Iceland Vacation Travel Guide | Expedia
Articles,  Blog

Iceland Vacation Travel Guide | Expedia

It’s dotted with hundreds of volcanoes, yet is home to Europe’s largest glacier; it’s perched on the edge of the arctic circle, yet is warmed by the Gulf Stream,…Iceland
truly is, the Land of Fire and Ice. It’s also the
land, of story. The marks of human hands are few and far between
on this windswept land. Footprints are quickly reclaimed, but stories,…linger
forever. Such is the sheer force and beauty of this
place that Viking warriors have been transformed into poets, and family
stories into epic sagas. When Norseman, Ingólfur Arnarson, first caught sight of these shores over eleven-hundred
years ago, he cast the wooden seat pillars of his chieftain’s
throne overboard and vowed to build his farm wherever they
washed up. Three years later the pillars were found and
a settlement was born. That settlement became Reykjavik, Iceland’s
capital, a city two-thirds of Icelanders now call home. With a population of only 300,000, Iceland can feel like the most isolated place
on earth, yet Reykjavik is only a three-hour flight
from London, and just under six from New York. Reykjavik is one of those places that’s
not sure if it’s big town, or a small city, and therein lays its charm. It’s relaxed and welcoming, yet possesses a fierce creativity and cultural life that holds its own against
other European capitals. Most buildings here are a response to the
natural environment,… simple and low, to beat the North Atlantic
winds,…colourful, to brighten the spirits through the long dark
winters. Yet there’s grand civic architecture here
too, buildings truly inspired by Iceland’s natural
beauty. Like a spire from a fairy tale ice-castle, the soaring central tower of Hallgrímskirkja
watches over all of Reykjavik. Designed to mirror the geometric shapes of
ancient lava flows, few other churches in the world so honour
the natural world. Iceland’s conference and concert center, Harpa, is designed to reflect the city’s
sky, harbour and cultural energy. Once again, the island’s dramatic geologic formations
are honoured here, as well as the incredible winter spectacle
of the Northern Lights. Icelanders value their heritage buildings
too. When Reykjavík modernised in the mid-twentieth
century, dozens of the city’s older buildings were
relocated to the last of the city’s farms. Today, Arbaejarsafn, serves as a museum which
allows visitors to walk through the pages of earlier times.
While at the National Museum of Iceland, take a voyage through Icelandic history, from the present day, back to the Settlement
Age. Wherever you step in this city, nature beckons you,…over windswept waters,
across the mountains, and into limitless horizons. Many of the country’s most popular sights
are within easy reach of Reykjavík, often by public transport. Immerse yourself in the spirit of Iceland, at the Blue Lagoon. Here, and at hundreds
of volcanic baths across the island, locals come to soak in the healing thermal
waters, share gossip with neighbours, and even conduct
business meetings. Not far from Reykjavík is an area known as
The Golden Circle, which encompasses three of Iceland’s greatest
natural wonders. Just 30 miles from the capital, is Thingvellir
National Park, considered the country’s heart and soul. Here, you can actually walk between the tectonic
plates of North America and Europe, that have been drifting apart for millennia. Stand upon the shore of the country’s largest
lake, …wander the grass covered lava flows and imagine the clans who gathered here for
Iceland’s open air parliament, for two weeks each year, for over 800 years. Also in the Golden Circle, experience a boiling cauldron of hissing steam
vents and belching mud pools, at the Geysir Geothermal Field. The Great Geysir itself has been quiet in
recent years, but nearby, it’s little brother Strokkur,
still puts on a show, thrusting water into the heavens every 10
minutes. If there’s one natural wonder in The Golden
Circle that outshines them all, it’s Gullfoss. Early last century, the waterfall was threatened
by a hydroelectric project, until a local farmer’s daughter walked barefoot
to Reykjavik and threatened to throw herself from the falls
unless the project was stopped. Today, that woman is regarded as Iceland’s
first environmentalist, and The Golden Falls have been protected,
forever. For many visitors, their Icelandic story continues no further than Reykjavik and The Golden Circle, which is a shame, because the further you
roam, the greater the adventure. Iceland’s main ring road circles the entire
island, stringing together an endless series of epic
landscapes and tales. An hour and a half’s drive east from Reykjavik is one of the world’s most beautiful waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss. Follow the trail behind a 200 foot veil of
pure glacial water, where throughout the ages, adventurers have
come to pause, and breathe in the mists of this sacred place. Drive another 18 miles east, to Skógafoss,
where according to folklore, a Viking buried his chest of gold behind the
falls. Years later, a local boy found the chest and attempted
to wrench it from it’s hiding place, only to tear off its handle before the chest
vanished again. On sunny days the falls create a double rainbow,
a treasure in itself. Continue eastward towards Vík, the southern-most
village in the country. Here wedged between the mountains and the
sea lie some of Iceland’s most dramatic landscapes,
weather, and legends. Explore the basalt sands of Black Beach, considered one of the most beautiful non-tropical
beaches in the world. Just offshore rise the basalt sea stacks of
Reynisdrangar. Locals say the formations are the remains
of two trolls heading out to sea, who, when caught by the rising sun were frozen
in the morning light. The shorelines here are made up of otherworldly
rock formations and caves, like Hálsanefshellir, said to be a monster’s lair until a landslide
sealed the entrance only a century ago. Hike across the natural arch of Dyrholaey
and sit surrounded by puffins. While below, waves that have travelled uninterrupted, all the way from Antarctica, end their journey
against Iceland’s most southerly point. Follow the ring road for another two hours, into the ethereal light of Jökulsárlón
Lake. Here, at the tongue of Vatnajokull, Europe’s
largest glacier, icebergs break away and float for years, melting down until they are small enough to
tumble out to sea. A magnet for photographers and filmmakers, Jökulsárlón has been the setting for modern
day legends, like James Bond, Batman, and Lara Croft. From the wild, windswept shores of the East
Coast to the volcanic wonders of the north, Iceland’s ring road offers one jewel after
another, all strung together with mile upon mile of
absolute solitude. Stand before the northern horseshoe falls
of Selfoss. Then just downstream, feel the earth rumble beneath your boots at
Europe’s mightiest waterfall, Dettifoss, who’s plume can be seen over
half a mile away. Nearby the Myvatn region awaits, whose centerpiece
is a tranquil lake, surrounded by nature in all its violent beauty. Take a careful walk through the boiling landscape
of Namafjall. Lose yourself amid the lava pillars and dark
castles of Dimmuborgir, the place where Satan is said to have landed
when God cast him from Heaven. Then, peer into the caldera of Krafla Volcano, and witness the incredible geothermal power
that resides just beneath the ice. Just to the west of Myvatn, is a waterfall forever linked to a turning
point in Iceland’s epic narrative. When civil war threatened to tear the island
in two in the 10th century, Iceland’s law speaker united the country
under one faith, Christianity. In a symbolic act of conversion, the chieftain hurled his pagan totems off
the falls, which have been known as Godafoss, the waterfall
of the gods, ever since. After a few days on the road, the tiny city of Akureyri appears like an
arctic oasis. Known as the Capital of the North, Akureyri is the perfect place to warm up and
enjoy some comfort and culture, before heading off into the wilds again. There are some stories we never want to end,
that we never want to put down, but rest assured, this, is only an introduction. In Iceland,
every side road, every path is a story waiting to unfold. From
the vast interior, to the West Fjords, each untouched beach and
windswept plain is an unwritten page. So come, and live your own Icelandic story,
it’s one you’ll keep telling for the rest of your days.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *