Anthropologist, social media guru, Icelandic nature and food enthusiast.
The 7 wonders of Iceland, the land of Ice and Fire. This was not an easy choice, it took time, research and thinking but here it goes. The list of the lists, what you NEED to see while visiting Iceland. A tough choice but here goes, enjoy the ride!
I thought it would be pretty appropriate to start this blog with my favorite song, 7 Wonders by Fleetwood Mac. I recommend having a listed before, after or during the read. It will be sure to pump up the adventurer inside of you!
Now on to the wonders, this was a tough thing to write I’ll tell you, so many extraordinary things to mention but the saying gives me a limit. Here is my conclusion!
The breathtakingly beautifulJökulsárlónis an 18 km2 glacier lagoon located in the southeast of Iceland. Its primary flow comes fromBreiðamerkurjökullglacier which is a part ofVatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe.
The lagoon is filled with ever-changing icebergs with some of the most beautiful blue colors you will ever see. Visiting the lagoon is never the same experience as the icebergs are always reforming, melting, flipping over and new ones are joining the herd. Visiting in different seasons can also have a tremendous effect on the look of the area. So, basically, this is a placeyou need to visit every time you are in Iceland.
The Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon isn’t the only remarkable thing to see in the area. When the lagoon’s water flows to the Atlantic Ocean it leaves its chunks of ice on a black sand beach located in the area. This makes for a beautiful setting and the beach is often calledthe Black Diamond Beach.
A lot of wildlife can be seen in the area, seals like to show off and birds occupy the sky. The area is surrounded by glaciers everywhere you look so it might not be so surprising that the lagoon has become quite the popular spot for photography. But Jökulsárlón isn’t only good for photos, also filming. Hollywood has paid great notice to Jökulsárlóna and two James Bond films, one Tomb Raider film and Prometheus have already been filmed there along with some other big movies.
2. Blue Lagoon and Mývatn baths or basically the Silica
Now let’s talk about the hot springs, they are often mentioned in conversions linked to Iceland but there are two that stand out in fame and uniqueness. These are the bright blue Silica filled lagoons, Blue Lagoon, and Mývatn nature baths.
But what is this Silica?
The secret not many know about is that theBlue LagoonandMývatnnature bathsare the same color of blue because of this thing called Silica. Silica is white mud and it’s a natural material that forms in special circumstances like found in Iceland. Going way underneath Iceland you will find hot flowing magma and on top of this water. When the hot flowing magma heats up the oxygen in the water it moves upwards and when it’s going up, filtering through the layers, it transforms into Silica. This is, of course, a very simplified way to explain Silica but this is pretty much what happens. These circumstances found in Iceland, hot magma, and cold climates, are rare and Silica isn’t found any place else in the world in this quantity.
The Silica is incredible for your skin, it’s known to help with psoriasis, eczema, acne and much more skin difficulties. It strengthens your skin, tightens pores and exfoliates. When you are soaking in the Blue Lagoon or Mývatn Nature Baths you are soaking in the Silica, your whole body is basically going through a spa treatment.
One extra thing that this magical phenomenon does is giving this insanely beautiful blue color. The water at the Blue Lagoon and Mývatn are actually just white if you were to bring it inside BUT when the light hits the Silica in the water is reflects back this intense blue color.
The feeling of bathing in a Silica filled lagoon islike no otherand definitely, a must do while visiting Iceland.
Þríhnúkagígur is a volcano that has been dormant for about 4000 years. That might sound like a lot, but a volcano actually has to “behave” for more than 4500 years before we can call it fully dormant. Having this fact right before our eyes makes the activity of going into the volcano maybe not sound like the smartest behavior. But fearNOT: Just imagine if you were a volcano expert, where would you like to live? Iceland of course. We watch all volcanic activity very carefully 24/7 every single day of the year so there is no need to be alarmed.
Þríhnúkagígur, Iceland is the only place in the world where you can actually go inside a volcano. The main reason is that when a volcano erupts it usually fills up with the lava which hardens, making the lava chamber inaccessible. In other cases the lava chamber collapses which again makes it inaccessible. So you can surely say that the experience is like no other. It’s truly amazing!
Sitting inside the volcano, a feeling like no other!
Þríhnúkagígur is the second largest lava chamber in the world, it’s actually huge!
