Ten Incredible Things to Do in Iceland

With less than one week to prepare, I booked myself a solo trip to the remote island of Iceland!😲

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Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon

Now don’t let the picture above fool you- Iceland is not just a massive island of ice. Ironically, Greenland would fit that portfolio much more nicely. 😂29894600288_a89999e71d_oAlthough the country is located near the Arctic Circle, it’s also sitting on a volcanic hot spot, making for a unique geological landscape. 😍

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Skogafoss Waterfall

Being such a geothermal hot spot, you’ll find an almost otherworldly atmosphere on this island, full of natural hot springs, volcanoes, geysers, waterfalls, lava fields, mineral-rich soils, glaciers, and black sand beaches. 🖤43650511072_2c6ed486cd_oAs such, Iceland has been aptly named, “The Land of Fire and Ice.” 🔥❄️

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Landmannalaugar

29796684388_815e0b5c44_cNow Tourism in Iceland is still relatively new. After the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull Volcano (trying pronouncing that 3X fast) in 2010, the island got a lot of media coverage, which resulted in some worldwide advertising of Iceland’s natural beauty. 🌋

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museum in Iceland showcasing the destruction from the eruption

In fact, tourism increased in the subsequent years by almost 300%!  Now-a-days, with a population less than 350,000, tourists sometimes outnumber the locals! That being said, Icelandic people are aware of the economic benefits of tourism, and are warmly receptive to visitors. On the whole, with the combination of Iceland’s relatively unspoiled beauty and the cheap flights offered by WOW air, now seemed like the perfect time to visit! 😁

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caving in Iceland

As I mentioned above, I booked my whole trip just about 5 days before I flew out. I used a combination of Skyscanner to book flights, and TourRadar to find a multi-day tour with Arctic Adventures. In the end, I had an absolutely phenomenal time visiting this country, with each day jam-packed visiting gorgeous sites and partaking in extreme activities.

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snorkeling between two tectonic plates

Now, in no particular order, here are ten incredible things to do in Iceland!

Ten Incredible Things to Do in Iceland

1. Hike in Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar is a hiking area in the highlands of Iceland within the Fjallabak Nature Reserve. Our tour van had to drive about four hours to reach the region, driving across bumpy roads and through rushing rivers to get there. For the journey, our van did not have WiFi on-board. Our guide joked that our van was built for river crossings, not millennials. Hah! 😜

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mountain views en route to Landmannalaugar

Although we were just there for a day hike, the area also has a campground, which is great for multi-day excursions.43620214492_681e94cd9c_o43620269982_df48dfb8a5_o42949956174_74b93be414_o29796634618_887e2b295a_o42949955964_2f47108cba_oEven as a day hike, visiting Landmannalaugar is absolutely worth it! This area is oozing with geothermal activity. During our hike, we marveled at the lava fields, colorful mineral-rich soil, snow-capped mountain peaks, and bubbling hot springs. 😍29796684158_6e24e99956_oLandmannalauger is only accessible during the summer months, and a few of the trails didn’t even open up until mid-July this year due to icy conditions.28778430137_e14c4d18c6_o 28778430177_bf7d8f13f8_oApparently this was the rainiest summer Iceland has had in 10 years, which meant I always had my umbrella on hand.28832905547_af40f81b31_oAnyway, our four-hour hike in Landmannalaugar began at the campground and finished at the summit of Mt. Brennisteinsalda.29796680768_82250df1f1_oOur guide for the day was Matthew, a Brit who had met an Icelandic girl while trekking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. 43620214492_681e94cd9c_oHe decided to move to Iceland with his girlfriend, and now gives hiking tours during the summer months, and northern lights tours in winter. He was super knowledgeable of Iceland’s history, which he said impresses most people, except for his girlfriend’s father. Hah! Guess he’s a little hard to win over!😜

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lunch break on the mountains, Matthew waving hello 🙂

