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Travel Tips: 9 Unmissable Things To See and Do in Iceland

Thingvellir National Park, The Golden Circle, Iceland, Travel

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”John Muir

For as long as I can remember, I've always wanted to visit Iceland. But if I'm completely honest - I don't remember how or why it first made its way into my sights. For a place that I knew relatively little to nothing about, I was strangely drawn to it. Maybe it's because I imagined it to be like visiting another planet? Maybe it's because it sounds so archaic, so unusual, so far away from city life in London that an opposite existence attracted me? Or maybe it's because somewhere down the line, I'm part Viking; I can't quite be sure... So for my birthday last year, I decided that Iceland was where I wanted to celebrate it. We booked a flight from London Luton to Keflavik and chose Reykjavik to be our base for a few days.

And it seems I'm not the only one who's been curious to explore Iceland recently. Over 2 million tourists visited the island last year - and considering that the general population is around 337,780, that's a whole lot of non-Icelanders who've made it their mission to get to know The Land of Ice and Fire. And after spending 3 days immersed in its culture, I understand completely why Iceland is on (and should be on) everyone's travel bucket list. With its stunning landscapes, diverse food scene, natural wonders and welcoming people, it's a wonder why anyone ever leaves.

Now, it's pretty much impossible to see and do every incredible thing that Iceland has to offer in 3 days - so here's a round-up of some of its highlights if your travelling time on the island is limited.

Drive The Golden Circle Route

You've probably heard of the Golden Circle and whatever you think you know about it, the drive is even more beautiful and inspiring in real life. You'll find that nearly every tour company in Iceland hosts a Golden Circle tour at a reasonable price but there's no better way to experience it than driving the route yourself. If you're comfortable with driving on the right-hand side of the road, it's much more convenient to be in your own car, spending time taking in the sights at your own pace. And the best part of it is, you never know what else you're going to find along the way. 

Thingvellir National Park, Travel, Iceland, The Golden Circle

Appreciate the Beauty of Thingvellir National Park

The first stop on the Golden Circle route from Reykjavik is Thingvellir National Park. Covering a vast area of roughly 35 square miles, you could spend forever and a day exploring this stunning UNESCO World Heritage site. Not only is it considered to be the birth place of Iceland's democracy over 1000 years ago, it's home to mountains, volcanoes, hiking trails, snorkelling rifts, the country's largest lake and where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. 

Thingvellir National Park, the Golden Circle, travel, Iceland

Visit the Geysir Geothermal Area and Watch Strokkur Explode

Located in Haukadalur Valley is the Geysir geothermal area, whereby various environmental factors make it the perfect place for hot springs, fumaroles and bubbling mud pots to exist; things which only occur in a handful of places across the world. Among these natural phenomena is Strokkur, a highly active hot spring which erupts every 5 to 10 minutes and reaches heights of up to 130 feet. It's evidence of nature at her best and no matter how many times you see Strokkur erupt, it's always as impromptu and impressive as the last.

Geysir, The Golden Circle, Travel, Iceland, geography, nature

Stand and Listen to Gullfoss Waterfall

Not far from the Geysir geothermal area is Gullfoss Waterfall, which is whole-heartedly one of the most beautiful waterfalls I've ever visited. Born from the Hvítá River and displaying distinct 'staircase' tiers, Gullfoss can be experienced from several different viewpoints (some of which will spray you with water). At the viewpoint closest to the falls, it's difficult not to be overcome with emotion as the noise, the landscape, the climate and the sheer force of the water crashing to the earth reminds you just how raw and powerful nature is. And if you visit when the sun is shining, you'll see the most beautiful sidewards rainbow!

The Golden Circle, Gullfoss waterfall, travel, female travel, nature, winter

Walk Around Kerid Crater

Kerid Crater isn't included on the official Golden Circle tour but it's conveniently located on the return to Reykjavik from Gullfoss, making it easy to stop off at along the route. Being a relatively young volcanic crater means the iron deposits in the rock are still fresh, creating an intense red coloured slope which makes it distinguishable from other volcanic craters. Around the crater, you will find walking trails, which encircle the whole perimeter and finish at the vivid blue lake below. Be aware that on arrival, there is a small entrance fee of 400 ISK which goes towards helping preserve and protect the landscape. 

