For those who want to beat the heat during the summer months, a vacation to a cooler climate can be highly appealing. With plenty of tourist-y destinations scattered all over the Northern Hemisphere, picking the right place for your tastes isn’t as simple as you might think.
Likewise, there are many travelers who want to fully encompass themselves in the ambiance of winter, choosing to travel from more temperate climates to colder ones. With plenty of outdoor winter activities to enjoy, it’s not as bad of an experience as some would believe.
One destination that’s increasingly gaining attention from travelers on a year-round basis is Iceland. A relatively small country with an even smaller population, Iceland boasts both great urban life and vast, tranquil nature. To get an idea of how fun Iceland can be, we’ve put together a list of five must-see attractions throughout Iceland, all of which can be found outside the main urban area of Reykjavik.
Thingvellir National Park
When people think of countries like Iceland – as well as most of the Nordic countries – one of the first things that comes to mind is the aurora borealis. Also known as “Northern Lights”, there are relatively few people who can enjoy this natural phenomenon on a consistent basis. If you’re visiting Iceland and want to take in the show for yourself, however, then a trip to Thingvellir National Park is a must.
Arguably the best place in the world to witness the Northern Lights, Iceland sightseeing isn’t complete without a trip to this park. With a ton of historical, cultural and geological activity to observe and learn about, this destination makes for both a fun and informative detour while in the country.
Hornstrandir Nature Reserve
Far away from the busy capital of Reykjavik, a peninsula juts out from the remainder of Iceland. Known as the Westfjords, this section of Iceland provides some of the most beautiful views anywhere in the country. Situated within this region of the country is the Hornstrandir Natural Reserve, one of the most isolated places in the world.
Inside this beautifully preserved area, you can witness massive, jutting peaks that play home to many unique species of birds and wildlife. Until relatively recently, this section of Iceland was effectively cut off from civilization, with a few small villages being wholly self-reliant. While the villages have since disbanded, the beauty that comes with this natural reserve remains intact.
People flock from all over the world to see, witness, and experience the immense geological activity in Iceland. From naturally-occurring hot springs to absurd lava formations, Lake Myvatn is one place to see it all.
The natural baths in the area are a prime attraction, but geological activity has made some of them unsafe (it is highly recommended to seek local advice before entering any natural bath or hot spring!). Nevertheless, you don’t have to dip your toes in the water to experience the beauty that lava, wind and time have bestowed upon the lake.
Iceland may be best known for its immense geothermal activity. Underneath the island is a plethora of volcanic activity, culminating in large part around the active volcanoes on the island. Most people are familiar with the Eyjafjallajökull volcano that disrupted global air traffic with an eruption several years ago, but another beautiful example is the Hekla volcano.
Known as one of the most active volcanoes on the entire planet, Hekla rises more than 4,500 feet, providing an anchor in the Icelandic countryside for a beautiful vista. The area surrounding the volcano looks more like an alien planet than one would think is possible, which has led to it being a cultural and artistic inspiration for many.
What trip to Iceland would be complete without a bit of ice climbing and hiking? Iceland’s natural climate means that you can enjoy these adventures throughout most of the year. One of the best places to visit for an ice climbing adventure is the Solheimajokull glacier, located about 150km outside of Reykjavik.
With an expert guide to assist, you’ll be able to scale the beautiful ice formations of the region, visit one of the largest waterfalls in the country and take in the immaculate terrain of the region as ice collides and meshes with earth. For those seeking a full day’s adventure without fully separating themselves from the capital city, there are day-trip adventure packages to Solheimajokull from Reykjavik.
Looking at Iceland on a map, the country can seem quite small. However, once immersed in everything there is to see and do here, you’ll feel nothing of the sort. The vast, open terrain outside of the capital city can feel untamed at times, providing some of the most beautiful views anywhere in the world. If you’re ready to visit Iceland but want more than the typical urban tourist experience, then these five destinations are must-see attractions.