For example, we learned that although the scenery is spectacular here, there really aren’t any forests in Iceland.41858467630_1fcf5130da_o>Basically, there were forests in Iceland decades ago; however, when the Vikings settled in Iceland, they cut down all the trees to establish their community. Since then, the country has put in many reforestation efforts, but it’s still not up to par. Matthew told us the joke, “What do you do if you get lost in a forest in Iceland? Stand up.” Hah!😜 They’ve even introduced this popular purple flower, the Alaskan lupine, into the environment to combat soil erosion.42808575635_15f045925a_oTo deal with the lack of growth, the country also utilizes their geothermal energy to create greenhouses for growing crops. For a time, Iceland actually had the largest banana plantation in Europe! 🍌 😲

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greenhouse

Anyway, we began this four-hour hike by walking through the Laugahraun lava field. 43666427441_4c83264618_o
43666432451_7fc7d59d51_o43666427721_643b8e741b_o43666432331_d14e39ea4b_oThis place was an absolute geothermal hot spot, with steaming vents and bubbling springs strewn about.

Side note: the smell of sulfur is pretty prominent all over Iceland, especially in places like this. I could even smell it in my shower in Reykjavik. 🚿43666432471_2b1d155b05_oWe even passed by a rushing river warmed by geothermal energy.29796640218_8062d5d4c6_o29796640178_d3a41546bc_oFrom there, we passed through the dramatic Vondugil Canyon and finally up to the mountain peak, where we were rewarded with gorgeous panoramas of the Icelandic highlands. 29796684428_20423c7b62_o41858467470_b339be4d44_o29796650868_3aedb827e4_o42950005284_df86edc02d_o43666421041_2e9f4082b1_oThis mountain is a literal kaleidoscope of colors due to the mineral rich soil, mostly from sulfur, copper and iron. 🌈 42950005234_c41e619e1d_o

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colorful soil
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colorful mineral rocks

42950005174_99677edcdc_cPersonally, I was just in awe of the dramatic snow-covered mountain peaks.29796680998_2c5b9df381_o43666586541_1857f6e39a_oWe could even see some marks where someone had been skiing down the snowy mountain path.43666421151_aa1fbe4156_o29796684268_aabb6cca08_o43666438701_947853f221_oApparently, the rock atop this mountain was once a troll that turned to stone in the sunlight.41858223160_6166e80053_oMatthew joked though, that the Icelandic people think it looks like something else instead. 🍆🙈28832905087_0d8a7e0188_oThe sun also peaked its head out once we go there, so we had epic views of the green valleys on our hike back down!41858467510_fca667575c_o43620269922_40aea2af37_o
Anyway, although unrelated to the hike, I’ll end this section with three interesting facts about Iceland:

1. Icelandic babies are regularly put to nap outside in winter believing that the cold air is good for them.❄️

41957395850_6d166d5ce2_o2. Icelanders derive from a single family tree and they actually have a dating app called Islendingabok, which double-checks to make sure the person you’re going out with isn’t a close relative. In this case, let’s not keep it in the family! Hah! 😜43765822421_273f5729a5_o
3. According to Business Insider, Iceland has an approved list of names, and if you wish to name your child something else, it must be approved by the Icelandic Naming Committee.

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2. Go Caving in a Lava Tube

Being such a volcanic hot spot, it’s no surprise that Iceland is covered in lava fields. 41858389410_23c1ebf2ac_cThese fields have been formed from the flow of basalt lava during an eruption.29796564518_a99a861db8_cYou’ll also notice copious amounts of moss growing across these fields.29796610928_784a81f76c_oThese mossy beds actually take about 60-70 years to grow and they’re super sensitive to damage. You’ll see signs everyone warning not to step on the moss, since it takes so long to grow.43620186162_fc2d50a7a5_oFun fact: some tourists and Icelanders have left “moss graffiti” on the mountainside, since they know it takes so long to grow back. I’m sure “SEND NUDES” is what everyone wants to see while their driving through the beautiful countryside. Oh brother! 🤦Luckily they’ve attached a hefty fine to moss destruction, and this no longer seems to be an issue.

