Things To Do In Iceland
Iceland is one of the Nordic countries in northern Europe, renowned as the country of ‘fire and ice.’ Why? Because it has surreal volcanoes and cooled Lava deposits, atop some of which layers of glacial ice resides, along with lakes and ice caves and glaciers too. People mostly come to Iceland to chase Northern Lights in winter, but a lot of other things are also pursued here, like whale watching, horse-riding, spas in natural geysers and springs, hiking, kayaking, fishing… the list is quite endless. We have a few most coveted ones briefed below.
Chase Northern Lights
The phenomenon of northern lights or aurora borealis is one that we have all at some point studied in our geography textbooks. But none of those stunning pictures do justice to the real effect, when the night sky of winter, so dark and haunting, turns bright green or blue or pink or all of those colours and more. It is like nature’s orchestra unleashed, flickering over your head. Most countries near the North Pole see these lights through their winter months, and Iceland is blessed with a developed capital city that falls in that zone. So you may not need to go too far. Many tours also run into the northern wilderness for better sighting prospects. Northern Lights in Iceland are visible from October to April.
Whale-watching is a massively coveted activity here, and mostly undertaken through spring and summer seasons. Iceland is one of the best lands or should we say waters to sight whales. Reyðarfjörður Fjord is great to take a ferry ride for whale-watching, the next is Husavik, followed by Eyjafjörður. From June onwards, until September the sightings are mostly assured but shoulder seasons before and after these months are also okay.
Walk the Labyrinth of Ice Caves
Yes, as mentioned in the introduction, Iceland has some brilliant ice caves. One of the most tourist friendly among them is at Vatnajökull Glacier. This glacier is ever-shifting, so its exact location is always determined when you reach the country. The colourful caves here are dramatic, with the cooled Lava deposits dancing in different colours and the ice walls frozen over, icicles and crystals hanging down from ceilings like natural chandeliers. The place makes for your own personal disney world. November to March is the best time for a visit, and it is advised to go for a guided tour because of the glacier’s dynamic and shifting nature.
Ride Horses like a Viking
Well, legends may be true. Vikings may have ridden horses as big as elephants. But really, the native Icelandic horses look cute against the image of their killer riders. In fact, these horses have a beautiful mane of hair covering their foreheads and backs, mostly found in tan or brown coloured coats, with short legs and muscular structure. It is fun to go for horse-back riding tours here, taken with professionals as well as on your own if you are proficient in the sport.
Since Icelandic laws prevent any horse that has left the country to come back, the purity of this species is excellently maintained.
Enjoy the Hot Springs
The ‘fire’ part of Iceland is not limited to the volcanoes. The land is also home to hundreds of geysers, hot springs, geothermal pools and lakes. The underground heat activity ensures such abundant wonderful waterbodies in the area. So while you are here, ensure you visit at least a few of these for a nice mineral rich dip or just soaking for sore muscles. Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik is one very highly recommended site for tourists, especially since they have in-water massages and spa treatments also available here. The silica and sulphur of the pale blue water makes for good healing for skin and bones.
Your other options would be Landmannalaugar (free of cost), Seljavallalaug hot spring and Myvatn Nature Baths.
Photography at Vestrahorn
Vestrahorn Mountain is a stunning peak that is 454 m in height and sits beside a beautiful lagoon and black sand beach. Most travellers and backpackers prefer to visit Vestrahorn to do a photoshoot, nature or otherwise. The black sand beach at the foothills is also great for a leisurely walk or just to enjoy petting the stray ponies. The water of the lagoon also houses some seals so who knows, you may get lucky and see them too.
Landmannalaugar, as mouthful as the name is, makes for a stunning sight to see. With its multicoloured mountains home to various Lava deposits, and lakes that look like blue crystals, this place is ethereal, almost out of a dream. There are hot springs here, as well as rocks that are splashed with Rhyolite lava that has a multi-colour effect. Hikes can be undertaken here, including the challenging 55 km Laugavegurinn Hike. Summer is the best time to visit and for most of winter, the roads here remain close.
Bask in the Culture of West Fjords
West Fjords area of Iceland is a less-frequented region in the country, but rich in culture nonetheless. It has some deep-rooted folk music, folklore, mysticism and magic trapped in its landscapes. The people here are as fascinating as the waterfalls (Dynjandi waterfalls), bird cliffs (Hornstrandir) and glaciers (Drangajökull). Also, do visit the Arnarfjörður Bay, Bolafjall and Flatey to see colonies of cute puffins. For history enthusiasts, visit the Arctic Fox Centre, Westfjords Heritage Museum, Museum of Witchcraft and Sorcery and Icelandic Sea Monster Museum.