Iceland is many things. Cold. Dark. Volcanic. Unworldly.
This description doesn’t exactly describe paradise, however, this is exactly how Iceland can be characterized by those who have visited.
Thoughts of Iceland conjure up various images in one’s mind. Many people say they were taught in school that Iceland is green and Greenland is icy. Truth is, Iceland is as green AND icy as Greenland. It is also is a place of scenic landscapes with stunning waterfalls, volcanoes, glaciers and black sand beaches.
Bobby Fischer competed in the world chess championship in Reykjavik in 1972 and lived there during the final years of his life after he was exiled from the United States. His body is buried by Laugardælir church.
If you are there during the right time of year you can enjoy more than just the scenery on the ground. On a clear night you can look up and see the stars. If conditions are right, you can also view the Northern Lights.
There is plenty to see in every corner of this tiny island. The question is how much you can pack into your vacation before going broke. That’s because Iceland is expensive. Very expensive.
The following sites will not disappoint if visiting Iceland for the first time.
Features of Iceland
Capital of Iceland, Reykjavik has a population of approximately 123,000. There are many sites around the city, including Hallgrímskirkja church, which sits on a hill overlooking the city. The downtown area is small and most sites are within walking distance.
Skógafoss is located on the popular South Shore 146 km (91 miles) from Reykjavik. This particular waterfall has a permanent rainbow that can be seen year round. Also, there is a trail that leads behind the falls. This is worth taking the time to explore if conditions are right.
Located 29 km from Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss is a quick stop along the route around the South Shore. This waterfall is not quite as impressive as Skógafoss but is impressive nevertheless.
Active volcano which last erupted in 2011. This roadside stop is a short distance from several other South Shore sites.
Second largest glacier in Iceland. Located near Reykjavik and is a standard stop on South Shore tours.
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach & Reynisdrangar Cliffs
Black sand beaches located along the southern tip. These areas feature some of the most unworldly sites in the country.
Gullfoss is a part of the Golden Circle and is a popular site for tourists. Fans of 80’s music, like myself, will recognize Gullfoss as the waterfall featured on the album cover Porcupine by Echo & The Bunnymen. The waterfall is also featured in the video Heaven by Live.
Thingvellir National Park
Site of the original parliament (Althing) in Iceland. This site dates back to early meetings held 1,000 years ago by various regional clans. The area sits on a fault line that is clearly visible. Iceland spans two continents and this area marks the rift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.
This privately owned hot springs is less touristy than Blue Lagoon.
A popular geothermal area of the Golden Circle, Haukadalur is partially state-owned and privately owned. Geysers and hot springs dot the landscape. Strokkur, the largest geyser