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Iceland volcanic sand

Things to do in Iceland: The Land of Fire and Ice

 

When JRR Tolkien dreamt up the sweeping wildernesses of Middle Earth, the rolling thunder and blackened, ashen lands riddled with fire, treacherous mountains with crevasses so deep that at midday, not even a glimmer of light reaches the bottom, and wild brashen grasslands that blanket volcanic landscapes, he was probably thinking about Iceland. The only reason New Line Cinema chose New Zealand for the set is because pints are cheaper and they needed the budget to buy lozenges for Andy Serkis’ voicebox.

So if I’ve done a good enough job with the description there, you’re probably wondering 2 things:

  1. Just how expensive is a pint in Iceland?
  2. How can I get there, immediately

Well you’re in luck, I’ve written this guide as a tell-all for Iceland, and all the mental things you can see and do there.

Iceland volcano

Rolling Icelandic roads

Volcanoes

Yeah, Iceland does volcanoes very well. So well in fact that just one tiny little eruption from the beautiful Eyjafjallajökull literally stopped air traffic globally for like a week, or something. At the time it was big news, but really it was just Iceland flexing its adventurous muscles at the world, saying “Come at me, brah”.

Since then, Iceland has been slingshotted to the fore of many an explorer’s mind, and the Volcanoes are just some of the wonders. They literally have volcanic black beaches, which seem to pull in scraps of iceberg randomly, as if they’re magnetised to the shore line. You can actually stand on a jet black beach, next to a chunk of an iceberg… it’s very surreal.

There is also a music festival, on a volcano… yes that’s a real thing that people actually do there. Dalurinn is held every year (apart from 2020, like everything else) and is just about as Icelandic as you can get.

 

Hvannadalshnúkur Summit: Iceland’s Highest Peak

 

Yeah you thought this was a mountain… It’s actually the highest point on the rim of a volcano called Öræfajökull… I told you, Iceland does nothing in half measures.

Hvannadalshnúkur is 2110m above sea level and takes around 12-15 hours to get to the top, partly because in order to get the the start, you need to mission it all the way across Iceland’s biggest glacier, Vatnajökull. The climb itself isn’t easy either, it’s technically challenging, very tiring and definitely not a beginners climb. Be prepared to climb through almost vertical sections, wet with moisture after 8 hours of trekking.

Iceland glacier

Glacier in Iceland

 

Glaciers

 

If I told you that Icelandic Glaciers were used as the setting for another planet, in Interstellar, perhaps that might set the scene for you a little bit. And, if you liked the sound of Hvannadalshnúkur, and the crossing of Icelands largest glacier, then I think you should check out Falljökull as well. For this mission, you’ll need to don crampons and helmet and spare a few hours to trek the perils miles across. Be prepared to have your mind blown by incredible landscapes, and the occasional seal…

 

Waterfalls

 

Let me tell you about waterfalls. There are many, incredible, gargantuan tumblings-of-water across the world. But, in my opinion, Iceland has some of the most spectacular. I reached this opinion due to the context in which you find them. Icelandic waterfalls, believe it or not, are set amongst Icelandic landscapes, which just make the whole setting absolutely breathtaking. Harsh, volcanic black gravel bordered by impenetrable fortresses of rock hued in reddish brown, ice white spray falling about crystal clear aquamarine pools, and the bristling chill of the Icelandic wind gushing about you. Not to mention the inevitable rainbows, which can be seen end to end across the charcoal-like banks.

I’d recommend visiting the one and only SKÓGAFOSS which will not only leave you breathless, but as legend has it, could also make you rich. Supposedly, there is some 900 year old Viking treasure buried there…

Iceland mountain

 

Landscapes

 

Iceland’s landscapes in general, are surreal and seemingly out of this world. Rugged grasses and demented rockscapes aplenty, there are also several other wonderful things to pit yourself against which I’ve sumarised here..

Ice caves. Yes, caves made of ice. These incredible blue fortresses are certainly a lot more ‘touristy’ than what you’re used to seeing on Echio, but they are truly stunning and if you’re exploring Iceland, on an expedition or challenge, then they are definitely worth the trouble of a visit. The best ones are:

CRYSTAL
KATLA
LANGJÖKULL
VATNAJÖKULL
SKAFTAFELL

 

Lagoons

 

The most famous of lagoons, The Blue Lagoon in Iceland is a must see. Annoyingly, even though it is a tourist hot spot and definitely not off the beaten path, it is so extraordinary it’s worth a dip… I seem to find that a lot with Iceland, even the places you know are touristy, are still so incredible you can’t ignore them

Mountains

 

Kirkjufell, or Arrow Head Mountain, from Game of thrones… Located on the Western peninsula and one of the most beautiful mountains on Earth. If you’re exploring the region, stop by. Kirkjufell is only 1519ft high and takes about 1.5hours to get to the top, though it is a technical climb. Some other mountains to check out:

Bárðarbunga 2000m
Kverkfjöll 1920m
Snæfell 1833m

Spouting Icelandic Geyser

A geyser, spouting

Geysers

 

As to be expected from a land wrought with geographic wonders, Iceland is also home to a bunch of spouts, which spurt hot water many feet into the air- geysers. Strokkur would be the most recommended Geyser in Iceland if you’re short on time and can only choose one. However, the Haukadalur is well worth exploring around for all other kinds of wild and other-worldly findings, like mud pits and hot springs…

Plane Crash

 

This is probably one of the highlights of any Icelandic trip in my opinion. There is something quite extraordinary and apocalyptic about the scene, and its certainly something you’re unlikely to encounter many other places. The Sólheimasandur plane wreckage happened in 1973 when a US navy plane was forced to crash land. All the crew survived, but the wreckage still remains almost half a century later. What makes this super cool, is the opportunity to explore the plane itself, and picture the wreckage against the almost sheer black ground and luminescent blue sky. It’s really something to behold.

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