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Best Places to Visit in Iceland

Best Places to Visit in Iceland
Iceland, with its unusual and mystical terrain, is in every measure a treasure cove. Iceland's surreal landscape and exotic places thrill just about anyone who seeks an escape from the regular humdrum of life.
Cheryl Mascarenhas
Last Updated: Nov 28, 2017
Hmm! Picture this: an ebony frame, laced with snow, and interspaced with fiery flames of red. No, I am not describing Snow White but a land that is made up of ebony beaches; and of mountains covered with thick blankets of snow under which lie fields of molten lava. Picturesque and exotic - that's how I relate to Iceland and its many aesthetic places.

Velkomin to Iceland, home to some of the most splendid ice sculptures, resplendent waterfalls, and huge glaciers. A land that comes across as being a unique and exquisite destination, tells the tale of lava fields and mystical light displays. Brimming with a life of its own, Iceland puffs and spurts to make its presence felt.

Thanks to its vibrant hues and colors, it is open to wanderers who like to charter an unknown course, be it in summer, spring or even somber winters.

From pristine nature that will enthrall not just nature enthusiasts, to lazy days spent in some of the geothermal pools, everything about Iceland waits to be explored. Djammið, Þetta reddast. Here are just a handful of places you can take on...
Up North (Norðurlands)
Aurora Borealis
North Iceland provides charming trails for the adventurous spirit to ride along. Its resplendent nature trails and rich bird life make it a hot destination for tourists to flock to. Here, you can enthrall yourself at Europe's biggest waterfall, or thrill yourself with river rafting. You can choose to explore the highlands or get up close and personal with the whales. You can otherwise be entertained with the mystical dance of The Northern Lights or Norðurljós.
Dettifoss Waterfall In Iceland
Dettifoss waterfalls located 90 km from the town Húsavík in the Vatnajökull National Park, is the most powerful waterfall in Europe. It is situated on the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river originating in the Vatnajökull glacier. You can access the waterfall either by hiking 34 km along the canyon from Asbyrgi to Dettifoss, or drive down along the gravel road leading to the falls. The access roads, however, remain closed during the winter months, that is from January to April.

For the best view of the falls, head to the eastern bank rather than the western bank.
Gothafoss In Iceland
Godafoss, also known as the waterfall of the gods, is one of the most impressive attractions in Iceland. It is located 50 km from the town of Akureyri, in the Mývatn district of North-Central Iceland. Located on the Skjálfandafljót river flowing south of road 1 or the Ring road, it is easily accessible; thus attracting tourists and divers alike. As the story goes, it was at these falls that the Lawspeaker Thorgeir Ljósvetningagoði threw the statues of his Norse (Viking) gods into, hence giving it the name Goðafoss.

The spectacular blue waters are sure to change your perspective.
Leirhnjúkur is a lava field or plain that overflowed during the 1984 eruption. Located close to Mývatn lake in the north, this expanse is a solfatare field (openings through which sulfur vapors rise). In order to access the Krafla mountain, you need to hike 5 km through the field on a wooden platform. The presence of different metals makes the lava colored which increases the visual appeal of the area. Be careful not to step off the boardwalk/wooden bridge or else you might risk getting your foot burned.

The lake reeks of sulfur, so getting down to the lake is a bad option.
Called the capital of the North, Akureyri is a comparatively large town on the coast of the Eyjafjörður bay. An educational hub of Iceland, it is also one of the most popular stops among travelers inundating Iceland. For a unique experience and a culture taste of the 17th century, visit Laufás, an old rectory-turned-museum. Other attractions around the town include skiing at the Hlíðarfjall, and Jaðar, the northernmost golf course.

Don't forget to taste the local ice cream Brynja, popular among its natives, and sip the beer from its breweries.
Hofsos Harbour
Hofsós is a small village and is one of the oldest trading post of the country. Located on the eastern shores of the Skagafjörður Bay, and a mere 345 km from the country's capital city, this city boasts of providing you with tranquility and peace. The city houses the Vesturfarasetrið á Hofsósi or the Icelandic Emigration Center, which is a regional folk museum. Hofsós also offers tourists a camping site. Besides, you can unwind at the shore observing the birds, by some basalt columns.

