For the past decade, this Nordic nation in the North Atlantic has announced itself as one of the most popular destinations in Europe. Although geographically small, Iceland seems massive as it’s bursting with natural wonders and experiences. If you stick to the centres of Reykjavik and Akureyri, you’ll find a huge variety of cultural activities and festivals to keep you engaged on an Iceland vacation. Art galleries can be found around seemingly every corner and music emanates out of most every bar; you’ll also marvel at the wide variety of culinary options available in the cutting-edge restaurants. But Iceland’s urban centres are just the tip of the iceberg.
The natural scenery offers the true magic of this Nordic nation. In winter, Iceland transforms into one of the most breathtaking landscapes in the Northern Hemisphere. In summer, the country reveals a bountiful greenery that forces you to question the accuracy of its very name.
On an Iceland vacation, Globetrotters can hike across glaciers, snorkel through stunningly-clear Nordic waters, and spot puffins living on the edge of cliffs. In winter, the night sky often comes alive with the colours of the Northern Lights. Travellers who venture to the Vatnajokull Glacier may even be lucky enough to book a tour of the breathtaking ice caves that occasionally form beneath the glacier.
For nature lovers, Akureyri and the Lake Myvatn area is your ideal basecamp. To the north of Akureyri, you’ll find Husavik, the “whale-watching capital of Iceland,” where you can head onto the water to see these gentle giants breaching the waves. Travellers can also rest and rejuvenate their bodies with a dip in the Myvatn Nature Baths.
Geothermal waters are not limited to North Iceland. You’ll find refreshing hot springs and geothermal pools all across the island nation. Beyond the relaxing benefits of taking a dip in a hot spring, Iceland’s mineral-rich waters are known to be therapeutic. No wonder Icelanders are addicted to the spa! The most famous waters in the country are the Blue Lagoon, a famous azure hot spring to the southwest of the capital, Reykjavik. When heading on a trip to Iceland, you absolutely have to make time for a visit to the Blue Lagoon, ideally right after you arrive or before you leave, as it’s nearby the international airport and will recharge and relax you before and after long flights.
There are spas throughout the country, including many new additions in recent years. Krauma Spa has opened in Reykholt in West Iceland, an easy drive from Reykjavik, while the Husavik GeoSea Baths recently opened in the late summer of 2018. Other spas like Icelandair Hotel Natura, Laugar Spa, Hilton Reykjavik Nordica, Laugarvatn Fontana, and the Aqua Spa Akureyri are exceptional locales to experience the natural benefits of Iceland’s geothermal waters.
Iceland’s tourism infrastructure is expanding in more ways than spas. Much of this has focused on Reykjavik, but other towns and rural communities have reaped the benefits of this growth in infrastructure as well. In particular, Iceland has opened up new and unique hotels to accommodate the large numbers of visitors heading to the country’s shores. New hotels like the Icelandair Hotel Myvatn and the Reykjavik Konsulate Hotel have just opened up, and more hotels, like the Iceland Parliament Hotel, are scheduled to open in 2019. Other accommodations like the Wilderness Center offer a great opportunity to engage in Icelandic traditions and experience the landscape as the locals do. If you want to be one of the many visitors who head to Iceland in increasing numbers, consider heading to the country in winter, when the tourism climate is more peaceful and there are fewer visitors to travel alongside.
There are several ways to explore Iceland. Many travellers take advantage of the nation’s great position as a stopover destination and enjoy a short stay in Reykjavik or Akureyri. They tour nearby natural icons during the day before soaking up the culture and comfort of the towns in the evening. Others head on more comprehensive group tours to the highlights of Iceland, following a circuit around the island to see its most popular sites and share the trip with fellow adventurers. Alternatively, many people head on self-drive tours of the nation, renting a car and discovering its many natural wonders and cultural highlights on their own. This allows travellers on their Iceland vacation to have the peace of mind of pre-booked accommodations, but the freedom of determining their own route and pace.
There are many ways to explore the natural and cultural wonders of Iceland. It’s a nation with a gorgeous landscape and endless possibilities to discover.