Exploring Iceland: Reykjavik, Waterfalls, Glaciers, and Lava Fields

Travelers generally think of Iceland as Reykjavik and everywhere else, but the fact is that the “everywhere else” in Iceland is just as compelling as the country’s trendy capital.

Heck, Apollo astronauts practiced moon landings in Iceland. Game of Thrones used the country for backdrops. In the countryside, there is a serious belief in elves (the Hidden Folk) and people go wandering around on glaciers, because they can. How cool is that?

Truth is, rural Iceland is very wild and diverse, with moonscapes carved from cooled lava, waterfalls at every turn, and green meadows that serve as pastureland for thousands of sheep. Sheep outnumber people in Iceland by a ratio of two-to-one. Perhaps that's why Iceland feels so welcoming and peaceful.

Read on to discover five of the top things to do and see in Iceland’s capital city followed by five amazing natural wonders you should venture out and see.

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Discovering Reykjavik

In Reykjavik, Iceland's beating heart, things are as hip as ever. Whether your jam is art, culture, sightseeing, shopping, or nightlife, Iceland has you covered, and since most Icelanders speak English you never have to worry about a language barrier.

Reykjavik is a great city to explore, whether by wandering through the open-air markets or by sitting in a corner café and watching the city unfold before you.

Top things to see and do:

1. Hallgrímskirkja Church: Marvel at the striking architecture of Iceland's largest church, offering panoramic views of Reykjavik from its tower. Explore the interior and learn about its fascinating design inspired by Icelandic landscapes.

2. Harpa Concert Hall: Admire the shimmering glass facade of this modern concert hall, hosting a diverse range of performances throughout the year. Take a guided tour to appreciate the innovative architecture and acoustics.

3. Perlan Observatory Deck: Take in sweeping vistas of Reykjavik and beyond from the observation deck atop this iconic landmark, housed within giant glass domes. Enjoy a meal at the revolving restaurant offering panoramic views of the city.

4. Laugavegur Street: Stroll along Reykjavik's main shopping street, lined with boutique stores, cafes, and restaurants. Immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere and explore local shops offering unique Icelandic souvenirs.

5. National Museum of Iceland: Delve into Iceland's rich history and culture at this comprehensive museum, featuring exhibits on Viking heritage, Icelandic art, and archaeological artifacts. Gain insight into the country's fascinating past through interactive displays and multimedia presentations.

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Exploring Iceland's Natural Wonders

Venture beyond Reykjavik's urban charm to uncover Iceland's untamed wilderness, where rugged landscapes and natural wonders await -- dramatic lava fields, cascading waterfalls, and vast glaciers stretching to the horizon.

The best way to see Iceland’s rural areas is to take the Ring Road that traces the circumference of the island country. It’s not a very long drive because Iceland is not a big country. But you’ll want to take your time and stay the night at a country inn, ideally in the area around Borgarfjörður Eystri, just for the experience.

Top Natural Destinations:

1. Gullfoss Waterfall: Witness the raw power of nature at Gullfoss, where the Hvítá River plunges into a deep canyon, creating a breathtaking cascade that captivates the senses. Follow hiking trails to viewpoints offering stunning vistas of the waterfall from different angles.

2. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: Experience the otherworldly beauty of Jökulsárlón, where towering icebergs drift serenely across a glacial lagoon, reflecting the hues of the surrounding sky. Join a boat tour to sail among the icebergs and marvel at their shimmering blue hues.

3. Þingvellir National Park: Explore the geological wonders of Þingvellir, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, creating a dramatic landscape of rifts and fissures. Follow hiking trails leading through the park's rugged terrain and discover historic sites such as the Althing, Iceland's ancient parliament.

4. Seljalandsfoss Waterfall: Embark on a memorable adventure behind the curtain of Seljalandsfoss, one of Iceland's most famous waterfalls. Follow a trail leading behind the cascading water and feel the mist on your face as you admire the unique perspective of the falls.

5. Skaftafell Nature Reserve: Hike through the stunning landscapes of Skaftafell, nestled within Vatnajökull National Park. Explore glaciers, lush forests, and volcanic peaks, and embark on guided glacier tours for an unforgettable experience.

6. Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa: The last thing to do in Iceland might be the best: Take a dip in the famous Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa. As you bask away your cares in super-hot, garishly blue-green seawater, you get a feeling of serenity that may be the entire Iceland experience distilled into one moment.

See why Iceland made our list of The Best Countries to Visit for Breathtaking Ecotourism

From the cosmopolitan charm of Reykjavik to the untamed beauty of Iceland's natural wonders, a journey to this enchanting island offers a diverse tapestry of experiences waiting to be discovered.

It’s also closer than you may think – about five hours flight from New York or six-and-a-half from Minneapolis. So pack your bags, embark on an adventure, and immerse yourself in the magic of Iceland – where every moment is a new discovery.


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