12 Reasons to Visit Iceland Before You Die
Updated: Nov 20, 2019
The land of fire and ice. Where constant darkness meets perpetual sunshine. Iceland is a land of polarity, and the perfect winter getaway. Why? Here are 12 huge reasons.
1. The Northern Lights
Iceland in winter is one of the best places to see the natural phenomenon of the Aurora Borealis. You need a clear night and the right conditions, but if so, you’ll be treated to a once in a lifetime experience.
Literally meaning ‘Bridge Falls’, the icy blue Brúarfoss is a lesser known waterfall, but is just as magnificent as some of the most famous. It is difficult to find, so make sure you take some detailed directions with you.
This is Iceland’s biggest waterfall, standing at 60 metres tall and 25 metres wide. Due to the high volume of spray it produces, you’re likely to see a rainbow if the sun makes an appearance. It also featured in season eight of HBO's Game of Thrones series, just after the well-known Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow dragon flying scene.
This is the famous black sand beach on Iceland’s South Coast, with its coastal cliffs featuring remarkable towering basalt columns. In Icelandic folklore, these columns were believed to have once been trolls that aimed to lure boats ashore. One night they misjudged how much time they had left before daylight, and were turned to stone by dawn breaking on the horizon. This location also briefly featured as the beach at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea in the Game of Thrones series.
This is Iceland’s most active geyser by the Hvítá River, and one of the three most famous attractions of Iceland’s Golden Circle. Not for the faint-hearted, this geyser shoots water to heights of up to 20 metres every five to ten minutes!
Iceland’s famous glacier lagoon, Jökulsárlón, is otherworldly in its appearance. It has featured in James Bond films, Batman Begins, and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Although beautiful to look at, Jökulsárlón formed in 1935 due to rising temperatures that caused the melting of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, which once stretched all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. It has now receded to almost a mile inland, and the size of Jökulsárlón has increased by 400% since the 1970s.
7. Secret Lagoon
Many people have heard of the Blue Lagoon, but fewer have heard of the Secret Lagoon, located in a small village called Flúðir. The Blue Lagoon isn’t a natural geothermal pool, but a result of run-off from the geothermal plant next door. However, the Secret Lagoon has a natural geothermal spring which feeds into the lagoon, keeping it a toasty 38–40ºC. It even has its own geyser!
Translating as ‘Golden Falls’, Gullfoss is Iceland’s most visited waterfall. Between 1907 and 1929, this waterfall was almost lost to plans for a hydroelectric plant. It was thanks to Iceland’s first known environmentalist, Sigríður Tómasdóttir, that Gullfoss was saved.
This 3000-year-old volcanic crater, or caldera, is quite the spectacle. It is believed to have once been a volcano, which on eruption, collapsed into itself and filled with water over time. The red colour seen in the surrounding area are due to the presence of iron, which is relatively fresh compared to some of the older calderas in Iceland.
Another breath-taking waterfall, Seljalandsfoss, is unique because it can be fully encircled—there is a footpath that takes you around the back of the waterfall. Be warned though, you will be completely sodden afterwards!
Svartifoss is a waterfall in Skaftafell National Park, characterised by its hexagonal columnar basalt. This basalt is very dark in colour, hence its name, which means ‘Black Falls’ in Icelandic. To get to this waterfall takes a bit more determination, as it’s around a half an hour walk from the Visitor Centre car park. Even so, it’s more than worth it.
Is there anywhere you think deserves adding to the list? Got any questions about visiting Iceland? Pop your thoughts in the comments!