Iceland and its closest neighbour Greenland are somewhat inappropriately named. Despite their labels, it is in fact Greenland that is covered with frost and ice, and Iceland whose earth is effervescent with life. The volcanic activity and glacial rivers make for incredibly fertile soil creating lush, green surroundings. That’s not to say it’s not cold. Even in the summer months the average temperature doesn’t rise about 13 degrees Celsius, so if you’re planning a winter getaway such as our Iceland Adventure, then make sure you go with the appropriate equipment.
Iceland makes for a gorgeous vacation spot, but it’s not for the faint of heart. Whether you opt for a summer or winter holiday in Iceland, you’re signing up for an outdoor adventure. There are plenty of amazing things to do in Iceland, from hiking across a glacier to taking a helicopter ride into a volcano – this is the land of fire and ice, and everything in between. And if you choose to take part in our Iceland Adventure, here are a few awe-inspiring sights you can look forward to.
Majestic glaciers and ice caps cover over 10 per cent of Iceland’s landmass, so it makes sense that the tourism officials have worked them into the list of Icelandic attractions. As a tourist visiting an Icelandic glacier, which is known in the native language as jökull, you can either hike along it at a slower pace, or get that adrenaline flowing by speeding across it in a snowmobile. The Inspired Escapes adventure package includes the snowmobiling option.
Interesting fact: In order to be classified as a glacier, a body of ice needs to be thick enough to sink and move under its own weight. Because of climate change, glaciers are shrinking. Iceland’s first glacier to shrink to non-glacial status is Okjökull and is now simply known as “Ok”.
Nineties R&B band TLC may have warned you to not go chasing them, but there is something both invigorating and tranquilising about waterfalls that make them quite magnetic. Because of Iceland’s frequent rain and snowfall, and the glaciers melting during the summer months, Iceland is an anomaly when it comes to the number of waterfalls it is home to. There are 25 large and powerful waterfalls around Iceland, including Morsárfoss, the country’s tallest waterfall at 227 metres.
Interesting fact: Morsárfoss may be Iceland’s tallest waterfall, but Dettifoss is the most powerful, not only in Iceland, but also in all of Europe. It is featured in the 2012 science-fiction film Prometheus, in which it poses as landscape on a primordial Earth-like planet.
Probably the largest tourist attraction in Iceland, the elusive aurora borealis is what most people think of when they hear the name Iceland – right after Bjork anyway. The green lights fill the skies like a ghostly essence making the Icelandic landscapes look like the terrain of an alien land. Particles travel the 93 million miles from the sun to the Earth where they are drawn to the magnetic north and south poles. When these particles pass through the Earth’s magnetic field, they mix with nitrogen and oxygen atoms creating the aurora.
Interesting fact: The word “aurora” is Latin for sunrise, as well as being the name for the Roman goddess of dawn. In the Northern Hemisphere it is called the aurora borealis, while the aurora in the Southern Hemisphere is known as the aurora australis.
Who doesn’t love a nice, relaxing hot bath? Now imagine being able to indulge in such opulence without using non-renewable energy resources, such as gas and electricity. Iceland is quite literally a hotbed of natural geothermal baths, and some of the best ones are right in the capital city of Reykjavik. Some of the hot springs are too hot to touch, but others are the perfect temperature for lazing about in. You could opt for a still pool, or a rippling stream that gives you a massage while you bathe.
Interesting fact: Iceland is situated on one of Earth’s ‘hotspots’, which results in a lot of geothermal and subsequently volcanic activity. It is the combination of this heat and the glaciers that make Iceland the home to many hot springs and geysers, including Geysir, the geyser that the word was derived from. Geysir, also known as the Great Geysir, is the first geyser known to modern Europeans.
It has been said that we know more about the surface of the moon than about the depths of the oceans on our own planet, and the various species of whales is just one of its marvels. These numinous and gargantuan creatures of the deep have intrigued marine biologists and laymen alike for centuries, and there is something magical about just spotting one momentarily on the surface of the ocean. On the coasts of Iceland there is an 80 per cent chance of sighting a humpback whale during the winter, and 95 per cent chance in the summer.
Interesting fact: Humpback whales were once hunted by the whaling industry and brought to the brink of extinction. Their population fell by 90 per cent when a moratorium was introduced in 1966. Since then the population has started to rise once more, but human impact on the ocean, such as collisions with ships and fishing equipment entanglements continue to threaten their existence.
Top tips for visiting Iceland
- Remember your camera. You are going to see some unforgettable sights on this trip, and while the images will certainly be stored in your head for the rest of your life, you are going to want to share the awesomeness with people back home.
- Dress warmly. This is a winter getaway and that means thermals, long johns, thick socks and a warm jacket. Also remember sensible shoes. This is an outdoor adventure, so your Converse All Stars aren’t going to cut it. You need decent hiking boots that are water and snow proof.
- Take advantage of Icelandic know-how. Nobody creates clothes for the Icelandic weather like the Icelanders, so if you don’t have a proper winter coat and those hiking boots we mentioned before, we suggest stopping off at an outerwear store when you arrive in Iceland and picking up the essentials.
- Book your Iceland Northern Lights adventure with inspired Escapes here!