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when someone tells you to “send nudes”

Anyway, while in the lava field, I went with Arctic Adventures inside Leidarendi lava tube cave.29796611028_25c2a23f28_o41858389260_e1943a2953_o41858643890_ff854a88e2_oThis lava tube formed after two volcanic eruptions over a thousand years ago. The hollow tube was formed as the rivers of basalt lava slowly cooled from the outside creating a hardened shell.43666381561_4fb984cffb_oThis lava tub cave is a literal kaleidoscope of colors on inside from minerals, like copper, iron, and sulfur.42995614034_56ecafef89_oThe cave was only recently discovered after a collapse in a section of the tube.28778393407_c5cb3fc2a8_o43666381501_419786ec4e_oWhile navigating this pitch-black cave, our group found drip stalagmites, sparkling bacteria found nowhere else on Earth, and shiny shark tooth stalactites, which looked like that came straight out of Alien vs. Predator.41858406350_e36f5b2a37_o41858403620_64dded1abf_o41858406300_d1b91792c0_o43620185902_f835f8e794_oThere were also lots of fake stalactites in the cave, because apparently Icelanders used to steal the real ones to use as a conversational piece in their house. Hah! 😜42949936494_cda5621905_oMany sections of the cave were very narrow and required us to crawl on all fours over jagged lava rock. Of course, I chose to wear capris, which wasn’t the best choice, but at least I didn’t wear flip-flops, which is my typical go-to footwear. 😂41858388840_184f2164c2_o (1)While in the cave, our guide had us turn off headlamps, and told us some spooky facts about Icelandic Santa Clauses. Seemed appropriate! 🤔🎅 Iceland actually has 13 Santas, known as “Yule Lads”, and all of them are pretty awful. They’ve even earned nicknames like “spoon licker” and “sausage swiper”.😂Most of them steal and cause a general ruckus around Christmastime. Even worse, if you’re a bad child, the mother of the Yule Lads will come and cook you into a soup. And I thought getting coal was bad! Yikes! 😱43050402934_95616c1c2d_o

3. Snorkel in the Silfra Fissure

Silfra is a fissure in Iceland’s Pingevellir National Park. It’s located between the tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia, and on top of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.43620510342_93918a22c8_oThe fissure, or crack, resulted from a massive earthquake, which shifted the tectonic plates.29796878298_1e188c7718_oSide note: there is constant tension on this tectonic boundary, and subsequent earthquakes are always a possibility.29796914318_9354e0d390_oNow-a-days, people can dive or snorkel in this fissure, which is full of glacial spring water filtered through 100-year-old lava rock. 😲28973415667_8548ae7780_oThis glacial water comes from Langjokull glacier, which is the largest in Europe. This water is also some of the clearest on Earth, with visibility up to 100 meters. Water temps; however, remain a frigid 2 degrees Celsius all year round. To snorkel in the fissure, the most important thing to consider is what to wear to stay warm. 29796909588_0cdec5a41d_oOur group had to first put on a long thermal undergarment, then a dry suit.29796611668_5c113a8b81_oOn top of that, we had a cap, gloves, and boots made of thick neoprene, then flippers, a mask and snorkel.43620510382_179c96fa3e_oWe then shuffled our way over to the fissure entry. 43741109522_a23bdebd59_oIf the scenery looks familiar, that’s because it was the filming location for Game of Thrones.43790273451_55bfdc05ee_oThe swim begins in the Silfra Cathedral, which has the most dramatic and spectacular views of the boulders lining the fissure and an abundance of vibrant marine algae.42763877865_8536ffef89_o29796878308_7e4201e9d8_oThe fissure has a slight current, so you don’t really need to kick, but rather just float along the top and enjoy the view.29796878378_9ddbba688a_oAlthough my body wasn’t freezing, my hands and exposed face were. One tip I could give would be to not move your fingers too much inside the glove, and occasionally float on your back when your face gets too cold.41858553230_1304302850_oFrom the Cathedral you enter the hall, then finally the lagoon. The lagoon leads into Thingvallavatn Lake, which is apparently teeming with brown trout and Artic Char.42866357655_c9713319c5_cOverall, the chance to swim between two continents was surely a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and something for everyone to add to their bucket list. 😉29796878358_fefcf9f6a9_oWe ended the trip with some well-deserved, post-snorkel cookies and hot chocolate! ☕🍪
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4. Ride Icelandic Horses

