Iceland is dreamy.
Ethereal landscapes guarantee a wonder-filled vacation. Natural hot springs, breathtaking waterfalls and volcanoes- talk about an explorer’s paradise. With a rugged, out of this world terrain, Iceland is unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
Back in December 2015, a friend and I planned a visit to Iceland, hoping a winter visit would better our chances of seeing the Northern Lights. We were prepared for cold temperatures, but weren’t prepared for Reykjavik to be hit with the biggest snow storm the city had seen in 20+ years.
Despite the weather challenges, we still had a phenomenal trip. If anything, not being able to do some of our planned activities just gave us another reason to visit this stunning country again.
Living in Dublin now, I’m looking forward to when it’s safe to travel again- even though I’ve been, Iceland is near the top of my list of places to return to. I’d love to experience the midnight sun, and rent my own car to see even more of what makes Iceland a bucket list destination for so many travellers.
Five Reasons I Can’t Wait to Return to Iceland
Road Trip Perfection
On my first visit to Iceland, we booked group tours, and while I believe that was the right move given the weather we experienced, I’d love to drive around on my own. I’ve heard the roads are easy to navigate, and of course, the scenery is incredible.
From driving around New Zealand, another breathtaking country, I know how much being able to pull over and take in a view, or snap a photo on a whim can contribute to making a destination and trip feel even more incredible.
The Jaw-dropping Scenery
There’s a reason the country is on the bucket list of so many travellers. Whether you’re exploring downtown Reykjavik or driving around the countryside, the views will be spectacular. With rugged, barren landscapes; sparkling, black sand beaches; and thundering waterfalls, Iceland is nothing short of mystical.
Planning your trip, you may hear Iceland referred to as the ‘Land of Fire and Ice’, an appropriate nickname given the island’s abundance of glaciers and volcanoes. In fact, 11% of Iceland is covered by glaciers.
And while the natural scenery is a huge draw, Iceland’s location at the top of the world also means it’s one of the best places to see the northern lights. The aurora borealis are prevalent in Iceland from September-mid-April, which is why I planned my first trip to Iceland for December. Unfortunately though, a snow storm meant we were unable to hunt for the lights as we’d hoped to. Having since travelled to Tromso in Norway to witness the northern lights, I’ll say this- do whatever you can to see this natural light phenomena. Watching the lights dance across the night sky is something I’ll remember forever.
The Scandi Vibes
It’s no secret I love Scandinavia- in fact, as a region, it’s one of my favorite places in the world. Of course I enjoy the design aspects of simplicity, minimalism and functionality, but there’s also something to be said for what the Danes refer to as hygge. If you haven’t heard of hygge, it’s acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cosy, charming or special.
Much like Denmark, Iceland excels at creating moments that feel very hygge. Whether cozied up in a cafe, with a hand-knit blanket, next to a roaring fire, lost in conversation with good friends; or listening to locals tell tales of faeries and trolls, while sampling local beers at a wood-carved bar; or even snuggled up in your hotel bed, watching the night sky twinkle from your room window, you’ll be hard-pressed to not feel a sense of hygge.
Further, as Iceland’s capitol, Reykjavik is one of the safest and happiest cities in the world. The city itself is colorful, full of quaint homes, cozy cafes, eclectic bars, shops packed with locally designed and handmade goods, and stunning street art. It’s artsy, but also traditional.
The Coffee Scene
Any city with hipster cafes is a city for me. Several years ago when I visited, Reykjavik’s coffee scene was burgeoning, and I’ve heard it’s gotten even better since then.
If you visit Iceland in the winter months, the cafes below are perfect for warming up over over a cuppa, and relaxing with good conversation or an interesting book.
- Stofan Café: Cozy cafe with mismatched antique furniture, we stayed here for a bit to use the wifi and enjoy a chai latte
- The Laundromat Café: A cafe with a laundromat downstairs? Win! I’ve heard breakfast here is pretty good, but we just had a Baileys latte to warm up from the cold and relax for a bit
- Reykjavík Roasters: Eclectic coffee shop near Hallgrímskirkja, great option for strong brews
- Café Babalú: The cutest cafe we discovered, it feels like you’re snuggling up in someone’s living room while having coffee
The Abundance of Hot Pools
Iceland’s rich supply of water is one of its most valuable natural resources. The drinking water quality is exceptional, a result of unspoilt mountain and glacier streams.
Iceland also has long history of using geothermal power as an energy source. Enter: Hot pools, seemingly everywhere.
While there are plenty of off the beaten track pools to discover around Iceland, the country’s most famous hot pool is the Blue Lagoon.
Icelanders will tell you the Blue Lagoon is a tourist trap, and while it is pricey to visit, we loved our time there. When you’re in the lagoon, everything takes on an ethereal, dreamlike quality.
Exhausted from an overnight flight, we spent a morning floating in the lagoon’s milky-blue waters, relaxing with silica mud masks on and sipping wine. Wading into the hot, mineral-rich water was a blissful refuge from the icy cold air.
Water temperature in the lagoon varies- some areas are almost too hot to bear, but it’s largely comfortable throughout. The water itself is enriched with silica, blue green algae, and mineral salts, which helps exfoliate and soften skin.
Would I visit the Blue Lagoon again? Absolutely. Our visit was the epitome of serenity. But, on my next visit, I’m also keen to visit some of the country’s other natural, geothermal hot springs that are less commercial.
Have you been to Iceland? Is it on your list of places you’d like to visit once it’s safe again to travel?
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