Year after year, Iceland remains one of the most desirable places to travel. Home to hot springs and other natural wonders, Iceland offers visitors countless opportunities for exploration and breathtaking natural beauty. With so much to do, planning a trip to Iceland can be difficult, since there are so many options for activities. Here are some things to consider before finalizing your travel plans.
The Best Times to Visit Iceland
You can visit Iceland any time of year, which is another reason why it’s such a popular destination. During the winter months, Iceland has significantly shorter days and it is noticeably dark, which can be a shock to visitors. Although the darkness is hard to navigate, it allows travelers to view wonders like the Northern Lights.
Summer trips to Iceland are also a great option because of the long days. With almost 21 hours of daylight, visitors have plenty of time to explore the country—hiking, visiting geothermal spas, fishing, and dining, shopping, and visiting museums and attractions in Reykjavik. Since the weather won’t be hot, preparing for a summer trip to Iceland will differ from planning a trip to most summer vacation hotspots. Average temperatures in July, Iceland’s warmest month, hover around 57 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you are looking to avoid the tourist crowd, visiting in the off-season is a good option for a few reasons. Off-season visitors can enjoy the scenery with fewer people around, and trips booked during off-peak times will typically provide costs savings via discounted flights, activities, and hotel options.
Top Icelandic Attractions
Iceland is sometimes called the “land of ice and fire.” It’s a place where snow and ice meet volcanoes, geothermal hot springs, and geysers. Iceland’s best attractions allow visitors to experience these natural wonders up close.
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is one of the more isolated destinations in Iceland; this peninsula in western Iceland is often regarded as a vacation within a vacation. Driving through the Snæfellsnes Peninsula will take you to small fishing villages, which are home to quirky attractions like the Norwegian House Museum and the Library of Water. Visitors to this region also get to see Snæfellsjökull volcano, considered an iconic symbol of Iceland itself. The peak can be seen from Reykjavik on a clear day. Around the volcano are moss-covered lava fields.
The Blue Lagoon is the most popular of many natural geothermal spas in Iceland. Conveniently located about 40 minutes from Reykjavik, the Blue Lagoon allows visitors to relax outside in naturally occurring hot spring pools, a practice that’s said to be beneficial for the skin and general health. The Blue Lagoon gets its name from the milky blue color of the water, which is about 98 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to the pools, there’s also a shop on-site where visitors can purchase natural skin products and other spa treatments.
To see more of the country’s volcanic heritage, visit Cave Viðgelmir, located in the Hallmundarhraun lava field. This underground lava tube is 5,250 feet long. In some places, the cave is 50 feet tall and 50 feet wide, making it the largest cave of its kind in Iceland. Not too far from Reykjavik, Cave Viðgelmir is a must-see during any Icelandic vacation.
Langjökull (Icelandic for “long glacier”) is another popular attraction. The country’s second-largest glacier, it is located in what’s called the “Highlands of Iceland,” a sparsely populated plateau in the country’s interior. The ice in the glacier is up to 1,900 feet thick in some places. The glacier is also unique because a tour company called Into the Glacier offers tours through man-made ice tunnels carved inside the glacier—a one-in-a-lifetime experience. Langjökull is also home to a chapel that’s made completely of ice and snow.
Besides its glaciers and volcanic activity, Iceland is also home to many waterfalls. One of the most famous is Dettifoss, located in Vatnajökull National Park. This powerful waterfall is 150 feet tall and 328 feet wide. The sediment in the water colors the rapids an opaque grey-white. Gullfoss in southwest Iceland also shouldn’t be missed.
The aurora borealis is one of the most popular attractions that Iceland has to offer. Commonly known as the Northern Lights, this natural phenomenon is caused by the solar wind that gets caught in the Earth’s magnetic field and combines with the molecules in the atmosphere. To get the best view of the aurora borealis, visit between October and April—the closer to midwinter, the better. While you can see the aurora borealis from anywhere in the country, it’s best to drive to a remote area away from Reykjavik to avoid artificial light pollution. One popular place to watch the lights is Thingvellir National Park, an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Let the Experts Help You Plan Your Iceland Trip
Since Iceland is packed with exploration opportunities, planning can be a little challenging if you’re doing it alone. Deciding to hire a travel agent to coordinate your flight, car rental, hotel stays, and tours can give you a more seamless vacation and take away much of the stress of planning a trip. A good travel agent will help you get the most out of your Icelandic vacation.