Is watching the northern lights on your bucket list? The dazzling aurora borealis can been seen over Iceland practically every night from October to March. With cheap flights on Iceland Air and Wow Air, now is the time to start planning aurora hunting tours to Iceland.
Most airlines offer free stopovers in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, which gives enough time to enjoy the lights. If you want to see a good bit of the island, I recommend spending 1-2 weeks exploring the different regions. I rented a car and drove around the western and southern parts of the island for about 10 days. Driving is easy as the roads are well kept and not very crowded. It also allows you to pace your journey and make frequent photo stops. Guide to Iceland offers a list of self-drive and bus tours that include hotels, car rental and destination guides.
Discovering the diverse scenery that changes from icebergs and black beaches to mossy fields and snow covered lava were some of my highlights of my trip.
Here are ten of my best adventures in Iceland:
The capital and largest city in Iceland is a fun place, especially during the night. Explore the museums, cobblestone streets, art galleries and cafes. Have a romantic dinner at Fiskfelagid, a cave style upscale restaurant that serves a globally inspired menu, and watch the magnificent star studded sky with dancing green and orange northern lights right in the city!
Reykjavik has great nightlife, but plan to arrive at the club after midnight as locals generally party into the wee hours of the morning.
Floating in the Blue Lagoon
Put on a silica mud mask and soak in the healing warm waters of the Blue Lagoon. The geothermal spa is located very close to the international airport and is a good place to stop as soon as your arrive and just before you leave Iceland. Make sure to book your tickets beforehand and plan to spend a couple of hours here.
Not Jumping on Moss
From Reykjavik, I took a small plane to Höfn on the southern coast and started my road trip. The Golden Circle route is perhaps the most visited part of Iceland. If you have a limited time in the country, there are three spots you must see. These includes Þingvellir National Park, the geothermal valley of spouting geysers at Haukadalur, and the magnificent Gullfoss Waterfall.
Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a good place to dive into the geologic history of this volcanic island. Get out of the car and see the moss-covered fields, but please don’t jump on it like Justin Bieber did!
Horseback (Pony) Riding in the Countryside
Take a scenic horseback ride on pony-sized Icelandic horses. Two designated horse trails run through the national park. These pretty horses are the only horse that can tölt, while other horses walk, trot, canter and gallop. Tölt is a four-beat gait where at least one foot is on the ground at any time, so there is no period of suspension. (I had to look that up).
Standing in Between Continents
Walk between continents at Leif the Lucky bridge, which crosses one of the rifts created by the mid-Atlantic ridge. It is noted that the mid-Atlantic ridge is pulling apart North America and Europe by 2.5 centimeters each year. Black lava surrounds the 50-foot bridge and you can stand at the so-called midpoint for a photo op.
Boating Along Glaciers
Take a boat trip on the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. At first, the majestic icebergs floating gently appear eerily still. When I parked my car, there was not a person in sight, just me and the glaciers, in total silence. The Zodiac tours offer an opportunity to get close to the blue ice. You may even get lucky and spot some seals.
A small fishing village, Vík í Mýrdal (aka Vik), is home to the black beach Reynisfjara along windy Atlantic coastlines. This is no tropical sun tanning beach. Watch for basalt columns jetting out of the oceans, nesting sea gulls, puffins, fulmars, guillemots, and of course, dangerous waves.
Hiking a Glacier
For some real adrenaline, hike, walk, climb or snow mobile on one of the volcanic glaciers around Iceland. This is where you can see the real “Fire and Ice” magic playing out. I took a relatively easy walk at Skaftafell Glacier, though still had to watch out for hundreds of feet deep crevasses!
Iceland is a country of waterfalls and I visited many of them. Plan your trip to include as many as you can see. Though some of them may be caked in ice during winter, each of the waterfalls has a different backdrop, height, flow and color. The most popular one is Gullfoss also known as ‘The Golden Waterfall’ as it has a majestic 32 meter drop into Hvíta glacier river.
Watch colorful mud pools, crater lakes and Sulphur deposits at Krysuvik-seltun hot springs, formed by volcanic eruptions. There are marked walking routes, though you may not be able to stand the strong smell for very long.
Do you have a favorite place in Iceland? Please share with our readers in the comments section below…