Travelling offers the chance to explore exciting new cultures, foods and terrains that you might never otherwise experience, while broadening the mind too. It’s fun to reel the countries that you’ve visited off a list, but have you experienced everything you wanted to in each place? While we know sometimes it’s simply not possible, it’s always a great idea to plan ahead so that you can pick out the most desirable activities for a visit to your chosen country, so you don’t miss out.
If you haven’t previously visited Iceland, it should certainly be added to your list; this Nordic country is brimming with things to do, whether you’re desperate to see the Northern Lights or have some other activities in mind. With an exciting mix of volcanoes, hot springs, glaciers and lava fields, this small island nation with just over 364,000 residents certainly has a lot to offer any visitor.
We’ve shortlisted the top attractions and activities for you to choose from to make the best of your trip to create, for you, the most amazing memories to last a lifetime. Whether you choose to take up everything on the list or experience just a few, you will surely come away impressed.
Witnessing the Northern Lights
Many people have a space on their bucket list dedicated to viewing the Northern Lights, and Iceland is notoriously one of the best places to see this natural phenomenon. Best spotted from September to March, there are many ways in which you can take in the astonishing green aurora across the night sky, and one of the most exciting is to go glamping in a Reykjavik Dome. These dome-shaped tents add a special touch as you cosy up for the night-time display. Most tents have necessities such as a bed, stove and other amenities, but what makes the stay truly special is having your very own night sky show to view from your very own dome.
If you don’t feel like glamping to view this event, you can still view the green aurora in more luxurious surroundings. Try the Hotel Husafell, which is located in the country’s Aurora Borealis zone and boasts an ideal location next to a glacier to view the show through crisp clear skies. Luxurious rooms and suites offer heated floors and nature-inspired décor and design, while guests can make use of a steam room, thermal baths as well as up to three light sightings a week in winter.
Dip into the milky blue waters of the Blue Lagoon
Just half an hour’s drive from Reykjavik, the country’s capital, a visit to the Blue Lagoon comes highly recommended and is a popular tourist spot for good reason. Grab a robe and slippers and lather up with a cleansing silica and algae face mask before taking a dip into the geothermal seawater. As you sink into the pool’s milky blue water, you’ll feel ever-more relaxed and stress-free; the pool’s water is loaded with minerals so, as you bathe you’ll, no doubt, start to feel its rejuvenating effects on your skin. There’s also the luxurious Retreat Spa you can opt to visit, and the lagoon boasts a swim up bar, separate steam room and sauna. Bliss.
Go nature spotting
Whether you’re looking to spot a humpback whale or the ever-beautiful puffin, Iceland is the place to do so with a spectacular array of wildlife readily available. Whale watching tours depart from Husavik, Reykjavik and Akureyri, but Husavik is known at the centre of whale watching due to the number of different species of whale that frequent the bay. The most common are minke and humpback but also expect to spot killer whales on occasion. You’ll also spy a variety of birds on a boat tour but if you’re really keen to seek out the puffin, you can do so on land too. These seabirds usually live in countries that are near the North Pacific and North Atlantic oceans and are a common sight in Iceland, easily spotted by their red beaks and black and white colouring. Head to the village of Borgarfjörður Eystri where you can safely view Atlantic puffins, who nest in the country each year, making Iceland the world’s largest colony of puffins.
Ride in style in a super jeep
Imagine a mini monster truck and you’ll know what to expect when you take a thrilling tour of the landscape of Iceland in a super jeep. With their oversized tires, these customised jeeps are the best choice when travelling in cold weather and varying terrains as they can handle harsh elements and access hard to reach places in Iceland, ideal for heading out and exploring. You can choose to rent out a super jeep yourself or hop inside and let yourself be taken on a tour of the golden circle and Langjokull glacier or south coast and Katla ice cave.
Sample some local cuisine
Due to its isolated location, the traditional cuisine of Iceland is limited to what can be found close by, so expect to find plenty of fish, lamb, dairy and, yes, fermented shark. Whether you head to a food truck or a fine dining restaurant you will certainly gain a fresh insight into Iceland’s cuisine that will leave you wanting more. Head to Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, in Reykjavik, who have been serving up the country’s version of a hotdog – pylsur – for 60 years. Arguably the best in the city, these hotdogs are made from beef, lamb, and pork and can be served as eina með öllu, or a hotdog with everything on it, including raw and deep-fried onions, sweet brown mustard and remoulade.
Gain some insight at the country’s museums
There is nothing quite like a museum visit to gain some insight into the culture and immerse yourself in the history of any given place. The National Museum of Iceland offers the perfect glimpse into Icelandic life through the centuries, while the Transportation Museum in Ystafell is the place to go for car lovers to see a collection of vintage cars and trucks. Take yourself back to the Viking Age at The Settlement Museum or head to Aurora Reykjavik to witness the light show on screen if the real-life version evaded you on your trip.
Take a thrilling helicopter ride
For those who love to see a landmark or city from the sky, a helicopter ride around the marvellous sights of Iceland should surely make it on the list. Enjoy incredible aerial views over the capital and its mountains or head to the country’s tallest waterfall, Glymur passing dormant volcano craters on the way to Europe’s second largest glacier, Langiokul. View the sights of the Golden Circle from the air as well as deep canyons, glaciers, waterfalls and dramatic mountains in one trip, whichever tour you take you certainly won’t forget anything you’ve seen in a hurry.