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Iceland, the "land of fire and ice", is an ever increasingly popular travel destination thanks to the myriad of extraordinary natural wonders that lie here. Here you will find gushing geysers, erupting volcanoes, thundering waterfalls, entrancing glaciers soothing natural springs, curious black sand beaches, and less dramatic (but definitely important!) excellent coffee.

I have visited Iceland twice so far – once in February 2018 with my family, and most recently (and my first trip post-covid) in June 2021 with my fiancé, Paul. Visiting in two distinct seasons was interesting, and it honestly felt as if I was visiting two completely different countries. Although summer (if you can call that – it was below 10 degrees most of the time) offered a wider range of activities, there is something magical about the Icelandic winter wonderland. 

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During my winter trip the roads were fairly treacherous and so we based ourselves in Reykjavík, stretching out to other areas for day trips. The summer trip was much more accessible – starting in Reykjavík we headed down the Reykjanes Peninsula, along the Southern coast ring road to Hofn, and then back to Reykjavík via the Golden Circle.


Reykjavík, the world’s most Northernly capital is where the majority of Iceland’s population live, and where many tourists ( base themselves. Walking around, Reykjavík is a curious and compact city which looks quite unlike any other European city I’ve visited, and is filled with quirky cafes and vibrant bars and restaurants.

Iceland is not famed for its calm nor hot weather, and so as you would correctly expect there is a plethora of indoor activities to fill the days with.

1. Reykjavík Old Town (Historic Quarter)

We started our day in the historic centre. This small area of the city oozes Scandi charm and is where most of the historic buildings are situated. They have mostly been turned into cute shops and cafes, and so it’s a great little spot to wander around – we spent a long time in the bookshop-café (which offered free coffee refills!) and browsing stores, trying to resist the urge to buy too many Icelandic woollen blankets.

Historic Quarter, Reykjavík

2. Hallgrímskirkja


Iceland’s iconic cathedral dominates the skyline, and is a must-see. The architecture is very unique and apparently was inspired by the shapes created when lava cools into volcanic rock. 

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3. Museums

Reykjavík is home to many, many museums - the Settlement Museum, the Art Museum, the Museum of Photography, Whales of Iceland Museum, Viking Maritime Museum, Saga Museum, Aurora Museum, National Museum, and many more! We didn't have time to visit each one, but on the sleetiest day we opted for the Saga Museum which was really interesting.


4. Harpa

This is the concert hall, and is a stunning building to visit. 

5. The Grandi Harbour

Adjacent to the concert hall is the harbour area is a lovely place to take a walk around and is filled with rows of interesting restaurants.


6. Café Culture

Reykjavík is famed for its café culture, and with so many places to choose from it is hard to go wrong. You get can most cuisines, try puffin or whale, or drop into one of the many traditional Icelandic cafes. Our favourite spot had to be 101 Reykjavik Street Food, a small café with very few items on the menu, but incredibly delicious. You have to hand it to the owner – he had some pretty reliable customer service skills. As we were peering outside looking at the menu, two chocolate bars appeared under our noses “free chocolate!” a voice boomed. Before we knew it we had been led inside. We immediately ordered a lobster soup and a lamb soup. The lobster soup was phenomenal and we slurped it up at lightening speed. The owner came by and said “Oh it’s free refills!” – 3 bowls of lobster soup later, we were stuffed. We paid up and headed out, only to be handed another two chocolate bars to thank us for our custom. Now that is service!

We ate at several other cafes, ROK was incredible and the cocktails at Jungle Bar were delicious. For puffin and whale enthusiasts there are several options including '3 Frakkar' and 'Hereford Steakhouse'

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Hereford Steakhouse

Jungle Bar

Sheep head anyone?

Reykjanes Peninsula

After Reykjavík it was time to head on to see some of the spectacular scenery, starting off with the Reykjanes Peninsula


This relatively small section of the Icelandic coast is truly stunning and definitely be considered as ‘Iceland in Miniature Form’ as it ticks the boxes for most natural wonders found in Iceland - volcanoes, beaches, waterfalls and geothermal pools all condensed into a small section of the country. 

We drove along the coastline along to Suðurnesjabær then down to the Bridge Between Two Continents, and along to Grindavík. On our way back from the southern coast we headed back to the area to see Fagradalsfjall volcano and of course, the Blue Lagoon. 

1. Old Gardur Lighthouse (and Northern Lights!)

On the tip of Gardur Village are the iconic Gardskagi lighthouses, the most famous of the two is the Old Gardur Lighthouse, with its striking red markings. Here is where I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights (well, kind of). I was however able to take a photograph of the lights. And when I said ‘I’, I mean my Dad did. Suddenly this sounds a lot less impressive.

