Iceland is a truly beautiful country with a unique history and culture. As such, it isn’t difficult to understand why the country has become such a popular travel destination. But while an increasing number of travellers are being drawn to the island, many of those who visit Iceland stick to Route 1. Route 1 refers to a ring road, and while it does contain some sights worth seeing, many travellers focus exclusively on this area and end up missing out on everything that Iceland has to offer.
Route 1 will definitely connect visitors with some of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions. Among the other popular attractions that are easily accessible from Route 1 are the Myvatn Nature Baths, the Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon, and the Blue Lagoon. However, if you want to really experience Iceland, then you need to know where to look beyond the usual and obvious places.
Many of the most spectacular and memorable sights that Iceland has to offer are hidden off the beaten path, revealed only to those who go looking for them. The following are some of the most amazing sights and experiences that Iceland has to offer. You won’t stumble across these experiences unless you go looking for them. If you do however, you will be rewarded with some of the very best of what Iceland has to offer.
Built in 1923, Seljavallalaug is home to the oldest swimming pool in Iceland. The pool generates its heat from the geothermal energy of surrounding natural hot springs. Bathing in these pools at the bottom of a majestic glacier surrounded by the breath-taking Icelandic landscape is an experience unlike any other and really hammers home how outstandingly and uniquely beautiful Iceland is.
The local facilities are minimal – there are now showering facilities for example – but for many travellers this only adds to the charm and intrigue of the place.
In order to reach the swimming pool, you need to first head eastward on Route 1 from Reykjavik. Continue onwards past Selfoss and Hvolfsvollur, turning once you reach the clearly marked Seljavellir farm. Follow the road you take for as long as you can, and park your car once you reach the end. You will need to go on a short hike in order to reach the swimming pool, but it isn’t too far away.
This small canyon was formed several thousand years ago, becoming a hidden oasis and one of southern Iceland’s most breath-taking scenes of natural beauty. On all sides, Gjain is surrounded by fields of pumice, caused by the nearby Hekla volcano. In 1104 AD, the biggest ash eruption in recorded Icelandic history occurred in this area. At the time it wiped out a fledgling farming community in the area. Today the red river flows through the canyon. This river gives life to the region on the form of rich and diverse vegetation. There is also a collection of remarkable waterfalls on display in the area.
Gjain is located a short way – less than half and hour on foot – from the historical farm Stong. The entire surrounding area is perfect for hiking and is home to some of the most diverse ecosystems that Iceland has to offer.
Iceland’s second tallest waterfall is every bit as majestic and impressive as you would expect. Other than its sheer size, what makes this waterfall special is the presence of a second waterfall nearby. This sibling waterfall is called Granni (neighbour) and is a sight worth seeing itself. The nearby river system, which includes the river Fossá, is surrounded by some of Iceland’s most beautiful scenery.
Haifoss can be a little bit difficult to reach if you are hoping to get there by car. If you have a 4 x 4 then you should be ok, but most people will want to find another means of transport. For the most hardcore hikers out there, there is a truly exceptional hiking route from the farm Stöng to Haifoss but be warned that it is several hours each way.
The name of this region literally translates as ‘the coasts’ and covers an area which includes part of the Westfjords. Strandir has been considered the most remote area on all of Iceland for several centuries. With less than 800 inhabitants in the region, driving up and down the coast is a unique experience. A feeling of stillness and isolation pervades the entire area, but despite its remoteness and emptiness, there is still plenty to see and do throughout Strandir.
This nature reserve, located in southeast Iceland, is by far one of the most beautiful sights in the entire country. There are numerous features such as waterfalls to be seen, and a multitude of hiking trails allow visitors to experience the landscape from a variety of vantage points. For those who want to appreciate the Icelandic scenery, nothing can match trips in Skaftafell.
Iceland is a beautiful country that has a great deal to offer visitors. From the numerous breath-taking geographic features, to the unique culture that exists beneath it all, Iceland is a country that everyone should try and visit.