As our trip to Iceland last summer was only short, we planned everything we were going to do before we set off on our adventure. Iceland is all about the great outdoors, so we spent a day or two experiencing all that it has to offer in the way of waterfalls and natural beauty.
And it did not disappoint! As cliched as it may sounds, parts of the country felt out of this world. Truly, at times it was like we were on another planet. Other times, the open road felt like we could have been in parts of North America! There’s lots of lush greenery, beautiful mountains, glaciers and of course, waterfalls. We plotted all the places we wanted to visit on Google Maps, then decided on the best route, which was to drive out to the furthest point and then visit places on our way back into the city.
The Blue Lagoon
Our first stop, like many, was the Blue Lagoon. It’s a man-made geothermal spa and is one of the most visited places in Iceland, so it’s imperative that you pre-book. We had enough time to collect our car, head to our hotel and get acquainted with the area, as we booked our visit for a few hours after landing. As it’s only a 20 minute drive from the airport, it also meant if our flight was slightly delayed, we would be able to head straight there too.
There’s probably only one way to describe the Blue Lagoon, and that is dreamy. We spent hours in there, thanks to the midnight sun and losing track of time. It is a tourist trap, but you can see why, as soon as you step into the warm, milky waters. It’s definitely one to tick off the bucket list! Lots of people stop in Iceland specifically for the Blue Lagoon, on their way to/from the USA and I don’t blame them; I’d go again! You can typically expect the water to be about 37–39°C and as you move around, you’ll notice some spots are hotter than others. There’s a swim-up bar to keep yourself hydrated, as well as huge pots of natural face masks that are available too, for the ultimate in pamper and relaxation.
I must admit, I was a bit apprehensive about the pre-shower situation. You have to get completely naked and shower before you get in and I had heard the shower rooms were public. It was easy enough to wrap yourself in the rented gown, before heading from the shared ladies locker room to the showers, though. And I was very pleased to find they were single cubicles with frosted doors! Ensure you slather your hair in the conditioner provided, even if you’re not planning to get it wet in the lagoon. Somehow, you just will and it will be so dry and dehydrated, because the high levels of silica in the water.
Black sand beach at Vik
Vik was the first place we visited on our day exploring outside of Reykjavik and the furthest place we drove to. It was wet and windy, and we didn’t spend much time there in the end, but it was a beautifully unusual place and well worth the three-hour drive there, if not just for all the scenery we saw on the way.
Iceland has an abundance of waterfalls, but we decided to visit just three during our mini-break and so our first stop on our way back into the city was Skógafoss. It’s one of the biggest waterfalls on the island and due to the amount of water falling and the spray-back once it hits the ground, there’s usually a rainbow or two visible on a sunny day. We were really lucky with our trip as we had bright sunshine 90% of the time and the weather was mild!
You can climb to the top of the mountain and see the view of the waterfall and surrounding area from the top, if that’s your thing. We decided against it due to time, but I can imagine the view would have been amazing. At ground level, you can walk right up to it; just prepare to get drenched!
Seljalandsfoss was the one of waterfalls I’d most wanted to visit, as I’d heard you could walk behind it in a small cave. It sounded magical! I spent half of the way around fearing for my life though, otherwise it would have been more magical. It was very slippery and narrow at some points! Outdoorsy folk would have found it a breeze, but I’m a bit of a city girl and at one point I think my husband thought he was going to have to leave me there, as I was adamant I was going to slip to my watery death with every move. Despite my fear, the experience was worth it and I’m glad we went!
The waterfalls at Gullfoss are among some of the most iconic on the island; water plummets down 32 meters in two stages into a rugged canyon where the walls reach up to 70 meters in height! There are lots of different view points to experience at different levels (and nice a nice boarded walkway; take note Seljalandsfoss!) Like most of the country, the area is steeped in history, which is well worth learning about too.
Geysirs in Haukadalur Valley
Every few minutes in Haukadalur Valley, Strokkur, a powerful geyser, spurts boiling water 30m into the air. It’s a big tourist attraction so it can also get quite busy, however it’s worth the experience to capture something so bizarre! The ground is vividly coloured in parts due to natural elements like iron and there’s lots of mud pools and other tiny geysers in the area, as well as lovely views of the valley too.
One thing to note though, is the naturally occuring sulphur means that the area does smell like rotten eggs…
On the opposite side of the road is the Geysir Centre, where you can find snacks, tourist information and souvenirs. I sipped on a delicious hot chocolate as we walked around the hot springs, that was to die for!
Þingvellir National Park
Þingvellir National Park is huge, so we decided to spend a whole morning there, exploring. Icelanders hold the park in high regard, as major events in the countries history (including parliament) have taken place there. It’s an area of outstanding natural beauty, with plenty of walks, routes, lakes and waterfalls. Prepare yourself for a high step count if you visit!
…And anywhere else that you’d like to stop!
My favourite thing about our days out exploring was the the route to and from each stop; there’s just so much to see and some spectacular views. It’s most definitely the best way to find hidden gems and things that you might not have seen in guidebooks. You’ll often see people at the side of the road, taking photos of flora and fauna, or the fantastic views.
Over the coming week, I’m going to be re-capping the places we visited, the fun we had in Reykjavik and all of the delicious food we tried during our mini-break to Iceland. I’ll come back and place the links below once the posts are live, or you can find them on the Iceland tag, here!