Iceland, the land of the midnight sun is a destination to cherish for travel lovers, nature lovers and photography enthusiasts. Home to unrestrained beauty, Iceland, with its eerily beautiful frozen backdrops, creates an unforgettable and striking image of beauty and splendor.
Travelling to this island nation needs mental strength to bear its icy coldness, bare and barren wilderness, rugged landscapes and the dangers that ice, sleet or snow can bring to the casual wanderer.
Going to ICELAND is an adventure by itself. When I visited Black Beach it looked like a scene from our moon. When I visited Jokullsarlon it felt ethereal and dreamlike. When I walked along the glacier and Solheimjokull it was hair-raising appealing. You need to visit Iceland to feel its beauty.
But in case you have already made up your mind to visit one of the most beautiful countries in the world, here are the details about Iceland that you have always been searching . Here are 18 Must Read Iceland Travel Tips .It has all required information about Iceland and will help you to plan for an ideal Iceland travel . Enjoy reading !!
Iceland : An ultimate Road Trip Destination :
Iceland is an ultimate road trip destination. The distance and the unavailability of human habitat for long distances makes a road trip one of the best options to enjoy this delicate and desolate country. You can join the numerous itineraries offered by travel operators in or around the capital Reykjavik. You can also opt for a self driven road trip , or even a RV style- motor-home if you would like to take up the challenge.
Before you consider planning to visit Iceland I have a question for you. Have you ever wondered where does those ‘out-of-this-world’ landscapes comes from in movies such as Interstellar, Thor the Dark world, Batman and the Game of Thrones ? Do you remember the tagline ” Winter is coming ?!! ” and remember the shot as the camera pans over the icy coldness of the snowy background in the Game of Thrones? Well, that’s Iceland for you.
It serves as a reminder as well as a caution against things to come. It is here that the camera switches pane and provides a glimpse of the harsh and stark reality of an Arctic winter. Wonderfully white, shrouded in an icy cloth, with snowy mountains and frozen lakes in the background. Well, here is the inside information. Most of those scenes have been shot in Iceland. And not only the Game of Thrones, but also quite a few of other blockbusters have their eerily haunting locales and an alienist skyline belonging to Iceland.
Here, in this article you will find the Ultimate guide to travel to Iceland and your best tips and questions answered for your tour of Iceland.
The Best Tips for visiting Iceland
- WHAT IS ICELAND ?
- WHERE IS ICELAND
- WHICH CONTINENT IS ICELAND LOCATED IN ?
- WHAT IS THE CURRENCY USED IN ICELAND ?
- WHICH LANGUAGE IS SPOKEN IN ICELAND :
- ICELAND TIME ZONE: WHAT TIME IS IT IN ICELAND ?
- WHAT IS THE POPULATION OF ICELAND?
- WHAT IS THE WEATHER IN ICELAND
- WHAT IS THE CAPITAL OF ICELAND ?
- WHERE TO FLY INTO ICELAND ?
- WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT TO ICELAND
- WHAT TO WEAR ? WHAT TO PACK ? ICELAND TRAVEL
- HOW TO TRAVEL TO ICELAND ?
- HOW TO TRAVEL AROUND ICELAND?
- WHAT IS ICELAND’S NORTHERN LIGHTS OR AURORA BOREALIS
- THINGS TO DO IN ICELAND :
- TIPS TO WITNESS NORTHERN LIGHTS IN ICELAND
- WHAT IS THE GOLDEN CIRCLE ROUTE IN ICELAND?
- ICELAND’S 9 BEST DISHES for the Food-lovers !!
- ICELAND TRAVEL : EMERGENCY CONTACTS
what is iceland
The Viking Camp, Hofn Iceland
WHAT IS ICELAND?
Iceland is a country, and geographically an island situated in the North Atlantic Ocean. It is a part of the continent of Europe and lies towards the north of Europe. It is a Nordic country, a geographical and cultural region of Northern Europe. The Nordic region includes the countries of Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. So if you want to ask which continent is Iceland situated in, the answer is Europe. It is one of the most fascinating countries in the world, with its dormant volcanoes and erupting geysers. It is home to the midnight sun , where the sun is visible most time of the day and even during midnight.
The country of Iceland has an area of 103,000 square kilometers most of which is uninhabited .
