springs, bubbling mudpots, majestic glaciers and lots of green terrain. Contradictory to its name, Iceland is not literally the land of ice. In fact, it is much greener and only about 11% of the island is covered with glaciers and icecaps.
Geography and Climate
This European island country lies to the east of Greenland, just at the intersection of North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. The Arctic Circle slightly touches Iceland as it passes through Grímsey, a small offshore island. It is located approximately 290 km from Greenland and 4200 km from New York. It is Europe’s most sparsely populated country and the second largest island. Only the southern coastal regions are inhabited while the central highlands are completely unpopulated.
The southern coast of Iceland experiences warmer weather and higher precipitation as compared to the internal regions, which are more desolate. The winters aren’t so harsh (given its latitudinal location) with the average temperature remaining around 0°C and -10°C in the southern and northern part, respectively. In summers, the average temperature lies between 10 to 13 °C and the days are usually damp and cool. Summer days are long and there is no night darkness during the months of June and July. Winters experience only a few hours of sunshine daily.
- Golden Circle
A popular route that takes you to three amazing destinations: Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall and the Geysers.
Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the place where you can see North Atlantic and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. You may even dive in the nearby Silfra canyon, which lies between these tectonic plates. The rumbling Gullfoss Waterfall is the largest and most impressive waterfall of Iceland with a double-cascade and is situated in the canyon of river Hvítá. The third stop, Strokkur, is the most active geyser and spurts out water (up to 30 meters) every few minutes.
- Blue Lagoon
This geothermal spa is located 47 km from Reykjavik. A dip in the mineral-rich geothermal waters is bound to rejuvenate you. Enjoy the scenic beauty, breathe in the fresh air, soak your body in the healing waters, and relax your mind and soul. This Lagoon has won the Blue Flag environmental recognition award multiple times. A visit to this place is a must.
This glacier lagoon, located near National Highway 1, is home to luminous blue and milky white icebergs that float in its deep waters (814 ft.). The tongue of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier is a major attraction. You can even take a boat ride among the icebergs and get a closer look.
A famous hiking center, this region acquaints you with beauty of barrenness. There is a mountain lodge for tourists, which not only offers accommodation, but basic amenities as well. The area is surrounded by vast lava fields and Rhyolite Mountains, which display a spectrum of colors.
- Lake Mývatn
The most geothermally active place in Iceland, this lake lies near the town of Akureyri. The unique façade of this lake is a result of numerous volcanic eruptions. It is the perfect place for bird watchers. Many volcanic arches, pillars, caves, mud pools and the 2500 year old Hverfjall Crater can be found here.
- The Midnight Sun and the Northern Lights
A trip to Iceland would almost be a waste without experiencing these two magical phenomena. During the summers, the sun never sets completely. The midnight sun can be beautifully experienced at the island of Grímsey. The Northern lights are visible mostly in autumn, the winter months and at times during spring. They can be seen on a clear and cloudless night dancing across the sky.
Iceland offers several options as far as your stay is concerned. You may choose the most expensive luxury hotels, rent a summer house or simply stay at a campsite. Grand Hotel Reykjavík and Hotel Borg are among the best 4 star hotels. Akranes Hostel, Akureyri Backpackers and Berunes are some beautifully built hostels that offer budget accommodation.
Eat, Shop and Enjoy
Buy traditional handmade hats and sweaters, fish skin accessories, souvenir mugs and Viking helmets along with a wide range of other things at the Icelandic shops and stores. Kolaportið Flea Market, 12 Tónar, Ískelda Galleri, Liborius and Rammagerðin are some excellent places to shop.
Enjoy live music performances while sipping coffee or relish freshly cooked dishes and desserts at joints/restaurants like Café Amsterdam, NASA, Indian Mango, Við Tjörnina, Bæjarins Beztu, Krua Siam and Brynja. Though, only certain regions of Iceland are inhabited, but you can find plenty of places that’ll satiate your eating desires.
Rafting, glacier walks, skiing, whale-watching, horse riding, snorkeling, walking through lava fields or just watching as nature creates magic all around – there are endless possibilities. Iceland presents you with an exhilarating one-of-a-kind experience, which will move your very spirit.