Your guide to what to do in Iceland
Photos: This Brit
Iceland is more than beautiful; it’s magical. Its a whole country taken straight out of a fairy tale. Every day my mind was blown in a new way, from the enchanting Northern Lights to the vast glaciers and volcanoes sat side by side. I couldn’t describe Iceland as colourful, but the people definitely make up for that.
There are a select few places in the world that when someone asks you to describe it, there are no words that could accurately describe the way it made you feel; for me, Iceland is just like that. Four days is just long enough to squeeze in the main attractions. Unlike most tourist traps, it will be like nothing you have ever experienced before. I highly recommend keeping an open mind because Iceland has no guarantees.
When you go to a zoo you can be 90% sure you will see a tiger in a cage, but on a boat in the middle of the ocean, you cannot guarantee you will see a wild dolphin or whale. You could go to Iceland and see everything, or you could go and not see anything at all. We were lucky enough to have a successful trip, but even if I didn’t get to see the Northern Lights dance across the skies, or a pod of White-Beaked Dolphin’s hunting, it still would have been the best trip I have ever been on.
Whilst I am no expert, and several of my friends have visited Iceland and chosen to experience the country differently, these are a list of things which blew my mind and are my ultimate highlights of the trip.
Day One: The Northern Lights
I could not recommend hiring a tour guide to go and see the Northern Lights more. Yes it’s less romantic when there are 40 other people there with you, but you will not get a better experience. The tour guide recommended camera settings to get the best photographs, explained the science behind the phenomena and used ties to weather terminals to scout out the best locations. We ended up in a quarry about an hour and a half away from Reykjavík.
Day Two: Whale Watching
I love and hate the sea. The mere thought fills me with equal amounts of terrifying dread as it does wonder. The vast expanse is a calming thought, but being lost in it is not quite so calming. Whales fascinate me, and although I would much rather learn about them in a museum, the thought of seeing them in their own habitat caught my curiosity. Out on the water we saw White-Beaked Dolphins and a Minke Whale, both hunting. We saw Jellyfish, Gannets, Northern Fulmars and a variety of other birds, and we saw a rainbow breaking over the mountains. There’s more to see on the sea than just the Whales, and although it was cold, nothing beats the rock of a boat on the ocean waves.
Day Three: The Golden Circle
We booked a tour guide, but on hindsight the trip would have been more enjoyable had we rented a car and explored the circle ourselves. The Golden Circle comprises of three destinations: Gullfoss Waterfall, Geysers, and Þingvellir. It’s a full day trip, we left at 08.30 and came home at 17:30, but the day flies by. There is a place to eat at the Geysers, with three different restaurants to chose from, so aim to see the Geysers over lunch time if you aren’t bringing food with you. If you have time, head to the Blue Lagoon too, it’s not on the Golden Circle and is nearer the airport in Keflavík. If not, head there on day four. Unfortunately we didn’t get time to see the Blue Lagoon, but next time we visit Iceland, this will be at the top of our list of things to do.
Day Four: Reykjavík
A town frozen in time. Reykjavík is full of colourful buildings to offset the ashy landscape, it’s a book lover’s dream. Especially around Christmas time due to a tradition in Iceland to gift a book on Christmas eve. The streets are lined with tiny bookshops, tourist shops full of slogan merchandise and several fur and wool based shops. There is a heavy influence of Britain as you explore the little town, from “Old English” style pubs, to restaurants serving mainly English and American menus. My favourite was a tiny shop with high dark grey walls, record players, antique style furniture and ‘house accents’ – if that makes sense? The shelves were full of candles, coffee table books, ornaments and other house items.
If you had four days to explore Iceland, what would be on the top of your to do list?