Like most people, I’d been desperate to see the northern lights for many years and have tried (and failed) to see them in various northerly places, and so you can imagine my disappointment when our week in Iceland was forecast to be cloudy and overcast every day. The first day of the trip was predicted to be the most likely for aurora activity, and so Dad and I took a coach trip to chase them down. After a lot of driving around, the coach driver had word that they could be seen from this peninsula, and so we headed there. Out of the bus we leapt and were immediately flung into what felt like a hurricane (I appreciate, it was not), but the wind was incredibly forceful, flinging me from side to side whilst horizontal rain pounded simultaneously. Oh, and it was about -3 degrees and the ground was covered in ice. It was really hard to keep our eyes open but then Dad pointed to a slightly greenish haze in the sky. I knew the lights were better visualised through a camera lens, and so set up to try and take a photo – I tried and tried but the wind was too much and all I could capture was a blurry mess. Dad grabbed my camera and placed it on his GorillaPod - within minutes I had the money shot - success! 

It was great to finally see them.. ish.. but I would love to see them in better conditions where I can see them truly dance and dazzle. 

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The Northern Lights

When we came back in summer it was so nice to see the area in daylight, and in peaceful conditions. 



2. Bridge between Two Continents

This was a pretty cool spot - the area where you can cross between the North American and the European tectonic plates along a small bridge. 

3. Geothermal Activity

There are lots of places to stop off to see geothermal activity in the area - Gunnuhver, Grindavik, and the Blue Lagoon.

4. The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon is one of the famous tourist attractions in Iceland, and you'd be hard pressed to find someone who's visited the country and skipped this. Here you can bathe in stunning milky-blue pools, get a massage and have incredible food in the Lava Restaurant. 

It's essential to book online in advance and you can choose from different levels of packages. We opted for the premium package both times which included towels, bathrobes, drinks and the ability to try all the face masks at the swim-up mask bar!

The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon

The Lava Restaurant, Blue Lagoon

The Lava Restaurant, Blue Lagoon

5. Fagradalsfjall Volcano

We had seen lots of articles online about this famous volcano - it had started erupting 3 months earlier and had continued to until well after we departed. Unlike most places in the world where people would avoid the site of an active eruption, in Iceland it became it's own tourist attraction. "Hike an erupting volcano" tours were creeping up everywhere and so we decided to give it a go. As the volcano was continuously erupting, the routes we could take changed everyday. 

We drove towards the volcano and found make-shift car parks had been formed, staffed by park rangers. We parked up and headed down - there used to be a few different hiking routes but when we were there, only one was still accessible, and so we headed.  The walk was quite short and not particularly steep and at the end we were rewarded with incredible views over fresh lava fields that had only been formed a couple of days earlier.

We weren't able to see the top of the volcano actively erupting from the hike path, but on our flight home the pilot pointed it out and I managed to get a good look from above!  


Fagradalsfjall Volcano

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Fagradalsfjall Volcano

Ring Road

After the peninsula, we headed out East along the ring road stopping at many scenic spots along the way. In summer it's possible to go the whole way around the ringroad to see Northern Iceland too. We decided to take a slower route to see the majority of the Southern Coast instead (the perfect excuse to come back and explore the North!).

1. Seljalandsfoss


This was our first Icelandic waterfall, and it was stunning. It's only a short way from the ring road and so it's pretty dramatic as you drive along, turn a corner and suddenly see the breathtaking falls. 

One of the cool things was that you can walk all the way around and behind the falls to get some unique viewpoints (hard to do without getting soaked though, so be warned!).


2. Seljavallalaug

This was hands down one of my favourite places on the trip – a hot (well, warm) swimming pool, originally built in 1923, right in the middle of a luscious valley. We’d read about the pool in the lonely planet travel guide and were eager to go. We parked as far as we could and headed through the valley. t was a relatively short hike, but being completely honest I was a bit doubtful that we were in the right place as there were no other people around, and no signposts nor parking lots. We followed the directions from the book and walked towards the hills.


After a short hike we found ourselves facing three peaks framing a stunning valley, and right ahead of us was the beautiful outdoor pool. We switched into our swimming cosi’s and plunged into the warm waters – bliss!



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3. Skógafoss


Next stop was Skógafoss – an even more dramatic waterfall with a thundering warning sound echoing around. Alongside the falls are stairs to the top! Roughly the same height as Seljalandsfoss but much wider.



4. Sólheimasandur

We’d spotted this slightly unusual tourist site in our guide book – the remains of a US Navy plane that crashed in the 70’s – left abandoned on a beautiful remote beach. It looked like a relatively short walk from the car park, and so we headed out – passed the sign warning us that I was actually an hour's walk. “Surely not?" said Paul, “Let’s time it”. 55 minutes later we had arrived -it was pretty interesting to see, but at over 2 hours there and back, it's definitely not a quick pit stop!


5. Dyrhólaey

Hello Iceland’s answer to the azure window. This was a beautiful place to stop for a wander and we saw lots of puffins! The peninsula is stunning and gives incredible panoramic views of the huge black sand beaches. We even managed to spot a puffin!


