The northern lights and hot springs
Iceland draws adventure-lovers to its remote shores, with the promise of epic waterfalls, legendary glaciers, and the legendary northern lights. Positioned between Greenland and Europe, this intriguing isle is the size of South Korea, yet has fewer residents than New Orleans. With two-thirds of its population living in and around the capital city, Reykjavík, the rest of Iceland offers an unparalleled sense of space and calm. See where the North American and Eurasian continents meet on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Hike Vatnajökull, Europe's largest non-polar glacier, which sprawls across the landscape. Kick back and relax in steaming waters at one of the many geothermal spas.
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 be pleasantly surprised by how much this distant land offers to visitors. In no time, you’ll be braving the arctic desert on the back of a snowmobile, gliding through glaciers in search of the northern lights. A shot of Brennivín —the country’s signature schnapps—will help you forget the cold once you’re back in the capital Reykjavík. Seafood lovers, rejoice: Wherever you turn, delicious fresh fish is served up alongside delectable vegetables, grown in the geothermal powered greenhouses. You’ll certainly need the energy for your next adventure, whether that be whale watching on the dark seas or traversing alongside waterfalls. A trip to Iceland promises a truly extraordinary outdoor experience.
Visit the striking white and 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.
The Secret Lagoon offers you the chance to rejuvenate in a natural, unspoilt setting. Unlike the Blue Lagoon, its famous man-made cousin, the Secret Lagoon is a real stretch of water that sits discreetly in the Icelandic landscape. It’s heated by the lava field below, with bubbles and temperature levels varying around the lagoon. You’ll feel at one with nature as you dissolve in the soothing warm waters, gazing at the surrounding scenery.
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 is visible above sea level. See where the North American and Eurasian plates meet and explore 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 season in the summer months, from June to August.
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