Sunday 19 May 2019

7 reasons why Iceland should be top of everyone’s holiday list

The Land of Fire and Ice boasts a unique landscape
The Land of Fire and Ice boasts a unique landscape

Rachael Taylor Fawsitt

Hovering on the edge of the Arctic Circle is the picturesque island of Iceland. With its idyllic scenery and stunning natural features, it has long been a popular destination for a memorable getaway.

However, with lots more on offer, it’s fast becoming the location of choice for all travel lovers. From outdoor adventure to a thriving food scene - not to mention the unbelievable photo opportunities that await - Iceland is the perfect place for anyone looking to broaden their travel horizons.

1. Northern Lights

The Northern Lights over Kirkjufell

The Aurora Borealis, otherwise known as the Northern Lights, is unquestionably one of the most spectacular natural wonders of the world. Witnessing the display of light and colour splashed across the night sky is well worth braving the elements for.

Ask any local and they will tell you that you need to venture away from the brightly lit and bustling city for the best experience and views. Although you are never 100% guaranteed a sighting, planning your trip between October and April greatly increases your chances. Be sure to seek out a local guide who can accompany you to the best spots and advise you on the best times to catch Mother Nature’s famous luminous show.

2. Snow day

Skogafoss waterfall in winter time

Depending on your preference, Iceland has lots of snow activities to enjoy. Head east for some reindeer spotting, where local guides who specialise in tracking these majestic animals are available to take you on a unique reindeer safari.

For a more fast-paced adventure, why not try a snowmobile expedition? Take a tour on one of these exhilarating machines and get to see lots of Icelandic wonders up close. Some tours even take you over glaciers – now that’s a story you could tell the grandkids!

If relaxation sounds more appealing, then wrap up and enjoy a heated sled ride. Huskies are the main breed used for dog sledding in Iceland. An afternoon spent with these friendly and athletic creatures is bound to be a unique experience.

3. Geothermal spas

The Blue Lagoon is a unique place to visit

Speaking of relaxation, Iceland is very well known for its natural geothermal spas. The most famous being the Blue Lagoon, which is 40 minutes outside of Reykjavik and is based on an inactive lava field. This man-made lagoon utilises mineral rich geothermal water, which is said to have powerful healing qualities.

Be sure to allocate several hours for your visit so that you can get the most from your day of luxury. For the ultimate unwinding experience, why not enjoy an in-water massage, followed by a long relaxing sauna?

For food and drink, rest assured that there are several options to indulge in during the day. Swim up to the bar, which is inside the lagoon itself, for fresh smoothies or a selection of wines and beers or dry yourself off and sample the menu at the on-site café. 

4. Something for screen buffs

The Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon

With its dramatic landscape, it is no surprise that Iceland has attracted many filmmakers and TV producers throughout the years. Visit some of these famous on-screen locations or delve a little deeper by taking a tour and really get behind the scenes.

Here are just some of the spots that have graced the silver screen.

The Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon featured in the 2002 James Bond film, ‘Tomorrow never dies’. The film shows the legendary 007 engage in an epic car chase across the ice, with the untouched Icelandic scenery in the backdrop.

Another action-flick that used the edgy and moody terrain of the Jökulsárlón glacier was ‘Tomb Raider’ in 2002. The film starred Angelina Jolie and was shot mainly on a boat on the ice lagoon. Tourists can now take the same boat trip and channel their inner Lara Croft for a day.

More recently, the hugely successful TV show ‘Game of Thrones’ was filmed in several locations across the Land of Fire and Ice. From the magnificent Gullfoss waterfall to the Grjótagjá cave, the directors of GOT really made the most of the stunning sites available on the island.

5. Reykjavik

Hallgrimskirkja is one of Reykjavik's most iconic landmarks

The capital city of Reykjavik is home to almost two thirds of Iceland’s population. However, with only 120,000 residents, Iceland’s capital city still has a small-town vibe - a characteristic which is very much part of its charm.

The striking Hallgrímskirkja cathedral is the focal point of the city. Towering 73 meters above the ground, the view from the tower is not to be missed. The city also boasts an array of interesting museums and galleries, where you can explore Iceland’s culture and history for hours on end.

Soak up the atmosphere in a lively late bar, or lounge by a cosy fireplace and enjoy Reykjavik’s night life. Microbreweries have popped up all over the city in recent years, and there are also an impressive number of trendy cocktail bars to be found. Why not try a locally-produced beer or Icelandic schnapps while you’re there?

6. Food

A bowl of delicious Icelandic lamb winter soup

One of the best ways to ensure you don’t miss out on the flourishing food scene in Reykjavik is by taking a guided tour with a native foodie. Sample authentic Icelandic cuisine in some of the best places in town, all while exploring hidden nooks and crannies around the city.

Free-roaming Icelandic lamb is a local favourite and is a must for visiting meat lovers. Another delicious and essential item in any Icelandic home is rye bread, or rúgbrauð. Be sure to try it with some local cheese, smoked salmon and a sprinkle of lava salt.

7. Road trip

Oxararfoss waterfall in Thingvellir National Park

Iceland has two popular road trip opportunities. The longest route is the Ring Road, which circles the entire country and allows travellers to take in some remarkable sites along the way such as the Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach and Skogafoss Waterfall - where a double rainbow can be seen at the foot of the falls on sunny days. This route would generally be done over a few days and allows travellers to really immerse themselves in the locality.

For a more realistic but equally fabulous option, the Golden Circle is the perfect road trip. Approximately 230km from Reykjavik, this route comprises of three major natural attractions - Geysir geothermal area, Gullfoss Waterfall and Thingvellir National Park.

As well as being a gorgeous place to visit, Thingvellir National Park is of huge historical significance to Iceland. The park was the site of Iceland's parliament from the 10th to 18th centuries and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The park also attracts many scuba divers each year to its glacial springs.

Explore these unmissable experiences in Iceland and more with Travel Department, who have been providing exceptional travel experiences for Irish customers for over 20 years. They specialise in fully guided holidays, which include return flights, hotel accommodation, guided transfers, excursions and expert local guides for any activities included in your trip.

For more information, check out their website. They currently have a great offer on a trip to Iceland, which includes the Northern Lights, Reykjavik, the Blue Lagoon and the Golden Circle.

Sponsored by: Travel Department

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