In May 2015 my mom and I went for a vacation together – to Iceland.
I have two main tips if you are going to Iceland.
- Bring warm clothes. No matter what month or season you visit Iceland it is going to be cold – and windy! If you are not prepared, you are going to be super cold!
- Explore the country, don’t spend more than a couple of days in Reykjavík! If you are spending your whole vacation in Reykjavik you are going to miss out on so much. First of all, Reykjavík is a very small capital (120.000 people) and you will run out of things to do within the first two days. Second, there is just too much to see around the country. We only managed to see the west and south part of the country – and I really want to see the rest. The country changes scenery all the time; from the barren landscapes around the capital to the green fields in the south.
Let’s start in the capital, Reykjavík. As I already mentioned above, there is not that much to see and do here. You can go for a whale safari (which we did, even though I’m super seasick – bad idea!) or visit the Hallgrímskirkja (Church of Hallgrím). If the weather is nice and clear, you should really pay the fee to visit the top of the church with an amazing view.
The Blue Lagoon
It sounds like something you would find in the Caribbean, but it is also a place in Iceland. It was one of the first places we visited. It is a geothermal spa located in a lava field. The water temperature in the bathing and swimming area of the lagoon averages 37–39 °C (99–102 °F). It’s a strange feeling to change into your swimming trunks, go outside in freezing temperatures and then step into water which is almost 40 degrees. Absolutely worth it. It is about 50 minutes outside Reykjavik.
The Golden Circle – Thingvellir, Geysir & Gullfoss
We then rented a car (an old Hyundai i10) and drove the Golden Circle. It is a route that starts and ends in Reykjavík and covers about 300 kilometres (190 mi). Something you should know before renting a car is that some roads in Iceland are for 4×4 only. If you don’t have a car with four wheel drive, you are not allowed on some of the tougher roads.
Our first stop, which is also the closest to Reykjavík, was Thingvellir. This national park has two things of interest. The park lies in a rift valley that marks the boundary between the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plates. You can actually walk between these two plates, which is a strange feeling.
The second thing is the Althingi, which is the national parliament of Iceland and the oldest parliament in the world (founded in 930).
We then drove to the hot springs, Geysir (which is the origin for the word geyser). The most interesting geysir is called Strokkur, which erupts every 6-10 minutes. So you can not miss it. It usually reaches 15-20 meters, but sometimes 40.
It is really hard to take photos that show what a mighty sight this is. It’s 32 meters in total height. It might not sound like much, but it is really is an amazing force of nature.
Vík – The Southernmost Village & Black Beaches
Since we still had the car we decided to go south, as far south as can get actually. The small town of Vík only has 300 inhabitants, but it has something very interesting – black lava beaches. Reynisfjara as it is called is a black sand beach that was ranked in 1991 as one of the ten most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world (by American journal Islands Magazine). It really is something else.
If you were flying anywhere during the middle of April 2010, you might have gotten very angry by this volcano. It erupted and caused a big disruption in European air travel for almost a week.
It is a nice place to stop along the way to Vík, since it is a quite beautiful place.
More Waterfalls – Seljalandsfoss & Skógafoss
If you still want more waterfalls after visiting Gullfoss, there are many to choose between. We visited two – Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss.
The first one, Seljalandsfoss, might not be the most impressive waterfall you will ever see, but it has something unusual. You can actually walk behind it.
Skógafoss is a more majestic waterfall which is also in a really beautiful area.