The population of Iceland is about 350000 , and holds the 177th place among 211 countries of the world.
Read About our Iceland 10 day Road Trip here
WHERE IS ICELAND?
Iceland, lies between latitudes 63 and 68°N, and longitudes 25 and 13°W. It is an island situated in the juncture of the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by the Norwegian Sea and the Greenland Sea towards the North and the Atlantic Ocean to the South. The country of Iceland lies south of the Arctic Circle, about 1250 kms from the south eastern coast of Greenland. It is also a two hours flight from Oslo, the Norwegian capital .
WHICH CONTINENT IS ICELAND LOCATED IN ?
Here are some great Tours in Iceland, which you can consider
So if you want to know which continent is Iceland situated in, the answer is Europe Iceland is in the continent of Europe. You need to hear a bit more ? Well it is Scandinavian Europe. Still want more details? Its next to Greenland. though Greenland falls under the North American continent, Iceland officially falls under Europe.
WHAT IS THE CURRENCY USED IN ICELAND ?
Though Iceland is part of the Schengen, it uses its own currency: the Icelandic Krona. The conversion of ISK to US Dollar stands about 105: 1 as of April 2017. Conversion is available at airport, ina lot of exchanges at Reykjavik and Akureyri and in a few prominent towns elsewhere in Iceland. But here is a rider. Please spend or reconvert back your currency to USD /Euro before you leave Iceland. The reason is that you will find very few countries other than Norway or Denmark where you can exchange it for USD for your unspent Icelandic Kronas. I have learnt it the hard way!! Though Iceland is part of the Schengen, it uses its own currency: the Icelandic Krona. The conversion of ISK to US Dollar stands about 105: 1 as of April 2017. Conversion is available at airport, in a lot of exchanges at Reykjavik and Akureyri and in a few prominent towns elsewhere in Iceland. But here is a rider. Please spend or reconvert back your currency to USD /Euro before you leave Iceland. The reason is that you will find very few countries other than Norway or Denmark where you can exchange it for USD for your unspent Icelandic Kronas. I have learnt it the hard way!!
WHICH LANGUAGE IS SPOKEN IN ICELAND :
Iceland speaks the Icelandic Language, which is the language of Iceland. Being part of the Nordic countries, Icelandic language has similarity to Norwegian, which itself is a Indo-German Language. It was during the 9th century that Nordic seamen started to reach Iceland and settlements were built. The language represents he Nordic of the middle ages. Though Iceland saw migration over the ages from England, Dutch and some other parts of Europe, Icelandic remained the dominant language, and has hardly changed over the last millennia. Almost 97% Icelander have Icelandic language as their mother tongue.
But it is good to know that most Icelanders understand and speak English. This is because, hardly anyone outside of Iceland would you find speaking Icelandic. The comparative insulation has helped Icelanders to keep the middle-aged flair of their language in force, and have also forced them to learn other languages, mostly English, Norwegian and German.
As a tourist, traveling through Iceland, I did face less difficulty in and around Iceland to converse in English. The younger generation know and speak English, while the older people do pick up few words and so. There are quite a few words between the English and Icelandic language which are similar. As a speaker OF English language you will be able to get by around Reykjavik and the wild out-land in Iceland, and enjoy your travel too.
Map of Iceland :
ICELAND TIME ZONE: WHAT TIME IS IT IN ICELAND?
The Island of Iceland is absolutely on the GMT time zone or the Greenwich Mean Time Zone. Its time is the same as in UK. Effectively it means that Iceland is 5 hours ahead of New York as well as 7 hours behind Singapore. To find the Current Local time at Reykjavik Iceland. Click Here.
WHAT IS THE POPULATION OF ICELAND?
Read About our Iceland 10 day Road Trip here
This year, on May 2nd 2018, the population of Iceland has crossed the 350,000 mark. Out of this nearly three fourths of the population are centered in the capital of Reykjavik and the second largest city of Akureyri in the North. This time Iceland has also got a positive net on migration, with mostly polish and the Lithuanians migrating to Iceland for the last few years. A few Icelanders have also returned to open shop in the capital. In fact, more people have moved to Iceland last year, during 2017, than ever in the century.
