Words and photos by Coalatree Ambassador Ryan Erickson

 

1. The Northern Lights

The Northern lights are something everyone should see before they die and Iceland is one of the best places in the world to witness this spectacle. The best time is October through April. I recommend studying a moon cycle chart and booking your trip when there is no moon in the sky. I witnessed this light show in March, a month with less storms but still plenty hours of darkness. Stay a few nights out in the countryside away from the city lights of Reykjavik. I was lucky to witness and document this amazing light show from a cow pasture near the remote village of Höfn, in Eastern Iceland.

2. Skógafoss Waterfall

Skógafoss is a picture-perfect wall of water which, in my opinion, is Iceland’s most impressive waterfall. A lot of the iconic waterfall pictures you see on social media are taken here for good reason. Visitors can climb the stairs up the cliff to a platform right on the edge of the falls. Although this is one of Iceland’s most popular sights, if you get there early, you can still have the waterfall all to yourself before all of the day-tripping tour buses arrive from Reykjavik.

3. Vatnajökull Glacier

Vatnajökull is the largest and most impressive glacier in all of Europe and one of the most picturesque in the world. The ice has a distinctive dark blue tint to it, which makes for incredible photos. There are various outfitters that take tourists on glacier hikes here. They’ll provide everything you need: guides, gear and all the safety equipment. You can explore the glacier yourself but you’ll definitely at least want crampons or ice spikes.

4. Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Another of Iceland’s perfect waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss is a must see. One of the main draws to the waterfall is the trail that visitors can hike, which actually takes you behind the waterfalls. Incredible views of the sunrise can be had from behind the waterfall looking out at the horizon.  In addition, there is another amazing waterfall called Gljúfurárbui nearby in a narrow cave, which can be accessed off of the main Seljalandsfoss walking trail.

5. Jökusárlón (the iceberg lagoon)

In the Southeast there’s a lagoon called Jökusárlón where massive chunks of ice break off from the Vatnajökull Glacier and float around before being funneled out to sea down a swift moving river.  It’s an incredible spectacle to behold. Some of the icebergs are as big as houses and are sucked out to sea right under one of Iceland’s most famous bridges. There are flat ice sheets as wide as parking lots being swept away as well. Some icebergs get marooned on the beach, allowing you to explore up close.

6. Black-sand beaches & coastline of Vik

The black-sand beaches, and rocky pinnacles around the small coastal village of Vik on the Southern coast, should not be missed. The coastline has been featured in various movies recently and a walk along one of these secluded beaches will make you feel like you’re the only human in existence who is living on a strange planet.

7. Kirkjufell Waterfall and village of Grundarfjördur

The waterfall of Kirkjufell along with its perfect, solitary peak in the background are one of Iceland’s most iconic vistas. Kirkjufell is located in a pretty remote part of Iceland on the Snæfellsnes Pennisula, home to volcanic lava fields and perfect little fishing villages like Grundarfjördur, which is a great place to stay when exploring Kirkjufell. From there you can also take tours out to see the killer whales which migrate offshore.

8. Hike to the plane wreck & black sand beaches

In 1973 a US Navy plane crash-landed on Iceland’s South Coast. It’s a great adventure hiking out into the remote black sand beaches to try and find the plane. The shiny aluminum fuselage contrasting against the featureless black-sand beach creates a ghostly image. The hike (really just a walk on flat volcanic sand) is about 2 miles each way.

9. The Blue Lagoon

It’s touristy and crowded but no trip to Iceland is complete without a visit to the iconic Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is a natural hot spring, which basically serves as a massive tourist hot tub. The water is florescent blue due to traces of silica in the water; it’s actually good for the skin. The water is about 100 degrees F and there are several drink bars that you can visit without ever leaving the water. Being Iceland’s most popular tourist activity, you’ll need to book your session on their website in advance. It’s pricey at $85 but it’s an experience you’ll never forget and is totally worth it. Most sessions last one hour, but if you go at 8pm you’ll be allowed to stay until it closes at 10pm.

10. Explore the capital of Reykjavík on foot

Make sure to spend at least a half a day walking around Iceland’s vibrant capital of Reykjavik either at the beginning or ending of your trip. It’s most famous sight is the church Hallgrimskirkja. The church looks like a space ship and has been featured in many movies including Thor. Reykjavík has several amazing museums, incredible bakeries and tons of great sidewalk cafes, which dot the quaint city streets. There are also lots of amazing shops where you can pick up any last-minute souvenirs from Iceland.