Iceland is a country of stark contrast. The destination has quickly taken its rightful space into the spotlight and is now showing the world what we’ve all been missing. Indeed, Iceland is dark and cold for much of the time, but you’d be amazed by the lush, greenery vivid against its translucent waterfalls.
Hvítserkur Boulder, Reynisfjara Beach
Near Iceland’s southernmost village, Vik, lies one of the world’s most peculiar beaches. The Reynisfjara Beach stretches for 5 kilometres along Iceland’s south coast, with its jet black sand, endless fogs, and huge black boulders creating a beautiful but eerie scene. Hvítserkur, the gigantic boulder that was once a volcanic plug, rises 50 feet out of the sea. During low tide, it’s possible to approach the rock for some amazing shots. You won’t find any sunbathers on this beach. The currents are strong and unpredictable, and fatal accidents have occurred. On a happier note, if you’re lucky, you may spot a puffin.
Reynisdrangar Sea Cliffs, Reynisfjara Beach
Also located at the Reynisfjara Beach are the colossal Reynisdrangar Sea Cliffs. These are gigantic, basalt sea stacks, towering out of the ocean 66 meters (217 ft) into the air.
Seljalandsfoss. Iceland is a small Nordic country in the North Atlantic Ocean. However small Iceland may be, it is still the home of an endless endless amount of wondrous waterfalls. The north Atlantic climate produces frequent rain, whilst the Arctic location contributes to Iceland’s many glaciers. This in turn feeds feeds the rivers and produces dramatic waterfalls.
Crystal Ice Cave inside Vatnajökull Glacier
Vatnajökull National Park encompasses Europe’s largest glacier! The national park covers an area of approximately 13,900 km², whilst the glacier covers 8% of Iceland (a surface area of 8,100 km²) with 400m thick ice. Despite big sections of the park beign located underneath the glacier Vatnajökull, you can still enjoy a diverse landscape, with volcanic activity, glaciers and geothermal activity.
The Icelandic Horse
The history of the magical Icelandic Horse is traced back to the 9th and 10th centuries, around the same time as the settlement of the country. When the mighty Viking Age Scandinavians emigrated to this new found land, they brought with them their most prized possessions, including their strongest horses. As the horses were often left to fend for themselves outside in Iceland’s cold and grim environment, they adapted to the ever-changing climate and the harsh landscape, eventually blossoming into one of the strongest horse breeds in the world. Fact is, this magnificent horse was the only mode of land travel until the 20th century. Learn more.
DC-3 Plane, Sólheimasandur Beach
In 1973, a US Navy Douglas Dakota DC-3 airplane made an emergency crash landing on the black sandy beach of Sólheimasandur. The harsh Icelandic weather conditions took its toll and left it hollow, dented and gutted. 40 years later, all that’s left is the fuselage, albeit very well-preserved.
Skogafoss. Wherever you go, waterfalls will be in abundance, but they all are unique in their own way. The site of Skogafoss has trails that allow visitors to overlook the waterfall – offering unbeatable views of this majestic natural wonder. The water plummets through canyons onto the ground that is covered by black sand, which further adds to the fascination.
Eldhraun Lava Fields
Eldhraun is a vast area of lava, situated east of Vík, on both sides of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. Eldhraun is the 3rd largest lava flow after the end of the Ice Age, covering an astounding 565 km2 (232 sq. mi.) of land. The fields are covered with Woolly Fringe Moss, giving the area a moody Nordic fairytale feel. The site also happens to be where the Apollo 11 crew came to train for their impending moonwalk. The fields are a result of the most devastating volcanic eruptions in historic times – the Lakagígar eruption in the late 1700s. This eruption, not only causing caused to diease, crop failure and disasters in Iceland, also took its toll in Europe. In Great Britain, the ash fallout caused the Sand-Summer, furthermore, it’s many argue that the eruption was also a contributing factor to the French Revolution. If driving the Ring Road, you will automatically traversing the Eldhraun lava fields.