6. Reynisfjara Beach, Basalt column and Sea Stacks

After viewing the beach from above we were keen to see it up close and so headed to Reynisfjara beach. The sea stacks were really cool to see, although best not to pack a picnic as there was an army of hungry birds around.


Reynisfjara beach


7. Kirkjubæjarklaustur

(The Icelandic language trying to give North Welsh villages a run for their money)

This was where we stayed for the next couple of nights, in a beautiful countryside wood cabin - Hunkubakkar Guesthouse. ( 


8. Fjaðrárgljúfur

The biggest draw to this area is this enormous winding canyon. With easy walking tracks, there’s no excuse to not walk to all the viewpoints.,It was very close to our guesthouse and so we came here a couple of times.




Beautiful countryside

The next day we headed out East aiming to get to Vatnajökull glacier to go on a snowmobile tour. Unfortunately, the weather was not in our favour and the tour was cancelled as it was too windy! We headed up to a couple of sights along the coast instead - the Viking Village, Diamond Beach and Firstly stopping at the most breathtaking sights; Diamond beach at Jokulsarlon glacier.


9. Jokulsarlon Glacier and Black Diamond Beach

This glacier is world-famous and has been used in many films. It truly is a stunning area where the glacier meets the sea and forms an atmospheric ice lagoon. We walked around the glacier along the pre-made paths, and then along to the beach where large chunks of glacier pause along their journey to the sea. The beach, like many others in Iceland, is of black sand. This really makes the glacial blocks sparkle like a diamond, even on a cloudy day. 

We spent a while darting between the diamonds. 

There is a lot of wildlife to be seen here and several companies offer boat tours. 

We opted for the cheaper option of walking around, and incredibly we managed to spot a seal gliding through the waves from the sea to the glacier. 

Black Diamond Beach


10. Viking Village


This cute village was constructed to replicate a typical viking village for a film but has been left largely abandoned. There is a cafe on the grounds to warm up with after spending time exploring the viking houses. Even if you're not interested in the village, the drive itself along the coast to the ring road is well worth exploring, with stunning seascapes and huge open fields with reindeer and beautiful Icelandic horses roaming around!


That night we headed back to our cabin, with a quick stop at a supermarket in Hofn (which felt like a big city compared to everywhere else that day!).

The Golden Circle

Last but not least on our road trip was the golden circle. I had visited two of these sites back with my family, and the seasonal contrast was incredible. The Golden Circle is a 300km route around three main sights; Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir geothermal area and Gullfoss waterfall.

1. Geysir


First up was Geyser geothermal area. Geysir itself is currently inactive, but never fear, it has a very reliable neighbour, Strokkur, and it's this geyser which most people come to watch. Strokkur explodes every 5-10 minutes, so if you miss it, you won't have long to wait until you can catch it again. There is always a crowd formed, significantly less during covid-times though. Although it was impressive to see close up, I think the better view was from slightly further away. 


Comparing winter and summer, both were spectacular. The explosion was more dramatic in Winter, and you could really feel the heat emanating from the ground, but waiting in between eruptions was significantly more comfortable in summer!



2. Gulfoss


Gulfoss is the probably the most impressive waterfall in Iceland, with multiple cascades of dazzling turquoise water. It’s absolutely stunning and no photo or video can do it justice. Comparing the seasons – what a difference! In winter there was so much snowfall that the steps down to the falls were hard to make out and practically a deathtrap, but the frozen-over falls were captivating.

In summer it was easy to get a lot closer up and to make out the surrounding landscape.

Gulfoss in summer

Gulfoss in winter

Snow for miles!

3. Hot Springs


As a highly active geothermal area, there are lots of hot springs to choose from. We opted to bathe in the 'Secret Lagoon' which is actually the oldest man-made pool in the country. We decided to stay a night in the hotel here too.

After a relaxing morning in the hot springs once more, we headed back to Reykjavik and our trip came to an end!


1. Prepare for the cost - everything is expensive. We ended up mainly cooking in our self-catering accommodation and having the odd drink or meal out, it just got too pricey otherwise. The good thing is that a lot of the main things we came to see were free (waterfalls, beaches etc)

2. Prepare for driving in winter season - pay for the extra insurance and ensure the car has winter tyres, try to get a 4-wheeled car if possible. Don't drive off-road - it's illegal and can be damaging to wildlife, and dangerous. 

3. Keep an eye on the road closures and weather warnings on

4. If visiting in summer, a sleep eye mask is crucial!

5. Packing in winter is pretty self-explanatory. Packing in summer however - I'd brought my puffer coat more as a precautionary measure, but I ended up wearing it almost every day, AND ended up having to buy some fleece trousers too. But I also needed sunglasses, t-shirts and suncream..

6. Book activities, restaurants and the Blue Lagoon in advance.

7. Don't forget multiple swimming costumes!

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