Iceland is a Nordic island country which is filled with sharp contrasts. Fire and ice batter the country, and the dramatic landscapes are dotted with volcanoes, geysers, waterfalls, hot springs and lava fields. Iceland also has the biggest glacier in Europe and the Northern Lights dance in the skies for eight months of the year. Iceland is truly one of the most magical countries on earth and is a destination that has for as long as we can remember been on our bucket list. Whilst we won’t be visiting for a couple of years now we’ve relocated to the Southern Hemisphere we have put together our Iceland Bucket List which will hopefully inspire others to explore all this incredible island has to offer.
MARVEL AT THE WONDERS OF VATNAJÖKULL NATIONAL PARK
Vatnajökull National Park was established in 2008 and is the largest national park in not just Iceland but also Western Europe, covering 13% of Iceland. The National Park contains the largest glacier in the world outside the Arctics, which is called Vatnajökull. It is unique in its incredible range of contrasting natural wonders where the battle between fire and ice still rages, created by the forces of rivers, glacial ice and volcanic and geothermal activity. We’re excited to see the white glaciers which descend into black sand, the hot streams erupting from frozen ice and of course, Iceland’s highest mountain watching over its deepest lake. We’ll be visiting during winter and so can’t wait to take one of the ice cave tours in Iceland, many of which are in Vatnajökull National Park and are formed by Vatnajökull glacier.
SPOT THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
The Aurora Borealis, otherwise known as the Northern Lights is one of the most spectacular phenomenons on earth and is at the very top of both Dan and my bucket list. Iceland is one of the best places on Earth to spot them as they are on show for almost 8 months of the year (from mid-September to mid-April)! Iceland is a very scarcely populated arctic island and the lack of pollution makes it one of the most ideal places to marvel at the Northern Lights. The optimal conditions to see the Northern Lights is when the skies are clear and dark, its cold and on a good night you can even see them from Reykjavik. Seeing the Northern Lights is at the very top of our Iceland bucket list and so we’d ensure we had planned a number of different occasions where we could hopefully spot them in case mother nature doesn’t play nicely with us!
VISIT THE BLACK SAND BEACH
The world famous Reynisfjara shore, near the village Vik in Myrdalur on Iceland’s South Coast is considered to be the most impressive black sand beach in Iceland. Reynisfjara is a black pebble beach and also features an incredible cliff of basalt columns which resemble a pyramid! There are also spectacularly shaped basalt sea stacks called Reynisdrangar out in the sea and folklore says that two trolls attempted to drag a ship to land but when daylight broke they were turned to stone turning them into the Reynisdrangar stacks which are clearly visible from the beach!
SOAK IN THE BLUE LAGOON
All travel lovers and Instagram addicts will know the iconic Blue Lagoon. What I didn’t know until planning our trip to Iceland was that the blue lagoon is actually a man made lagoon which was formed in 1976 during operations at a nearby geothermal power plant. Over the following years people began to bathe in the unique water and apply to silica mud to their skin and people with skin conditions began to notice an incredible improvement in their conditions. Today the blue lagoon is considered one of the wonders of the world and is high on not just our Iceland bucket list but our entire travel bucket list!
CHASE ICELAND’S MANY WATERFALLS
Iceland’s north Atlantic climate produces frequent rain and snow and its near-Arctic location produces large glaciers whose summer melts feed many rivers and as a result create countless large, powerful and very beautiful waterfalls. Iceland has abundance of water, in all forms whether it is pools, hot springs, geysers, lakes, glaciers, rivers or waterfalls. There are countless waterfalls in Iceland and every year new ones form due to melting glaciers. Whilst we’d love to see as many as possible on our trip there are four that I really want to make the effort to visit!
Skogafoss is one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland and is considered to be one of the most beautiful of all the waterfalls in Iceland. On a sunny day the rainbow may produce even a single or double rainbow to the delight of photographers and visitors alike!
Gullfoss stands for Golden waterfall and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland. This thunderous waterfall is located in the mighty Hvita glacier river in South Iceland and plunges 32 metres in two stages which are almost at right angles to each other.
Seljalandsfoss is another of the very popular waterfalls in the south of Iceland and is a narrow, tall fall that has a drop of 63 metres! Amazingly you can actually walk behind the waterfall which offers spectacular photography opportunities and is without a doubt one of the most picturesque waterfalls in the country!
Svartifoss means Black Waterfall and is an incredible waterfall in Vatnajökull National Park which we spoke about earlier! Svartifoss is a fascinating waterfall that is surrounded by dark hexagonal basalt columns which are said to be some of the most picturesque columns in all of Iceland!
DIVE BETWEEN TECTONIC PLATES AT SILFRA
The Silfra fissure is one of the top dive sites in the world and is an incredible crack between the Northern America and Eurasian continents meaning you can dive or snorkel right between the two continental plates! The underwater visibility in the Silfra fissure is incredibly over 100 metres which is an underwater experience that will unlikely ever be surpassed! This is due to the cold, glacial water that is filtered through porous underground lava for 30-100 years before seeping out from underground wells meaning it is as pristine as water can get and you can even drink it!
DRIVE THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
The Golden Circle is one of the most popular attractions in Iceland and is on most visitors bucket list. The popular route covers around 300 kilometres and loops from Reykjavik into the southern uplands of Iceland and back and offers visitors to opportunity to tick off three of the most popular attractions in Iceland: Þingvellir, Geysir and Gullfoss. Þingvellir is the meeting-point of the continental plates and also the site of the Icelandic parliament, Geysir is a spouting hot spring and Gullfoss is a roaring waterfall that is one of the most iconic spots in the whole country! The Golden Circle can be visited on an excursion or driven in one day but we’d ideally like to hire a car and take two days to do it so that we can visit the sites in our own time and take the time to explore attractions that we’d stumble across in our adventures! We also love travelling in our own car because we can take our time, spend as long as we like at sites and also visit early or late to try and avoid the tour buses and crowds.
Iceland looks like one of the most spectacular countries in the world and whilst our trip won’t be for another two years we’re itching to start planning! We’re planning on having Christmas in England with Dan’s family and then spend a month travelling through Scotland, Finland, Iceland and Hungary, which are a few countries we haven’t yet explored but are at the top of our bucket list. We did visit Scotland earlier this year just before we left the UK but we barely scratched the surface and have been dreaming of going back ever since. Iceland is the one country I’m sad we didn’t visit whilst we were living in England but I’m so incredibly excited to explore all it has to offer when we visit in a few years time.