Beyond Reykjavik: Exploring Iceland
Iceland’s vibrant capital city is a popular base for a short break, however, it only touches the surface of what the country has to offer and that is why we know there’s more to Iceland than Reykjavik from the dramatic north to the glacial south east.
Our travel experts have created a round-up of Iceland’s top spots outside of Reykjavik, here’s what they have to say.
This beautiful lake in north Iceland is famed for its abundant wildfowl and intriguing volcanic formations. Grass-covered pseudocraters and striking lava pillars provide the backdrop for the wide variety of ducks and waders that nest here.
Iceland has a habit of surprising you. Once you think you have seen every type of landscape it offers it throws in something different. Lake Myvatn is such a place – an oasis in the centre of the North and home to hundreds of bird species. This lush lake surrounded by mountains is unlike anywhere else in Iceland.
Dimmuborgir (meaning ‘Dark Castles’) is an area of strangely shaped lava rock formations and one of the most popular natural attractions in the area around Lake Myvatn. We had great fun walking the marked trails, using our imagination to conjure familiar images from the surreal lava formations, including faces, birds and other inanimate objects.
This dramatic region is defined by ancient sheer-sided fjords, deserted beaches, picturesque fishing villages and softened by fertile farmland. Sweeping views from the mountain roads make driving a pleasure, while the deep-rooted cultural heritage offers an authentic Icelandic experience.
Anna Heida says:
On first seeing the East Fjords of Iceland I realised what a magical place it is. Villages line the fjords but in between you hardly see anyone. Stopping the car and taking a walk up the mountain or down to the beaches makes you more aware than ever, that being alone does not have to mean being lonely.
This stunning valley in south Iceland marks the gateway to Iceland’s dramatic interior. Surrounded by three imposing glaciers, including the now infamous Eyjafjallajökull, the rugged valley floor is crisscrossed by streams and rivers making an excellent playground for Superjeeps, while the surrounding area is hugely popular for hikers.
I love the Thorsmork area! Crossing fast flowing rivers by Superjeep is exhilarating and you can see trolls and elf churches in the rocks on the mountains. The icing on the cake is reaching the very top of the glacier Eyjafjallajokull, which covers the volcano that famously erupted in 2010.
On the south-east coastline, Iceland’s most famous glacial lagoon is truly breath-taking. Enormous icebergs calve off a glacier and break up as they head out to sea. Walk along the ice-strewn beach or in summer take a boat trip to view the blue ice up close.
This place is mesmerising and a photographer’s dream with the blue, white and turquoise colours of the ice perfectly framed by the mountains behind the lagoon. You may not want to leave, so allow plenty of time for your visit.
Europe’s whale-watching capital is one of Iceland’s most attractive towns. Visit the innovative Whale Museum or set sail aboard a beautifully restored, oak-hulled fishing boat into Skjalfandi Bay in search of minke and humpback whales, white beaked dolphins and seabirds.
Although Husavik isn’t a large town, it is somewhere I recommend everyone to visit. We were lucky with the weather, it was a beautiful day and this enhanced the stunning views across the mountains. We had up close encounters with humpback whales out in the bay and could even hear the spray from their blowholes as they came to the surface. It was an amazing experience and after seeing these incredible animals up close, the visit to the Whale museum was even more interesting.
Located in the southern highlands, these stunning multi-coloured rhyolite mountains are a walkers mecca boasting the renowned Laugavegur route amongst other trails. Spectacular views, impressive volcanic fissures and natural hot springs make this an area not to be missed!
Nothing quite prepared me for the colours in Landmannalaugar. Having seen photos of multi-coloured mountains in brochures and press photos, I thought I knew what to expect. As I hiked along a valley of green rocks and up a mountain of yellow, orange and red I couldn’t believe the colours. I think people make the mistake of assuming that once you’ve seen one bit of Icelandic scenery you’ve seen it all, but this highland location is absolutely not to be missed. (the post hike bathe in the hot spring wasn’t bad either).
Landmannalaugar is an outdoor enthusiasts playground, half the fun is getting there by Superjeep over mountain passes and crossing raging rivers. Once there the hiking trails are incredible – choose to walk into the valleys or over lava fields and when you are done the best bit is soaking in the natural hot pools taking in the perfect surroundings.
Arnarstapi & Hellnar
Linked by a coastal walking trail, these sleepy villages lie at the foot of a snow-capped glacier on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Peppered with dramatic rock columns, arches and caves, seals and even dolphins can be spotted from Hellnar’s harbour during the summer months.
Vatnajokull National Park
Covering an area of 14,200km² this spectacular national park dominates south east Iceland. It is home to Europe’s largest glacier, below which sits an active volcanic system. Around 30 outlet glaciers spill out from its icy plateau, creating spectacular iceberg lagoons.
The Ásbyrgi canyon located in the north-east of Vatnajokull National Park in Iceland is one of my favourite places in Iceland. This canyon is a paradise of trees and birds. Watch the seabirds fly above as you stand in the bottom of the canyon listening to their calls echoing around you. A hike through the trees and up onto the high points provides a beautiful view of this oasis. This is one of Iceland’s hidden gems and definitely worth going off the beaten track for.