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Iceland, the wonderful land of ice and fire, a playground of wild beauty and endless space. The Icelandic countryside is made of contrasts, from rivers, to waterfalls, and from mountains to valleys. There are volcanos and glaciers as well as hot and cold springs. Wherever you go to in Iceland, no matter the direction, you will always find something to be breathless about.
THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
This is the most popular tourist route in Iceland departing from Reykjavík and covering a vast area of geological and historical attractions.
Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, beautiful area with its lake, natural vegetation and visible tectonic fissures, which are popular amongst divers and snorkelers.
The park sits in a rift valley caused by the separation of 2 tectonic plates, with rocky cliffs and fissures like the huge Almannagjá fault. It is the visible site of the mid-Atlantic Ridge where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. The plates are being pulled apart at a rate of 2 centimetres (nearly an inch) per year, creating the Thingvellir Rift Valley.
GEYSIR GEOTHERMAL AREA
Iceland’s very own pressure valve with Strokkur letting off steam every few minutes in a 30m high aquatic burst. This hot geothermal area is fascinating with its colours, smells and energy.
Seen from a dizzy height, this waterfall is two-tiered and plunges 32m down into the Hvíta River. It looks magnificent in its winter coat of icicles and frozen spray.
Even though Gullfoss is very crowded, you can find pockets of emptiness among the crowd to capture the waterfall.
SECRET LAGOON Flúðir
Extensive geothermal activity is one of Iceland’s most distinctive features, with geothermal areas covering more of this country than any other. For geothermal warmth to reach the surface, water needs to bring it from underneath.
Ever since the settlement, Icelanders have used geothermal water for washing and bathing. Early settlers very often referred to geothermal phenomena in their place names. Thus, a great number of the original names include terms such as varm (warm), reyk (smoke/steam) or laug (bathing pool).
The Secret Lagoon is the last stop on the Golden Circle route and was created in 1891. This natural hot spring is located in the small village called Flúðir. It has been kept natural and unique so guests can get the true Icelandic feeling. The pool’s natural surroundings and steam rising into the air gives the place a magical feeling. The warm water stays at 38-40 Celsius all year. In the whole area there are several geothermal spots and a little Geysir which erupts every 5 minutes, showing off for the guests relaxing in the hot spring. During winter, the northern lights often give a great lightshow above Secret Lagoon. What better way to view the spectacular light show overhead than relaxing in the pool’s warm water?
A well deserved glass of champagne to finish off the Golden Circle Tour.
A comforting warm hug amidst very cold air, this place is the perfect start (or end) to an Iceland trip.
The Blue Lagoon with its azure blue healing water sits in an ancient lava field. Its water is pumped up out of drill holes and its surroundings are entirely designed by people.
The geothermal water at the Blue Lagoon has silica and minerals, which has many benefits (helps clear up body acne for one) but also a few things to consider… It’s very drying on the hair. I highly recommend using a lot of conditioner before and after entering the water.
The sun peaked through just as we got there and it wasn’t too crowded (perhaps due to the size of the lagoon). You can stay there for as long as your heart desires. We ended up staying there for 3 hours relaxing and sipping champagne before our flight back home.
THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
Seeing the Aurora Borealis (otherwise known as the Northern Lights) is an unforgettable experience. Due to Iceland’s unique geographical location, it is an excellent place for seeing the lights. The Northern Lights can be seen in a variety of shapes and colours. The best time for seeing the lights is between September and April due to the longer daylight hours.
The lights are best appreciated in the countryside, away from the city lights. Many tour operators offer a variety of tours so make sure you sign up to one of these to experience one of the finest displays in nature! We were very fortunate to experience a really great display of lights on our very last night in Iceland as this is not a phenomena you can see every night. Our tour got cancelled twice due to weather conditions.
Just remember, since the auroas are a natural phenomenon there is never any guarantee that you will see them.
Whale watching in Iceland has grown into the most popular tourist activity! The high season is during the warmer months when the migrating whales return to the Icelandic waters and blend in with the resident whales. The WWF has rated Iceland as one of the top whale watching destinations in the world with many species of whales so close to shore including Blue, Sei, Fin, Minke and Orcas. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to do it due to the weather conditions but if you get an opportunity this is a must!
I hope you have found this guide helpful. Have you been to Iceland? Let me know in comments below?
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