When joining a tour you will go down to about 120 meters. This means that inside the volcano you could easily fit the Statue of Liberty orHallgrímskirkjachurch. So we were not kidding about the huge part, but just wait, it even gets bigger. Inside the volcano, there is another lava chamber called Afhellir. This lava chamber is about 80 extra meters, with this added depth Þríhnúkagígur becomes the deepest lava chamber in the world.
ReachingÞríhnúkagígurcan be a little challenging. You can only enter the tour on a tour and the hike to the crater opening is over moss covered lava and rain is about 5x more there on average than for example in Reykjavík. But once you see the Three peaked Crater you will see it’s all worth it. The Icelandic lamb soup they offer will be sure to warm you right up and the excitement of the experience ahead will get you through, well pretty much anything.
If you aren’t fully convinced about the Þríhnúkagígur chamber I only have one more thing to show you, this ought to do the job!
4. The glaciers of Iceland
We might not be the only country in the world that has glaciers BUT they cover about 11% of the country and we also have the biggest glacier in Europe, Vatnajökull glacier. They say that about 20% of the rain that hits Iceland goes on the glaciers.
When driving the south coast you will almost all of the time have the sea on one side and a glacier on the other.
Iceland is highly affected by glaciers.During ice ages, Iceland was fully covered by glacier who carved and scraped out the fjords and valleys. The Westfjords, which are the oldest part of Iceland, are the most affected by the Glaciers giving them the most rugged look. Only one glacier is found in the Westfjords, This one is calledDrangajökull.
The glaciers look still and calm but underneath a lot of them you can find volcanic activity and this is for example what was going on atEyjafjallajökullwhich famously erupted in 2010. Underneath the glacier was a volcano, this is called a Stratovolcano. When it erupted it looked as if the glacier itself was bursting and with it, heavy water flow came down. So when this happens the magma isn’t the only worry it’s the powerful rivers of melted glacier water that rushes down and goes all over. In 2010 the flow took out roads and bridges.
Eyjafjallajökull glacier volcano erupting in 2010 | Photo by Signý Ásta Guðmundsdóttir.
But enough with the scaring, the glaciers are gorgeous! They are a totem in Iceland and they have been the inspiration for poems and love songs since the land was first settled. They are an indispensable part of Iceland’s culture, geology and history and one who visits Iceland should try their absolute best to see one.
The largest glaciers in Iceland are in this order:
The Northern lights are a phenomenon in Iceland that is visible from about late August to April. The visual adventure that it is to see them, only if once, will stay with you a lifetime. Growing up in Iceland you would see them a lot. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen them but they never got old. I always stop my car when they are out and even make trips out of town if the forecast is extra good. There is just nothing that can compete with the Northern Lights!
The Northern lights are formedwhen collisions between gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere with charged particles are released from the sun’s atmosphere.
The colors of the lightscan vary quite a lot and this is due to the type of gas particles that are colliding. The most common color is the green and yellow which is produced by oxygen molecules located about 60 miles above the earth. In Iceland, you can though often see red auroras but they are rarer. The red northern lights are produced by high-altitude oxygen, at heights of up to 200 miles. Many say that the lights are different in color due to the length from the earth which is partly true as the different gaseous particles are found at different lengths from earth.
One fact that many don’t know about the Northern light is that they are always there.The Icelandic Midnight Sun is just so bright and endless that during the summer you can’t see them. The sky needs to be dark so you can see them.
Icelanders are very superstitious and the Northern lights late in the winter were thought to mean snow was coming, if a pregnant woman looked at the lights it was once thought to make the baby cross-eyed and red lights were supposed to bring war or disruption of peace.
A geothermal paradise located in the southern central highlands in Iceland. A place of rhyolite mountains, lava fields, volcanic craters, hot baths, steamy hot springs and oh so much more.
Many of the extraordinary colors found inLandmannalaugarare does to the fact that hot magma is bursting up in colder times sometimes even during an ice age and when this happens great contrast meet which can form unusual things such as obsidian.
The main sights at Landmannalaugar are the mountainsBrennisteinsaldaandBláhnúkur,Laugahraunlava field and the pools beneath and Ljótipollure. Ugly Puddle volcanic crater.
Was formed when a volcanic eruption happened underneath a glacier during an ice age, just this fact is so amazing but this colorful mountain is a real stunner and a real photographer’s favorite. This rhyolite colored 855-meter high diva stands tall over the area and the views from the top are stunning over the Laugavegur path. From Brennisteinsalda stands an extraordinary lava rock, which is just one of those things Icelandic nature has left us to admire.
