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Everyone has to go at least one time in beautiful Iceland. I went to Iceland in October for just five days, and I had a fantastic time between breathtaking landscapes and nature's power. I honestly booked my flight tickets to Reykjavik because, from Dublin, they were very cheap, but I didn't expect to fall in love with this land and to spend one of the best holidays I ever had. Still, It happened, and I can't be happier.
For Iceland I am not going to list the "MUST TO SEE" and "TOP THINGS TO DO" because everything is a must and everything has to been seen absolutely.
We arrived in Reykjavik Friday morning, and we spent the first day visiting the capital; the city is friendly as a small bonbonniere, our apartment was in one of the principal streets, so everything was straightforward to reach. Our first stop was Hallgrimskirkja Church, it is the biggest Lutheran church in Iceland, and it is mainly known for its form; indeed, it seems that a waterfall in the south of Iceland inspires it. The church is open to the public, and it also has a tower where you can have a 360 view of Reykjavik but attention! And don't make our same mistake; we couldn't reach the top of the building because there was a music concert and they closed the church before the closing time.
After the visit to the church, I decided to walk among the principal street between souvenir shops and typical shops of clothes (of course they know how to keep yourself warm). The centre is nice with small only pedestrian streets and colorful sheet metal houses that give to the setting a particular warm sensation even if the sky is usually grey and dark. If you walk a little bit closer to the port, you will also find a magnificent panorama with the Harp Concert Hall and the ocean. It is mostly during the sunset that the view became stunning with a lot of colors from different parts, the sky, the sea and the same Harp Concert Hall.
The following days we decided to do some excursions outside the capital. All of the tours have been magnificent, and all our expectations have been exceeded in full; all this landscape that probably you will find only here and the power of nature make this trip superb and beautiful.
For the first day, we decided, also thanks to the sun, to have some relax and which better place than a natural hot pool? We choose to avoid the Blue Lagoon because it is very touristic, artificial and also costly. We rented a car, and we went to Reyjadalur, and we are pleased about this decision because our day has been unique and relaxing; it is just 1h drive from Reykjavik and around 1-hour walk to reach the river with the hot pool. The walk is lovely and relatively easy, it is a little uphill but not too difficult and everyone can do it. After almost one hour we arrived on a river of hot water. I immediately put off my clothes and jumped into it. We spent a fabulous relaxing day basking in this warm water with beautiful nature around, and the best part was knowing that outside the water the temperatures were low, but you could not feel the cold. I think that this doesn't need a description because the pictures speak for themselves. I have to say that the relax that you have in your body after some time here is something unique even if my legs turned into jelly and walking back to the car became so complicated.
For our second day in Iceland, we did the Gold Circle Tour; the weather wasn't nice because it rained all day, but we enjoyed it anyway because what we saw was WOW, no word to describe the incredible nature and the fantastic places. We decided to arrange a private tour because we also wanted to learn some interesting things about all the stops and I think that the better way is to travel with a local person.
What to see in the Golden Circle?
The Kerid crater, initially, about 3000 years ago was a volcano but after an eruption emptied its reserve of magma, the cone collapsed and now inside, we can visit a fabulous lake encircled with red volcanic rocks. I found this place very interesting because you can see how nature has changed during the years. You can walk around the volcano and even go down where now there is water. You won't spend a lot of time in here, just the time to walk around the crater and of course, take a lot of pictures.
Of course, the next stop was the Geysir; we went to the Strokkur geyser that is the most famous for the tourist because it is one of the few that spouts around every 5-10 minutes, there are other geysers around the island, but they can take from 30 minutes to 1 hour to sprout out. These kinds of geysers are rare around the world, and for this, they are a spectacular something that shows you the power of nature, think that the erupt can be high from 20metres to 40metres. Iceland is the place for the geyser, mainly because first, North America and Eurasian tectonic meet here and second because the water of the geysers need to be boiled and to have this the magma has to be close to the surface of the earth.
Gullfoss Waterfalls are another amazing thing to visit. They are one of the top attractions around Iceland, and I definitely can imagine why. The waterfalls are beautiful and a huge natural spectacular that shows in every aspect the immense and surprising force of mother nature. We can find them in the Hvítá river canyon in south-west Iceland very close to Reykjavik just around 1.5hour by car, and after a few stairs and path, you will have in front the best panorama of unique and beautiful waterfalls. The Icelandic people own the waterfalls after that, in the 20th century some industrialists tried to buy the Gullfoss to build a hydroelectric power.
Our last stop for this day has been at the Thingvellir National Park. Unfortunately, it was freezing and raining very bad, and we just took a quick look at it but even with this weather the place was amazing. This park is famous in particular because here the Eurasian and American tectonic plates meet, this is also the reason why Iceland has so many Volcanoes. The park has been part of the UNESCO heritage since 2004, and even if I didn't spend a lot of time, this is a must to visit. Better with a sunny day.