Icelandic horses have been ruling this country since the age of the Vikings. 🐎29796860878_0c8ccb1c0e_oIt’s actually illegal to import any other breed of horse into the country for fear of degrading the stock, and once an Icelandic horse leaves the country it cannot return for fear of foreign disease. Icelandic horses are uniquely stocky, strong, and blessed with a sweet temperament. ❤️29796860738_e99c23a559_o29796860768_22aae90fe9_oAlso, they may look like a pony, but they are definitely not, and it’s considered an insult to call them as such.29796863798_4975f5a6b1_oI chose to go horseback riding at Eldhestar Farms, which is located in the picturesue countryside near the village of Hveragerdi. The farm had a nice riding stable, and waterproof pants and mittens for me to stay warm on this drizzly afternoon.29796863918_7794aa1bf2_o

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farm cat taking a nap in the barn

My two-hour ride in the countryside alternated between a walk and a tolt pace. 28832904517_6dd60192fc_oIcelandic horses actually have five gaits, which is two more than other breeds. You may have heard of the walk, trot and canter, but the tolt is like a smooth fast-paced walk. Overall, riding them was much easier for me than other breeds of horses. (Video to follow at the end)43910559201_f8d247c566_oMy German guide for the ride was also very friendly and patient, which was great for someone who hadn’t ridden in over three years.42864567585_688e2bafc2_oWe ended the day with a few photo ops before heading back to the farm for complimentary tea and rhubarb cake. ❤29796863828_6eb8eeb244_o

5. Go Whitewater Rafting down the Hvítá River

This was one of those activities that I couldn’t believe I signed up for due to my low tolerance for cold temps! Hah!❄️ That being said, the whole afternoon was a blast and I’ll only remember the great memories and not the constant shivers! 😂29796871088_181a0a6300_oThe Hvítá River begins near the Langjokull glacier, and flows down a steady stream through the beautiful Gulfoss Canyon before it drops off to create the thunderous Gulfoss Waterfall. I began my rafting excursion at Drumbo Base Camp, where my group got dressed in some essential layers.41858519520_4dc439d4e2_oBefore rafting, the company provided us with a long fleece sweater, a wet suit, a waterproof jacket, booties, a helmet, and a paddle. 41858520210_aea5bb94a9_oAfter gowning up, we all hopped on a big yellow bus and made a 20-minute drive down to the river entrance. I sat and talked with a British guy on the ride there. He was telling me how shocked he was at the prices of things in Iceland. He had five children on the trip, including three growing boys.

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even a small sandwich here costs 10-15 USD

After arriving at the river, we had a short safety briefing by our comical Icelandic guide, Thor. Thor actually joined my raft, along with 8 other girls, and he helped us name our raft. We called it ‘rassgat’, which basically means ‘butthole’ in Icelandic.😂🤦29796878158_94b7a7a35b_oAfter entering in the river, we made our way through two sections of Class 3 rapids, which were a blast. We ended up smacking into a boulder at one point, but I’d say that the bus ride to the river was bumpier than being on the raft. Hah! 😂After passing through the two extreme sections of rapids, it tapered off into only Class 1-2 rapids.29796871098_6166bdf21c_oWe played a lot of games along the river, and one guy in a kayak actually came by and ended up pulling one of the girls in. We ended the rafting trip at the canyon where everyone had the chance to jump off into the river. (Video to follow at the end)

6. Tour the Golden Circle

The Golden Circle Tour stops at three of the most popular spots along the Ring Road.

