Why spend your summer melting away playing the role of one of millions of tourists on the European mainland when you could be playing Indiana Jones on the literally and figuratively cooler continent of Iceland? With a landscape filled with flowing waterfalls, volcanoes topped with glaciers and some of the friendliest locals just waiting to jovially laugh at your definite mispronunciation of the street names, Iceland is that all-natural sundae filled with the most colourful and irresistible toppings that you seem to be always craving more of, and the cherry on top of that sundae is the capital city of Reykjavik. What follows is five reasons to make the switch and spend this summer in Reykjavik!
1. You can experience what sunset would be like on another planet…
Although the sunsets are beautiful from everywhere in Reykjavik, there’s no escaping the unique experience of sundown at the Blue Lagoon – Iceland’s most famous (but far from only) geothermal spa. Nestled among black lava formations, the geothermal wonderland feels like nowhere else on earth, especially at sundown. From the changing shades of the sky to every colour of the rainbow as the suns visible light rays scatter at deepening angles, to the fiery red backdrop set behind a landscape of volcanoes providing the illusion of a fiery eruption, the experience of sundown at the Blue Lagoon has just got to be an otherworldly one. Just a 40 minute drive from the Reykjavik city centre, the Blue Lagoon is waiting for you, softly whispering in the arctic Icelandic breeze ‘Come on in, the water’s divine’.
2. You can journey into the magma chamber of a volcano!
Just 30km south of Reykjavik sits the one-of-a-kind volcano of Thrihnukagigur with it’s unusually empty and open magma chamber. The anomalous feature of the volcano is the result of a violent eruption that took place 4,000 years ago. The geological pressure associated with this particular eruption is believed to have vented through various tunnels and arteries deeper in the earth, preserving an opened chamber safe for mankind to wander without worry of being swallowed up by magma or suffocated by gases. Today, if you visit Reykjavik between mid May and late September you have the option to descend into the kaleidoscope of colours with the team at Inside the Volcano. All you need is 42000 ISK ( ~$390AUD), a willingness to hike 3.5 km along a flat mostly-even path to the crater and the guts to descend 120 meters to the bottom of the crater in an open cable lift, usually reserved for the task of cleaning exterior windows of sky scrapers.
3. There’s no better place to go chasing waterfalls…
With both a North Atlantic climate that produces frequent rain and snow and a near-Arctic location that produces large glaciers, whose summer melts feed many rivers, Iceland is home to some of the most powerful and largest waterfalls in the world. It is for these very same reasons that an Icelandic road trip is likely to lead you to the belief that the continent has more waterfalls than people. The good news for the other waterfall-enthusiasts out there is that 3 of the most esteemed and unique of these waterfalls – Gullfoss, Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss – are within 150km of Reykavik and can be easily reached on a day tour from the capital city. So when in Reykjavik, ignore the advice of TLC and go chasing waterfalls!
4. You can swim between two distinct tectonic plates!
Akin to a human childhood friendship, the friendship between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates that together form the continent of Iceland is slowly breaking up; as the two plates grow apart at a rate of approximately 2 centimetres per year. The result of this disintegrating friendship is a huge rift that cuts right through the country, creating fissures flooded with crystal clear glacial water such as the Silfra Fissure located in the Þingvellir National Park. Everyday (even in Winter!), you are offered the unique experience to snorkel between these two tectonic plates and witness first hand the unique and ever-changing beauty of this Earth we are lucky enough to be inhabitants of.
5. It’s like visiting Antarctica – but way, WAY cheaper and easier!
The Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a large glacial lake situated at the head of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier (which you can see in the background of the image above). By the end of the Little Ice Age (1300-1800 AD), the tongue of the glacier reached over 1 km from the Icelandic coastline. As temperatures warmed during the subsequent warm periods, the glacier tongue started to rapidly recede, continually carving icebergs and thus a lagoon in its wake. To this day, huge blocks of ice continue to break off the glacier forming the large icebergs of which you can see floating on the lagoon. Although the lagoon is located on the other side of the country to Reykjavik, it is possible to visit the wonder in a 14-hour day trip from Reykjavik (either by self-drive or tour), with plenty of stops at a number of bucket-list worthy waterfalls, beaches and glaciers along the way. Oh and did I mention that you can take a boat ride on the glacial lake and experience sailing between and even tasting the icebergs!?
So what are you waiting for – go have yourself some Icelandic escapades this summer! I promise they will fuel your daydreams for many, MANY years to come…
Elle is a world-wanderer, star-gazer, dog-lover and meteorologist in the making. When she’s not busy studying the Earth’s climate, she’s off experiencing it first hand all around the world. Over the past 3 years, Elle has traveled to 31 countries across Europe, Asia, Oceania and the United States and has no plans of stopping anytime soon. You can follow her colorful adventures on her Instagram, Facebook and at thisisyugen.com.