It seems like Iceland is one of those places to be right now. It is a very popular tourist destination, seeing more and more people flock to this island every year. Once you step foot onto their soil, it is quick to see why. A great way to taste this wonderful country is to take advantage of IcelandAir’s stopover program. Fly with them to any destination and you can stop over in Iceland for up to a week at no additional charge. This is what my husband and I did on our way to Scotland. We spent 3 full days there and it was just enough to see some of this country’s wonderful gems, and make us want to come back for more. Luckily we went in the summer and the time of midnight sun. The zero darkness (and little sleep) allowed us to really see a lot in our brief visit. If you find yourself taking advantage of a stopover or are planning a trip there (even if it’s brief), here are some highlights from that trip. These are things I recommend seeing or doing.
This popular place was actually our first stop. I did my research and know that this place sells out quickly. To guarantee you get to visit, book your tickets in advance. (Please note when you book, you are booking for a certain time slot). This place is in close proximity to the airport and it's recommended to visit right before you leave, or as soon as you land. We took a red eye flight over and landed early morning. Heading there first thing worked well for us. The lagoon wasn’t crowded that early in the morning. It allowed us a place to shower, freshen up, and relax as we got through our jet lag. It was a really nice place and we have a lovely time. My skin felt great and I loved the free facial mask stuff they give you to try. However, it was one of those places that one visit was enough for me. Next, time I want to explore more of the natural, free, hot springs the island has to offer.
Blue Lagoon picture from Pixabay.
Iceland capital and largest city is one you want to check out. There are not tall skyscrapers and it looks small town. However, it offers so many wonderful elements you expect in a big city. The art and culture scene there is world famous; with a variety of museums and shops to visit. Even though we didn’t partake this trip, I hear the nightlife there is like no other. Sites worth visiting are Hallgrimskirkja church, the sun voyager sculpture, and stop by Baejarins Beztu Pylsur to try one of their world famous hot dogs.
Reykjavik from above. Picture from Pixabay.
Hallgrímskirkja church. Picture taken by me.
The Golden Circle
Just outside of Reykjavik is the famous route known as the Golden Circle. Driving around this road takes you to many of Iceland’s popular tourist spots. Yes they will be crowded with tourists, but they are worth a visit. Thingvellir National Park is of importance for a historical and geological reasons (not to mention some filming of Game of Thrones was done there). Stop along the route and see Strokkur Geyser erupt roughly every 5-10 minutes. Kerid Volcanic Crater is a nice stop, but that one will cost you just a few dollars to explore. Finally don’t forget to visit some of its waterfalls. Gullfoss is the biggest and most impressive. I also enjoyed Faxi waterfall (and hardly any tourist at that one). My favorite is Bruarfoss Waterfall. It was a hidden gem but is gaining popularity with tourists. Not big and a little tricky to find, but the Icelandic blue water is absolutely stunning.
Thingvellir Nation Park; picture from Pixabay.
Bruarfoss Waterfall. Picture taken by us and my favorite waterfall of Iceland.
Gullfoss Waterfall picture from Pixabay.
Waterfalls in General
Speaking of waterfalls (or foss as it's pronounced in Icelandic), to me that is what I loved most about Iceland. Hiking its landscape and exploring breathtaking waterfalls. Besides the ones mentioned above, next are three of my other favorites from our wanderings.
Faxi Waterfall, pitcture taken by me.
This waterfall is nice as it's away from tourists, but be warned, the road to get there is bumpy. I recommend 4 wheel drive, though our little Mazda did make it (slowly and carefully). You quickly forget how awful the road was as soon as you see the view of Iceland’s second highest waterfall. There is a small waterfall called Granni (means neighbor) next to it and the two drop down into this magnificent green valley. Just be careful as it is high up on cliffs and one could easily miss a step being memorized by the beauty of the scenery.
Not the best picture of Haifoss, but one I took.
Set amidst a beautiful backdrop (like all of Iceland), what is so cool about this on is you can walk behind it. That is enough for me! If you visit don’t forget to walk the trail that contiues along to the end as well. There is this hidden waterfall at the end named Gljúfrabúi. It is in this cavern and you have to walk inside (and get wet) to see it, but totally worth it to get up close to this beauty.
Behind Seljalandfoss; picture from Pixabay.
Legend has it that a Viking Settler placed a buried treasure behind these falls. They say someone grasped the ring from the side of the chest before it disappeared. A pretty powerful foss that you can get as close as you want, but may be difficult to hunt from treasure from the force its produces. Be sure to hike to the top and walk along the river’s trail a little bit. Some of the views we saw up there were some of my favorite in Iceland.
Skogafoss picture from Pixabay.
Rounding out the places we visited, I recommend a drive to this cute town in Southern Iceland. Along the way you can hit many of the mentioned waterfalls. This cute town boasts black sand beaches with basalt column caves. I recommend grabbing a bite to eat at the restaurant Sudor Vik.
Black sand beach near Vik; picture from Pixabay.
There is pretty much everything we saw in our brief stint in Iceland. It was enough to make us fall immensely in love with this country and we are planning a return trip. This time we plan to stay a lot longer and explore the entire island by driving the ring road. Hit me up some must see places not on this list, for those of you that have visited.