A small Nordic island nation in the North Atlantic Ocean, Iceland is just 103,000 sq km in size with a population of only 334,000, making it the most underpopulated country in Europe. Last year, there was a 40% increase in the number of foreign visitors to Iceland. 95% of those surveyed from June to August said their experience met or exceeded their expectations, whilst 82% hoped to return to Iceland again in future (Icelandic Tourism Board). For many, Iceland’s natural beauty is one of the main reasons for their visit. The country is otherwise known as the land of ice and fire because of its breath-taking glaciers, volcanoes, lava fields, geysers and hot springs.
Despite being so small, Iceland offers a range of experiences for visitors to enjoy. It’s a fairly expensive country, so it’s best to plan your itinerary in advance to make sure you get the best deals. If you’re looking to indulge in a spot of luxury during your stay, take a look at Guide to Iceland’s top 10 hotels in Iceland for inspiration.
Here are five things to do and see in Iceland to help you start planning your trip:
Named the fifth best destination in the world for city breaks by Travel Weekly, Reykjavík is situated on the coast of Iceland. As the country’s capital and largest city, it is home to the majority of the population. The city runs on geothermal power and offers a number of interesting attractions including the National and Saga museums, which tell the tale of Iceland’s Viking history.
Admire the colourful houses, take a dip in a geothermal pool, explore the art galleries, or tuck in to traditional Icelandic cuisine. Check out The Diary of a Jewellery Lover blog for more ideas on what to do in Reykjavík.
2. Northern Lights
No visit to Iceland is complete until you’ve seen the natural phenomena of the Northern Lights. Seeing the night sky lit up with the luminous dancing lights of the aurora is a magical experience. The Northern Lights can be seen from almost anywhere in Iceland any time from late August until the end of April, from around 6pm until 6am – provided the sky is dark and clear. Before you go, be sure to check out Luxe Adventure Traveler’s post to discover five things no-one tells you when you visit the Northern Lights,
Hold off on booking your tour until you arrive in Iceland because if the skies aren’t clear, you might not get to see the Northern Lights. Refunds aren’t usually available if you’ve already booked and your tour gets cancelled, but if you check with tour guides upon arrival, they are generally quite honest about whether you’re likely to catch a glimpse of the aurora.
3. Golden Circle Tour
There are so many tours to choose from in Iceland, it can be difficult knowing which ones to pick. The Golden Circle Tour comes highly recommended, especially if it’s your first time to Iceland. This tour will take you to see the Gullfoss waterfall (pictured above), the Strokkur geyser hot spring and the meeting point of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates in Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park . Take a look at the Fox and Feather blog for a more in-depth insight into Iceland’s Golden Circle Tour.
4. Blue Lagoon
Listed in National Geographic’s ‘Wonders of the World’, Iceland’s Blue Lagoon (based between Keflavik International Airport and Reykjavic) is an aqua blue oasis of geothermal water rich in silica, algae and minerals which can help to improve skin conditions. The bright blue appearance of the water comes from the way the silica reflects sunlight and, during summer months, it may also appear to be green because algae multiplies rapidly in sunlight. Surprisingly, though, the water is actually a milky white in colour!
Pre-booking is required and you should book within plenty of time, as time slots fill up quickly. If you’re planning on going here, make sure you read Best Before End Date blog’s top tips for visiting the Blue Lagoon.
5. Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon
Situated around 230 miles east from Reykjavic, Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon formed relatively recently as a result of rising temperatures. The surface is at sea level and during high tide, the sea flows into the lagoon. At around 250m deep, this is Iceland’s deepest lake. Take a boat tour of the glacier lagoon, sail among the icebergs, see if you can spot some seals and, if you like, you can even taste the 1000-year-old ice!
What is your favourite thing to see or do in Iceland? If you haven’t been before, what do you think you’d like the most about the country?