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If you have not been to Iceland yet or seen the magical photos of the country, then you are missing out on one of the most adventurous destinations out there.
Besides the famous Blue Lagoon and Golden Circle in Iceland (both must do’s), this is the ultimate getaway-destination that provides a great vacation for everyone.
I am not one who travels to cold destinations on the regular. However, when I visited Iceland, the activities and lifestyle there overpowered whatever the weather was during the day and night.
From the city living in Reykjavik, road trips beyond the horizons, and waters that you cannot experience elsewhere, adventure exists any direction you go.
If you try to find out exactly how many waterfalls in Iceland, you will come to know that there is no exact number.
There are said to be more than 10,000 waterfalls varying over the lands of Iceland due to the climate and glaciers. Only about 18 of these waterfalls have topped the “to-see” lists and become most popular with locals and tourists. Some are very closely located to Reykjavik while others require a longer car ride and an overnight stay.
Gulfoss is the easiest to find and visit for the day if you are staying in Reykjavik. It is part of the popular “Golden Circle” trail that can be completed by car as I did so in a few hours during my visit. There are always visitors, however, the area is very big and spread out. It is easy to have great, unobstructed views and find a quiet place to watch the falls.
Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls are located along the South Coast. They are both dramatically narrow and tall, offering a good chance of seeing rainbows. Skaftafell is also located south and is deemed the “Black Waterfall” for its contrast in color.
Morsárfoss is the tallest waterfall in Iceland as of 2011. Unfortunately, there is not any route to access the falls except for a small aircraft. Glymur held the tallest spot up until that year and is accessible in 1 hour by car from the capital.
Combine a trip to Mount Kirkjufell up north when you visit Grundarfjörður waterfall and its small town.
Dettifoss waterfall is the most powerful in all of Europe and requires an overnight stay or tour guide as it is 7 hours away by vehicle from Reykjavik.
There are many more waterfalls you can choose to visit such as those formed from lava and those you can walk around completely You can find the entire list of waterfalls here.
Hot Spring Excursions
Photo via Iceland Tourism.
If you are in need of going in for a dip, you can do that during any month of the year in Iceland.
The many hot springs offer the chance to not only warm up but enjoy a spa-like experience. Some are free while others charge an entry fee.
As an easy and quick stop on your way from Reykjavik airport, you can visit the Blue Lagoon. It is isolated and halfway on the route to Reykjavik, which makes it easy to combine into your trip as you exit the airport.
I happily made this attraction my first stop to warm up and get a taste of Iceland. Make sure to put on one of the silicon mud masks which are found on the right side of the lagoon in small huts, and are complimentary.
A similar lagoon that has been becoming more popular is the Myvatn nature baths. They offer steam baths along with the same blue color. Located 65 miles from the Arctic Circle on the north side of Iceland, one has a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights there in the winter.
For those adventurers who enjoy finding secret places, the Secret Lagoon in Fluðir is not widely known to tourists.
If you prefer to remain indoors, one can enjoy the saunas at Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Baths, which are built over a steaming hot spring.
The smaller hot springs which do not come with a spa center or welcome center can be found close to Reykjavik.
Take a hike to Reykjadalur, a steamy river that flows down a valley which one can bathe in.
Landmannalaugar offers multi-color mountains as a background along with campsites next to their geothermal pools.
One of the most coveted hot springs is that of Víti crater in Askja. This hot spring is located inside a volcano and while beautiful, the waters’ temperatures can get too hot in some places.
Road Trips to Unknown Lands
Photo via Iceland Tourism.
One realizes fast that in order to see much of Iceland and its beauty, you need a means of transportation.
It takes about 12-13 hours to drive around Iceland, that is, without making any stops. There are many destinations and trails within the center of Iceland to visit. Whether you go on your own or with a guide, be sure to check the weather conditions and what vehicle is needed for the terrains.
The Golden Circle is the most popular and one of the easiest to complete on your own all within four to five hours. The route will take you to Pingvellir National Park, Gulfoss waterfall, and the Geysir and Strokkur geysers.
The Ring Road will bring you along the coast for some part of the multi-day road trip along 800 miles. Rugged mountains, volcanoes, and beautiful back roads are included. Be prepared to want to stop every few minutes as the scenery never ends.
In the wintertime, take a trip north for a chance to view the Northern Lights. Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Landmannalaugar, and Jokulsarlon Glacier are options for sightseeing.
If you want to take a spontaneous drive, begin along the coast and find Iceland’s black beaches. You can also plan to head towards one of the waterfalls or hot springs while making stops along the way into towns and enjoying the views as you pull over to the side of the road. Once one leaves Reykjavik, there is no traffic.
Photo via Flickr by Michal Huniewicz
If you are interested in a new activity you can try in the winter weather, then sign up for an ice climbing expedition.
You can go as a novice and do not need to be experienced. The three most popular ice climbing destinations for newbies include glaciers at Skaftafell, Sólheimajökull and Reykjavik.
Your ice climbing tour will be all-day so come prepared and rested. One will need necessary items such as hiking boots and a waterproof jacket. No worries if you arrive in Iceland without these items as you can rent them prior to your expedition. As you climb, you will experience the beautiful ice crevasses, sinkholes, ridges, and natural sculptures along the glaciers.
If you want more adrenaline and have been climbing before, head to Falljökull glacier, also known as the falling glacier.
Ice climbing here leads to a majestic frozen waterfall at the end.
Scuba Diving Between Plates
Photo via Flickr by Shriram Rajagopalan
There is only one place you can go scuba diving between the two continental plates of North America and Eurasia. That place is called Silfra, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Silfra actually is a crack between the plates that has been expanding every year. It is about 1 meter wide and 63 meters deep with visibility over 100 meters.
What you are diving in is in reality porous underground lava which has constantly been filtered and seeps in. There are four different sections to dive in: Silfra Big Crack, Silfra Hall, Silfra Cathedral, and Silfra Lagoon. Ironically, the Big Crack is where it is the most narrow and you can almost touch both plates.
If you prefer to not dive or are not certified, snorkeling Silfra is an easier option.
You will be given a dry suit and taught how to use it. Do not forget your underwater camera!
It will be hard to choose from all these options, but as you see, there are numerous of adventures waiting for you in Iceland.
Which adventurous getaway would you like to take in Iceland?