Thus the population is very thin, especially outside of Reykjavik. In the villages and the outlands, human habitats are very thin, and it is very noticeable as you will travel through dozens of kilometers with your car without seeing a single home or house around. Its just ice and snow around you, over the tarmac roads, in icy fields, around lakes, over plateaus and down the mountain slopes.Thus if you are off to something, your dad will probably get to know about it more quickly than you can think of. It is because of some uncle who had studied in school with an aunt of the local handyman is now married to the teacher of the parish who visits his uncle at the next village. In Iceland, you see, everyone knows everyone !!
Solheimjokull Glacier Trek, Iceland
WHAT IS THE WEATHER IN ICELAND
This is one of the main concerns for everyone traveling to Iceland and a common question everyone asks is “What is the weather in Iceland ? “. Though Iceland officially has four seasons, but the weather at Reykjavik, or the most of Iceland is vacillating and fickle. It never stays the same over a couple of hours making it very difficult to discern the change of Seasons all around the year. A bit of sun, and then a bit of snow seems to be the order of the day. Some days would start with a menacing blizzard, others may start with a glorious golden sun. Rain and sleet can mar a great day marked for travel, and then can clear off in half an hour. Iceland is mostly known for its changing weather all year long.
WHAT IS THE CAPITAL OF ICELAND ?
The capital of Iceland is Reykjavik. The city of Reykjavik lies on the south western part of the country. With an international airport at Keflavik , the capital of Reykjavik serves as a great base for travelers to explore this breathtakingly beautiful country. Reykjavik is also the business capital of Iceland. It is well connected to the rest of the country through Buses, Cruises and smaller flights. The other big city is Akureyri.
Special deals from Reykjavik
Reykjavik is a small but a beautiful city . But despite its smallness it has two airports: Keflavik ( KEF) the international airport and Reykjavik ( RVK) the domestic one. Now if you plan to fly into Iceland, your target airport would be Keflavik, and it takes about an hour and a half from Oslo, about 2 hours from London, About 3 hours from Paris, and about 6 hours from New York.
Here in Reykjavik you will find hotels, apartments and hostels for all type of travelers. A variety of tourist, sightings , adventure and activity packages are available at Reykjavik on a daily basis from travel and tour agents as well as adventure specialty organizations.
WHERE TO FLY INTO ICELAND ?
You can either fly into the airports at Reykjavik the capital, or at Akureyri , the second largest city of Iceland situated in the north of Iceland. Between these two, Reykjavik being the capital, is far more well connected than Akureyri.
There are two airports in Reykjavik. Keflavik (KEF) is the larger one which flies all international routes. Reykjavik (RKV) Airport is the domestic and smaller one, mostly used by chartered and private flights, and flights into Greenland. So in case you are pre-booking rental cars, as you should be, your pickup location needs to be Keflavik airport. This airport is located about 45 kms west of capital and is a nice 40 minutes drive
WHEN TO VISIT ICELAND ?
Iceland, as a tourist’s destination, is visited in both the seasons, winter and summer. During winter, people visit Iceland for the Northern Lights, Husky-Dog sledging (mostly around northern Iceland) and Glacier and Ice Cave Treks. During the summer months, tourists pour into Iceland for the “Midnight sun”, Horse Riding, Sea Puffins and Off-Road Highlands driving. Summer begins officially on the first Thursday after 18th of May, when they have the ‘Gleðilegt Sumar ’ or Happy Summer parades, and lasts till September 31st . The temperatures are much warmer during these summer months. During winter temperatures can drop south of minus 20 degree Celsius in many parts of this Island nation, and it becomes a daily challenge to beat such unbearable temperatures.
The summers are short usually from end May to mid August. Winter starts from mid September and lasts till March . Thus Summers are cool and mostly cloudy, winters are icy, wet and very windy. By meaning wet, it includes rain, snow as well as a combination of the two. The annual temperature varies between 15 degrees Fahrenheit to 65 degrees Fahrenheit in the livable plains and cities. The central Iceland, which includes the highlands and the mountainous Vatnajokull glacier, temperatures can dip to much lower ones too.
May witness around 12 hours of Sunlight, July around 18 while January about a couple of hours or so. Though December and January is favoured by some travelers due to the prevalent Ice and snow everywhere which adds a deceptively simplicity to its beauty, they are the toughest months to travel to Iceland.
