The most amazing thing about Iceland is the closeness to nature no matter where you are. Every second of the day, we were walking/driving into a potential wallpaper visual and i kept thinking about the perfect quote that goes on it. I couldn't keep up.
But what's even more amazing is how the people of Iceland live alongside nature and respect it. Iceland gave me a newfound sense of responsibility towards safeguarding our natural environment and got me thinking seriously about mankind's relationship with nature over the years..... this has to be a post on it's own! I better get to the part where i share my favourite spots in Iceland.
Quick heads up - We didn't visit "The Blue Lagoon" and it's not in this list. Don't get me wrong, i'm pretty sure it will be an awesome experience to dip into the gorgeous, blue geothermal water surrounded by snow capped mountains while donning a silica mud face mask. But this post is all about Iceland's natural beauty; places you can visit without having to fork out an entrance charge. (FYI: Cheapest entrance package to The Blue Lagoon is 40 Euros in Winter and 50 Euros in Summer.)
IMPORTANT NOTE: We didn't get a chance to cover North and East of Iceland during this trip. So this is going to be a biased list based on places we visited in the South and West of Iceland. Let me get started on my favourite spots visited in Iceland!
1. Black Sand Beach - Reynisfjara
This black beauty is located near Vik on Iceland's South Coast. The minute i stepped foot on this beautiful black pebble beach, i had to resist the urge to whip out my Iphone immediately to capture all of it! Instead, i picked up a handful of black pebbles and started dropping them back, one at a time as i walked along the mesmerising shoreline with the strong waves creeping up on me every now and then.
I had seen images of the basalt columns here so many times before but seeing this incredible work of mother nature face to face almost brought me to tears. (Yes, i'm a very emotional human being!) I have never seen a palette of black, blue and white this beautiful before. What a visual treat!
2. Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National park (Part of the Golden Circle)
This stunning national park is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and holds an important place in Icelandic history. If you have the time, it's worth having a quick read on its historical significance here.
In my opinion, this has to be the highlight of the Golden Circle route. When you get here, breathe in the overwhelming geological atmosphere! If you didn't already know, Iceland represents the largest portion of the mid-Atlantic ridge exposed above sea level and is best visible at Thingvellir National Park. It was an unreal experience to literally stand between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates!
As you walk around the park, you will get to see the frozen Pingvallavatn lake located at the southern end of the park, breathtaking mountain views and outstanding views of ice-covered lava fields. The wintery weather just made it all the more magical and dramatic.
This has to be my favourite place visited in Iceland! Dyrhólaey (20mins drive from Vik) is a 120-meter high rocky cliff overlooking the sea. You can imagine the sensational views you are going to get from this spot!
From here, the black lava columns of the Reynisdrangar can be seen in the distance and wherever you look, you cannot escape Iceland's natural, raw beauty. If you are still here when the sun begins to set, you will never want to leave Iceland after seeing what you have seen. I would have spent an entire day here if i had the time.
Iceland has aplenty of majestic waterfalls and Skogafoss (the only one i didn't mispronounce) is one of my favourites and the most memorable one! And i will tell you why! If you visit Skogafoss during winter, you have to note that you won't be walking on a luscious green grass path to get to the waterfall. The grass will be covered with snow and closer to the waterfall, most of what you will be stepping on is just slippery snow.
My husband and i, like many other tourists, didn't have ice cleats on. We saw a bunch of people falling backwards, sideways and the slippery path sure gave birth to a full choreography of hip hop dance moves! There were groups of teenage girls huddled together; taking one step at a time and shrieking each time someone stumbled. It was a super comical scene!
If you don't have ice cleats with you, don't worry. I shall share my secret to getting to the waterfall quickly and without a chance of falling. *Drumroll* I went on all fours with my bum side facing the floor (imagine that!). I zoomed past quite a number of tourists who were looking at me and thinking if they should be doing the same. A few, did follow suit. And no, my brave husband didn't. He took his chance with the slippery snow and succeeded, like a boss!
5. Glymur Waterfall
If you are planning on putting your hiking boots to good use in Iceland and are up for an adventure, head to Glymur waterfall. This is the second-highest waterfall in Iceland and is located in the West of Iceland.
The entire hike would take approximately 4 hours roundtrip. We stopped our hike just before the river crossing as we only had an hour before the sun was going to set and didn't want to drive back in the dark. So guys, if you are coming here in winter, start the hike early! The views on the way to the waterfall are spectacular! My husband and i felt seven again as we unraveled the path ahead with excitement and fearlessness - highly recommend the hike!
If you are covering the West of Iceland and are planning to explore the Snaefellsnes peninsula, you have to make a pit-stop here! Arnarstapi is a village in the southern part of the Snaefellsnes peninsula and has one of Iceland's most beautiful harbours. We were completely blown away by the breathtaking columnar basalt and magnificent lava formations along the coastline.
Looking back at all our photos from our epic trip to Iceland, i still can't believe we made it happen. We have to go back to finish the job and discover the North and East of Iceland! Ahhhhhh, dreaming of an Icelandic summer already!