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our driver around the Golden Circle- a funny Icelandic man who actually opened the first pizza place in Iceland

43666477831_776e27cb95_oEssentially, there is no highway in Iceland and the Ring Road is the only road to get around the whole island. 🚗42862444475_0ff2a45966_oThis actually made for a nightmare one day when there was an accident and our driver got stuck for four hours waiting for everything to be cleaned up. Also, the traffic was horrendous another day of my trip when Iceland hosted their largest concert in history- Guns and Roses! 🤘🎸43050602784_4c625e6827_oAnyway, the three main highlights on this Golden Circle Tour are as follows:

1. The Geysir Geothermal Area

This geothermal area is well-known for its underground volcanic activity, which produces numerous hot springs and erupting geysirs.42950062044_68d77630b1_o41858509360_7a95ae6756_o42950061934_6b9d39fda3_oI feel like one of the most important words I learned in Iceland was ‘Haetta‘ or danger. It seemed like everything here could potentially kill you! Hah! 😂42950062004_4f7d73641f_oFor example, The Great Geysir here can shoot boiling water from its core to over 200-feet in the air! 😮41858509290_aac98616af_oDespite this danger, I was surprised by how many curious tourists were crossing the rope to feel how hot the water was. 🤦42950062064_5dc56dd4bc_oThey say, “curiosity killed the cat” for a reason. 🤦29894600318_1b2d970301_oAnyway, being such a tourist hot-spot, the geothermal area also has many on-site restaurants and shops.41858509440_6026660573_o41858509480_d796454927_o41858513140_ce456c7d30_oHere’s a geysir souvenir…from the land of explosions. Hah! 😂29796871068_84ec9ace47_o

2. Þingvellir National Park

Þingvellir National Park is one of the country’s most significant landmarks. Iceland’s first parliament, Alþing, was founded here in 930 AD, making it the oldest continually operating parliament in the world, and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here you can see the parliament, as well as, a historic church.DSC_0448This church was built in the 11th century, when the country first adopted Christianity.42950056784_9759c3dfd0_o43666627941_ed12868ae1_oThis national park is also the spot where I went snorkeling- where there is a visible boundary between the tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia. 42950061814_8cdb843e5e_oWhile at the park, visitors can walk through the tectonic plates, and observe the stunning natural scenery in the surrounding area.
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3. Gulfoss Waterfall

Last but certainly not the least is Gulfoss, the most famous waterfall in Iceland. This waterfall cascades down two steps- one with an over 70-foot drop!41858519990_373a9685d5_oThis water initially comes the Langjökull Glacier. The melted glacier then flows down the Hvítá river, where I went whitewater rafting.

Fun fact: The country has harnessed the power of this waterfall by using it in their first hydropower plant.
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7. Tour the South Coast

