A land where fire and ice coexist, majestic glaciers stand side by side with spewing geysers, and ancient folklore blends seamlessly with modern culture—that’s the enchanting Iceland. This post is a small traveler’s guide to unlocking its wonders. Let’s go on an epic journey through the heart of this extraordinary island and discover why Iceland is a must-visit destination for adventurers and dreamers alike.
Iceland is a beautiful and partially unspoiled land situated in the North Atlantic Ocean. Despite its name, the country’s climate and landscapes are as diverse as any traveler could hope for. With its rolling hills, cascading waterfalls, and rugged terrain, Iceland is a paradise for nature enthusiasts.
Where on Earth is Iceland?
Iceland is situated on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a tectonic boundary separating the Eurasian and North American plates. This geological hot spot has given birth to an array of breathtaking natural features, from volcanic eruptions to seismic wonders.
As you explore Iceland, you’ll be awestruck by its unique landscape. The country’s terrain is a fascinating mix of ice and fire, making it one of the most geologically dynamic places on Earth. Volcanoes, glaciers, and geysers are just some of the natural wonders that await you.
Volcanoes and Glaciers
Iceland boasts over 30 active volcanoes, each telling its own story of eruptions and rebirth. The mighty Eyjafjallajökull, made famous by its 2010 eruption, is a testament to Iceland’s fiery character. But Iceland’s glaciers are no less captivating. Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe, blankets a large part of the country. These ice giants are like frozen fortresses, guarding centuries-old secrets.
What to See
Iceland has countless waterfalls, each more beautiful than the last. The mighty Gullfoss thunders through a rugged canyon while Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss invite you to walk behind their veil of mist. Witnessing these natural spectacles up close is a truly humbling experience.
Geothermal activity is a defining feature of Iceland, and geysers are the stars of the show. Visit Geysir, the namesake of all geysers, and watch Strokkur explode with scalding water and steam. These hydrothermal wonders offer a glimpse into the Earth’s fiery core.
The Geysir Geothermal Area is just one of the remarkable stops featured in every Iceland tour package Exoticca offers. This travel company goes the extra mile to ensure that your Icelandic adventure is as effortless as it is enchanting. With a focus on delivering a hassle-free experience, Exoticca takes care of all the details, from flights to accommodations and even your morning breakfasts. Additionally, they arrange select transfers and include a range of exciting activities. If you’re seeking a seamless, stress-free journey to the captivating Land of Fire and Ice, Exoticca is your ideal choice.
Iceland is dotted with national parks, each offering its own unique charm. Þingvellir National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you can walk between two tectonic plates. On the other hand, Vatnajökull National Park boasts surreal ice caves and the magical Diamond Beach.
Iceland’s hot springs are like nature’s jacuzzis, inviting you to unwind amidst stunning surroundings. The Blue Lagoon, with its milky-blue waters, is a world-famous spot for relaxation. But don’t overlook the Secret Lagoon or the Myvatn Nature Baths for a more serene experience.
Activities to Do
Iceland offers a diverse range of hiking opportunities. Trek across the mesmerizing landscapes of Landmannalaugar, challenge yourself on the Laugavegur Trail, go walking in the Westman Islands, try the Skogar to Thorsmork hike and explore the otherworldly highlands. Iceland’s trails are a gateway to adventure, taking you to places where few have trod.
Iceland’s rugged coastlines are a paradise for birdwatchers. Witness the adorable puffins nesting in the cliffs of Vestmannaeyjar or explore the horned puffin colonies in Grimsey. Beyond the avian wonders, you might also spot seals, reindeer, and the elusive Arctic fox.
Relaxing in Hot Springs
After a day of exploration, unwind in Iceland’s hot springs. The warm, mineral-rich waters are renowned for their healing properties. Let the soothing embrace of the geothermal springs wash away your cares and reinvigorate your spirit.
The spellbinding Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, is a celestial spectacle gracing Iceland’s night sky during winter months. Chase this ethereal dance of light, and you might just witness the sky ablaze in vibrant shades of green and purple.
Culture and People
History and mythology intertwine to form the intricate fabric that is Icelandic culture. The ancient Sagas of the Icelanders provide glimpses into the nation’s past, while modern Icelandic art and music add vibrant colors to the canvas. In addition, the tradition of storytelling is alive and well. You might find yourself listening to an Icelander sharing tales of elves and “Huldufólk,” which translates to “hidden people” in English.
