Iceland widely known as “The Land of Fire and Ice” is a Country of opposites. This Island is Europe’s Westernmost country and has the Northern most Capital, Reykjavik and is a land full of hot springs and geysers, glaciers and ice sheets. 10% of the land mass of the Island is covered by glaciers and it is only because of the gulf stream and the southwesterly winds that the climate is moderate.
Iceland is a country of mind-blowing beauty that has lots of natural wonders to explore. It is a great place to go for adventure sports and relaxation, this is a country for people who want something against the norm, for those looking for adventure and a different holiday experience. Iceland is not for everyone but if you like your holidays to be a thing to remember and to have completely different and new experiences then its the place for you.
Iceland is a North Atlantic country that lies between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean, some 800km from Scotland. It is in relation to its landmass, the most sparsely populated country in Europe with a population of only 332’529 people. Even so it is a country that has an exceptionally high standard of living and is an expensive country to visit. It’s capital and largest city, Reykjavik lies in the southwest of the island and 2/3 of the population live here or in the surrounding areas.
There has been a settlement on the Island since 874AD, when a Norwegian Chieftain, Ingólfr Arnarson became the first person to settle permanently here. Over the following centuries, Norwegians mainly and to a smaller extent people from other Scandinavian countries began to settle here as well. The country was ruled by Norway from 1262-1814 and was then ruled by Denmark. It wasn’t until 1918 that Iceland finally became independent and a Republic in 1944.
For a small country that has stood independently for a relatively small period of time it has achieved a lot. It is ranked high in the economic tables and has good political stability and social stability and equality. Following WWII with the Industrialisation of the Fisheries, Iceland has become very prosperous which has led to it becoming one of the wealthiest countries and one of the most highly developed nations in the world. It runs almost completely on renewable energy and has the most active volcanoes in the world and some of the world’s largest geysers.
The Island is volcanically and geologically active with the interior of the island consisting of lava fields and mountains, waterfalls and glaciers, glacial rivers that flow through the land out into the seas and beaches of black sand. The summer months are long with almost 24 hours of daylight but the extreme opposite of this means that the winter months are long with only a few hours daylight. It’s positioning means that the Summer months are never hot and the weather can change in an instant so come prepared for many changes in the weather. Make sure that you bring warm clothes and waterproofs even through the Summer months.
Iceland is a place of extremes and its a place that caters for extreme experiences. This is a place for hiking, skiing, snowboarding, white water rafting and bathing in the thermal springs.
The country attracts around 270’000 tourists every year and there are plenty of things on offer for them. From extreme sports to extreme natural phenomena here are some of the top picks for your holiday in Iceland.
Blue Lagoon Thermal Spa Day
The Blue Lagoon in Grindavik is the perfect place to go to relax and enjoy a spa experience like no other. This famed hot spring spa is the ultimate in spa’s. Located in a lava field in Grindavik, the warm waters of the spa are rich in minerals such as sulphur and silica and are renowned for treating skin conditions such as psoriasis.
This is the place for ultimate relaxation, in waters that reach temperatures of 37-39 c and it is the perfect place to go to whatever the weather. The milky aquamarine waters are the ideal place for people to bathe in and for medicinal purposes and it is the silicate minerals that give the waters their distinctive milky blue hues.
The geothermal spa which consists of a large hot pool that lies in the lava fields is surrounded by volcanic black boulders which all add to the unique experience. An entire day can be spent here as there are places to eat and drink, and a whole host of different treatments on offer from treatments for the skin in the form of face masks, volcanic rock scrubs and even in-water massages. A package will start from about 50 euros and pre-booking is required before hand.
Reykjavik for the Day.
The Island’s capital is a must do experience when in Iceland. Reykjavik, is the best base for enjoying many excursions that are on offer but it is also a great place to spend some time in as well. Famed for its night life and bars it is a real cultural hub and also a great place to go for some amazing food. Here you can eat from around the world and sample the delights of Asian, Indian, Icelandic and Spanish infused dishes, whatever you feel like it is on offer here.
As well as eating and entertainment, Reykjavik also offers many chances to indulge in its thermal baths and spas. The thermal spas are part of the culture of Iceland and are seen as a great place to relax and an amazing tonic for both body and mind and a great way to spend some time on your holiday.
There are many places of interest in Reykjavik and although a modern city, the links to the Nordic heritage and past culture are everywhere. Take a trip down to the sea front and see the striking Sun Voyager, a modern sculpture by Jon Gunnar Arnason, an ode to the sun but one that looks almost like a Viking ship.
Take a trip to the Old Harbour which is fast becoming the place to be, a lively place of culture and bars and place of many attractions a vibrant quarter that is the home to the Viking Maritime Museum.
Whale Watching Trips
May to September is the best time to go whale watching but you can do it all year round. Trips go from the old harbour at Reykjavik three times a day in the Summer months and during the Winter months there is one daily trip.
There are several different trips you can take, including going out at midnight whilst the sun is still out to catch a glimpse of these amazing creatures as well as tours which include bird watching. In all
there are 25 different types of whales that can be seen on the different tours and when staying in Iceland this is an experience that shouldn’t be missed, after all a chance to see these amazing mammals living in their natural habitat is a memory that will stay with you forever.
Look for the Northern Lights
As well as whale watching another must do excursion when in Iceland is to see the Northern lights. This is obviously a trip that can only be taken at certain times of the year with between November and March being the best times.
There are many variables to seeing the Northern lights and they are not guaranteed but generally full, dark nights are the best times to view them and because the lights go in cycles the length of your stay can determine whether you get to see them as well. A seven night stay will afford you the best chance, as the lights are active for two or three nights and then quieter for four or five.
The cooler the night the better to see them as you will need dark, clear skies and the colder months producer clear, cloud free ones. Finally although they can be seen in the capital, it is often better to get well away from street lights and other artificial lights to get the best views.
Although a lot of variables need to be taken into account to get a glimpse of one of the most amazing light shows on earth, it is surely worth all the planning that goes into this trip. Whether you choose to go solo or book a tour to see the lights, the image of these amazing dancing lights lighting up the night sky is worth all of the preparation.
No trip to Iceland would be complete without seeing the spectacular waterfalls and geysers and a trip to Gullfoss waterfall is one of the best. This amazing “golden” waterfall is located in the Southwest of the Island and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland.
The waterfall which is the most popular in the country, lies in the Hvítá river takes its name from the colour it looks as it cascades into the deep crevice. The golden colour is achieved because of the sediment that is washed up into the water which, when the sun hits it gives it its golden hue.
The sheer force and scale of the waterfall will have an amazing effect on you and it is a really uplifting experience to be surrounded by so much natural beauty and power. The waterfall is rated as one of the top waterfalls in the world and draws big crowds because of the ease in which to get to it from Reykjavik but it is still an experience that you will want to take away with you from your trip to Iceland.
Iceland Things to Do and See – Final Words
Iceland is a place of stunning natural beauty and is the place to go for people who want to get out there and experience all that this wonderful world has to offer. From breathtaking, dramatic waterfalls to gushing geysers and whale watching to the dancing Northern lights, a holiday to Iceland is packed full of some of the most truly amazing natural wonders of the world and the memories that you bring back with you will be truly magical. A holiday to Iceland is a holiday like no other but it will no doubt become one of the best experiences that you will ever have.