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June 12, 2015 / Iceland Attractions

Circling Iceland: The World’s Northernmost Capital to the World’s First Parliament

The famous Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavik. This diverse capital is the northernmost in the world. Image courtesy Guðmundur Jónasson

Located just south of the Arctic Circle, Iceland is even closer to the East Coast of the United States than the distance in between New York and Los Angeles—and a mere 2 to 4 hours by plane from many major cities in Western Europe.

To add to that, Iceland is about as welcoming as a country gets (#2 on the world’s happiest countries list). An abundance of unspoiled nature, breathtaking landscapes, vibrant culture, and friendly people: there’s more than enough to see and do when you visit Iceland!

Arriving in Reykjavik: Ancient Roots, Modern City

Travelers arrive in Reykjavik, Iceland, with a sense of excitement and adventure. The northernmost capital in the world, Reykjavik, is the first recorded landing site of Norwegian fugitive Ingólfur Arnarson in 874 A.D.; he and his wife are recognized in the Landnáma (also known as the Landnámabók, the book of the settlement of Iceland) as the country’s first permanent settler. His descendants, and many others, have all helped make Iceland an excellent place for cultural exploration, total relaxation, and thrilling outdoor experiences.

If you’re anything like this city’s current famous entrepreneurs, you like a bite to eat and local haunts: dramatic nature within a 2-hour drive of the airport, if necessary. Fortunately—though not everything in Iceland is within that 2-hour window—many of the country’s most famous sites are very close to Reykjavik.

Here are 7 encounters you’ve got to experience when you visit:

Gullfoss Waterfall in Iceland. Image courtesy R. Th. Sigurdsson / Visit Iceland.

1. The Golden Circle Tour: 

Thingvellir National Park – Gullfoss Waterfall – Geysir

The Golden Circle Tour is considered to be one of the best and most popular attractions in Iceland. You’ll get to see many of Iceland’s natural wonders, including Europe’s largest waterfall, Gullfoss, spectacular geysers, natural hot springs, and breathtaking Thingvellir National Park: this makes it ideal for many Iceland self-drive tours.

Make sure your camera is fully charged—you won’t want to miss your chance to capture the stunning scenery on this awe-inspiring excursion!

The Blue Lagoon: soak in the aqua-blue waters and try a mineral facial. Image courtesy Guðmundur Jónasson

2. The Blue Lagoon:

Take a break from your vacation

One of Iceland’s most famous attractions and acknowledged by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon geothermal pool is surrounded by black lava and modern architecture. This soothing natural heated spa is a picture-perfect place to relax and unwind.

Spend the day soaking in aquamarine waters, and indulge yourself with a volcanic rock scrub or a calming massage in the water!

A day trip to Solheimajokull Glacier makes for some pretty impressive hiking scenery throughout the region. Image courtesy Guðmundur Jónasson

3. Solheimajokull Glacier:

A walk on the wild side

Located near the infamous Eyjafjallajökull Volcano and within the same icecap as the very active Katla Volcano, this unearthly beauty is only 2 hours east of Reykjavik by car. A smaller offshoot of Mýrdalsjökull Glacier, Solheimajokull’s blue ice struggles to the surface of black volcanic ash—and makes for some pretty impressive landscapes.

Jökulsarlon Glacial Lagoon, brimming with calving icebergs. Image courtesy D. Baker / Guðmundur Jónasson

4. Jökulsarlon Glacial Lagoon:

Bergy bits and Growlers

Take a boat ride through a turquoise gulf of shimmering iceberg fragments filled with bergy bits and growlers that can be visited via boat. You might even get lucky and see a few seals on the journey, too.

Orca whales and a variety of seabirds journey alongside a boat tour on the open sea outside Reykjavik harbor. Image courtesy R. Th. Sigurdsson / Visit Iceland.

5. Whale Watching Tours:

Live from Reykjavik

Want to get up close and personal with the gentle giants of the sea? Whale watching tours that set out from Reykjavik’s Old Harbor are extremely popular. There are a number of boat trips that give you the chance to see incredible marine life—minke, humpback, and blue whales, as well as white-beaked dolphins, harbor porpoises, and numerous sea birds, including puffins!

The Northern Lights hover over Northern Álftanes in profound silence. Image courtesy R. Th. Sigurdsson / Visit Iceland.

6. The Northern Lights:

Capture a bit of winter’s light

A remarkable natural wonder that has to been seen to be believed: Iceland’s high latitude and incredible skies make this wondrous land of fire and ice the ideal destination to see the Northern Lights in all their luminous glory. Winter season (September-March) in the best time to witness this incredible spectacle.

Continental drift has played a major part in both Thingvellir’s history (the literal translation for the name is ‘Parliament Plains’) and the history of Iceland. Here, the colors of various plants and fungi decorate the vast plain and mountains beyond. Image courtesy R. Th. Sigurdsson / Visit Iceland.

7. Thingvellir National Park:

The world’s first known parliament

When the Icelandic Althing—an assembly meant to settle disputes among the members of early Iceland—was established in 930 A.D., the open-air meeting took place on the grounds of Thingvellir. Today the assembly is held in Reykjavik, but the beauty of the original location remains intact as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Stroll the immense region and enjoy the stunning scenery located right between the North American and Eurasian plates, where you can even shell out a very small fee to dive into a rift that separates them.

Iceland is quite the catch. Surprised by the diversity? We are, too, every time we visit.

There’s even more—and we can help you see it all!


Have we captured your interest? Great!

Don’t let the name fool you. With so many friendly people and incredible things to see and do—the only thing that’s chilly about Iceland is the name!

Contact us to get started on your journey!

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