Written by Dino Ðula, journalist and digital marketer at Gateway to Iceland
Beautiful Iceland nowadays has a lot to offer to a modern traveler. And all thanks to that one event in 2010—when Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted. Some would say the eruption, causing cancellation of flights all around Europe, was what put Iceland on the map, while others would argue it was the difficulty of pronouncing said volcano. Whatever the reason, the photos of unique sights and beautiful nature spread quickly and suddenly, more and more tourists were booking their holidays to the “Land of Fire and Ice”.
Last year, this small nation of 300,000 inhabitants hosted over two million delighted visitors from all over the globe. And since this number keeps growing, we will share with you the places you should NOT miss when you plan your own trip to Iceland.
Includes: Thingvellir National Park, Haukadalur valley, Gullfoss waterfall + Secret Lagoon
Why visit: Thingvellir National park is not only the sight of the world’s first parliament (Viking’s Althingi) but it offers the possibility to walk (and even snorkel) between tectonic plates. Haukadalur valley is one of only five places in the world where you can see geysers. Although the old Geyser has not been active in years, visitors are able to enjoy seeing his younger brother Strokkur bursting out streams of hot water in five to ten minutes intervals. The golden waterfall Gullfoss stands for the birth of environmentalism in Iceland and is easily the most popular one out of over 10,000 waterfalls in the country. The oldest swimming pool in Iceland, Secret Lagoon, offers the perfect end to a day trip—bathing in natural geothermal water.
Includes: Reynisfjara beach, Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Why visit: The (in)famous Reynisfjara black-sand beach also features basalt columns, only ever seen in the northern parts of Ireland. Did you know you can walk behind Seljalandsfoss on a nice and sunny day or go on a hike from Skogafoss that will take you up-close to Eyjafjallajökull volcano? Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a bit further away but it’s very much worth your time—you can go on a boat ride around the lagoon or simply admire glacier chunks that are washed on the shore of the Diamond beach.
Snæfellsnes National Park
Includes: Ytri Tunga beach, Snæfellsjökul glacier-volcano, Kirkjufell mountain
Why visit: Not only can you admire the only golden-sand beach in Iceland—Ytri Tunga, but you will probably not be alone as many seals come to the nearby lagoon to relax on the sun in the summer months. Jules Verne started his “Journey to the Center of the Earth” inside Snæfelsjökull and although you might not be able to get in, there is plenty of other ways you can enjoy the scenery. To top it all off, Kirkjufell church-shaped mountain has been an important setting in Game of Thrones and is definitely a sight to behold.
Includes: Krýsuvík geothermal area, Bridge between the continents, Blue Lagoon, KEF airport
Why visit: The chances are high your first contact with Iceland will be on Reykjanes as the country’s biggest international airport (KEF) is located there. You can marvel at tectonic plates, walking over the symbolic Bridge between the continents but also enjoy the colourful hills of Krýsuvík. And if you wanted to take that perfect photo from your holidays in Iceland, then there is no better setting than inside the Blue Lagoon—a man-made lagoon amid endless lava fields.
Why visit: The northernmost capital of the world surely isn’t among the biggest, but it has an irresitible charm. You can admire the beauty of its concert hall, Harpa, or explore a number of museums, which can only be seen in Iceland. You can hike a mountain or take a long stroll down the main shopping street and visit the biggest flea market in the country, Kolaportið, over the weekend. Or you can simply visit one of the many swimming pools to really experience how it is to be a local in the cold North.
Whatever you decide to visit, please remember: nobody comes to Iceland only once!
You can visit all of those places with Gateway to Iceland—not the biggest, but certainly the most progressive and influential tour operator in the industry. Being a family-owned company, they specialize in small-group tours to Iceland‘s most beautiful destinations, in the company of knowledgeable and friendly local guides.