There’s something odd in the air – and it’s not just the sulfuric perfume of the springs, shooting a powerful aroma up your nostrils. No, it’s something altogether weirder. The locals tell of spirits and elves in these parts, and they’re not joking.
Most Icelanders really believe elves inhabit the bleak lands to the south of Reykjavik. They say you should keep your eyes open after dark, and that if you’re really lucky you might spy them fidgeting about: up to no good with the parked cars of hapless tourists perhaps, or creating a metaphorical stink by rearranging rocks.
Alas, most of us won’t see any sprites on the drive out to the Blue Lagoon from Keflavik Airport, but it didn’t matter much. The lunar landscape is breathtaking in what isn’t there – no houses, no mountains, no farms, no elves, not much else. Just a jet-black rocky volcanic wilderness.
ICELAND STOPOVER TRIP
The Blue Lagoon is a great place to start a tour of Iceland because it’s so near to where international flights land. The level of modern development at the lagoon might come as a surprise – there’s a huge building right next to the springs containing a restaurant, roof terrace and all the modern facilities to make sure you have a perfect paddle in the hot water.
On really cold days it’s fun to relish the temperature difference between bitter air and bath-time blue water. You can even enjoy a cocktail as you swim from the spa-side bar or an in water massage.
After finishing at the Lagoon, you can catch the shuttle to Iceland’s friendly capital. Dining is a big draw in Reykjavik though the national delicacy might be a little hard to stomach. Kæstur hakarl is essentially rotting shark meat and most who eat it need to chase each bite with a shot of gloopy Brennivin schnapps to take away the aftertaste.
5-6 DAY TRIP
The forces of nature are writ large in Iceland – lava and explosions act like chapter headings in the history of this steely land surrounded by a frigid sea.
Rent a car and penetrate further up into the center of the island via the Golden Circle to check out geysers, volcanoes, glaciers and waterfalls. Nature feels wild and unpredictable out in the wilderness; a unique place leaving you feeling small and insignificant.
The Golden Circle can easily be driven straight through in 3 hours, but you’ll find many places to stop along the way for magnificent photo opportunities, hiking or learn more about this beautiful landscape on tours and quick museum stops.To extend your drive and possibly catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights during stop over at Hotel Geyser where you can also enjoy a snowmobile tour of the surrounding landscape.
7-10 DAY TRIP
If you want to see the full expanse of Iceland, locals recommend planning for at least 10 days to drive the Ring Road, hit the major highlights of the Golden Circle and explore all that Reykjavik has to offer.
Throughout the drive you’ll find yourself in an ever changing landscape of narrow cliffs, glacial rivers, red volcanic mountain rock, hairpin turns, where you might go ages without seeing another person, car or shop! Once you do it’s often a tiny fishing village that holds the spot between big tourist sites.
A few stops on the Ring Road drive:
Vik: Visit the infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano, more waterfalls, and black sand beaches.
Höfn: Enjoy a Zodiac boat tour of the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, where you’ll see floating icebergs and often chunks of ice breaking away from nearby glaciers. It’s no surprise this is one of Iceland’s most loved tourist spots.
Mývatn: Exploring the volcanic lake and relaxing at the Mývatn Nature Baths
Dettifoss and Selfoss: Image Niagara Falls before it became a tourist attraction. Rushing water and nature without the fanfare of buildings and knick knacks.
Akureyri: The second largest city in Iceland this is a great stop to reload the car with travel snacks, plus whale watching in Húsavík.
Stykkishólmur: Venturing to the edge of the Snaefellsness peninsula you’ll find a beautiful, but often windy, hike and the Hellnar Arch, a natural rock formation comprised of basalt sheets.
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