Iceland is a rugged land of fire and ice, with over 200 volcanoes and scores of glaciers, desolate lava fields, and towering icecaps. It is a land full of contrasts and if it isn’t already high on your travel wish list, read on to learn why you should consider giving it a nudge up.
About a million people visit Iceland each year. Those who enjoy the outdoors will find a relaxing, yet invigorating vacation with simply sublime landscapes and an amazing array of active adventures. The capital, Reykjavik, boasts a sophisticated food scene with many cafes, bistros and fine dining opportunities, as well as exuberant weekend nightlife.
Top 7 Things to Do in Iceland
Live It Up in Reykjavik – The world’s most northern capital is the cultural epicenter of Iceland. The city is full of artists, writers, musician, and filmmakers and the weekend nightlife is renowned. Revelers party well into the wee hours along the downtown Pub Crawl. If quality dining is more your style of living it up, the fresh local seafood is fabulous. And of course, you must try the Icelandic hot dog – made from lamb meat and topped with raw onions, crispy fried onions, sweet mustard, ketchup made from apples and remoulade.
Drive the Golden Circle – This famous ring route connects three spectacular sites, each within two hours of Reykjavik: Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss Waterfall. Visit Thingvellir to see the Mid Atlantic Ridge; the Geothermal Area to observe steaming fumaroles, gushing geysers, and hot pools; and Gullfoss to encounter the breathtaking power of the dramatic falls. Whether you self-drive or take one of the many Golden Circle tours, this route is a must-do experience.
Soak in a Geothermal Pool – While there are many hot springs in Iceland, the milky sky-blue water of the Blue Lagoon is certainly the most famous. The mineral-rich warm waters and silica mud are reputed to have healing properties and are certain to relax you. Swimming is a way of life in Iceland, a tradition dating back to Viking times.
Hunt the Northern Lights – The Aurora Borealis is quite fickle and only shows when conditions are right. The most important factor is full darkness, so the long winter nights (September to March) of Iceland’s high latitude are the peak times to catch the magnificent light show in the sky.
Trek a Glacier – You don’t have to be a professional climber to experience Iceland’s most notable frozen attraction up close. Glaciers are accessible by hiking, snowmobiling, and jeep tours for a once-in-a-lifetime perspective of these silently marching goliaths.
Go Horseback Riding – The short-legged, muscular Icelandic horse is sure-footed on rough terrain, so exploring by horseback gives visitors an unobstructed view of Iceland’s unspoiled nature. Tours of all skill levels and lengths of time are available.
Take a Whale Watching Tour – Throughout the centuries, whaling influenced Iceland’s cultural and economic history but today the practice is nearly extinct and whale watching is a prime sport. Over 20 species of whales can be seen from April through September.
Surprising Facts About Iceland
- Iceland is the most educated nation in the world, boasting a 99.9% literacy rate.
- It is one of the cleanest environments in Europe. Over 80% of homes use geothermal heat. They also make wide use of hydrogen power in vehicles and fishing boats.
- Icelandic horses are known for their unique gait, the tolt. A 1,000-year-old ban on livestock imports keeps the breed pure and free of disease.
- The island is almost treeless because of the short growing season and little topsoil.
- Iceland has the oldest democratic government in the world with a parliamentary system dating back over 1060 years.
You’ll want to plan three to seven days in Iceland to see the sights and get a feel for the lifestyle of a fishing nation. Summer is a lovely time to visit with day temperatures in the 50s°F. If hunting the Northern Lights is on your agenda, winters are colder but often milder than Chicago. The weather changes very quickly, so be prepared for wind or rain anytime.
Iceland is a land of surprises… pleasant ones! Do yourself a favor and move a visit to Iceland to the top of your shortlist. Covington Travel’s expert vacation advisors are ready to help you!