Hello to all the adventurers. This week I will be delving into the intrepid beauty Iceland has to offer. This country was founded over 1,000 years ago in what we know as the ‘Viking Age’. The island was settled by a mix of Norse and Celtic people. But the early settlements were mostly made up of Norse seafarers and explorers. Iceland is located about 800km from Scotland and is quite cold. The capital is ‘Reykjavík’ which in Icelandic means ‘Bay of Smokes’. This name comes from when the first Viking settlers saw the steam from the geothermal vents. This city is also where the island built its first farmstead. Today the city is thriving and modern in every respect. Iceland is a Scandinavian country and has the world’s oldest democracy. Although integrated into the European mainstream. The Icelandic people take care to preserve their customs, language and lore.
Iceland is full of glacier Iceland cooled lava. Each of these things cover at least one-tenth of the country’s area. For those that love to adventure and explore remote areas. Or love to delve into a country’s culture and get to know the people. There is something for everyone in Iceland. Though I will point out that it is an expensive country to visit. As such it is best to plan accordingly. From my research I found that there were a few options. Some are cheaper than others and some more comfortable. I will be dedicating a short section to accommodation to help both sides of the argument. So without further ado. Lets learn more about the Intrepid beauty of Iceland.
A Few Tips for Your Adventures
Before I get into your Intrepid Iceland Adventure. I thought it would be prudent to share a few tips I found about vacationing in Iceland. From what you need to survive the cold weather to when you should visit. There are of course several things I have not included in this list. So even after reading this please do your own research if I have not covered something that is unique to you. I hope these tips will help you out when deciding to visit Iceland.
Your Adventurers Base
I am sure you have heard all the stories. Iceland is expensive and everything costs more than you are used to. But how true is this and what can you do if you are on a budget? This of course affects what kind of base you might stay in. A few options might be as follows:
- Van Renting
It is true. Iceland is one of the most expensive countries in the world. It’s actually the third most expensive country in the world. The most reasonable and cheapest base you can have would be to camp. It is not true that you can camp anywhere you like. Stick to camp sites. The down side to camping is that it can get really cold and you give up the comfort you might have in a hotel. Another thing you could do is rent a van. This is a great way to get your transport and have a place to sleep at the end of the day. Of course there are the hostel and hotel options but these will be more expensive. Especially if you are on a tight budget.
Where & When to see the Northern Lights
If you simply have to see the Northern Lights you will need to know when the best time to go is. The peak time to see the Northern Lights is between September and March. This is when the nights are long in Iceland. Between these months it is winter and when the Summer Solstice takes place. The problem with visiting Iceland during this time is that the night/darkness can stretch for over 19 hours. So if you are desperate to see the Aurora Borealis you may sacrifice hiking or driving on some roads. Because the winter months are even more cold and unforgiving than the summer months. You may find yourself sticking close to the capital city called ‘Reykjavik’. But it is up to you whether it is worth it to travel to Iceland during the winter months.
What Should I Wear?
I am sure that many of you are wondering what you should bring on your trip to Iceland. The temperature may vary depending on the season. The weather here is milder than people think but it can be unpredictable. So you should be cautious in what you bring. The weather can range from sunny to a blizzard in minutes. So predicting what kind of weather you will get is almost impossible. It is important to wear layers. This is so that you can put them on or take them off as required. Because of this it is a good idea to take a small backpack or bag with you on your adventures. Between June and August it is recommended to bring the following:
- Base layer which can be anywhere between just your underwear to a t-shirt and shorts.
- A warm woolen or fleece sweater
- Lightweight trousers which you can zip the legs on and off as needed is a good idea.
- Light waterproof jacket preferably with a hood.
- Sturdy Hiking boots
- Hat, scarf & gloves
In the winter months it is very similar with the addition of thermals and warmer jackets and hats and other clothing items. The weather can be unforgiving in the winter months so be prepared. If you are going to Iceland you should bring your swimsuit. You will need it if you are taking a trip to the famous Blue Lagoon. Or any other Icelandic hot springs. This can save you money in the long run and who doesn’t want to save money.
Overall it is your choice what to bring on your intrepid Icelandic trip. But I do caution you to pack carefully. It is better to have something and not need it than need something and not have it. SO please think carefully about what you might bring. Do your research and choose what time of year you want to visit Iceland. Now on with the fun part of this travel blog.
Escapades for the Outdoor Lovers
If you love to marvel at the wonder of nature and enjoy hiking and exploring. Iceland is the place for you. This little country is full of natural wonders. There are many famous areas and places you can visit on your trip. From the Black Beaches to the Roaring Skógafoss and so much more in between. Natural attractions are generally free to visit which is a big plus in such an expensive country. But for those that want to experience all the wonders in the Golden Circle. There is no reason not to splurge a little money if you have it. This section will show you some of the famous attractions in Iceland. Maybe a few of them you never thought of doing. But there will hopefully be something for everyone in this Icelandic travel guide.