Try your hand at trout fishing by the lake.
Coming to the West (Vesturland)
Kirkjufell Mountain In Iceland
Beauty at its best, that's what you will come across in Western Iceland. From magnificent mountains, and glaciers to pristine rivers, lakes and fjords, this part of the land comes alive with gushing geothermal activity. Home to some of the famous Vikings, West Iceland intrigues travelers with its rich history. You can indulge in guided glacier excursions and cave walks, besides you can also partake in guided horse rides and bird watching. Just an hour's drive from the capital, West Iceland is accessible all throughout the year.
Hellissandur is a historic fishing village located at the western end of Iceland. Here, you can visit the Maritime Museum and the Nature Museum. Another attraction at Hellissandur is Stadur, an area made popular for rafting. The tallest structure in Western Europe that is the Longwave radio mast, is situated here. Among other attractions is the Snæfellsjökull glacier on the Snæfellsbær peninsula, which is considered to be the 'magnet' of the Peninsula.

Don't try throwing your keys to the ground to check if it is magnetic, I simply meant a tourist attraction.
Hraunfossar Waterfall
The Hraunfossar falls also called the Girdingar Cascade, are an unusual sight to behold. The so-called lava falls are located on the way to Húsafell which is a good 90 minute drive away from Reykjavik. The falls that are lined with birch trees and lava fields comes to life especially in August. The cold, clear water seeps through the lava field Hallmundarhraun formed under the glacier Langjökull and cascades down forming a series of waterfalls on the Hvítá river.

Sipping on coffee and viewing the falls emerging from the lava fields amounts to bliss.
Barnafoss Waterfall In Iceland
Barnafossar, or 'Children's falls' as it is better known, is located on the river Hvítá in Hálsasveitarvegur. As with most places in Iceland, these falls which were initially known as Bjarnafossar are laden with history. It is believed that the falls are so called following the death of two young boys from Hraunsás, who tried to cross the natural rock bridge. The story goes further to say that the bereaved mother had the natural bridge destroyed so as to avoid any more accidents. A short hike from the Hraunfossar falls, Barnafossar that flows out of a lava field is well worth a visit.
Just so you do not get confused, there is another Barnafoss on the River Skjalfandafljot which runs into a canyon, near the Ljosavatn County.

Watch your step while attempting to cross the bridge, it is said to be cursed by the children's mother.
Grundarfjörður is a small fishing village on the western shores of Iceland. This village has been the recipient of several awards for being meticulous in regards of cleanliness and maintenance. With an unusual history, it is home to the oldest volcano Rauðukúla í Helgrindum. Grundarfjörður in its mystical and peaceful surroundings, provides the weary wanderer with absolute relaxation. You can partake in the Village Walk, or go for a boat trip around the islands of Breiðafjörður which is ideal for bird watching.

Here is where you will get acquainted with the real Icelanders as well as their customs and traditions.
Allow yourself to be mesmerized with this beautiful pebbled beach, located on road 574, which is 10 km from the village of Hellnar. Laden with dramatic cliffs and ship wrecks, this beach, if you believe locals, is home to some of the famous ghosts. Apart from the story, Djúpalónssandur was once upon a time a productive fishing village which now lies deserted. On the beach, you will find four lifting stones that were used to test the mettle of the fishermen.

Try lifting the stones yourself. Psst! the smallest stone weighs 25 kg.
Traveling Down South (Suðurland)
Blue Lagoon Iceland Europe
A place that envelopes its visitors in its warm embrace literally, South Iceland offers travelers an experience of a lifetime. Here you will get to explore the beautiful beaches, drool over breathtaking sceneries, go skinny-dipping in some of its hot pools. You can bear witness to the spurting hot springs and geysers, and have a tête-à-tête with Iceland's famously infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano. From surfing to kayaking, and hiking to biking, South Iceland proposes five circles - Glacier Circle, Volcano Circle, Blue Circle (activities), History and Culture circle and the Golden Circle - waiting to be explored by its visitors.
Strokkur Geyser
A major attraction in Iceland and South Iceland in particular, is the bubbly Strokkur geyser. Situated close to the now-dormant Great Geysir or Stori-Geysir, the two are a part of the Haukadalur valley in South Iceland. Strokkur also known as The Churn erupts every ten minutes, sending steaming water as high as 131 feet or 40 meters. The geyser when erupting forms a turquoise dome which appears like an eye from a distance.

