When people think of Iceland, thoughts of extremely adventurous outdoor activities often spring to mind. Certainly, if you want to enjoy white water rafting, glacier exploring or ice climbing, or some of the most incredible hiking territory on the planet, Iceland is a great location for you. There are fabulous companies with expert guides and leaders who will take you off to do all of these things and more.
However, you can rest assured Iceland has plenty to offer the more sedate sightseeing tourist. A trip around the Ring Road over several days and nights is one of life’s more fantastic experiences. Reykjavík, the capital city, will offer you a wealth of cultural experiences, from museums to art galleries that capture Icelandic history and culture, giving you a real feel for the country as well as knowledge of it. A long weekend in Reykjavík can believe me, offer you a full cultural experience. Þjóðminjasafnið, the National Museum, is a great place to start, and you then take from there, since everything is within reasonable walking distance. Harpa, the grand concert and event venue right at the edge of the ocean, hosts great shows and wonderful restaurants serving local and international cuisine to compete for your custom.
In my opinion, even a ‘culture in the city’ trip isn’t complete without at least one trip out into the countryside. A tour along the South Coast will show you extremely diverse scenery, the Golden Circle would take you to three great classics: Þingvellir, the ancient site of the Icelandic Parliament, and the place where the tectonic plates are slowly moving part; the powerful Gullfoss waterfall; and to witness the power and majesty of a spouting geyser. There are a plethora of choices in addition to these classics and a wealth of companies longing to take you there. In the months to come, Iceland is likely to be much less crowded than in recent years.
Many sightseeing tourists come to experience Icelandic nature, often hire a car and driving around the island, or just exploring a region of the country. Travelling through mountainous, coastal, and totally unique volcanic scenery with glacier views, you will be greeted by charming towns and villages, each with their own unique flavour and history. Getting to know nature doesn’t have to be physically arduous, but if the Icelandic scenery doesn’t get you walking a little more than usual, well, then nothing will! You can see plenty with shorter walks or easy hikes of around a couple of hours. For example, In the south-east of Iceland, the round trip to walk to Svartifoss from Skaftafell Visitor Centre can be undertaken in around an hour. Another walk from the Visitor Centre, this time a round trip of around 90 minutes, will take you to the edge of Skaftafellsjökull, where you can witness the glacier lake that the glacier has left in its wake as it has retreated. Skaftafellsjökull isn’t just any glacier, it is a tongue of the might Vatnajökull, the largest volume glacier in Europe.
If you are travelling from mainland Europe, you even have the option of bringing your own car. The Norræna Ferry, operated by Smyril Line, travels from Hirtsals in Denmark to Seyðisfjörður in the east. If you take this option, your first sight of Iceland could hardly be more beautiful or dramatic. Seyðisfjörður is renowned for its mountain scenery, waterfalls, walking and hiking paths, blue church, Skaftfell Arts Centre, and eclectic atmosphere that somehow manages to be both serene and vibrant at the same time. You then drive across the mountains to the main town of the east, Egilstaðir, with Hengifoss waterfall on your doorstep and the beauties of the East Fjords at your finger-tips. Enjoy!
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