But owing to the warm south eastern Gulf Stream , which flows around the west and south of Iceland, the weather of Iceland is not really as deadly as its name seems to indicate. In fact it is mostly warmer than most of Norway, Finland and Canada. Much of Iceland’s natural sights are located along the southern coast and thus makes for an enjoyable travel to these locations. Iceland also sits on strong geothermal pools and geysers, and these natural sources of heat also helps in keeping the country warm.
June through August can be considered as the warm season in Iceland. These are the months which the Icelanders refer to as Summer though there really is nothing like a summer in Iceland. It is just a shade warmer over winter for most of Europe. Cloud covers over and around Reykjavik starts lightening from April and stays such till November. The months between November to March usually witness a larger part of the day covered by clouds in the sky.
Iceland can be visited all through the year. The same location can look absolutely different based on which time of the year you are visiting. Based on the season and the natural conditions there are quite a few activities which you can take part while in Iceland. Glacier walk, Ice Cave tour, back-country skiing, snowmobiling are common winter activities. Highlands driving, whale watching, Icelandic horse-riding and glacier-lake boat rides are summer activities. Glacier Expeditions and Ice cave walks are undertaken with a local mountaineering guide and mostly available till the end of March. Whale watching and Boat tours at Jokulsarlon Lake takes place only when the water in the lagoon melts, and allows the boats to ply.
The weather changes every couple of hours in Iceland. A bright sunny day can transform into a menacing, icy, windy, cloudy day in a short span. Whatever it may be, do not feel dejected on opening your eyes to a rainy, snowy morning. Be ready, plan well and take your precautions: nature can invite you out at any time.
Want to know the weather prevailing in Iceland right now ? Click this link
WHAT TO WEAR ? WHAT TO PACK ? ICELAND TRAVEL
The weather changes every couple of hours in Iceland. A bright sunny day can transform into a menacing, icy, windy, cloudy day in a span of an hour. Do not get depressed on seeing a rainy, icy morning. Be prepared, it can clear any time. Plan for extreme cold and damp climates: Heavy woolen inner, protective thermals and thick jackets are an absolute necessity.
Since you might have started the day with a rainy, dark, overcast gloomy sky, but then it changes in a couple of hours to a sunny day, you need to quickly make changes to the clothing that you are wearing. Dress in layers, whereby you can peel of some or add some quickly based on how the weather is. This is the most important tip that you need for dressing up for Iceland. Along with your layered clothing carry a raincoat, or water resistant jacket, or at least a windcheater which also works against small drizzles. Use gloves or mittens for your fingers, as well as a tight cap or a water proof hat.
But the most important item in your packing list should be a sturdy pair of shoes which can withstand cold and water to an large extent. You never know when you will have to walk around icy water pools and wet moss-lands.
Apart from your clothing you need to carry road maps and keep stock of quick bites along with you. Google Maps do a wonderful job and so does Here Wego Maps. Carry some biscuits, cookies, cashews-walnuts-almonds-raisins or chocolates,muffins with you. Also, carry an extra pair of sports shoes in the car.A good camera with a spare battery is advised and so is a rain-cover for your camera and lens. A sturdy tripod is a must to capture the Aurora if you are lucky. Pick up a local sim -data card and we found NOVO Sim Cards to be good. You can buy them from the Duty-free store at Keflavik International Airport.
HOW TO TRAVEL TO ICELAND ?
The easiest and quickest way to travel to Iceland is flying. Keflavik is the international airport and has regular flights from all over Europe and United States as well as Canada. All major airlines flies into Keflavik, from where the capital of Reykjavik is a short 40 km drive. Reykjavik is well connected from Keflavik Airport by Express Bus routes and private taxis also ply the distance. These and private car rental services are available from one end of the Terminal building and is an easy find.
Some of the major Airlines which fly into Keflavik Airport operate all year round while the rest fly into Iceland during the summer months . The following International Airlines are available for Keflavik :
- Iceland Air, Easy Jet and Wow Air, American Airlines, KLM, Finnair, Air Canada and Emirates fly all year round.
- Air Berlin, Air France, Delta Airlines, Transavia, Scandinavian Airlines SAS, Iberia, Vueling, Edelweiss and Austrian Airlines fly during Summer.
There are a few international flights, mostly from Scandinavian Europe and Greenland which flies into Reykjavik Airport and Akureyri too.
