A Guide to Iceland's Hottest Attractions

Fiona Bateman on 08 October 2020
Delve into the other-worldly attractions of this magnificent northern territory

Iceland: The land of fire and ice is home to glaciers, geysers and volcanoes existing side by side. Did you know, it’s the only country in the world where you can actually go inside a volcano? It’s a popular destination for both short winter breaks and more extensive summer holidays and whenever you go there is plenty to see and do. Here is my guide to Iceland’s hottest attractions:

1. The Golden Circle This is Iceland’s top attraction and is pretty much on everyone’s must-do list when planning a holiday in Iceland. This one experience includes 3 major sites: Þingvellir National Park (tectonic plates), erupting geysers in Haukadalur and the Gullfoss waterfall. My top tip, if you can, is to give your Golden Circle experience a comfort upgrade opting to travel by Super Jeep. If you’ve got a taste for adventure, you can add on a snowmobile excursion on the Langjökull Glacier.

2. Geothermal Pools You can’t visit Iceland and not see one of its geothermal pools - man-made centres of leisure and relaxation in Icelandic culture. One of the best known is called the Blue Lagoon with its milky blue waters and silica mud which are thought to have healing properties. If you’re looking for a more natural, less pricey and less crowded experience, my top tip would be to head to the clear waters of the Secret Lagoon. The whole experience at the Secret Lagoon has a more natural feel to it, it doesn’t attract coach-loads of tourists yet and the whole experience feels more authentic.

3. Þríhnúkagígur Volcano This dormant volcano is the only one in the world that you can go inside and explore. Being a massive geography nerd myself, this is an experience not to be missed. The volcano hasn’t erupted for thousands of years now and on this tour of its magma chamber you’re welcomed into a completely new world of colour and texture. This trip is one for the summer months only, so May-October. You need to be a good walker as it’s just under an hour to hike each way before descending 120 metres to the crater floor. While on the tour you get to know all about the workings of this volcano and will be served with a traditional Icelandic meat soup (vegetarian option is also available). My top tip for this tour is to go prepared for the cold. It’s usually around 3 degrees Celsius inside the crater so pack your warm, rainproof clothing. It will be chilly!

4. Snorkel & Dive in Silfra This is your opportunity to see where two continents actually meet underwater! The Silfra fissure is where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet and actually cut through Iceland. The fissure is filled with clear glacial water that has been filtered by the earth through hardened, porous volcanic rock. Underwater you’re surrounded by the most colourful and mesmerising world that you would never get to see above water. This is something you can plan into your trip all year round as the water temperature is always pretty cold, so the appropriate gear would be included in your trip.

5. The Northern Lights Now, you can’t talk about Iceland and not include this natural phenomenon known as the Aurora Borealis. The lights are there all year round, but the best chance of seeing them is in the winter months when the nights are much longer (Late September – March is the traditional peak period).

Top tip: To have a better experience of the lights dancing in the dark skies above, get away from the city. I recommend heading on a Northern Lights Cruise to see them from the water as the light pollution will be minimal and while on board you get to enjoy cosy drinks to keep you warm. The cruises will also offer you a free second tour if you don’t get to see the lights first time around. Bonus!

6. Ice Caves Iceland is dotted with seasonal ice caves, but there are those that exist all year round. This off the beaten track experience will take you to a quieter, more authentic side of Iceland. Found at the base of a volcano and within a glacier, this should be an experience on every adventurer’s must-do list when in Iceland. Inside you will see where the black ash has fallen from centuries of eruptions from the volcano above. The tour to the ice caves also takes in the spectacular landscape, a private black sand beach and waterfalls in the area. Definitely a tour for adventurous nature lovers.

7. SUPping in a hidden fjord This has to be the ultimate way to experience Iceland’s breath-taking scenery while being sure that you’re leaving as light a footprint on your surroundings as possible. Get 360 degree views as you paddle down the fjord on a stand up paddleboard. This is a chance to truly escape the noise, quieten the mind, breathe in the fresh air and just appreciate the serenity of your surroundings.

Top tip: If you’ve never done this before and are worried about your fitness levels, the tours can be tailored to you, so don’t allow yourself to miss out on this experience. You’ll only be richer for gaining the experience.

Iceland has so much to see and do, a short weekend trip will never allow you to take it all in. This is why I would always recommend visiting this island nation at least twice - once in the winter months and once in the summer months to really say that you’ve experienced it.

I’d love to hear from you if you’re looking to create a truly personalised experience of Iceland, designed specifically for you. We’ll pick out the perfect excursions that could include these I’ve mentioned or many other truly Icelandic experiences.