Brennisteinsalda translates sulfur wave is a stratovolcano and considered to be active even though it isn’t showing any activity. Its last eruption was in 1961.
Mt. Bláhnúkur e. Blue Peak
A volcano rising high up in Landmannalaugar with height measures about 940 meters.
The name is pretty descriptive and comes from the blue-black hue of the volcano’s sides. This color formation is caused by volcanic ash and lava flows. From the top of Bláhnúkur you can, on a clear day, see up to five glaciers and a 360° view over the whole Landmannalaugar area.
Both Brennisteinsalda and Bláhnúkur are excellent for hiking and biking. Hiking up to the top and back should take about 2-3 hours for each mountain.
The lava field formed around the year 1477 when a huge eruption happened causing melting basalt to come up from a magma chamber in Bárðabunga flowing all the way southeast through the Veiðivötn fissure and into the Torfajökull glacier area, known for its volcanic activity. Inside the fissure, another eruption happened and when the hot basalt magma burst into the half-melted silica-rich magma chamber it set of yet another eruption which formed Laugahraun. All of this volcanic craziness might come as quite the surprise when you look at the area which now sits all still and moss covered in the middle of Landmannalaugar.
Landmannalaugar hot pools
This is for many an ultimate favorite place Landmannalaugar it’s where you can bath in after a long day of hiking or just spend all day there soaking in natural hot baths like our Icelandic forefathers used to do in the settling times. The hot water runs out from the Laugahraun lava field and mixes with another cold stream. You need to move around a bit to find the perfectly heated spot but when you do oh my!
Bring a bathing suit when visiting no matter what season, the pools are hot enough in winter as well. It’s best to dress into the swimsuit before, in the huts or tents and walk-in towel and shoes to the area.
Ljótipollur e. Ugly Puddle
Ljótipollur is the most southern crater on theVeiðivötneruption site.
Formed in the 1477 eruption, same as Laugahraun, Ljótipollur is a very deep and still volcanic crater lake packed with trout and is actually quite popular for fishing. This fact might come as a surprise as there is no influx or drain from the lake.
This oddly ill-named crater is actually quite a stunning sight with its red colors complementing the color of the water perfectly. This is also a great hike to do when staying in the Landmannalaugar area.
Þingvellir, Thingvellir or Pingvellir like many spell this stunning location is one of the three stops made on the famousGolden Circle in Iceland. It’s truly a unique place and for oh so many reasons. I’ll try my absolute best to name them all.
The most famous landmarks at Þingvellir are Lögberg e. Lawrock, Silfra fissure, Öxará river and Þingvallavatn lake.
Þingvellir actually means Parliament fields, a right given name as it’s where Iceland’s first parliament was founded in the year 930, making it one of the world’s first parliaments. The parliament was located at Þingvellir until 1798 and almost all major events in Icelandic history took place there. From around 930-1262, everything that needed to be decided or settled was done at Þingvellir for a two week period. So if you were done wrong by a week after the parliament was held you would just have to wait until next year.Lögberg rockis where the men in the highest position would stand and recite the laws and conclusions.
Gunnar and Hallgerður Langbrók the famous couple from Brenninjálssaga met at Alþing at Þingvellir
Silfra fissureis an amazing spot where the tectonic plates are meeting and the water that runs through is incredibly clear as it has been filtering through lava for 50-200 years straight from a glacier. This is the only place in the whole wide world where you can gosnorkelingordivingin between tectonic plates touching the North American and Eurasian plates at the same time. Þingvellir is actually where the tectonic plates are drifting apart and you can see this by your own eyes in many places at Þingvellir. A real geological wonder!
Öxará river and the Öxarárfoss waterfallthat comes from it is just a stunning sight and the power seems endless. It’s also one of the waterfalls that everyone in Iceland talks about yearly about as it’s mentioned is a famous song everyone sings on the17th of June, our national day. A tragic part of Öxarár’s history took place in Drekkingarhylur, one of the deepest places in the river. This is where women were drowned if they had children out of wedlock or lost their chastity. In total 18 women were drowned at Drekkingarhylur, the last one in 1749.
Þingvallavatn lake is famous for being great for fishing, for enjoying a lovely day on a boat and just for being beautiful. It’s located well into the park and to drive around it gives you a stunning vista.