Iceland is becoming increasingly popular for travelers to visit, boasting exciting things to do during every season of the year. With many options to see the wonders of Iceland, including stopover flights for shorter trips, you can easily enjoy the northern-most capital in the world. Here’s how to make the most of your trip to Iceland, no matter how many hours of daylight you have to accomplish it.
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
On a venture through the southern coast of Iceland, you can visit the famous Reynisfjara beach. Situated about two and a half hours away from Reykjavik, the Black Sand Beach is one of the top attractions in Iceland. With tall basalt columns lining the shore, this spot provides a breathtaking look into the country’s landscapes. The wind blows very hard at some points and the waves come up high onto the shore. Make sure to enjoy a delicious hot chocolate or some soup at the site’s cafe to warm up. Many day tours also stop at popular waterfall and village destinations on your way to the beach, allowing you to see even more during the day!
Iceland is home to many glaciers due to its chilly climate. Strap on some crampons, grab your warmest boots and gloves, and cross glacier hiking off your bucket list. The Sólheimajökull glacier, located very near to the Reynisfjara Beach, is a part of Mýrdalsjökull, Iceland’s fourth largest glacier that covers the infamous volcano Katla. On the glacier, different colors are visible, whether its gray, light blue, sea-foam green or even crystal clear. There are several day tours that visit Iceland’s glaciers, and the guides are very educated on safety procedures. Unfortunately, due to changes within the environment, many of these glaciers are getting smaller every year. Be sure to visit before its too late!
Þingvellir National Park
Named as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park is one of Iceland’s “Golden Circle” stops. Home to the Gulfoss Waterfall, Geysir thermal area, and many other spots, Thingvellir remains a very photogenic location east of Reykjavik. The site was even used as one of many filming locations for HBO’s hit show Game of Thrones. One of the coolest aspects of the park is that it is situated on a tectonic-plate boundary where North America and Europe are separating by several millimeters each year, meaning you can literally walk through 2 continents. The more adventurous soul can also do some underwater diving at Slifra, a fissure of the tectonic plates in Thingvellir National Park.
The Northern Lights
One of nature’s most amazing phenomena is the Aurora Borealis, formed when Earth’s magnetic field interacts with charged particles from the sun. Iceland’s northern location provides its visitors with the chance to spot the lights between the months of September and April. On a clear night, often in the middle of nowhere away from other lights, one can see the vivid hues of green, peach and purple grazing the sky with twinkling stars mixed in. The Aurora Borealis is very difficult to view if the conditions aren’t right. A trained tour guide knows exactly where the best spots outside of the city are for the lights, and often takes great photographs. Layer up, as the Icelandic nighttime is very cold!
While many people have heard of Iceland’s aesthetically pleasing Blue Lagoon, the Secret Lagoon is just what it sounds like—secret. While the numbers of visitors to this hidden lagoon has been on the rise over the last several years, the traffic is not near as much as its opponent. This allows for a more peaceful and quiet experience, with the steam rising up into the cold air above. Guests must shower before and after entering the water in order to keep it clean and sanitary for others, and the water is so clear that you can see your hands and feet through it. The Secret Lagoon is definitely a must-see during your trip to Iceland for that photogenic Instagram post.
Harpa Concert Hall
Reykjvaik’s Harpa Concert Hall sits right on the edge of the city, with a beautiful view looking out into the harbor and to the mountains ahead. Completed in 2011, the Harpa is now one of the city’s greatest and most distinguished landmarks. The building’s facade has colored glass, stacked similarly to the basalt columns seen on Reynisfjara Beach. With the changing of the sunlight throughout the day, the building tends to look a little different each time. Inside the hall, the windows are visible all the way to the ceiling, adding a panoramic view to the landscape outside. The Harpa is also located just a walk away from other popular spots in town, such as the Sun Voyager and the Saga Museum. Events are frequently happening inside the Harpa center, so be sure to check if you can attend during your stay!
Icelandic Fish and Chips
With the close proximity to the ocean, Iceland’s abundance of fish is one that any foodie can’t miss. With dozens of restaurants offering the classic fish and chips option, the meal is one that is both filling and delicious. My favorite restaurant in Reykjavik for this delicacy was Icelandic Fish and Chips, conveniently located near the Harpa. The restaurant offers several different choices of fish, which vary from day to day based on their fresh catches. My side dish was roasted potatoes, making a nice combination between the different parts of the meal. There are many alternatives in the Icelandic version of fish and chips compared to one found in the UK or Ireland, so grab your fork! Also, for another interesting combination, try a chocolate bar filled with black licorice, an Icelandic treat found in many grocery stores and shops.
Iceland is becoming more and more popular among world travelers every year. Be sure to stop at these spots when you take the trek up to the northern-most capital in the world to get an authentic look at the Icelandic landscape and culture. Don’t forget your warm gear, your camera or your taste for adventure!