Iceland, aptly nicknamed the ‘Land of Fire and Ice’. Thanks to the impressive landscapes equipped with towering volcanoes, geysers, bubbling hot springs and great expanses of lava fields. That explains the ‘Fire’ part of the nickname, the ‘Ice’ is for the glaciers that cover roughly 11% of Iceland’s total land area.
This is a country that I have had the privilege to visit and I must say it was not what I expected wholly. At times it felt as though I was visiting a planet in outer space rather than a country that sits only 1,367km away from the UK. As a continuation of a series that began with my experiences in Paris, I will discuss my favourite locations in Iceland whilst showcasing some of my photography of this incredible country.
Fun Fact: Iceland is also known as the ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’. During June, it is unlikely to experience any darkness at all with the sun never completely setting and rising. This phenomenon is due to the way that the earth circulates the sun in an elliptical orbit. This allows for the Midnight Sun to occur, the Sumarsólstöður (Summer Solstice) is the highest point of the daylight where the sun is up for the full 24 hours of the day, hence the name ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’. If you are travelling to Iceland during this month it might be worth packing some eye masks to help you get some shut-eye.
Let’s get into it with my top 5 locations in Iceland.
Location #1 – Seljalandsfoss
I will say this, waterfalls are not a rare sight whilst travelling the length and breadth of Iceland, they’re everywhere! But this particular waterfall caught my attention and in a good way. Seljalandsfoss, towers 200ft high allow water to cascade down into the pool below. The torrent of water is not as impressive as other waterfalls found in Iceland, but its defining feature is a pathway that encircles the waterfall thanks to a wide cavern behind the falls. This allows for a unique experience that makes you feel that much closer to the waterfall itself.
Prepare to get a little wet when taking a wander along the circular paths thanks to the persistent mist of the falls, this can make the ground underfoot slippery so decent footwear is a must.
Something I learnt in my further research for this specific location is that the cliff of which the water falls from was once the country’s coastline, hence the naturally formed cavern. The current position of the sea can be seen from the site across an area of lowlands.
Location #2 – Whale Watching, Reykjavik
If you thought that Iceland only had incredible landscapes to offer, you would be wrong. The local wildlife is just as impressive as well as having an extra layer of mystery due to the obscurity of some species. For example, whales. Humpback whales to be exact.
The surrounding waters of Iceland are home to a rich variety of krill and fish, making Iceland an abundant feeding ground which entices 23 species of whale. The most commonly spotted are minke whales, humpback whales and harbour porpoises. The image above is the tail of a humpback whale I spotted.
Unlike visiting a waterfall or geyser, whale watching cannot offer you a guarantee that you will spot these sea creatures. But if you do, I promise it is worth the apprehensive wait. The tour operators know the best spots to take the boats and have a keen eye for spotting whales breaking the surface.
Location #3 – Geysir Hot Springs
Geysir is Iceland’s most famous geyser located in the Haukadalur Valley. This particular geyser is steeped in history, especially being the one that each geyser is named after.
A geyser is an outlet in the Earth’s surface that regularly ejects a column of hot water and steam. This natural phenomenon is something I highly recommend seeing at some point due to the sheer power and scale of these events. It reminds you of the impressive capacity that Mother Nature contains.
Unfortunately, Geysir is now dormant and does not actively erupt as it used to, with eruptions reaching a height of 170m in 1845. Despite this, Geysir’s neighbour, the Strokkur geyser continues to put on quite the show for visitors with an eruption occurring every 5-10 minutes. And once you see the steaming pool begin to bulge, prepare to witness Mother Nature at its best.
Location #4 – The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon. This is probably what most people can pin down as a location in Iceland that most tourists make their way to whilst travelling in this incredibly versatile country. And I can see why as it is quite a unique experience that will not be easily forgotten.
The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa that is situated around 45 minutes from the capital city, Reykjavik. The spa itself is situated in a natural lava field and is close to a geothermal power plant. The warm waters of the lagoon are a result of runoff from this power plant. It is not a natural hot spring as many many think despite there being many all across Iceland.
The average temperature of the lagoon is 39℃ which is a nice contrast to the chill of the typical weather of Iceland. The warm seawater is rich in minerals such as silica that are said to have good skincare properties and is what gives the lagoon its milky blue shade. If you fancy toasting the occasion take a visit to the water-side bar or paddle over to the skincare booth for a face-mask.
This was something on my travel bucket list and I am so glad to have ticked it off and perhaps you will do the same in the future.
Location #5 – The Capital City, Reykjavik
My final location that made the list had to be the capital city of Reykjavik. When I was in Iceland, I only spent one night in Reykjavik. This meant that I did not get to explore the city extensively, but what I did see I was impressed by.
Two-thirds of Iceland’s population resides within Reykjavik with a population of 131,136 people. The city is situated on the south-west coast and is the world’s most northernmost capital of a sovereign state. There is a lot to see within this city, here are a couple of locations within the city that interested me.
The Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Hall sits proudly on the harbour and is one of Reykjavik’s most distinguished landmarks. It is seen as a cultural and social centre in the heart of the city. The large expanses of glass in a honeycomb form make up the exterior of the building which is a world away from the simplistic dwellings of the traditional buildings of Iceland. It is an intriguing piece of architecture that immediately captured my attention.
Secondly, something that I remember fondly of my visit to Reyjavik was a visit to the Hamborgarafabrikkan which translates to The Hamburger Factory. Nestled within the coastal streets of the city sits this gem of a restaurant. Their concept is seemingly simple, to offer quality hamburgers with a humorous twist. And it was one of the best burgers I have ever had, no scratch that, the best burger I have ever had. If you are visiting Reykjavik I implore you to give this place a visit, good food at a reasonable price. Well, reasonable by Icelandic standard as Iceland is not a cheap place to visit.
There we have it, my top 5 locations to visit in Iceland in my personal opinion. I will say that despite being there for over a week there was so much more that could have been done, so I shall be revisiting this incredible country at some point.
Until next time.
Vertu blessaður! – Goodbye in Icelandic