Northern Europe has quite a few beautiful countries (Norway and Finland come to mind), but Iceland could very well be the crème de la crème when it comes to pure natural beauty. Everywhere you go around this country you will be faced with wondrous scenery, and almost all of this is located within a popular tourist trail, which makes it all literally unmissable!
Before arriving, most people will only know Reykjavik as being cold and frosty. While this may indeed be true, there is still a lot here to offer the discerning traveller. There is the famous Harpa Conference Hall and the imposing cathedral Hallgrimskirkja. The National Museum and Lake Tjornin are also good ways to spend a few hours. Whatever you do, though, you will be blown away by the Icelandic beauty shown before your eyes – and if you think Reykjavik is beautiful (for a city), then just wait until you head off on the tourist trail around the rest of the country…
Around 50km west of Reykjavik is perhaps Iceland’s most famous tourist attraction: The Blue Lagoon. This is an extremely popular geothermal spa that is as picturesque as it is relaxing. It only takes 50 minutes to drive here from the capital, so there is no excuse not to bathe in this volcanic spa. Sometimes it is hard not to believe it has all been man-mad for a theme park resort or something, but in fact, it is all part of Iceland’s natural beauty.
About a 90 minute drive east out of Reykjavik is the imposing Gullfoss Waterfall. The Olfusa River runs powerfully southwards and drops down a multi-tiered crevice to create a cacophony of noise as it plummets into the plunge pools below. From your vantage point at the top of the Falls, it is sometimes impossible to see the plunge pools, so it looks like the torrent of water is just disappearing into the Earth! You can expect to get very wet here (due to the spray) but you will be nevertheless impressed by the beauty of Gullfoss.
On the north east side of Iceland, you will find Myvatn, which is a volcanic crater lake that was created by an explosion over 2000 years ago. The scenery is beautiful, but in a different way to what you saw on the other side of Iceland; it almost seems like another country altogether! As part of the main Ring Road in Iceland, Myvatn is easily accessible for visitors looking to explore the country in more depth.
Jokulsarlon is a glacier lake in the south east of the country. Situated at the head of the Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier, it developed into a lake after the glacier started receding from the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, and the lake has sine grown in size because of melting glaciers. This near-Arctic landscape is perfect for spotting large groups of seals and seabirds such as the puffin.
Getting back closer to Reykjavik now, we have Pingvellir National Park, which is only about a 40-50 minute drive north east of the capital. Pingvellir is a site of monumental beauty, and it has great significance in terms of being situated in a rift valley that marks the boundary of the Eurasian and American tectonic plates. As well as its unique mountainous and rocky landscape, it is also possible to scuba dive in some of the clear-water natural lakes within the park.
One final beautiful place in Iceland that will blow your mind is the famous Strokkur. Strokkur is actually one of two geysers located at Haukadalur (the other being Geysir, which erupts very rarely nowadays) and you can be sure of an eruption every 10 minutes or so, so make your you have your cameras at the ready! The geysers are created by geothermal activity and it is strangely satisfying to stand there and witness such a harmless eruption. At Haukadalur, the main attractions are the geysers, but there are also hot springs and mud baths if that takes your fancy!
All things considered, Iceland must surely have some of the most beautiful natural wonders of any single country on the planet. In addition, the fact that most of these amazing attractions are located within a sensible drive from the capital Reykjavik, it is no surprise that more and more travellers are now heading to Iceland! Consider your mind blown!