You can also sail from Seyðisfjörður in Iceland’s eastern side to Norway, Denmark or Scotland. There are a couple of cruise lines which frequent Iceland and include it in their longer itineraries across Western Europe. There are also plenty of local cruising options in and around Iceland. Most , if not all, of them start from the capital Reykjavik and include from a week to a two week long trip around the Island. There are also cruises which cover Iceland and Greenland. Find more Cruise deals to Iceland ? Click HERE and Here.
HOW TO TRAVEL AROUND ICELAND?
Iceland is an ideal country to go on a Road Trip. Dazzling sunsets and breath-taking waterfalls will force you to stop your car at every nook and corner. You should preferably book an SUV or a 4X4 vehicle if you do not have prior experience in driving on snowy roads and icy terrain. And always purchase a comprehensive insurance cover: the risks of sand gravel water and ice damages are high. I would suggest you to book your car only from those who have offices inside the KEF ( Keflavik) Airport Terminal, like Avis or Hertz.Camper-vans and Motor homes are for the more adventurous roadies, to travel between May and October. There are many parks available to pitch a camper and use the water and washroom facilities, but during winter it is better to check ahead to identify the ones which stay open based on your route.
The maximum speed when driving inside Reykjavik and towns is about 50 kmph while the maximum speed on highways is 90 kmph. Be courteous to the other driver when you are passing through single-lane bridges. You never hurry on Icelandic roads. For any road trip, you need to acquire the knowledge of changing your flat tires. Since you will be travelling miles and miles out into the outlands on your own, there are no immediate auto service garages that you may find.
WHAT IS ICELAND’S NORTHERN LIGHTS OR AURORA BOREALIS :
Also referred to as the polar lights, the Northern Lights or the Aurora Borealis is a natural phenomenon usually seen near the poles where the sky lights up in swooshes of green and red colours. This magical and enthralling display of colors in the night sky is caused by the interactivity of charged solar particles with our atmosphere Aurora Borealis : Iceland is one of the best places from where you can experience the Northern Lights or the Aurora Borealis. Though there are no guarantee that t you would be able to witness the Aurora, there are surely some indicators that you can use to increase your chances of seeing one.
Tips for witnessing the Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights
The occurrence and visibility of Aurora Borealis depends on the clarity of the sky, the darkness around and the cycle of the moon. The Spring Equinox, on 21st of March and the Autumnal Equinox on 22nd September are both a good time to see the Aurora. So is a new moon night since the sky remains dark and accentuates colours for the normal eye to see. In order to experience this phenomenon, one needs to be at a place where external lights from the locality does not hinder the eyesight. The main colours in an Aurora are green, blue and red, though in Iceland it is mostly the green colour which is prevalent.
For Northern Lights or Aurora sighting, keep checking the Vedur website .This is available in English and a scale on the right of the page forecasts the chances of Aurora. Remember that white swatches on the map means no cloud cover or clear skies, and increases the chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis.
As a general rule, Auroras are usually seen during the months of Dec to March and Again from September to October. By no means, should you ever leave hope of seeing the Aurora. For us, we scanned the skies for six nights while we were out in the snowy lands of Iceland, to no avail. But the night we returned back to city, albeit a bit sad and dejected though the stunning locations and sights had more than made up for the absence of Aurora, we did see the Aurora. A strek of light stated playing over on the skies around 8 pm in the evening and we were out in the night till almost 2 in the morning. So , keep your hopes high and keep checking the Vedur webste !! 🙂
THINGS TO DO IN ICELAND
There are a host of things which you can do in Iceland. As part of a travel pan, depending on the length of your vacation and your level of fitness you can enjoy Iceland in all its forms.
Iceland, with its out of this world backdrops, creates an unforgettable and striking image of beauty and splendor . Well known for its dormant volcanoes, erupting geysers, lofty waterfalls, tranquil lakes, sprawling glaciers and raging oceans, Iceland is not a journey for the faint-hearted or the fancy holidaymaker. Nature is predominant in Iceland. Everywhere you see, you will find nature with both: its beauty and its harshness. The locations which are navigable and attractions which you can avail depends on the calendar and the time you travel, as well as climate and your physical capability.
