To be honest we didn’t spend much time in the city. We spent our first and last days in Reykjavik but in the end we didn’t have time to walk around the city. However I want to share with you the places we visited closed to the capital.
Close to Reykjavík
This area is one of the most famous locations around the capital. There are loads of different companies that does excursions to this area if you don’t want to drive. If you are driving it will take you around 2 hour-ish from Reykjavik.
The Golden Circle consists of three amazing places:
- Geysir (geyser)
- Gullfoss waterfall
- Thingvellir National Park.
Unfortunately due to the storm on our first day we didn’t have a chance to visit the National Park. However, in the end of our trip we had time to visit both other sites. It’s free to visit any of these places. The Geysir is most known for the Strokkur which explodes a jet of water 30 meters into the air every 8 minutes. In this area, the Geysir Hot Spring Area, there are also mud pits. Gulfoss waterfall is maybe the most well-known waterfall in Iceland due to its proximity to the capital and it is beautiful to see. All the stops in this area are well-worth and awe you.
Some people think there are better options for thermal baths around the country than the Blue Lagoon, since one of the let downs is the price. Although pricey we loved the experience. Actually we tried to book again on our last day but it was full. The Blue Lagoon was our very first taste of Iceland and we loved it. The mountains around us, the warm water, the snow falling (one of the good things about travelling during winter months), the bar inside the water where you could have a drink and the counters with masks that are free – all of these things together made the Blue Lagoon an amazing experience. Don’t miss it. Even if you find other thermal baths around the country please go but remember the Blue Lagoon is a well-worth trip. If you can afford you can always choose to stay in the hotel and have a treatment in their spa.
Address: Norðurljósavegur 9, 240 Grindavík
Imagine how magic would it be to see the Northern Lights on your first night in Iceland? We were that lucky. For our first night we decided to go on a cruise for around 2 hours and take our chances of experiencing this amazing natural phenomenon. Maybe the Northern Lights that night were not as strong as we wished but it was enough to open our appetites for more. However prepare yourself for the cold weather, even though the staff of the cruise will give you proper clothes you may find yourself wishing you had put another sweater on. This company also do other types of cruises like whale watching and puff watching. You can check their website ideas of how to spend your night if you found yourself in Reykjavik. You can buy the tickets online (we recommend this way) or at the shore.
Address: Ægisgarður, 101 Reykjavík
South of Iceland
Seljalandsfoss is a waterfall in the South of Iceland. The waterfall drops 60 meters and it is part of the Seljalands river. Even if you are here with bad weather it is a beautiful stop. Apparently there is a path that goes behind the waterfall, but during the winter months this path is closed since it gets too slippery, icy and dangerous (we agree). If you stop in here on a sunny day and the path is opened I will recommend doing this route so you can catch a mesmerizing rainbow from the sun and the waterfall’s water.
This is a 120-metre high promontory not far from the most southern city, Vik. The place has its name from the big arch that the sea has eroded from the headland. The name Dyrhólaey literally means “door hole”. This location is also known for being stage of the famous TV serie “Game of Thrones”. When we visited these cliffs the arch was under water as you see on the pictures below.
Mýrdalssandur is a vast black-lava sand flats that is formed from material washed out during Katla eruptions.
Also known as “Church Floor”, this place is a 80-square-meter-area of tops of basaltic columns on the surface, just like hexagonal tiles on the floor. Even though it seems a man-made floor, this is actually a pure natural phenomenon. This Church Floor is a protected natural monument and for that declared inviolate. Because when we came here it has been snowing, we couldn’t see anything. Unfortunately, the ground was buried in layers of snow and snow. Not everything is good when you travel during Winter months (but the Northern Lights were the priority on this trip).
In the Southeast of Iceland, you’ll find the most beautiful glacier lagoon filled with icebergs. The deep blue of the water in contrast with the light colour of the icebergs make this place one of the most popular attractions due to its stunning splendour.
The South Coast
Although the locations above were the main points we wanted to visit and stop, to be honest all the south coast of Iceland is stunning. Every minute you want to stop and enjoy the view, the nature and the breath-taking landscapes. You have to be very organized to not do so otherwise you will never get to your destination.
For us this was the most beautiful waterfall we saw in all trip. We had lunch outside with this amazing view – It couldn’t be better. This waterfall is about 40 minutes driving from Lake Mývatn but the time spent driving is well worth it.
This pseudo-craters are located in the Lake Mývatn area, very closed to Reykjahlíð and to our accommodation. These craters were not formed from magma of a volcanic activity but from gas explosions when the boiling lava flowed over cool, wet surfaces around 2300 years ago. There is a path around this chain of craters where you can walk along. That will take you around 30 minutes.
Also close to Reykjahlíð you have Hverfjall, a 396-meter-tephra-crater. You can climb the steep slops and walk around the top of the crater’s rim. We wanted to do it but the weather didn’t let us. If you visit Hverfjall when it is possible to climb it you will get an awesome view from the surrounding landscape.
Grjótagjá is a small lave cave that until the 1970s was a popular bathing site. From 1975 to 1984 the Krafla volcanic system erupted nine times resulting in an increase of the temperature making the water unusable. This cave was stage of the fifth episode of the third season of Game of Thrones, called Kissed by Fire.
Dettifoss is known to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe. The falls are 100-meter wide and they drop 44 meters down the Jökulsárgljúfur canyon. We got really impressed with this waterfall. You barely could see the end! Definitely a remarkable site to visit.
Víti is a huge explosion crater with about 300 meters in diameter. This crater was formed during a massive volcanic eruption in 1724 in one of the parts of the Krafla volcanic system. This event lasted for five years, and was called the Mývatn Fires. The name “Víti” means “hell” in Icelandic (a reminder of the violent event in 1724). Once again, we wished we could have actually seen the crater but because of the weather we couldn’t see anything. From our pictures we seemed to be lost in the middle of nowhere.
You will know when you are getting close to Hverir. In here you will find fumaroles, mud pools and the specific smell of sulphur. Even though there are many geothermal fields in Iceland, this is probably the largest and the one with the easiest access. Basically, it is located right next to the road. The loud hissing noise of the fumaroles, the boiled water of the mud pools and the fumaroles gas will make an impression on you as it did on us.
North West of Iceland
This crater rises around 170 meters above the ground. You can climb it quite easily especially because there are steps that form a footpath. From the top you can see all the surroundings which are beautiful.
Víðgelmir (Lava tube)
This was the last place we visited before going back to Reykjavik. This company “The Cave” provides different tours that you can check on their website (see below). We chose the “CAVE EXPLORER TOUR” which took us in a guided tour into the Víðgelmir lava tube where we found and saw amazing colors and rock formations. During the tour our guide explained how these different volcanic formations have been formed throug time. I am claustrophobic so I was a bit concerned of feeling trapped inside the cave during the tour, but it was so interesting that there was no reason for worries.
Even though I’ve loved our experience inside the lava tube, this company do another tour that I wish I could have done it – a tour inside the Iceland’s second largest glacier! The pictures from this tour are utterly fantastic and stunning. Well, maybe next time.
Following the road
There is no country as Iceland. We spent all time driving in the main road of Iceland, the ring road and the landscapes were simply stunning. The desire to stop every second to fully appreciate the nature of Iceland was almost overwhelming. I think there are no words that can truly describe the experience of travelling around Iceland.