In the past few years, Iceland has become a popular travel destination. It’s no wonder, with most of the country unpopulated wilderness, volcanic activity everywhere, the biggest glaciers in Europe, and everything else that’s going on here. There are many reasons to come to Iceland but they’re not all created equal. Some of the attractions of Iceland are just better than others. If you’re looking for a good reason to come to Iceland, look no further!
10 – Rotten Shark and Brennivín
Rotten shark is the worst. Brennivín is only second worst but it‘s still pretty bad. Actually, the shark isn’t rotten, it‘s fermented, but it still has a flavour that‘s most benignly described as „like strong blue cheese, but a thousand times more pungent.“ Also, it’s not like Icelanders are snacking on this every day, at the most people eat it once a year at a Þorrablót. There are some people that like the Brennivín and I can see how it’s not totally horrible for some people. My problem with it is that it’s flavoured with caraway seeds and I hate the taste of caraway seeds like some people hate cilantro or pineapple on pizza. Ultimately, the reason Brennivín gets the bottom seat on the list is that even if you do like foul-tasting seafood and liquor that’s also known as Black Death, I still wouldn’t say that’s sufficient reason to fly all the way to Iceland for your vacation.
9 – Lopapeysa (Icelandic Woollen Sweater)
The Icelandic woollen sweater or Lopapeysa is a pretty great garment. It’s pretty and warm, even if it gets wet and it keeps light rain out. Last but not least, it’s self-cleaning! This is all thanks to the wool of the Icelandic sheep which, due to being bred in isolation, just like the Icelandic horse, has two different kinds of fibres. While the lopapeysas are pretty great, they make for a pretty boring reason to visit Iceland. Plus, you can just order a handmade one online, no need to go all the way to Iceland to get one.
8 – The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is Iceland’s most popular day tour for a reason. In half a day, you can drive to the magnificent Þingvellir, steeped in history and situated on a rift between two tectonic plates, Geysir, the erupting hot spring that gave its name to all other erupting hot springs and Gullfoss, a majestic waterfall. It’s really something you should see once in your life at least, and it’s situated at a convenient distance from Reykjavík, the only problem is that a lot of other people want to see it as well, so at peak times, it can get pretty crowded.
7 – The Icelandic Horse
The Icelandic horse is a unique breed. Bred in isolation for more than a millennium, it’s the descendant of the horses the Vikings brought over from Scandinavia in settlement times. They’re short but powerful and are brilliantly adapted to surviving and traversing the harsh Icelandic landscapes. In fact, exploring Iceland from horseback, carried by the good-natured Icelandic horse is one of the best ways to see the country. The only reason they’re not higher on this list is that while horses can’t be imported to Iceland, they can be exported so you probably have a chance to meet an Icelandic horse in your own country.
6 – The Puffins
I’m just going to say it, there aren’t a lot of birds cuter than the puffin. The multicoloured beak, along with their comical strut and mating for life, is enough to endear these small creatures to all but the toughest of hearts. (I hardly dare say this, but they’re actually pretty delicious as well). They lose a few points for the annoying amount of puffin keychains and postcards being sold in tourist shops in reykjavík, as well as for the fact that you can only see them in the summer as they spend 9 months out of the year out at sea.
5 – The Northern Lights
The Northern Lights are pretty magical. These green and blue ribbons of light that sometimes stretch across the winter sky are reason enough to visit Iceland. They aren’t a reliable attraction however, as they can only be seen on cloudless nights (and when they feel like showing themselves). If you’re really interested in seeing the lights, here are some tips and tricks and here’s a guide to reading the aurora forecast from the Icelandic meteorological office. Finally, the lights can only be seen in the winter, as the midnight sun outshines the lights, so plan accordingly!
4 – The Waterfalls
Not only are the many mountains of Iceland beautiful, they also mean that Iceland has a plethora of beautiful waterfalls, everything from the stunning Hraunfossar, streaming out from underneath a lava field, to the thundering Skógafoss and the sky-high Glymur. Whether they’re surrounded by lush green nature or trapped in cages of ice in the winter, the waterfalls of Iceland are a sight to behold. Don’t forget, unless the river is murky, you can drink the water straight from the waterfall. It’s not only safe, it’s delicious!
3 – The Glaciers
11 % of Iceland is covered in glaciers and Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull, is situated here. They look amazing from afar but even better up close! There are plenty of tours that will take you walking on a glacier, Ice climbing, and even into the glacier! Even if you don’t feel the need to get up close and personal with the glaciers, you can’t miss out on Jökulsárlón, the glacial lagoon that’s filled with floating black and blue ice bergs all year round!
2 – Björk, Sigur Rós, And All the Rest
Of course, it’s not only the landscape that attracts people to Iceland. The Icelandic culture is vibrant and creative and nowhere is this more apparent than in Icelandic music. Most people have heard of Björk and Sigur Rós, but there are plenty of diverse artists ready to catch your attention such as Of Monsters And Men, Kaleo and Emilíana Torrini to name but a few. Every year, a fresh batch of Icelandic musicians steps into the spotlight and many of them are well worth seeking out. Next time you’re in Reykjavík, don’t leave without catching a show of some kind, you just might discover the next Björk!
1 – Volcanoes!
Finally, Iceland’s top attraction – the volcanoes. Iceland is situated on top of a geological hot spot as well as on a rift between two tectonic plates, which results in some spectacular volcanic activity. This small island has a volcanic eruption approximately every 4-5 years, some spewing lava and ash for months at a time. While the eruptions are magnificent to see, the geothermal heat is also responsible for many other attractions, such as erupting hot springs, natural hot pools you can bathe in as well as a geothermally heated public swimming pool in every town in Iceland and geothermal areas with bubbling mud pots, fumaroles, and pools of boiling water. The geothermal forces underneath Iceland are not only the reason Iceland exists in the first place, they’re also one of the biggest reasons you should come visit!
Do you agree with our ranking of Iceland’s top attractions? Why would you want to visit Iceland?