Sometimes words fail even the likes of me and a place or a feeling will just leave you speechless. Iceland is one such place, a truly beautiful country. So much natural beauty in one place is hard to find and when you look at those magnificent mountains that surround you, I’d be surprised if you aren’t left speechless too!
When we were planning our trip to Iceland, we had a rough plan of what we wanted to do around the country. I for one wanted to go to the Wall (if you are a Game of Thrones fan, you’ll know). But as I’m a bit more of a traditional soul, I had marked out all the places I wanted to visit on a map, whereas my friend had just starred them on Google Maps. To be honest, as much fun as it was marking everything on a map, Google Maps was probably the more practical option. As we were driving, it helped us know how far all the spots we were visiting that day were and, as mentioned in my previous post, as the days are pretty short in the winter you need to be prepped in terms of what you’re going to be doing that day.
There are so many places that you can visit in Iceland, but we mainly stayed towards the South of Iceland. Here are my top 5 MUST SEE places you need to visit:
Blue Lagoon – Iceland is famous for it’s natural thermal spas and Blue Lagoon is by far the most popular. The view from the Blue Lagoon is truly spectacular and words really don’t do it any justice, but it is very touristy and densely populated. Make sure you book beforehand as you won’t be able to rock up on the day. It is a bit expensive at the equivalent of £60, and all this includes is entry to the lagoon and a silica face mask.
We got a 30-minute in-water massage, which was a great experience but at around £75, it is expensive for what it is – a very mediocre massage. You can choose to have a male or female masseuse, so make sure you specify beforehand or you’ll get given whatever they have available.
If you get the massage, you are provided with a bathrobe and towel, and receive a complimentary algae face mask as well as the silica mask. If you only pay for entry into the lagoon, you’ll need to bring your own bathrobe. I have to say the face masks were SO GOOD – my face literally felt like a baby’s bottom and I loved it! Girls and guys alike – don’t miss this one!
TOP TLH TIP – the water in the Blue Lagoon contains alot of silica which is very damaging for your hair (I learnt the hard way, my hair was so hard to brush afterwards and felt like straw I almost had to douse it in conditioner!). So make sure your hair is either tied up, or if not ensure you put a load of leave-in conditioner in your hair before entering the water.
Seljalandsfoss Waterfall – Iceland is known for its’ many beautiful waterfalls. Seljalandsfoss is by far my favourite to all the waterfalls we managed to see throughout the South of Iceland. It is about an hour and half drive from Reykjavik and definitely worth the drive up. The waterfall is magnificent but very veryyy icy in the winter, so make sure you’re wearing suitable shoes (definitely no Uggs).
TOP TLH TIP – You can go behind the waterfalls for a stunning view, it is a bit of a hike up there via some icy steps and a few rocks, so make sure you have your shoe spikes at the ready for this one, you won’t be able to climb up the iciness without them. It was SO cold here that by the time we got back to the car (2 mins walk probably) the water from the waterfall on our coats had turned to icicles!
Diamond Beach – Even though this place is almost a 5-hour drive from Reykjavik, when we got there we soon realised why it’s called Diamond Beach. Once your car is parked, you walk through thousands of shards of what looks like broken glass but is actually ice! Closer to the shore, you’re greeted by hundreds of sharp-edged ice blocks. Needless to say its piercingly cold, but definitely worth a visit.
TOP TLH TIP – I wouldn’t recommend doing this as a day trip as it is a good 5 hours each way and given the short days, it’s rather unrealistic. The roads going back are very dark, mostly with no barriers between the roads and snow ditches (as we soon found out as we decided to stop for a photo op and unexpectedly dipped into one of the ditches – SO GRATEFUL for the French guys that stopped and saved us!). So if you’re driving to Diamond Beach either leave super early or try and stay around there rather than trying to brave out the 5-hour snow filled journey back to Reykjavik like we did!
The Great Geysir – As part of the Golden Circle, the famous Geysir is not one you’ll want to miss anytime soon. With a dramatic backdrop, the Icelandic geysers gush up as high as 80 metres from the pressure every 2-5 minutes, and what a sight it is! You’ll want your cameras/tripods at the ready though as they descend as quickly as they shoot up.
TOP TLH TIP – The temperatures are even lower here than most of Iceland so don’t forget those gloves, don’t try to put your hand/feet into the water though as they are over 100 degrees hot! Also, the hot chocolate from the Geysir cafe is AMAZING!
Kerio Crater – Also part of the Golden Circle, but you won’t need to be here for more than 10 minutes. The views are beautiful but unfortunately someone had grafitti’d all over the frozen crater! (LOL) They’re all in the same area though so worth a stop-over for a quick photo opp
Gulfoss Waterfalls – NOT TO BE MISSED! This was one of my favourite spots in the Golden Circle, even though it was so super cold and super windy that I could barely keep my eyes open. But the sights of the frozen waterfall are definitely worth it.
TOP TLH TIP – You can climb up where the view is definitely prettier but it’s so crowded there, so if you want a good photo stay on the lower ground and avoid the crowds – you’re welcome!
Svartifoss Waterfall and Skaftafell National Park – So technically we never made it up to the waterfall – the waterfall is high up and, again, you need shoe spikes to be able to climb it as it is very icy and actually quite dangerous. So, if you’re feeling brave and try to climb the slopes without shoe spikes – DON’T, just don’t! Lol! BUT we did make it to Skaftafell National Park and, honestly, this place just made the 4 hour drive worth it. Words just can’t compare to the feeling of being in this place and photos don’t do it’s untouched beauty justice but I’ll try. The best thing about this place is that because most people only come for the waterfall, it’s rarely hiked so it kind of feels untouched by humans which I loved. And the variety of the landscapes is just mind boggling! I’m yet to understand how one mountain has no snow on it whatsoever and feels very jungle-esque and the one directly behind it is covered in snow!
Some unmissable sunsets, sunrises and views from our many road trips:
And before I sign off … Reykjavík isn’t complete without its iconic Sun Voyager
I was absolutely gutted that we didn’t get to see the northern lights as it’s always been a dream of mine ever since I was a little girl, but hey Mother Nature had other plans. My only advice for spotting the Auroras would be this – don’t presume that you’ll see them everyday! Depending on cloud coverage you probably will need to go looking for them if you’re lucky you’ll spot them.
But here is a pic that my friend sent me from this week – they were much much luckier than we were! I’m just going to have to go back to see them I guess! 🙂
Hope this travel guide was useful to you all! I had so much fun writing it up for you all but if you have any specific questions, comment below or just send me a message!
Lots of love,