Kerid crater, Iceland, travel, landscapes, earth

Bathe in the Blue Lagoon (or a Natural Hot Spring)

While the Blue Lagoon may be a visually spectacular outdoor spa experience with a fantastic restaurant and 5 star hotel, it's not as authentic as you'd expect. In fact, it's entirely man-made and one of the most tourist-heavy spots in Iceland, making it feel less like a spa and a little bit more like a theme park. Thankfully, I'm a fan of theme parks but if you're expecting a secluded lagoon in the middle of the Icelandic mountains, this isn't the lagoon for you (unless you purchase a VIP package). It's often fully booked so realistically, here's how an average day at the Blue Lagoon unfolds: Coaches full of people arrive every 10 mins or so who must queue for their electronic wrist-bands (making it easy to purchase drinks, snacks and spa treatments) before entering the warm milky waters. The lagoon itself is pretty big so space isn't a concern but know that you will encounter many selfie-sticks and waterproof phone bags as you drift around. As long as you're not looking for complete tranquility, you'll have an amazing time because let's face it, it's still a unique way to while away the hours.

Iceland, the blue lagoon, bikini, travel, spa

Visit Hallgrimskirkja Church

One of the tallest and most prominent landmarks in Downtown Reykjavik is the Hallgrimskirkja Church. Inspired by the Icelandic landscape, the church boasts a unique stepped concrete facade which took over 40 years to complete. Even for the atheists among us, it's a stunning sight and inside the church, you'll find a 15 metre pipe organ - the largest in the country - which is impressive in its own right. Admission to the church is free but for a small charge, you can take a lift to the top of the tower to enjoy panoramic views of the city. 

religion, Iceland, travel, architecture, church, Hallgrimskirkja

Dine at the Hlemmur Food Court

Reykjavik's food scene is definitely one of the most diverse. From fermented shark and puffin to full vegan taster menus, you'll be sure to find something delicious and unusual to tickle your tastebuds. If you have no idea where to begin your culinary journey, head to the Hlemmur food court, where you'll find upscale dining, artisan pastries, gourmet coffee, open sandwiches, Mexican street food, experimental cuisine, ice-cream, local beers and cocktails in a relaxed setting all under one roof. 

food, fish, Iceland, cuisiine, traditional food, restaurants

Take an Northern Lights Boat Tour

Many people visit Iceland to try and catch a glimpse of the elusive Northern Lights. While there are many ways to experience them (overnight camping tours, coach trips, self-drives or boat trips), nature can be fickle and unless the conditions are perfect, your chances of seeing active aurora are limited. So, when thinking about booking a tour, choose something that you'll find fun even if the lights don't show. We chose a private Northern Lights boat tour and although the lights decided not to dance on the night of our trip, we still had a fantastic evening sailing along the Icelandic coast.

Have you been to Iceland?


  1. What great information. I've been curious about Iceland lately as well but was fearful of the weather as I am not a fan of the cold. Which i have since learned is a misconception.

  2. Such a great post about the highlights of Iceland, love the photos. I dream of road tripping the Golden Circle, Ring Road, and seeing the Blue Lagoon one day.

  3. I definitely gotta go! I've transited through Keflavik airport 4 times but never exited. Definitely Golden Circle and the Northern Lights are to be seen.

  4. Iceland was already on my list, now even more so. The stepped waterfall sounds amazing and the crater. And the church in Reykjavik is spectacular (I'm a sucker for unique concrete structures). I had not heard of that church before. Thanks for the great info.

  5. No I am yet to visit Iceland. I would love to visit with the kids this year or next.

  6. I never been to Iceland before and others have describe Iceland as a winter holiday paradise. I am so there with those hot srpings. I looooooooove hot springs.

  7. I've always been curious about the food in Iceland. Fermented shark and puffin...very interesting. That alone is reason to visit. Stunning photos. I especially love the Blue Lagoon and the Church photo's -remarkable. Hope to make it to Iceland soon.

  8. Beautiful and stunning.. I have never been to Iceland or dream of visiting but i have always heard some great things about the place especially the landmark.. Will love to visit someday.

  9. I haven't been there yet but your pictures are so beautiful. I see there are many places to enjoy and rove. I'm thankful for spreading the awareness about this place.


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