Icelandic Turf houses
Icelandic turf houses, known as “torfbaeir” in Icelandic, represent a fascinating architectural tradition deeply rooted in the island nation’s history.
You will likely spot them around the island while driving. Some of the Iceland’s hostels or museums are also tiny turf houses. These charming structures blend seamlessly with the Icelandic landscape, their distinctive grassy roofs providing both insulation and camouflage against the rugged terrain and harsh weather conditions.
Turf houses have a rich heritage dating back over a millennium. The earliest versions were simple, small huts constructed from wooden frames and stone walls, with earth-packed roofs. However, as Iceland’s settlers sought better ways to cope with the island’s challenging climate, the turf house design evolved into something truly remarkable.
Turf houses are typically made with a timber frame, usually of driftwood or locally sourced timber, which is then covered with layers of stone and turf. The grassy roof serves a dual purpose, insulating the interior and helping the structure blend into the surrounding environment.
Icelanders are known for their welcoming nature. It’s not uncommon for locals to invite travelers into their homes for a traditional Icelandic meal, sharing stories and laughter over dishes like fermented shark or lamb stew. With their strong sense of community, you’ll feel like a part of the family wherever you go.
Icelandic is a language unlike any other, with its roots in Old Norse. While you can get by with English in most places, learning a few Icelandic phrases can go a long way in forging connections with locals. Try saying “Takk fyrir” (thank you) or “Góðan dag” (good day) to put a smile on their faces.
Food and Cuisine
Icelandic cuisine is a reflection of its history and geography. Gain a deeper understanding of the nation’s heritage with every bite of dishes like hákarl (fermented shark), svið (sheep’s head), or skyr (Icelandic yogurt).
Iceland’s proximity to the North Atlantic Ocean means you can indulge in some of the freshest seafood imaginable. Savor dishes like grilled salmon, langoustine, and salted cod, and discover why Icelandic seafood is renowned worldwide.
For the more adventurous foodie, Iceland offers unique culinary experiences. Taste the tangy and powerful Brennivín, the country’s signature schnapps, or try rye bread baked in the ground with geothermal heat. Your taste buds are in for a thrilling ride.
Best Time to Visit
Iceland’s beauty varies throughout the year. Summer offers the Midnight Sun, while winter brings the Northern Lights. Spring and autumn provide milder weather and fewer crowds. Choose your time to visit based on the experiences you seek.
My subjective view after spending an entire year in Iceland is that June is one of its loveliest months, with warm days, lush green valleys and lupins invading the island. However, there are no Northern lights in June 🙂
If you intend to move a lot and follow the Ring Road, consider renting your own vehicle. It can be a car or a campervan, which can serve as your accommodation for the night. Cozy Campers, for example, has a selection of budget and premium campervans for exploring Iceland.
You can also travel by bus from Reykjavik, or try out hitchhiking. The Ring Road is usually crossed by travelers in rental cars and most of them are willing to give a helping hand. Be sure to grab an Icelandic chocolate (the ones with are really good) as a great conversation starter and as a tiny contribution to the ride.
Iceland’s weather is famously unpredictable. Even in summer, be prepared for all seasons in a day. Dress in layers, and always have waterproof clothing and a good pair of hiking boots on hand.
Iceland’s currency is the Icelandic Krona (ISK). Credit cards are handy and widely accepted, but carrying some cash for smaller purchases in rural areas is a good idea.
Iceland is one of the safest nations in the world, with low crime rates. However, respect nature’s rules and warnings. Foul weather, strong currents, and unpredictable conditions can pose risks, so always prioritize safety.
Iceland: The Ideal Destination for Adventure and Relaxation
Iceland is a place of wonder, a land of fire and ice that offers unparalleled natural beauty, vibrant culture, and warm-hearted people. If you seek adventure, relaxation, or a little bit of both, Iceland is the ideal destination for you. The beauty of this land lingers in your heart long after you’ve left, calling you back to its breathtaking landscapes, captivating stories, and unforgettable experiences. Embrace the fire and ice, and let Iceland cast its spell on you. Plan your journey, and let the adventure begin!