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Iceland is an awe-inspiring country rich in history, scenic landscapes, and welcoming people. Settled by Nordic explorers around 874 AD, Iceland’s heritage stems from countries around Europe including Norway, Sweden, Ireland, and Britain. As the second largest island in Europe, the country is an ecosystem brimming with diverse landscapes such as volcanoes, lava plates, glaciers, mountain ranges, hot springs, black sand beaches, and more. Iceland is known to be one of the most environmentally-friendly countries around the European continent. With geothermal heating derived from post-glacial volcanoes and rushing rivers harnessing hydroelectric power, the country has made amazing strides in pollution-free energy. It’s one of the best places to visit for sustainable travel, health, and wellness!
What is there to do in Iceland?
There are so many wonders to explore and activities to partake while visiting Iceland. Here are some of the most beloved experiences:
Geothermal pools and spa
Super jeep safari
Icelandic horseback riding
Angling & hunting
Skiing & snowboarding
Buggy rides and ATV rides
….and so much more!
When is the Best Time to Visit?
There is no bad time to visit Iceland! It all just depends on what you want to experience. If you’re seeking out the Northern Lights, your best chances to spot them are from September to March. To enjoy outdoor activities in the warmer weather, visiting during the summer months while the midnight sun is occurring and temperatures are on the rise is a great option. On the other hand, if you’re interested in classic winter adventures, you should explore Iceland from October to March.
Discover the Different Regions
Iceland is generally sectioned into eight unique regions. These areas are Reykjavik and the capital area, South Iceland, East Iceland, North Iceland, West Fjords, West Iceland, Reykjanes, and Central Highlands. Read below to learn more about each of these distinctive parts of the country.
Reykjavik and the capital area
This capital city and its surrounding region is the most popular starting point for most Iceland adventures. It's a short ride from the Keflavík International Airport, making it easy to fly in and begin your exploring. The city of Reykjavik itself is filled with culture, history, and delicious cuisine—and with natural scenery surrounding the city and plenty of outdoor activities nearby, the area has become one of the most hip and inspiring destinations around the world.
Reykjavik will have something for everyone to enjoy. The walls of the city are beautifully covered with stunning street art, the music scene is alive and well, beer tasting at local bars is a must, and there is a wide variety of tasty eateries and cafes. History buffs will love the museums and architecture, while nature enthusiasts can enjoy the harbor and easy access to nearby outdoor adventures.
The southern part of the country has so much to offer, including stunning waterfalls, glaciers, geothermal areas, black sand beaches, and more. It’s one of the country’s most picturesque areas, as the landscapes are extremely diverse. It’s most well-known for the Golden Circle and South Coast, which are common tours to take.
While exploring this region, you can admire some of Iceland’s most dramatic terrains and viewpoints, but also immerse yourself in the culture of the local villages. These small towns are quaint fishing ports and historic areas that showcase the daily life and heritage of people who live in these tight-knit communities. South Iceland is definitely an enchanting mix of culture and scenery.
In eastern Iceland you’ll find some of the most green and lush countryside. From sprawling farmland to the island’s largest forest, it’s an outdoor adventurer’s paradise. You can hike among the streams and mountains and visit the picturesque fishing villages nestled in the harbor of the East Fjords.
The area has endless winter and summer recreation activities such as biking, skiing, and seeking out wildlife. In summer months, the area is also a popular hub for art and music festivals, attracting young people from all over to come and visit. Plus, the area features a plethora of charming villages, which are steeping in rich heritage and fascinating trade history.
While traveling through northern Iceland, you’ll come to find that it's a game of contrasts. There are long valleys and stretches of peninsulas that are juxtaposed with rugged mountain ranges, lava fields, and hills broken up by winding rivers. Edging close to the Arctic Circle, the winter months offer spectacular views of the Northern Lights, while summer months allow enjoyment of the midnight sun.
There’s plenty of breathtaking scenery to take in and the country’s next leading city, Akureyri, features a prosperous agricultural community rich in culture and history. Plus, there are many other unique towns and villages to visit, along with geothermal pools for swimming and expansive areas for hiking.
The West Fjords are Iceland’s hidden gems! There is a plethora of vast wilderness to explore, and although mostly uninhabited, the area still has charming villages and farms to visit and admire. Many travelers love to venture out to this area to for some serious time outdoors, along with some peace and quiet.
Some of the amazing highlights of this region include impressive sea cliffs, folklore of the fjords, and captivating wildlife like seabirds and the Arctic fox. You’ll simply love the angelic nature that surrounds you and the magical heritage found within the lovely towns and people that cherish their home and history.
Western Iceland is the most diverse region throughout the country and is complete with a sampling of all the different aspects the island is comprised of. From towering volcanoes and cascading waterfalls to a range of flora and fauna, the region is brimming with the most iconic features and beautiful landscapes of Iceland. With close proximity to Reykjavik, West Iceland is a popular and exciting destination for those visiting.
In addition to the outstanding scenery you can explore throughout this region, there’s also plenty of culturally rich towns and fun activities. Delve into the country’s most intriguing history and heritage through museums, notable landmarks, and renowned institutions. You’ll love the literary findings throughout the villages—from stories of vikings to tales of medieval kings. The blend of natural beauty and enticing culture makes a trip through western Iceland well worthwhile.
The Reykjanes peninsula hosts an abundance of marvelous natural features including lava fields, geothermal hot springs, volcanic craters, and more. It’s most well-known as the home to the luxurious Blue Lagoon, one of the most sought out retreats in the world. The area is rounded out with a variety of dining options, museums, lighthouses, and quaint villages.
Reykjanes is a great place to explore viking history, learn about geothermal heating, and study geologic elements, all while taking in the surrounding mountain ranges and basking in the tranquility of hot springs and inspiring scenery. Plus, the Keflavík International Airport is located here, making it a picturesque landing into the country!
Once an area that was pretty much inaccessible to humans, the Central Highlands is now a revered and highly sought out region. It’s dotted with hot and cold springs and features rocky deserts, volcanoes, and other untouched wilderness. Nowadays, the Central Highlands are much easier to reach and you can venture around the area by foot, bike, 4X4, or horse. Some terrain around the region, especially in the north, can be dangerous in winter months, so routes for driving and hiking can be closed.
When the weather is warmer and the climate is drier, you can hike numerous trails, bathe in the natural hot springs, and absorb the breathtaking surroundings. One of the best highlights of the area is that there are no towns, villages, or inhabitants—it’s a wide open range of mesmerizing landscapes and peaceful beauty.