The water is scalding hot and it would be wise if you do not venture too close to the geyser.
Gullfoss Falls
Gullfoss or Golden Falls is the star attraction of South Iceland. Situated on road 36, it takes about 30 minutes from Laugarvatn and about an hour and a half from Reykjavik. Watching the river disappear into the crevice leaves one feeling refreshed and energetic. The plummeting waterfalls takes on a golden sheen on a sunny day, making it appear as molten gold cascading into the crevice.

Witness the falls in the winters, it's really worth the trip.
Thingvellir or the Þingvellir National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site in Bláskógabyggð on road 37, just half an hour away from Reykjavik. Walking through the park, you will come across faults and fissures that bear testimony to the Earth's continental drift. The natural landscape is forever transforming and shaping itself with the perpetual tectonic activity. The Öxaráfoss (waterfall) on the river Öxará that spans the park, is one of the principal attraction in the Thingvellir National Park. Popular as a scuba diving site, the Silfra rift (a crack between the Eurasian and American continent) in the Þingvallavatn lake is a must visit. Known as the Parliamentary Plains, Thingvellir is the most important historic site in Iceland.

Sko, þú veist, (well, you know) this is evolution.
Pingvellir National Park
Oxara River Iceland
Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland, is a sight to behold with its colorful buildings and even more colorful nightlife. Reykjavik which actually means 'Steamy Bay', got its name from the sight of steam rising from the geothermal hot springs, that attracted the Vikings when they landed at the bay. The Lutheran church Hallgrímskirkja stands tall to welcome its guests, so there isn't a chance you would miss seeing it. You can unwind by hiking and biking in the Elliðaárdalur valley, a green recreational area, or go salmon fishing in the Elliðaá river.

Just so your trip doesn't go waste, don't forget to go skinny-dipping in the famous Blue Lagoon, a geothermal pool in the area.
Aerial View Of Reykjavik
Landmannalaugar or the people's pools, is a major tourist attraction in Iceland. Known as the heart for hikers, the area is interspersed with colorful rhyolite mountains and lava fields and roaring hot springs. Warm brooks, camping huts, and horse riding make it famous among its explorers. Open only during summers, it is accessible from Thorsmork (Þórsmörk); scheduled bus services from Reykjavik and Myvatn ply hikers to Landmannalaugar. Points of tourist interest include the Hnausapollur crater lake which is famous for trout fishing.

Biking in this region is relatively difficult, and is recommended only for trained/expert mountain bikers.
Icelandic Landscape
Hnausapollur Volcanic Crater Lake
Very much like an amphitheater, this crater lake is a beauty to behold. Characterized with steep slopes and a spectrum of colors along the slopes, it is relatively popular among tourists. One of the walls of the crater lake has a gentle slope making it easy to descend to the lake's opaque aquamarine waters. Said to be around 3000 years old, it is one of the most recognizable calderas and is one of the stops along the Golden Circle.

Check it out in the late winters or early spring, I am sure there will be murmurs of wonder.
Skogafoss Sunrise
Skógafoss is located at the base of the Eyjafjöll mountain range. Considered to be a photographer's delight, Skógafoss is a 60-meter high waterfall that is highlighted with rainbows on a sunny day. Do not forget to visit the Skógar museum that will retell the history of Iceland. A hiking trail on the eastern bank of the waterfall will lead you to the Eyjafjallajökull glacier. It is located on the ring road which makes it easy to spot. If you believe the legend, the first Viking settler is said to have buried a treasure chest behind the falls.

Good luck to find the pot of gold at rainbow's end!
And Finally, the East (Austurland)
Eastern Iceland boasts of picturesque fjords, fertile valleys, majestic mountains and tranquil river banks. Here you will find variety at its supreme best, from the many cultural events to glorious food, to spotting Santa Claus' favorite mode of transport; the East is an experience worth a visit. Hiking through verdant tracks will never be more delightful and all this comes alive in East Iceland. Submit yourself to a sublime feeling in the presence of the mighty Vatnajökull glacier, or better still give in to an experience of an otherworldly environment.
Known to be a museum of ice sculptures, Jökulsárlón is a large glacier lake on the South Eastern border. Located along the ring road, it forms the southern base of the Vatnajökull National Park. The lagoon which is around 200 meters deep is home to some of the big icebergs that crumble down from the glacier. During the summer months, you can avail boat rides that will take you face to face with the ice sculptures that melt away gloriously. In the winters, you will spot a number of seals and the great Skua at the lake.