Jökulsárlón, a grand glacial lagoon, filled with large chunks of ice, borders Vatnajökull National Park in southeastern Iceland. The nearby black beach has been dubbed the Diamond Beach, much due to the glistering ice chunks resting on the beach, resembling gigantic diamonds. The lagoon formed from melted glacial ice, and as blocks of ice crumble from the glacier into the lagoon, the lagoon is growing for each day that passes.
Kirkjufellfoss is a true Icelandic icon and synonymous with this nordic country. Located near the fishing town Grundarfjörður, on the north coast of Iceland’s Snæfellsnes peninsula, it’s about a 2.5-hour drive from Reykjavik. The waterfall is located on the “back” of the mountain Kirkjufell, facing the sea, a short uphill walk from the car park nearby. This site is also one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in the country.
Contrary to popular belief, the Blue Lagoon is a manmade geothermal lagoon. The warm waters of the lagoon, whose temperature averages 37–39 °C (99–102 °F) year round, are rich in mineral content, such as silica and sulfur. The silicate minerals is what gives the water its characteristic blue shade. Nearby is accommodation, saunas, restaurants and cafés.
Stakkholtsgjá Canyon is situated in the southern part of Iceland, near the entrance to Thorsmork, in the Þórsmörk Nature Reserve. The canyon is 2 km long and about 100 m deep. As you hike through the canyon, crossing a river, and finally reach the end, you will see beautiful waterfall cascading down the steep walls. It is such a picturesque sight, well worth the slippery 2 hours hike.
Skardsvik beach Iceland
Skardsvik Beach is located at the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in West Iceland. It’s a stark contrast of golden sand and lava.
After having served many owners for decades, the Garðar BA 64 was run aground in Skápadalur Valley in 1981, where it remains to this day as Icelands oldest steel ship. The site, a popular one amongst photographers, is accessible by road 612.
At 73 metres high (244 ft), the Lutheran parish church in Reykjavík is not only the highest church, but also the sixth highest structure in Iceland. The church took 41 years to build, and is said to have been designed to resemble the mountains and glaciers that Iceland is so famous for.
One third of Iceland’s coastline is located within the Westfjords, which are lie in the northwestern part of the country. The site boasts an abundance of attractions and sights, such as tall, steep mountains, diverse wildlife and dramatic landscapes. The Westfjords are home to the Hornstrandir nature reserve and Rauðasandur beach, as well as copious amounts of natural hot pools amd Látrabjarg – one of Europes biggest bird cliffs.
Thingvellir National Park, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland, is conveniently located a 40-minute drive (40 km) northeast of Reykjavik. Arguably, the park is most notable for its tectonic and volcanic environment in a rift valley. The Almannagja Rift in the Thingvellir National Park is where you best can observe the continental drift between the North American and Eurasian Plates in the cracks which traverse the park.
Strokkur Geysir lies in the Haukadalur valley, in the city of Selfoss in Iceland. It is is one of the most impressive geysers in the world. Eruptions were frequent until 1896, after which an earthquake inactivated the geyser.
Water flowing rom Gigjokull enters the Markarfljot river and eruptions in the area have caused great glacier bursts. The area boasts scenic ice cliffs that will leave you in awe.
Landmannalaugar lies in the Highlands of Iceland. Its natural geothermal hot springs creates some of the country’s most colorful landscapes, where colours of the hills shift in beautifully greens, oranges, reds, blacks and browns. The spot offers a campsite and a hiking trail, and tour operators offer horseback riding tours through this scenic landscape.
Atlantic Puffins are found exclusively in the North Atlantic Ocean. Iceland is the breeding home to one of the world’s largest colonies of puffins. It’s estimated that 60% of the world’s population of the Atlantic Puffin form its breeding colonies in Iceland. There are a number of places in Iceland where you can see the Atlantic Puffin. From early April to September, puffins return to land to nest after having spent most of the year at sea. The puffin can be spotted in Látrabjarg Cliffs (Latrabjarg) in the Vestfirðir (Westfjords).
Hopefully, this article made you want to visit Iceland. Don’t let the cold deter you. The destination is one of the safest, and the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. There are natural wonders every where you go, and no shortage of stunning vistas.
Would you consider visiting Iceland? Which of the places tickles your inner wanderlust the most?