Posted in Italy on 18. Feb, 2012
Sure, Iceland is a place rich in culture and history – but probably not any more so than any other European country. Where the nation has much of the rest of the world beat is in its natural landscape: From spectacular glaciers and partially frozen islands to the thrilling bubbles and gurgles of still-active volcanoes, the country’s terrain is stunning in its diverse – and almost apocalyptic – beauty. There are an overwhelming number of must-see natural wonders in Iceland; to get you started, we present five:
Lake Myvatn Conservation Area
Declared a protected conservation area in 1974, the Lake Myvatn region has since become one of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions. It is certainly one of the most geologically active parts of the country, home to volcanic craters and sulfuric mud flats. Newborn lava fields flow through craggy fields of black rock, while forests around a crystal-clear blue lake teem with wild birdlife. The vast parkland is filled with incredible sights, but one is especially breathtaking: the Waterfall of the Gods; at an impressive 163 meters, it is one of the most powerful in Europe.
The Westmann Islands (Vestmannaeyjar)
As surprising and beautifully out-of-place as a desert oasis, the Vestmannaeyjar is a unique paradise in a frozen world. Back in November of 1963, a new volcano broke through the sea’s surface to become the world’s youngest island: Surtsey. By the following summer, flies and butterflies had taken up residence; seals, gulls and other migrating birds followed. Today, Surtsey continues to enchant visitors with its newness – the fact that the island is still in its infancy is unmistakable. Take a tour of Surtsey and the rest of the Westmann Islands to enjoy a truly unforgettable experience.
Snaefellsnes Peninsula and the Snaefellsjokull Glacier
On a clear day, the soaring glacier of Snaefellsjokull is visible from the city streets of Reykjavik – an impressive feat, considering the fact that it is 60 miles away. The glacier is famous for, among other things, its mention in Jules Verne’s iconic book, Journey to the Center of the Earth. It and the adjacent Snaefellsnes peninsula make a wonderful destination for a day trip from the bustling city. The peninsula is dotted with quaint fishing villages and farms, as well as waterfalls, lava caves, and popular hot springs.
Head 50km east of the city centre of Reykjavik, and you may come across one of the most important sites in Iceland: Thingvellir, a place as historic as it is beautiful. It is here that the country’s parliament, the Althing, first med in AD930 to resolve conflicts and create laws that would be followed for more than 300 years to come. Visitors can still step foot on the very same cliff that the Althing once gathered on, gazing out across the lovely landscape of Thingvellir National Park. While there, you may enjoy hiking along panoramic trails or fishing in Lake Thingvallavtn, the largest natural lake in Iceland.
The Blue Lagoon
One of the most photographed natural wonders in Iceland (and perhaps the entire world), the Blue Lagoon rightly earns its name: Over many years, blue-green algae and white Silica mud have formed a natural sediment at the bottom of the lagoon, giving it its strangely opaque aquamarine color. The lagoon is actually man-made; however, the delightfully warm temperature of the water – about 40 degrees Celsius year-round – is thanks to Mother Nature herself. The waters are said to have special curative powers, especially for psoriasis and other skin ailments. However, most bathers simply come for the relaxing experience.