Iceland’s Gorgeous Waterfalls :
If you enjoy waterfalls Iceland is the place to be. There are countless waterfalls marked all across Iceland. Stunningly beautiful, Gorgeous and majestic the waterfalls are a photographers delight too. Iceland has some of the most beautiful waterfalls in this planet. The best ones include Godafoss, Dettifoss and in Northern Iceland, Gulfoss and Swartifoss somewhere in the center of Iceland Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss in the South. A few of them, namely Gulfoss, Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss falls under the Golden Circle Tour of Iceland. Some of them can be driven to, for some you would need to hike a couple of kilometers while some of them are secret and can only be reached be seasoned mountaineers and trekkers. Seljalandsfoss is the one which also lets you walk behind the water curtain and you can look at the wide horizon from behind the falls. For more info on the waterfalls of Iceland, Click here
Iceland : Amazing Beaches and Coasts
Being an Island country, Iceland has a number of beaches well worth a visit. Some of them are for swimming, some for surfing and some such as Reynesfjara are just to enjoy from a distance. With so much volcanic activity around this region, its no wonder that many of the Icelandic Beaches are blackish in colour. The Black beach of Reynesfjara is one of the most photographed beaches in the world. We had been there on a rainy dark day and the force of the waves and the crazy winds made it feel ominous. The beautiful beach at Vestrahorn on the Eastern Fjords is the most scenic, while the beaches of Sandvik and Grotta near the capital city are the most visited due to their proximity.
National Parks Of Iceland :
The one thin a traveler to Iceland should not miss is en experience of at least one of the many national parks of Iceland. Most of Iceland is part of national parks, and they offer the visitor some of the most delightful experiences of Iceland. Among the many of such parks, the three most well known are the Þingvellir, Vatnajökull and Snæfellsjökull. These are all maintained by Environment Agency of Iceland, Umhverfisstofnun. They differ each other in geology, history and natural attractions.
- The Thingvellir National Park is one of the most well frequented parks in Iceland since it falls in the Golden Circle. With an area of 79 sq miles offers you a walk along the tectonic plates which separates Europe from North America. It has been recognized as an UNESCO Heritage Site since 2004. Based on the season, you can take part in Camping, fishing or horse riding in this National Park. Rates are available at the Park’s web site. This park also has a rich history of a thousand years back when the main tribes and their chieftains used to ,meet for settling disputes and other matters. Camp grounds inside the park stay open from June to September.
- The Vatnajökull National Park is the largest national park of Iceland, and encompasses the whole glacier of Vatnajokull, the largest one in Europe. This park presently covers around 14000 sq kms of land and beneathits frozen cover runs a hot volatile kitchen of the earth.There are more than twenty glacial fingers feeding off Vatnajokull and melting into flowing rivers or lakes . This park is only navigable during summer when it is safe for vehicles to ply the treacherous terrain of the park.
- Snæfellsjökull National Park is Iceland in miniature. Located on the North western side of the island, it is the smallest park with the widest range of natures attractions. Also revered as a spiritual energy center of the earth, Mount Kirkjufell and the Vatnshellir Cave are the locations mentioned by Jules Vernen his book ” Journey to the center of the earth”. The Vatnshellir Lava Caves would probably make you feel such. This national park extends to the seas, and lies closest to Reykjavik which is less than 200 kms away.
Take appropriate walking and hiking measures including strong sturdy water resistant hiking shoes and enough water – munches with you during your national park treks.
This is something which is actually not encouraged in Iceland and can incur heavy fines to the tourist. The law says you are only allowed to drive only on clearly marked roads and thus off road driving is not allowed in Iceland. The reason being that the ecology of Iceland is fragile and thus off road driving can cause serious damages to tis finely maintained balance of nature. As a traveler you can also be in danger since nature is harsh and unforgiving in parts of Iceland. All rental vehicles has a clause that you are only allowed to drive in clearly marked roads in Iceland, otherwise it can cause serious damage to the car from water, sleet, rocks and sand.
Iceland, being a wild and untamed country of which only 15 percent is inhabited, Iceland still offers lots of off route destinations. These are not prominent in most travel itineraries or popular with the travel agents because of logistics non-viability, still one can find numerous locations to drive to in Iceland. You can drive to the Jokulsarlon Lagoon and enjoy the icebergs lying next to the beach or floating in the water. Another choice is to drive across the Thórsmörk glacial valley charging over the cliffs and hills. One can also go Snowmobiling on the Vatnajökull Glacier. But for all of these activities or excursions do use a Sports car / 4X4 vehicle. To know more about Off route attractions of Iceland Click here.