The South Coast of Iceland has a wealth of unique natural wonders, including a glacial lagoon and black sand beach. 41889036600_c4d89919cc_oThe Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon stems from the Vatnajokull Glacier, a 1,000 year-old glacier, which is the largest in Europe. 😲41889019470_99fdc83232_o41889019430_6eb28021f7_oLarge chunks of this glacier are continually breaking off and floating to the nearby lagoon. 42981390634_8cf0bc3d5c_o29827330748_dbb81b8103_o29827334858_c8b9679cea_o29827334908_5ba63c8d08_oSome people paid for an option boat tour of the lagoon, but I just admired the lagoon from ashore, while I watched a few seals swimming amongst the ice bergs and checked out the on-site gift shop.42981390584_85727b3024_o29827330558_62bd49d69b_o42981390494_36acfecd70_oThe glacial lagoon can obviously be very dangerous, so there are many signs warning you not to walk on the ice. My guide told me that Icelanders don’t put up warning signs as prevention. Usually if you see a warning sign somewhere, it’s probably because someone died there. 😮42981390754_19646f85ef_o42794422755_2081b900a0_oAnyway, these glacial chunks also wash up on the shores of the nearby volcanic beach.29827321938_ce34788a2b_o41889036650_4e6819c8ac_o29827321888_d2b5500275_o42794420745_ceae871dce_oThe ice chunks take on many forms and colors, ranging from massive boulders with an incredible blue hue to tiny glistening ice crystals that look like diamonds. As such, the beach has been aptly named “Diamond Beach.”42794420625_f14f124cc3_oThese glaciers are an absolute work of art, literally sculpted by the sea. ❤️🌊41889036440_c7d17841e6_o42794420665_057663f6e8_oAnyway, another one of these extremely beautiful volcanic beaches is Reynisfjara.42794420725_778c32e629_oReynisfjara Black Sand Beach was voted by National Geographic as one of the top ten non-tropical beaches to visit in the world, and I’d have to agree! This stunning beach, located on the Atlantic coastline, is covered in volcanic black sand and surrounded by towering basalt stacks. 😍42981390804_8fba072a1e_o43697367931_a07f72741e_o43697367811_9dd4ae9a8b_o43650511032_281fd25423_o43650510962_bc8dd80f0a_o29827360268_2a2795f8fc_oThe basalt stacks actually form a cave inlet, which was the filming location for the newest Star Wars movie.43697367761_abaa4ce5d9_oThe grassy patches above the basalt stacks are also the perfect nesting spots for sea birds, like the puffin.29827360308_c2343609d9_oYou can see him here flying into the grassy with a fish hooked between his beak.29827360358_5a2ba8cd98_o42981427254_ea3e73ce29_oThis beach also has something called sneaker waves though, which are very high and literally sneak up on tourists, carrying them out into the open sea! 😮43697367661_4cd46b16cb_o43697367701_413eab56ce_oThis place really makes you humbled by the beauty and power of Mother Nature.29827360238_642010c2e4_oNow, while driving to the South Coast, we also passed by two beautiful waterfalls- Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss.41889001940_51411d7d6d_oSkógafoss had a incredible double rainbow.41889013560_2702f73764_o41977158840_0bf8568730_oWe also had the ability to view the waterfall and double rainbow from both below and above.41889013800_2285b68c5c_c41889013970_6dbe5fa4e8_o41889019230_4490a3bd56_o41889119620_6193da55e4_oSeljalandsfoss, on the other hand, gave us the ability to walk behind a waterfall.41889001860_8c5fb1ed09_oBoth were equally amazing! 😍42794422835_e919241dc4_o

8. Indulge in the Luxurious Blue Lagoon Spa

The Blue Lagoon is a gorgeous geothermal spa in a lava field in Iceland.43711787691_ce91694541_o43664746742_49f6ed2bb4_o28854199997_1eef298875_oIt is rich in minerals, like silica and sulfur, giving it an ethereal milky blue hue.42995614044_29e5856404_oThese warm mineral waters, at a perfect 102 degrees Fahrenheit, are known for their ability to relieve pain and boost circulation.42808575615_3ebfb20a56_oThis place is also ranked as on the top ten spas in the world, and it really just oozes luxury and charm. While bathing in this picturesque open-aired lagoon, I was able to indulge in cocktails at the swim-up bar and a DIY mud mask.41903413250_bde7361781_o41981722160_3eff4c2f2f_o43665512042_a85d78af90_o43665511872_d11162b5e4_oVisitors are given a bracelet upon entry, which gives them access to all the facilities, and is also used as a credit card for purchases during their stay.43664746782_4d0ff6d88d_oThe facilities here are really quite spectacular, and include an on-site restaurant, shop, hotel, and full-service spa.42808575495_7e834b59de_o42808575565_b6c507ffc2_oFor something a bit more budget-friendly, I’d suggest the free natural hot spring in the Reykjadalur Valley.DSC_0385The hike to the hot spring takes around one hour, but it is incredibly rewarding to pass through the lush hillside teeming with rushing waterfalls, steaming vents, and free-ranging sheep. 🐑28778489137_01e4fa88f3_o28778489217_28f7201e1a_o43666474231_ff9582ca45_o43666474091_1c949f2e37_o43666474171_fd65c370fc_oFun fact: Sheep graze freely in Iceland from May until September. In September, they hold an nationwide sheep roundup called, Réttir.

