Iceland is a country where legends come to life. This country with its stunning rugged landscape is not just a destination, it’s an adventure. However, it’s best to keep in mind that the Icelandic weather is highly changeable. A sunny morning can turn into a rainy afternoon with no warning.
If you visit during the summer, take advantage of the almost day long sunlight and try visiting some of the popular destinations at night. It will let you avoid the crowds, and have a more personal experience. But, your best chance of seeing the awe inspiring Northern Lights is during the winter. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you’ve probably seen Iceland’s amazing beauty on screen, as it has been used for numerous locations in Westeros on the show.
The capital city is a vibrant place, full of trendy restaurants, bars, and cafes. English is widely spoken here. Reykjavik is home to the National and Saga museums that trace the country’s proud Viking history. The city runs on geothermal energy, so don’t be surprised if the showers have a sulfuric smell! It’s just the minerals in the natural underground spring water delivered to the plumbing using geothermal pumps. The water is still totally safe, and clean.
2. Whale Watching
Go whale watching in Skjálfandi Bay. Located near the town of Húsavík, the bay is famous for being home to numerous whales. You might encounter a white-beaked dolphin, a gentle minka whale, migrating humped back whales, or even the titanic blue whale. Whatever you see, Skjálfandi Bay is an enthralling experience.
3. Blue Lagoon
The famous Blue Lagoon, not to be confused with the one on the Italian island of Capri, is a geothermal hot spring. Located just outside Reykjavik, this popular spot is the perfect place to relax. Hot springs are an ancient Viking tradition, but you’ll be expected to shower before entering these pristine springs.
The ‘Golden-falls’ waterfalls, fed by the Hvítá river, is about 120 kilometers from Reykjavik. It is one of Iceland’s most astonishing sights. The falls, cascade over 30 meters into a gaping gorge, and in the summer, the sun shines through the billowing spray, giving it a golden hue. You can follow the Hvítá river to its source, the Langjökull glacier, where you can hire a snowmobile and explore it.
Sitting in the Haukadalur valley in southern Iceland, this geyser is home to spectacular hot springs that spout boiling water up to 70 meters into the air every few minutes. The Great Geysir was among the first known to modern Europeans, and even gave its name to the very word geyser. Geysir has been active for almost 10,000 years, though eruptions have become infrequent in recent times.
6. Vatnajökull Glacier
Europe’s largest glacier at over over 8100 square kilometers, it covers almost 8% of Iceland’s landmass. Located in the south-east, there are hundreds of things to do here. From the mighty Skaftafell glacier, with its canyons and icy expanses, to the breathtaking subterranean crystal blue ice caves, and the Jökulsárgljúfur National Park, this landscape of icy beauty looks like it was plucked off the screens from an episode of Game of Thrones.
7. Cave Víðgelmir
Close to Reykjavik, this 5250 foot deep cave offers a glimpse at the Hallmundarhraun lava field. Formed in giant eruption close to the Langjökull glacier around the year 930 AD, this cave features stunning colours and lava formations lurking beneath the earth.
8. Lake Myvatn
Lake Myvatn in northern Iceland, and its numerous hot spring baths, including Hverir, Krafta, and Myvatan, will be familiar to fans of Game of Thrones. Both the Dimmuborgir frozen lava fields, and the Grjótagjá cave were used in scenes beyond the Wall. The shallow volcanic lake is also packed with mysterious crevices, craters, and lava towers.
This National Park is the site of the world’s first parliament. The Althing sat here from the 10th to 18th centuries. Thingvellir is also home to a church and many old ruins. Anglicised from the name, Þingvellir, it sits in a valley caused by a rift between two tectonic plates. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland. It is also used in numerous scenes from Game of Thrones, from the pass to the impregnable Eyrie to the site of the epic battle between Brienne and the Hound.
10. Thjorsardalur Valley
This lush green valley is known for the Hjalparfoss and Haifoss waterfalls, the highest in Iceland. It was also a Viking era settlement, which was recently excavated after being abandoned in 1104 after an eruption of Mount Helka. Like Pompeii, it was preserved in ash. The settlement was reconstructed to showcase life in the Saga Age.
On the north coast of Iceland, neat Snæfellsnes Peninsula and close to the town Grundarfjörður, this is one of the country’s most spectacular sights. Its isolation, jutting out from the sea, makes it a focal point for miles. Kirkjufell (literally church mountain) has numerous hiking and walking trails. You can even walk to the top and look for the many animal fossils left there. Like so many other locations in Iceland, this mountain can be see on screen in Game of Thrones, where it stands in for the arrowhead mountain.