I am totally, 100%, head over heels, in love with Iceland.
I recently had the absolute pleasure of visiting Iceland for the first time. I’d seen the pictures and heard many others gush about it as a must-see destination. Now I understand why.
Once you drive out of Reykjavik, every direction you look there are amazing landscapes complete with mountains, steam rising from hot springs and crystal lakes. I’ve pulled out a few highlights but if you ever get the chance to go, take it with both hands. You will not regret it.
7 Reasons to Fall in Love with Iceland
- If you take route 49 out of central Rekjavik and then take a right hand turn onto route 1, follow the road and take another right onto Heiðmerkurvegur, you will find yourself driving onto a black gravel road that will lead you through natural red rock formations and lakes that will make you forget you’re only a ten minute drive outside a capital city.
2. The Drive from Reykjavik to Úlfljótsvatn
Úlfljótsvatn, which directly translates to “Ugly Wolf Lake” is the home to the World Scout Campsite and will be the location of a large World Scouting event in summer 2017 (the reason for my visit). It is located about an hours drive East of Reykjavik. A group of representatives from 22 of the countries that are going to be attending, were met by the event organizers in Reykjavik and driven to the site. There are two roads that can take you to the lake, the first is the main road, which is as you would expect a main road to be. The second route however, takes you out on a more rustic gravel route up through the mountains. This is the route we took and I am so very glad we did.
If you’ve ever wanted to be a top gear presenter, hire a car and do this drive.
3. Hveragerði – town of hot springs
Hveragerði is a town south of Úlfljótsvatn which is famous for its flowers, ice cream and its hot springs – three very good reasons to pay it a visit in my opinion! It is a great example of how the Icelandic people maximize the use of the natural hot water by heating their homes (and their swimming pools).
It’s a great base to start a challenging hike to mount Hengill or go for a ride on an Iceland horse.
One of the most famous natural features in Iceland, for good reason. Geysir is a geyser (confusing I know) that erupts every several minutes, shooting hot water about 30 meters into the air – to the joy of a the crowd of spectators gathered around waiting to grab that perfect photo.
Around Geysir there are a number of pools of crystal clear water giving off a misty steam. They look so inviting that you’d want to get into your bikini and go for a dip, if it wasn’t for the warning signs and barriers around, letting you know the water is about 80 degrees hot!
This is the iconic Gulfoss, a 32 meter waterfall within the river Hvítá which runs into a canyons and is often known to create a rainbow.
During the 20th Century there was some initial plans made to use the waterfall to generate electricity. However this never came into fruition and the waterfall is now owned by the state of Iceland and protected.
There are walkways that take you right into the mist of the waterfall if you fancy getting a little damp and also a staircase that will take you up the cliff face to get a more birds eye view of this natural beauty.
Pronounced Thingvellir, this is a national park in the municipality of Bláskógabyggð at the north of Þingvallavatn lake. It homes a rift valley on the mid-atlantic ridge, the boundary between the North American and Eurasion tectonic plates. So you can can walk across the rift valley leaving one continent and arrive in another.
The national parliament of Iceland was established here in the year 930 and continued to hold its sessions here until 1798. It now stands as a national park and a World Heritage Site.
Also, for the Game of Thrones fans among you, this is also the location used to film the first episode of the fourth series!
7. Fontana Spa
If all the adventure takes it out of you and you want the perfect way to relax, I suggest you head to Fontana, the Geothermal spa.
Its warm sulphuric waters will take all the tensions out of your muscles in minutes and leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling of contentment for the rest of the day.
And for the braver among you, you can take a dip in the lake from the black sand beach.
There are my first 7 reasons to fall in love with Iceland. What did I miss?
UPDATE: I recently returned to Iceland and found another 7 reasons to fall in love with this amazing country. So if you you want another dose of Icelandic wanderlust, head this way.