Iceland is a mysterious wonderland of waterfalls, glaciers, Viking legends and fiery volcanoes. A place so beautiful every photograph you take could be a postcard. A country filled with warm friendly people, excited to show you around their homeland and share their stories. It feels like being in a national geographic documentary being transported back in time to Earth a billion years ago, when the planet was a volatile ball of energy and still evolving.
One of the main ‘routes’ visitors to Iceland take, the Golden Circle encompasses quite a few incredible sites you’ll not want to miss including the iconic Strokkur Geyser (that erupts every few minutes) and Gullfoss, that looks stunning in both winter and summer. The golden circle can take about 4-5 hours to complete but always give a little extra to relax and enjoy this stunning route. It really is one of the best things to do on a first trip to Iceland.
Iceland is known the world over for its famous geothermal heated pools, with the Blue Lagoon being one of its most pristine. Head across to the Blue Lagoon, around 10 minutes’ drive from the airport, and spend a few hours relaxing in these piping hot pools. The lagoon can get busy, so book your tickets in advance and make sure to visit at less busy times. Usually, first thing in the morning is a little quieter. Also, if you arrive in winter, you can actually head to the Blue Lagoon and watch the sunrise, a magical experience that is well worth doing.
No visit to Iceland is complete without seeing the Northern Lights. If you’ve rented a car, it’s best to head out of the towns and head for some of the darker rural areas. If you drive about 30-minutes out of Reykjavik, you’ll see them clearly in the dark and within the national park itself. The months around March and September are the brightest for the northern lights but you can be lucky and see them at any time of the year.
The capital city of Iceland, Reykjavik is one place you’ll likely spend an evening or two. Go here on weekends when the bars are filled with live music, friendly local’s and an amazing atmosphere. During the day, explore the city itself and visit the Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral or head over to the Harpa concert hall which is home to the national opera and symphony.
There is an abundance of whales that call the shores of Iceland home. Head onto one of the whale watching tours that depart from Reykjavik and try your luck at spotting some of these majestic animals in the wild. Taking roughly 3-4 hours, it’s the perfect way to see whales in their natural habitat. Just be aware, sometimes the tours can overrun a little, so have a buffer for any future plans just in case.
Traditional Icelandic cuisine is little unknown outside of Iceland but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. Try one of the delicious restaurants in Reykjavik and sample some local dishes like; Harðfiskur which consists of dried fish and is a firm favorite. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, chow down on Svið a baked sheep head. This may not be for everyone but why not live like a local!
One of the best places to watch the sunset is Vik and Dyrhólaey. Head here to see the sun slowly descend over the horizon, all whilst standing on the iconic black beach that Iceland has become so famous for……It really is a beautiful place.
Skógafoss is approximately 2 hours east of the airport and is one of Iceland’s most popular waterfalls to visit. Entry is free to Skógafoss and if you arrive early in the morning, or late afternoon, you’ll notice the crowds dissipate, leaving the waterfall just for you.
The glacier lake of Jökulsárlón is probably the furthest east you’ll travel out of all these places. it’s about 5.5 hours from Keflavik airport but well worth seeing if you’ve made it as far as Vik. Head over to Jökulsárlón and see the incredible landscape that surrounds this region. It really is an impressive sight.
Seljalandsfoss waterfall is approximately a 10-minute drive from Skógafoss, so it’s well worth doing these at the same time. One of the best things about Seljalandsfoss is that you can actually walk behind the falls themselves, which is an incredible thing to do! When conditions get really dicey, the path behind the waterfall is closed off; so, don’t be too disappointed. After all, it’s for your own safety.