Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

20 Reasons Why You Should Go to Iceland—And One Reason Why You Shouldn’t

Timothy Baker | July 23, 2015

Wendy’s husband, Tim, here. I’m the one who surprised her with the trip to Iceland last week. In Iceland you can pack a diverse mix of dramatic landscapes—waterfalls, volcanos, geothermal pools, glaciers, geysers, black sand beaches—into just one short trip. Here’s a taste of what we saw in just six days there.

1. You can hike to a platform at the top of Skogafoss waterfall, on Iceland’s southern coast, but the best view is about three quarters of the way up. That’s where Charlie was standing when I shot this photo.

1 Charlie Skogafoss DSC_6932

2. Lupines galore in the foreground of a glacier near Vik, on Iceland’s southern coast

2 lupines near Vik D30_9267

3. You can walk between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates at Thingvellir National Park. The plates pull away from each other 2 centimeters every year. Thus all the volcanic activity in Iceland.

3 Charlie Thingvellir DSC_6416

4. Gullfoss waterfall, one of Europe’s largest, on the Golden Circle loop.

4 Gullfoss D30_9112

5. Go ahead and rent a car. The roads are in excellent shape and quiet, the wide-open scenery makes for stress-free driving, and the 90 km speed limit is strictly adhered to. Just be sure to purchase the windscreen/gravel protection insurance. This is Highway 1 on the southern coast.

5 south coast highway 1 near Eyjafjallajokull D30_9266

6. Located en route from Keflavik International Airport to Reykjavik, the Blue Lagoon makes for a reinvigorating antidote to jet lag after a long flight. Make sure you try the silica mud mask.

6 Blue Lagoon aerial overview D30_8886

7. The black sand beach at Dyrholaey, near Vik.

7 black sand beach DSC_6815

8. Right off the parking lot for the black sand beach, we got within 20 feet of dozens of puffins nesting on the cliff faces. So there’s no need to spend money on a puffin specialty tour.

8 puffin on black sand beach DSC_6800

9. One puffin takes flight.

9 puffin flying D30_9324

10. Seljalandsfoss waterfall, on Iceland’s southern coast. This is the waterfall you can actually walk behind.

10 Seljalandsfoss DSC_6668

11. Wear raingear if you plan to walk behind Seljalandsfoss waterfall the way Wendy did. You will get drenched.

11 Seljalandsfoss DSC_6706

12. Here’s Wendy emerging on the other side of Seljalandsfoss waterfall.

12 Seljalandsfoss DSC_6732

13. That’s Eyjafjallajokull, the volcano that erupted in 2010, shutting down European airspace for a week.

13 Eyjafjallajokull DSC_6776

14. Inside Thrihnukagigur volcano. If you don’t mind heights, and you’d enjoy riding a window washer’s scaffold up and down the equivalent of a 38-story building, and you don’t think the volcano will erupt while you are down there, then the Inside the Volcano tour is for you. It’s like being in a cathedral of geology.

14 inside the volcano DSC_7129

15. A collapsed lava tube near Thrihnukagigur volcano

15 lava tube DSC_7225

16. Thingvellir National Park, as viewed from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge—a rift where the North American and Eurasian plates meet.

16 Thingvellir D30_8997

17. The boys and I hiked back for a closer look at Myrdalsjokull glacier. No fences, no noise, no entry fee, nobody there. We really felt connected with the country.

18 glacier Myrdalsjokull D30_9482

18. There’s nothing special about this photo, except that it was 11:36 pm when I shot it through our rental-car dashboard while driving. One reason you can pack so much sightseeing into each day in Iceland (in summertime, at least) is that the days are so long.

19 Iceland sunset late at nightD30_9526

19. The lighthouse in Reykjavik Harbor

20 lighthouse entrance to Reykjavik Harbor D30_9938

20. Reykjavik, as viewed from the Lutheran church that is Iceland’s tallest building.

21 Rejkjavik viewed from church DSC_7311

21. And here’s the reason you might not want to visit Iceland: Whale hunting. On a whale watching tour out of Reykjavik, we saw one live whale…and two dead ones. Two Fin whales had just been killed by a whale-hunting ship in the very spot we were headed to. Fin whales are endangered and the second largest mammal, growing up to be 75 feet long. Iceland exports whale meat to Japan.

22 icewhale1

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6 Comments

  1. Cate Caruso

    Many good reasons to go, but I really respect you, Wendy, for adding that last and very compelling reason NOT to visit Iceland. This poses a real struggle for me as a travel advisor. I would not want to minimize Iceland’s horrific contribution to the endangerment of these species. Somehow, tourist dollars spent there just seem wrong under the circumstances. I’d like to hear more about what you think we can do in the travel/tourism industry to make a difference. Thank you for your always compelling and engaging blog posts!

  2. Priscilla O'Reilly

    Your photos make me want to go to Iceland now more than ever…and to re- read “Miss Rumphius” (which has a lupine theme) to my daughters! I’ll share these images with my brother’s family,–they’re headed to Iceland next month. Many thanks!

  3. Christina

    These pictures just bumped Iceland up the l#1 spot for my 2016 summer vacation. The lupines…beautiful. Thank you for this post!

  4. P.Coonley/Serendipity Traveler

    A picture is worth a thousand words! Inspired to visit Iceland in lupine season…….

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