Psst! The icebergs floating on the aquamarine water resembles a glass of refreshing drink.
Man Hiking In Rocky Rural Creek
You need to see it to believe it, Stórurð in East Iceland is a most frequented spot. Also named as 'The Giant Boulders', it is located close to the Dyrfjöll mountains on road 94. A short hike from Vatnsskarð, Stórurð is an unearthly experience in itself. The mighty black walls that rise vertically, encapsulate cool rivers and plush green banks. This makes the view mesmerizing. Hiking through these sublime surroundings makes for an exceptional experience especially when you have yellow mountains in the background and verdant meadows all around.

Take time out from your regular routine, this activity is surely stimulating.
The music hub of Iceland, Norðfjörður also offers sport enthusiasts the opportunity to go kayaking in the fjord. You can even choose to go horseback riding into the nature reserves. Make merry on the boat cruise which will take you from Norðfjörður to Mjóifjörður. At Mjóifjörður, grab every opportunity to witness the Klifurbrekkufossar falls that cascade down in a step pattern. Considered to be Iceland's most impressive fjord, the light house at Mjóifjörður will offer a panoramic of the fjord.

A swim at Norðfjörður is supposed to be an extraordinary experience.
Located on the eastern border, this village is a commercial center and a trading post. A walk around this town and a visit to the Maritime museum is a must when visiting the east. Take the opportunity to rent a boat and explore the fjord and your skill at fishing. Once at Eskifjörður, do take time to visit the world famous spar mine, Helgustaðanáma. Hólmanes, is another nature reserve you are sure to enjoy. With its splendid rock formations, it is a definite attraction.

Head to the Vöðlavík bay if you are looking for some tranquil time alone.
Eyjabakkar is a wetland is located at the north eastern border of the Vatnajökull glacier. Accessible only by foot, this land is home to reindeers and the pink-footed goose. Visiting the ice caves formed under the Eyjabakkajökull glacier is sure to leave you spellbound and mesmerized. Such ice caves can also be found at the Kverkjökull glacier, where the hot springs have caused the formation of a cave.

The water flowing through this cave is relatively warm, allowing you to take a dip in the cold winters.
Borgarfjörður Eystri
Puffin Iceland
Popular amongst the adventurous spirit and made popular for hiking, Borgarfjörður Eystri is a beautiful valley. Álfaborg or the 'The Elves Castle' is another tourist attraction which is believed to be the residence of the queen of the elves. Getting up close and personal with puffins is possible at this harbor. One of the attractions here is the music festival held every summer. A visit to the church is a must, to see the altar piece painted by Jóhannes S. Kjarval.

Be careful of the elves who do not like people trespassing into their territory.
What Not to Miss
Hákarl: A delicacy in Iceland, the Hákarl is essentially fermented shark. Consume this only if you really have the guts to try out something that has been rotting in the ground for days and hanging in a shed for months.

Kolaportið Market: From furniture to clothing, the Kolaportið Market in Reykjavik will provide you with some interesting finds. Souvenir shopping never got any better with these secondhand buys!

Date with the Spirits: I am not kidding, there are beaches and places you could have an encounter with one of Iceland's Popular ghosts.

Romance the Elves: Yet another popular folklore tells that these little creatures reside in this mystical land.

Ice Climbing: With so much of natural ice walls available all over, this should definitely top your list of to do's.

Ice Skating: Do we even need to mention it as an activity?

Snorkeling: Care to go down into the spine-chilling waters to witness the life in the cracks of the tectonic plates?

Viking Sword Fight: Witness the Viking festival where Vikings battle it out with swords.

Pick Up on Some Icelandic: It's never too late to learn a new language. Learning Icelandic will help you find your way in Iceland at least.

20 Hours of Darkness: You heard it right, it's December and this is what you will get in Iceland. Didn't I say party harder, the nights are longer?

The Best Time: Though open for travelers all year round, the best time to visit Iceland is during the summers that is from June to mid-September. If you are looking for great discounts, it is better to plan a winter rush to Iceland.
That's about where my work ends, please do let us know of your trip to Iceland and the intriguing places you visited. So for now it is Sjáumst andGangi þér vel for a pleasant stay in Iceland. Bon voyage!