During the journey, an exciting stop has been the visit to the Friðheimar Greenhouse. I never thought that Iceland could have so many tasty vegetables but when you realize that all this is thanks to the geothermal electricity all makes perfect sense. There were a lot of greenhouses during my excursion, some of them growing vegetables and other flowers and plants; I stopped and visited a greenhouse specialized in tomatoes. The hothouse that was also a restaurant was lovely and interesting. I tasted the tomatoes, and they were delicious, juicy and flavourful. With a staff member, we did a small tour between the plants and they explained to us how the tomatoes became such an essential thing in Iceland and of course, she was very proud to let us know how they cultivate this great juicy veggie.
What to see in the South Iceland?
After this tour, I was so excited, happy and surprised from the beauty of nature and the gorgeousness of this land, it was incredible being able to visit and enjoy these unexpected places and the holiday wasn't still over. The next day we did another tour with a stunning and utterly different panorama from what we already saw. I decided that I wanted to visit the South of Iceland so I booked a tour with a big company and for this, at the beginning I was a little bit afraid, but at the end, the visit has been memorable, and the tour guy was so happy to show us around and also so funny (he also sang some Iceland songs).
The south of Iceland is entirely different from the rest of the island. You start driving on the road surrounded by mountains, green musk and greenery and at some point the landscape changes completely and becomes more like a desert with dark terrain/sand, no trees, lots of farms and very few houses that are usually close to the small village. It was incredible to see such a drastic change in a small country that it is Iceland; luck wanted me to find an incredibly sunny day that would make this island even more magical.
Skógafoss are formed from in the Skoga river which runs through the Skogargil canyon until descending from the Kambfjoll mountain. In this canyon, there are up to twenty waterfalls of various sizes, and different ranges and all together are natural heritage since 1987. The Skogafoss waterfalls are 15 meter wide and 62 meter high and due to its height when they blur already form a fabulous crisp rainbow. You can see the waterfalls from below, with a walk, a bit uphill, and you can visit them from the top. I never saw a marvellous spectacle like this waterfall, just amazing.
Iceland has twenty-six glaciers and the fourth bigger, Sólheimajökull, is only two hours away from Reykjavik, so it is a must in your trip. This glacier is the easiest to reach because it doesn't have high mountains around it, but some grand volcanos surround it, probably you all know about the eruption in 2010 that stopped most of the airport in all Europe, well that Vulcan is here. The glacier is 11km-long, but of course, it can suffer variation with the climate change, and if the climate continues to warm up, there is the possibility that the glacier will disappear in around 100-200 years. We parked close to the glacier, indeed after a 10 minutes' walk we arrived at the most incredible view, I was astonished from the gorgeous panorama of a white expanse of ice and nothing else around.
After a few stops for photos and following a lunch in the small village of Vik we moved to the famous and beautiful Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. It was a bit crowded but not too full not to enjoy the view. The beach is famous for three main things: the black sand due to the volcano eruption, the mountain Reynisfjall and Hálsanefshellir cave formed by the erosion of the sea and today typical Icelandic birdhouses and the roar, of course, of the Atlantic waves.
The last stop of this other wonderful trip has been the waterfall of Seljalandsfoss. This waterfall is particular because it can be fully encircled.
All Iceland has been beautiful and surprising, but the best thing that I saw was the unforgettable spectacle of the North Light. I decided, even here, to book a private tour because I wanted to be sure to have the perfect spot to see them and also because I love to discover the story and legends behind. I originally booked the tour for the first night that I spent in Iceland. We went in a perfect location with no light, no houses and no people; the place was excellent, but unfortunately, it was too cloudy, and the lights were little bright, and we didn't have the chance to see the Aurora properly. After speaking with an expert tour guy I re-booked the tour for Tuesday, we went to another place and finally at eleven o'clock the most beautiful show appeared; and what a fantastic experience, which I will remember forever! Do you also know why I'm going to remember it? The jeep got stuck in the mud, and we had to push the car to get home.
- In China, they believe that conceiving a baby under the North of Light will make him born intelligent. It is thought that once, in the past, it was possible to see the Northern lights in China, but with the displacement of the earth axis, it is no longer possible.
- There is a community in Iceland that thinks that the lights of the Aurora are evil spirits and seeing the lights leads badly.
- It is difficult to give this Icelandic people age because, according to my guide, they keep themselves young by eating, somewhat better to say swallowing, shark meat and doing a lot of relaxing baths in the natural hot pool.
- Iceland is full of legends, especially about trolls and elf. Elf can be very dangerous; instead, the trolls are giant, stupid, and you have to run to leave behind.
- In Iceland, there are 130 volcanoes in total, 40 are still alive, and in the last 20 years, 20 have erupted. The last major eruption occurred in 2015 after the big one in 2010 that stopped most airports in Europe.
- A lot of village names start with the word "Rey" that means smoke as the steam.
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Did you like the tours that I did to discover Iceland? I booked most of them using Get Your Guide if you want to check more about these tour use this link below :)