Ice Cave Tours and Glacier Hikes :
Iceland has fantastic options for Ice Cave tours , Glacier Hikes and Volcano tours. The Ice Cave tours are a peek into the magnificent World of Ice inside a cave. They are also referred to as Crystal Cave Tours, the ice cave tours are mostly available during the winter months and run till the mid of March.
Away from roads and all living beings, Ice Cave tours usually are undertaken as small group tours which offer maximum serenity and quietness. As part of other activities Iceland tour operators also offer Ice cave tours and glacier hikes. Many of these are situated around the VatnaJokull Glacier and the meeting point is around Skaftafell National Park. A word of caution. These two activities should ALWAYS be accompanied by a seasoned guide. So whether you are booking through an agent or any foreign operator, you should only choose one where there is a qualified guide with you all the way. To Know more you can check this LINK. For Glacier Tours you can click HERE
Watching Whales, Puffins and Seals :
Iceland is know for its whale watching. Along with this Iceland is also home to numerous colonies of Arctic seals and the Jokulsarlon Lake is one of the prominent hotspots for seal watching. As you marvel at the beauty of the icebergs slipping and sailing away into the glacial lagoon, breaking itself from the tongues of the Vatnajokull Glacier, you are sure to watch teams of seals swimming and frolicking in the icy waters. So while you shiver and fret from the chilling winds which blows around the lake shore, the seals with their enormous layers of fat and thick rugged skin covering their body will be having a gala time. Enjoy these beautiful arctic creatures in their own habitat and revel at the beautiful sight they create. Along with Jokulsarlon, the other most well-known location to view Seals is the Vatnsnes Peninsula in Northwest Iceland.
You can also find seals all year round are Svalbarðshreppur, Hvítserkur and Illugastaðir. Hvammstangi and Hvítserkur are also known to have large colonies of seals. Eyjafjörðu offer whale watching boat rides and here too it is equaly possible to watch seals frolicking around. Pufins are mostly seen in summer in Iceland, between the summer months of May to August. Locally known as Lundi, puffins are also known as sea-parrots in Iceland. The puffins come to Iceland to lay eggs and nurture their babies for those few months till they fly back into the sea. Two comparatively unknown islands of Akurey and Lundey near Reykjavik offers you a chance to find puffins during Summer. Other known locations are around Westmann Islands in the South of Iceland as well as Papey island to the east. For more information on Puffins inIceland, Click Here.
Dazzling Sunsets :
We enjoyed the most dazzling sunset that I have ever seen on our return from Hofn to Reykjavik. As we were about a hundred kms away from the capital, the sun began to set. The setting sun absolutely dazzles you with its beauty and mesmerizes every nature loving soul. It kept us company for about half an hour as we kept driving down westwards to the capital .
You don’t really need to find a location to enjoy the dazzling sunset. Just try to be out of the city and into the outlands, and you will find tat they are everywhere !! :).
Furthermore, it happens once every day . So don’t be spurned by a cloudy or rainy afternoon, the next day is there for you. Get your photo gear ready and check out the next day. I’m sure you would find one .
Iceland’s Popular Volcano Tours
A very popular activity for Iceland travelers are the Volcano Tours. In 2010, the Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted which brought down flights over the north of Europe to a halt for 3 full days with enormous volcanic ash and smoke . With three peaks at the top reaching to a a maximum height of 5400 feet, Eyjafjallajökull makes for the ultimate glacier-volcano tour as you drive up the glacier to the peak and have a look at the volcanic crater .
The volcano also provides panoramic views of the South coast of Iceland.Hekla, Grimsvotn, Askja and Bardarbunga are some more notable volcanoes of Iceland. Askja, which had its last eruption in 1961 is located about 100 kms from the Iceland Ring Road # 1. Again, because of its height, you can only access this volcano with a 4X4 vehicle.Helicopter based volcano tours are also possible in Iceland for those who suffer from different health or medical issues. For more about Volcanic Tours in Iceland please Click Here.
