The dramatic landscape of Iceland has put it to the top of everyone’s bucket lists over the recent years. Nature lover or not, you’ll be left in awe of the striking, wild and enchanting sights tightly packed into this beautiful island. There’s icebergs, glaciers, hot springs, waterfalls, skiing, hiking, diving, whale watching and of course – the northern lights. But don’t be fooled by the endless Instagram posts of Iceland’s outdoor adventures that that’s all there is. In fact, Iceland’s wonderful culture is charming and hosts a huge music scene, as well as some quirky cuisine, a renowned literary movement and lots of art. Iceland will be the adventure of your lifetime.
Because of the vast and extreme landscape, Iceland varies dramatically throughout the year. Fitting to the season, we’ve taken a look at its best bits during winter.
Many say the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, are nature’s most extraordinary display of splendour. The dancing lights are caused by collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere. An array of green, pink and other colours transform the sky into a breath-taking stage of immense beauty. Winter is the best chance to see the lights, but unfortunately because they’re a gift from Mother Nature they are unpredictable so increase the length of your stay in Iceland for a bigger chance to see them.
The hot springs are there to bathe in all year round, but at winter they are particularly spectacular. The volcanically heated pools are a major social spots for the locals, and provide a unique and relaxing way of bathing on your trip. The most visited is the Blue Lagoon, a teal coloured spa fed by water from the Syartsengi geothermal plant, steam rises dramatically and there is an abundance of white silica mud. If you feel like taking relaxation up a notch, there’s the opportunity to lie on a floating mattress and have a massage therapist work the stress out of your muscles.
Another gem of Iceland during winter is the ice caves and because they melt during the summer months, each ice cave formed is completely unique. They’re formed in glaciers and are an immense shade of blue. It’s definitely necessary to take a guide to the ice caves as they are extreme and dangerous if you’re untrained in their formations.
A shiver runs through you at the thought of diving in Iceland and a second shiver comes when you remember it’s winter. Silfa is Iceland’s most popular, and one of the top diving sites in the world. Situated in a crack between the North American and Eurasian continents, so you’re dicing where the continental plates meet. For diving fanatics you’ll be excited to know that Silfra offers a remarkable visibility of over 100 metres and the water is drinkable! The National Park Thingvellir, where Silfra is located, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its geological uniqueness.
For another completely unique dive site, head to Strýtan near the town of Akurevri. A hot spring has been releasing water into the ocean for thousands of year so you don’t have to battle the completely freezing waters for a chance of diving in this extraordinary climate. There is exceptional flora and fauna, due to the special conditions, as well as fish and other little creatures.
The glaciers of Iceland are pretty spectacular and there are many to choose from. They are continuously moving and transforming making the landscape utterly special. Wrap up warm as even on a sunny day it can be freezing up high, and join a hiking tour, or maybe even a glacier climbing lesson for amazing views and an exciting adventure. Remember sturdy boots, thick socks and most importantly your camera!
Harpa Concert Hall
Situated between Reykjavik city centre and the North Atlantic by the old harbour, the Harpa concert hall is exceptionally striking addition to Iceland and this time, it’s a man-made wonder. A glass façade covers the entire building and was designed by Olafur Eliasson, who was inspired by the dramatic nature of Iceland. Harpa concert hall hosts art exhibitions as well as opera and orchestra performances frequently.
With all the magnificent sights, the obvious option is to take to the sky and see them with a birds-eye view. Helicopter rides are offered from many companies in Reykjavik and offer you the amazing chance to fly over your best bit of Iceland and experience the spectacular landscape in one whizz. If you can get up there at sunset then you’re in for something really special.
Icelandic delicacies are renowned for their uniqueness. We’ll start with the ones that turn people’s noses up…
Sviðo, or singed and boiled sheep head, is brained, boiled and served with mashed turnip. It’s a must try, even the eyeballs.
Hákarl, or cured shark, is made from burying shark underground for 6-12 weeks and then hanging it out to dry for four months.
Rams testicals, Hrútspungar, are pretty self-explanatory and somewhat resemble a bush tucker trial. They’re pressed into blocks and pickled before served.
And for some of the yummiest:
Ein með öllu is Iceland’s famous hot dog. They’re special flavour comes from them containing lamb and they’re served with ketchup, sweet mustard, raw and fried onions and remoulade.
Seafood is big in Iceland and a popular choice is Saltfiskur- salt fish that has been dried and salted.
Hangikjöt is smoked Icelandic lambs. The sheep are farmed unusually as they are free to roam the wilderness and graze on plants and herbs as well as grass and therefore have a rich flavour.
There is an abundance to do in Iceland. As well as what we’ve covered there’s skiing, whale watching, music festivals, walking, boat trips and so much more.
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What looks most extraordinary about Iceland for you? Let us know in the comments below.