42950030194_ed5ef35410_oApparently it takes the whole country a week to corral all the sheep using both horses and helicopters to find them! 😲🐎🚁42950030424_e39523ce3a_o

9. Go Whale Watching in the Atlantic Ocean

Whale watching in Iceland gives you the opportunity to see over 20 species of aquatic mammals, including Minke Whales, White-beaked Dolphins, and Harbour Porpoises.

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a pod of dolphins, including a calf

While in Iceland, I went on a three-hour whale watching tour with Special Tours41889119350_521328816b_oI met the tour group at the Old Harbour where we boarded Andrea, the largest whale watching boat in Iceland. 42794368565_863a701924_o43664746642_620b4369f4_oThe ship had lovely on-site facilities, like a cafe, multiple restrooms, and a gift shop. 42995828924_bc4f978b4d_o42995829054_69d4336f83_oThe crew also provided us with these thermal overalls, which kept us nice and warm from the cool ocean breeze.43664746682_f416754335_oOn the boat we had multiple marine biologists who were giving our group interesting facts about marine animals, while keeping a look out for the 3 B’s: birds, bodies, and blows.42794371375_16a7873641_oHere’s a Zodiac RIB boat out cruising for whales as well. 43650578312_9257148d7e_oAnyway, to explain the 3 B’s, the way that biologists spot these animals is either by seeing their bodies breach the water, their blows of water before they take a breath of air, or birds, which usually eat the safe diet as these animals, and can normally be found together.41889094350_652a0d8e51_o43650578272_67a37d2853_oDuring the tour we spotted two Minke Whales, multiple pods of White-beaked Dolphins, a Harbour Porpoise, and oodles of puffins. Puffins have super colorful beaks, which has earned them the nickname of the sea parrot. ❤42794378755_b11bff0048_oThey are also super awkward at flying, which makes them even more adorable. 😍 They flap their wings over 400 times a minute just to stay in flight! 😲

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It’s like the Little Engine that Could- I think I can, I think I can 😂

42794384735_f7487981ee_o42794384925_28977c456a_oMinke Whales, on the other hand, are nicknamed “stinky minkes”, because of their foul fishy breaths, which we could smell all the way on our boat! 🐟🤢 (Video to follow at the end)43650583252_3a32c0f1a2_o

10. Explore the Capital of Reykjavik

A trip to Iceland simply would not be complete without a visit to the capital city of Reykjavik.29796784468_857c08c682_oReykjavik is not only the capital of Iceland, it’s also the northernmost capital on the planet, located just 2 degrees south of the Arctic Circle! 😲🌎 The name Reykjavik comes from the steamy hot springs around the city, which literally translates to “Smoky Bay.”42794368625_dab4049cd3_cReykjavik is also one of the cleanest and safest cities in the world! The police here don’t carry weapons, and there’s even a wait list to serve a prison sentence, since there are so few jail cells. 42981427384_fb52f616c8_o43620052402_3b57a3d745_oAlmost all of the city is also run on geothermal energy, making it incredibly eco-friendly!

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geothermal power plant

Now the undeniable icon of the city is Hallgrimskirkja, a Lutheran Church that resembles the basalt columns on the Southern coast.29796788718_3e95e4902b_oIn front of the church is the Viking Leif Eriksson, an Icelandic explorer who supposedly set foot on North America long before Columbus. 😮42763811385_701c558891_o
Fun fact: Apparently Vikings don’t actually have horns! According to one of my guides, Vikings were described as devils to the Christians and depicted as such, although the horns were more hypothetical than literal.28778580377_52a3d19983_oOther highlights in Reykjavik include the Perlan, a giant water tank for the city, Harpa, a concert hall and conference center, Hofdi House, a building which has hosted many historic political meetings, and the Sun Voyager, a stainless steel art piece designed to be a dream boat as a beacon of light and hope. 💖