Iceland : A country of Hot Spring Baths
A long day of hiking or trekking through the harsh geographies of Iceland beckons a hot spring bath at the end of the day. Some of these are natural hot springs while some are geo-thermally heated swimming pools and spas located at different areas of Reykjavik. The Blue Lagoon at Reykjavik is the most famous of the hot spring baths of Iceland. Nauthólsvík geothermal beach, close to Reykjavík is another popular location for the localites. But in most indoor hot baths and hot pools there is a condition. You need to either bathe nude or enter after a communal nude shower . Icelanders take this very positively and expect you to follow the same practices. 🙂 Here are some more about Hot Spring and Nature Baths in Iceland!
Pub hopping at Reykjavik, Iceland
Drinks are very expensive at Iceland. Still you can experience and enjoy the nightlife at Reykjavik by joining a 3 -4 hour night Icelandic Pub and bar crawl. Else you can yourself hang around or hop around pubs at Reykjavik. You can join a group of tourists and locals for an electric mix of entertainment and excitement. The Pubs are all around a couple of main commercial streets in the Laugavegur area and you can literally crawl from one to the other. They all close at 1 am. Do have a local Icelandic beer, Brennivín and Reyka a distilled local snap. Also try a delicious Icelandic cocktail. For more of Pubs, You Click here.
The Magical JokulSarlon Boat Ride
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lake is an amazing wonder of nature, and probably the most popular among Iceland’s visitors. It started once the glacier started melting around the mid 1930s and slowly retreated to create a lagoon of ice chunks and blocks . Every year the lagoon increases by about 500 meters and now the size of the Lagoon is close to 25 square kilometers.
Boat rides on the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon opens from the 15th Of May and lasts till the mid of September. You can enjoy sailing in between the half submerged blocks of ice, and for photographers this is a prized location. The setting sun, reflections and refraction of light through the ice chunks, the ripple of the lake waters creates a surreal and beautiful setting to the place. There are quite a few options for riding on a boat on the lagoon. The ride takes approximately 45 minutes. And as a bonus you are sure to find a few seals swimming and frolicking in the ice cold waters of the lagoon.
What is the Golden Circle Tour of Iceland ?
One of the most popular routes among Iceland’s visitors is the famed Golden Circle Tour. About 300 Km long circum-navigable route, the Golden Circle starts and ends at Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. It showcases Iceland’s three iconic landmarks, and takes close to four hours to complete. The three iconic sights covered in the Golden Circle Tour are Thingvelir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area and Gulfoss , one of the most breathtaking waterfalls of Iceland.
Iceland’s 9 Best for the Food-lovers !!
No matter what you take back from Iceland, There are some things which will bring you back to Iceland too. And apart from its magical and astounding locales and sights , Iceland offers some fantastic choices for the gourmet lover. Below is the lis of the most delectable dishes from Iceland :
- Icelandic Lamb
- Pylsur : Reykjavik’s Hot Dog
- Skyr : Iceland’s Yogurt
- Brennevin and Reyka : Icelandic drink
- Hakarl or Fermented Shark – for the sea food lovers.
- Súrir hrútspungar (Sour Ram’s Testicles)
- Hangikjöt (Hung & Smoked Meat)
- Iceland’s Cream and Cheese products
- Laufabrauð (Leaf bread) and Rye Bread
Do try them, or at least a few of them based on your tastes and likes. I’m sure, you would enjoy quite a few of these. 🙂
ICELAND TRAVEL : EMERGENCY CONTACTS
For local weather, driving and road conditions please check with http://www.road.is which is available in Icelandic but the map for weather conditions is also available in English. You can also call 1777 (+354 522 1100) which is open till 4 pm in the afternoon.
For Northern Lights or Aurora sighting, keep checking the Vedur website .This is available in English and a scale on the right of the page forecasts the chances of Aurora. Remember that white swatches on the map means no cloud cover or clear skies, and increases the chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis.
There are a few sites and numbers you need to know before you travel. For emergencies dial 112. Modern Smartphone users should also download and install the 112Iceland Mobile App before you land at Reykjavik. This is available in both Apple and Android versions
Iceland is magical and beautiful, thus stressing on any particular location is inappropriate. It doesn’t do justice to its miles and miles of untouched unhindered natural beauty. The same scene appears different at different times of the day, as rain drenched icy fields change to golden snowflakes at sunset. Iceland needs not only to be seen, but its divine nature needs to be felt and absorbed. It needs to be grasped in its entirety.