The northern lights and outdoor adventure
Iceland draws adventure-lovers to its remote shores, with the promise of epic waterfalls, legendary glaciers, and the storied northern lights. Positioned between Greenland and Europe, this brisk isle has a mere 348,000 inhabitants, and with two-thirds of those people living in and around the capital city, Reykjavík, there’s plenty of open space to explore. See where the North American and Eurasian continents meet on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, hike Vatnajökull—Europe's largest non-polar glacier—and lounge in the steaming thermal baths of Blue Lagoon.
Iceland is more than its name would have you believe, and is, to borrow an Icelandic expression, “the raisin at the end of the hot dog.” You’ll find yourself braving the arctic desert to snowmobile through glaciers and catch the northern lights. A night out in Reykjavik and a shot of Brennivín—the country’s signature schnapps—will make you forget the cold. Just make sure to enjoy a hearty dinner first: fresh salmon and vegetables—grown in the geothermal powered greenhouses—will power your next adventure, whether it be on the seas whale watching or soaking in a natural hot spring. This Nordic island coaxes out the inner-Viking in us all.
Visit the milky white and bright blue icebergs of Jökulsárlón, one of Iceland's most picturesque glacial lagoons. Located in the country’s southeast, Jökulsárlón skirts Vatnajökull National Park. Snowmobile along the iceberg-filled lake to see the tongue of Breiðamerkurjökull, an outlet of the larger glacier for which the park is named. This is where ice slowly breaks off into floating chunks and travels to the mouth of Jökulsárlón.
Located on top of a lava field in the country’s southwest, the Blue Lagoon is a rejuvenating spa experience. Though these thermal baths are man-made, you’ll feel at one with nature as you float in the soothing body temperature waters. Cover yourself in the healing silica mud before diving into the milky lagoon.
At 80 feet wide and with an almost 200-foot drop, Skógafoss, or “Forest Waterfall,” is one of the largest in Iceland. If there’s even a hint of sun, you are bound to catch a rainbow from the continuous spray. Climb the steps on the side of the waterfall for sweeping views of the cascade and the Atlantic Ocean—and make sure to bring a poncho.
Thingvellir National Park is the only place in the world where the Mid-Atlantic Ridge can be seen above sea level. See where the North American and Eurasian plates meet and walk the surrounding lava fields. Enjoy the mineral-rich waters of Thingvellir Lake and try to spot a fox in the surrounding birch forests.
Given the mild weather and almost round the clock daylight, summer is the most popular season to visit Iceland. In winter, temperatures can drop down to below 27 degrees, and roads often close due to the weather. To glimpse the famed northern lights—where the night sky is illuminated with colorful auroras—you should plan your trip for early autumn (September through October) or late winter/early spring (February through March). If you want to see some whales, the best time to go is in May, but if you’re feeling more like a hiking adventure, go during the dry seasons in the Summer months, from June to August.
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