Iceland: The Land of Fire and Ice

Iceland, the land of fire and ice, is a gorgeous mountainous island nation that is known for its volcanoes and glaciers alike.  The land was the last part of Europe to be settled which occurred around the 8th century by Norse settlers easily without war due to its lack of inhabitants.  And much of the inhabited land is on the coasts of Iceland with more than 50% of the population living in or near the capital city of Reykjavik.

Based on its parliamentary constituencies, the country is divided into 8 regions.  Each region has something special to offer visitors.  And with the country being easy to navigate as a self-drive experience, consider some of the following highlights from each region for your next summer vacation to Iceland.  Take advantage of their midnight sun to enjoy the natural wonders, history, traditions, and culture that still run deep with Icelanders.  You will likely notice the Viking influence in all things and how the Icelandic language has changed very little over the centuries.

Capital Region – Located in southwestern Iceland, this region includes the capital city, Reykjavik.  One of the most notable sites to visit in this region include the famous Hallgrímskirkja Church, a Lutheran/Church of Iceland church, which is the largest and tallest church in Iceland.  Outside of the church is a statue of Leif Ericson who was born in Iceland around 970AD and thought to be the first European to land in North America nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus. You can also visit Althing, the world’s oldest and longest-running parliament which was created in 930AD.  In winter and summer shoulder months, one of the most enticing things to experience in Iceland is the Northern Lights which you can observe from the Grótta nature reserve on the tip of the Seltjarnarnes Peninsula.  

Southern Peninsula – Part of Reykjanes Peninsula, this area is home to the Blue Lagoon, a luxury spa and hot spring, and the volcano that just recently erupted in March 2021 after lying dormant for about 6,000 years. One other thing worth experiencing in this region is to see the Bridge between Continents.  As it sounds, you can walk from Europe to North America where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet. 

Western Region –
This west coast region is unique with its diverse eco system.  This area has waterfalls and volcanoes, flora and wildlife.  Snag a picture of the black church of Budir before you see the highest waterfall, Glymur.  Then enjoy a Krauma geothermal bath at the powerful hot spring, Deildartunguhver.  The oldest lava tube cave, Vatnshellir, is also worth seeing in this region.

Westfjords – In Northwest Iceland, the Westfjords are the second most remote area as it is not accessible right off the main Ring Road.  You can see the Drangajökull glacier and visit Látrabjarg, one of the biggest bird cliffs in the country where the puffins are very tame and not intimidated by visitors. You can also find Raudisandur, the red sand beach in this region which is unique since most beaches in Iceland are black sand beaches.

Northern Region – This region is known most for the Diamond Circle sightseeing trail with five key stops.  Follow the trail clockwise to see Godafoss waterfall, known as the waterfall of the gods and where law speaker Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði is said to have thrown his statues of Norse gods after making Christianity the official religion of Iceland in the year 1,000.  Next stop is Húsavík, the oldest settlement in Iceland and is considered the Whale Capital of Iceland.  This area boasts 23 different whale species, so it is the premier place for whale watching.  The third site is Ásbyrgi Canyon, a natural wonder where you can enjoy many hiking trails and see the crescent-shaped canyon in Oxarfjordur which is part of a bigger canyon Jökulsárgljúfur within the Vatnajökull National Park.  Take in Dettifoss Waterfall, the most powerful waterfall in all of Europe, with water flowing at a rate of 500 cubic meters of water per second.  You can hike along a canyon trail from Asbyrgi to Dettifoss.  Finish up your time on the Diamon Circle at Lake Mývatn, a shallow lake near the Krafla volcano surrounded by wetlands.  This area also is rich in freshwater seaweed and is home to abundant birdlife, specifically a very large variety of ducks during summer.
Eastern region – Also known as Austurland, this region is made up of waterfalls, mountains, narrow fjords, and small villages.  The primary experience in this area is to explore the Ring of Riverdale which is designed around the Largarfljot Lake and starts in the main village of Egilsstaðir.  Be sure to allow time for a visit to Vök Baths, one of the premier geothermal spas in Iceland.  Also in this region, you can visit Hallormsstaðaskógur, Iceland’s largest forest, and take a hike up to Hengifoss, the country’s second largest waterfall.  Other noteworthy things to see are the Tvísöngur sculpture by Lukas Kühne which is a combination of concrete, nature, and sound which represents Iceland’s five-tone harmony, and the Regnbogagata (rainbow street) in Seyðisfjörður which is popular to locals and visitors alike. 

Highlands Region – Despite being a completely uninhabited region, there is much beauty to behold in this area that is most accessible during summer months. Landmannalaugar nature reserve has premier hikes that show off its colorfulness and beautiful sites like the Ljótipollur explosion crater lake and Bláhnúkur volcano.  This region is home to Helka, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and many glaciers like Eyjafjallajökull, Mýrdalsjökull, and Tindafjallajökull.  There is also Europe’s second largest national park, Vatnajökull National Park, that was established in 2008 around the Vatnajökull glacier and geothermal activity.  Vatnajökull is also Europe’s largest glacier.

Southern Region – This region is best known for the Golden Circle sightseeing route with three natural attractions – the Geysir Geothermal Area, Gullfoss Waterfall and Thingvellir National Park, an UNESCO World Heritage site.  Thingvellir is a shrine to the history of Iceland as it was where their Parliament began.  The Great Geysir is inactive now, but you can also visit its sister geyser called Strokkur, or the Churn, which erupts about every 10 minutes.  The third site, the Gullfoss waterfall, is both powerful and beautiful when rainbows float up from the water.

 So, grab you some local snacks, like harofiskur (fish jerky) and skyr (soft cheese), a few bottles of water and head out on an epic road trip around Ring Road to the different Iceland regions.  You won’t be disappointed by the natural wonders you will see and experience along the way.

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Dell Adventures Travel Agency
PO Box 3651, Grapevine, TX 76051


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