Glacier Hiking & Ice Caving Adventures
Firstly it is important to distinguish between ice caves and glacier ice caves. These are not the same things. An ice cave is simply a cave that has any amount of ice in it all around. Whereas a glacier ice cave is The glacier ice caves are seasonal ice caves which are much more vibrant in the winter. It is these glacier caves that most people think of when they think of ice caves. One of the most famous glacier ice caves in Iceland is known as ‘The Vatnajökull Glacier’ which has the stunning blue ice caves you can view. But before you book an ice cave or glacier ice cave tour. Make sure to check out your tour description and look at any pictures so that you know what to expect. Some of the famous ice cave tours in Iceland are:
A Few Ice Caves to Consider
The Crystal Ice Cave. Located in the Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier which is a seasonal event. It is best to view it between November and April. This is the largest ice cave within the Vatnajökull National Park. The name comes from the stunning crustal-like blue ice that covered the cave.
The Katla Ice Cave. Located in the Kötlujökull Glacier and available to see all year around. This is a geological wonder. This cave was carved out by the Katla volcano. The lava from this eruption is carved into the cave walls. Although this cave is not pristine like the crystal caves. The blue and black ice walls are still interesting to see and experience.
The Vatnajökull Ice Caves. This cave is located in the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier and is only available to see between November and April. This is the largest glacier in Europe and covers approximately 8% of Iceland’s landmass. It is such a vast glacier that it is quite hard to find ice caves that are safe. There are two outlets which have safe and beautiful ice caves to explore. The Falljökull and Breiðamerkurjökull ice caves. So if you are looking for adventure this is a great way to explore Iceland and experience the biggest glacier in Europe. All while searching for elusive ice caves.
Of course you never do any of these activities without a guide. Ice caving can be dangerous and you always need a professional with you in case something goes wrong and also to show you the safest path. That being said. Checking out these amazing caves is certainly something you should do on your trip to Iceland.
The Roaring Skógafoss
There are several impressive waterfalls in Iceland. But none so spectacular as the Skógafoss. This majestic waterfall is located in the south of Iceland. At the cliffs that formed the former coastline. It is now about 5km from the sea. This waterfall is unique because the source comes directly from two glaciers. If you climb the 370 steps to the top of Skógafoss you will be rewarded with a truly stunning view. The waterfall exudes the powerful force of nature. The 60 meter tall cascade of icy cold water is sure to leave you awestruck. The Skógafoss is in the Golden Circle route. This is good if you want to stick to the most popular travel locations in Iceland.
This waterfall is steeped in legend. One legend says that a Viking named ‘Thrasi’ hid his hoard of gold under the falls. Many have tried and failed to get this gold. One young man nearly succeeded. It is said that he tied a rope to the chest and pulled. But was only rewarded with the ring he had tied the rope to. It is later said that this chest ring was used for the door of the Skogar Church.
This attraction is a two hour drive from Reykjavík if you follow the ring road east of the capital. There is no entrance fee to see the Skógafoss. Great right. There is also a camping area near this majestic waterfall if you are willing to pay a small fee.
This is a very popular tourist destination. As such if you do not like crowds you should visit the waterfall either very early or very late. If you want to see the northern lights dance over the waterfall you might want to visit in August. An additional tip. Make sure you have plenty of time to climb to the top of the waterfall. It is about a half hour and can be quite steep. So if you have trouble walking or tire easily this may not be for you.
Pamper Yourself at the Blue Lagoon Spa
The Blue Lagoon Spa is one of the biggest attractions to Iceland and it is little wonder why. With the milky blue water and the warm water makes it quite unique. The lagoon is unlike anything else found on this earth it is found on the Reykjanes Peninsula in the southwest of Iceland. This region is well known for its barren landscape and volcanoes. The Icelandic gem is a 15 minute drive from Keflavík International Airport and a 30 minute drive from Reykjavík. You simply have to check out the Blue Lagoon Spa on your trip to Iceland. It is a great way to relax and enjoy yourself. Not to mention pampering yourself. It’s an all round great stop for any age.
Enjoy the Black Beach at the Djúpalón Beach
Located on the southwest coast of Iceland. The black-sand beach is a truly dramatic and fantastical place to visit. The various rock formations, some known as elf castle or ‘kerlings’ to the locals. There are also a bunch of rocky steps or stacks much like the giant’s causeway in Ireland. The locals think of these rocky stacks as troll churches. The beach is truly stunning and interesting to behold. When you visit the beach you need to watch your step. The paths are short and narrow so you do not want to wander too far. Once you are on the beach there will be various lava rock formations and pools for you to explore and photograph. This place is truly a delight for photographers out there. So if you are in Iceland this is certainly a stop you will want to take.
Concluding this Weeks Icelandic Adventures
That concludes this week’s travel guide. There is a great deal more to see in Iceland so I will be doing another article on this amazing little country next week. I will be doing a little on Icelandic food for the foodies out there and a little of everything else. There is fascinating history and natural sites for you to enjoy. I hope that I inspire you all to get out there and have a great time. Everyone deserves a great adventure in their life and I hope that I can be the spark for yours. If you liked this week’s article you might like my piece on Mongolia or Cape Town, South Africa. As always, have fun and be adventurous.