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Perlan
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Harpa
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Hofdi House

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The Sun Voyager

29796784558_1c672d37d4_oPersonally, I just enjoyed wandering the streets to view the modern architecture of the city. The homes appeared to be influenced by Scandinavian style. 42763468485_c18e455d7f_o41858225780_581e366bee_o41858225720_261574752f_o29796523408_2d2578b297_o29796523468_4fdb5ceb18_oI also found this cemetery, which is supposed to be creepy, but appeared quite lovely. 💖
43620052502_0af8c4d7db_oThen I found this children’s entertainment van, which is supposed to be lovely, but appeared quite creepy! 😂

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WTH!? 😱

Aside from those highlights, there are numerous bars, restaurants, and shops for you to enjoy in the city.42981427454_c408aeb7ae_o41858209030_a7069a2822_o

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bike rental, sponsored by WOW air

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Side note: As you’ve probably noticed from this blog, the Icelandic words are not so simple to pronounce.😂41858223090_1a31a2c4aa_oThe words are extremely long with many symbols that don’t exist in English. 43719606282_580cdcb575_oLuckily, Icelandic people speak English very well here, so you won’t have any problems as a tourist. 😉Speaking of being a tourist, here are some typical souvenirs to purchase in Iceland.

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handmade sheep’s wool blankets
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the facial expressions of a Viking 😂

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29796788618_1c88f715db_oSmoked and dried fish are a staple in Icelandic cuisine.41858533450_911bcdff81_oAlcohol was actually banned in Iceland until 1989, but now beer is one of the most widely consumed beverages. 🍺
43666628161_3cf2176f0b_oThis brings me to my bonus tip.

Bonus #11. Leave your budget at the door!

Realize that Iceland is not a cheap country. Between buying souvenirs, arranging transportation, booking accommodation, and eating basic meals, you can seriously injure your bank account here! I mean, the round-trip bus fare from the airport alone cost 53 USD! I talked to one guy who took a taxi, and it cost him almost 200 USD one way!29796767288_0ba59f7c05_oTo cut costs, I chose to cook all of my meals. I stayed at the Capital Inn for around 20-25 USD/night, which had its own kitchen to facilitate this.

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gorgeous views at 11 PM at the Capital Inn- the daylight hours are very long during the summer

I also stuck to a college diet of bread, noodles, peanut butter, and oatmeal. 😂

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almost 5 USD for instant noodles 😭 🍜

Sounds sad, but I couldn’t get over the sticker shock I had at the prices here. Eating at moderate restaurants can easily cost 50-100 USD for an entrée and drink. 😲💸

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84 USD for the set menu- drink not included

That being said, I suggest you just figure out your priorities. For some people, they enjoy splurging on meals and hotels, while I enjoy splurging on activities. I think it’s all about balance. Either way, you’ll have an incredible time in this country, with memories to last a lifetime. 😀43051847854_c1d5c6c088_o
Anyway, to wrap up the post, here’s a video which documents my whole week in Iceland, including all the activities that I enjoyed. 💖

What’s next for ESLVentures? 

As you may have noticed from my blog and Instagram, I’ve been visiting home quite a lot recently. I’m actually back in the States right now, and in the process of making some life changes. Definitely for the better! 😉 Anyway, once I get everything sorted out, I’ll post an update on what’s to come. Until then! Take care and happy traveling! ✈️

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4 thoughts on “Ten Incredible Things to Do in Iceland

  1. Hey! Hope you are doing great and your trips are so fascinating. I love your pictures and tales.
    I’ve nominated you for the “FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION” Tag! You have the flexibility and leeway to interpret the “word prompt” the way you like and however you want! Photos, quotes, lyrics, poems or an article – whatever works for you!❤
    Today’s “word prompt” is – NATURE.
    I would love for you to participate and see more of your pictures(PS – No compulsion tho!) 🙂
    https://zestnzealblog.com/2018/09/17/freedom-of-expression-tag-nature/
    Love and light! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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