Few places on Earth are still considered truly wild, but many would agree that Iceland certainly fits such a description. Sometimes referred to as the “Land of Fire and Ice,” the Nordic island’s contrasting landscapes most famously feature many molten lava fields and a number of fascinating glacial terrains.
Of course, there’s much more to Iceland than volcanoes and glaciers. In fact, the country happens to be home to one of the most sought-after dive spots in the world and exquisitely stunning geothermal hot springs, just to name a few outstanding attractions.
“Everything about Iceland is an adventure,” says Liz Dahl founder of Boomer Travel Patrol. [It] should be on everyone's bucket list. For me, it seemed like setting foot on the earth for the first time.”
To us, that sounds like a truly one-of-a-kind travel experience.
Though relatively small (it’s about the size of the state of Kentucky), Iceland is home to many, many adventures. But the following excursions are among the most worthwhile and exciting for any and every type of traveler lucky enough to visit.
One of the many highlights of an eight-day, seven-night walking tour with outfitters at Country Walkers includes a boat tour amidst the glacial waters of the Jökulsárlón lagoon, a highly renowned and the largest glacial lake in Iceland. The unique trek offers an up-close view of mystical ice sculptures as well as the chance to witness seals, ducks and even a glimpse of the glacier separating into the lagoon's vibrant blue waters.
A truly unique spot for both snorkeling and diving, underwater adventurers from all around the world make the trek to Silfra for a once in a lifetime aquatic experience. The canyon is actually a crack between the continental plates of North America and Eurasia and the only place in the world where you can explore beneath the water in such a location. Divers also flock here because of the canyon’s unprecedented underwater visibility. Clean and clear enough even to drink, the water is said to be some of the most pristine in all of the world.
One of the many examples of Iceland’s stunning natural beauty, Gullfoss is considered an iconic attraction and is part of the popular “Golden Circle” route in South Iceland. The stunning falls are fed by Langjökull (Iceland’s largest glacier) and the rushing water cascades down 104 feet over two stages and into a rugged, 230-foot tall canyon. Adding to the landscape’s exquisite scenery, it’s said that the chance to witness a glimmering rainbow here is almost guaranteed on a sunny day.
With outfitters at Big Chill Adventures, you'll explore Iceland's lava tubes, volcanic pillars, black sand dunes, stone forests, geothermal fields and even active volcanoes. But one particular highlight of this six-day, seven-night tour includes a visit to Iceland’s Hvítserkur arch. According to Icelandic lore, the curious stone formation is a troll that was turned to stone by the sun.
A trek amidst this intriguing and majestic landscape will leave you breathless. As one visitor describes it on TripAdvisor, the Mýrdalsjökull glacier is “a picture of absolute natural beauty.” “The surrounding scenery of the lagoon with its ice blocks and the nearby mountains is just amazing,” they added. “We were awestruck by the walk.”
No trip to Iceland is complete without catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights — formally known as Aurora Borealis. “Visitors to Iceland should check the sky each evening to see if there is any auroral activity,” says John Z Wetmore, producer of "Perils For Pedestrians" Television. “Auroras are best against a dark sky, so getting away from built-up areas is important. It also helps to time your trip when the moon is close to new and will not be very bright. Finally, due to the high latitude, in summer months daylight lasts late, and twilight even later. For dark skies it is best to go between September and March, and dress warmly.”
The folks at Frontiers International Travel are experts on all things Iceland and note that a swim in the milky-blue, mineral-rich waters of this outdoor geothermal pool is an absolute must during any trip to this seemingly magical country. Nestled amidst an ethereal ancient lava field, the lagoon’s waters are said to possess therapeutic qualities.
Lava fields are a popular attraction all across Iceland, but one of the largest and most stunning, Holuhraun, is located in the country’s Northeastern Region near the Vatnajökull ice cap. Recently, Vatnajökull National Park officials finished a hiking trail that winds through the northern edge of the field and into the northeastern highlands. However, the terrain is rugged and park officials warn it’s dangerous for inexperienced hikers.
The 34-mile Laugavegur trail is considered the most popular hiking route in Iceland. Named one of the 20 best hikes in the world by National Geographic, the “Laugavegur Trek” offers Iceland explorers the chance to witness many of the country’s varying landscapes including colorful mountains, magnificent glaciers, flourishing hot springs and massive rivers and lakes. The full excursion typically takes about four days and hikers can reserve lodging in several huts dotted along the way. A nine-day tour with Gear to Go Outfitters includes the Laugavegur Trek as well as visits to several other exciting attractions within the country.
Susan Eckert, founder of AdventureWomen, an organization that enables groups of women to travel together safely and comfortably, has been taking travelers to Iceland for horseback riding since 1998. In fact, the AdventureWomen Iceland Horseback Riding Trip was named a National Geographic Trip of a Lifetime in 2013. Covering about 12 to 20 miles per day, the trip takes women through the country’s surreal landscapes including lava fields, mountains, hot springs and 12th century Viking farms. Men, need not worry. Horseback riding is such a popular activity here that there are many other outfitters who offer similar trips for all.