Iceland is an amazing country to visit.
Not only is it a place which is so magical and surreal, it has the most incredible landscapes and natural features.
I decided to visit Iceland for my 30th birthday. I wanted to do something that I would remember in years to come, and Iceland didn’t disappoint me!!
It is one of the places that I always recommend people should visit, as it has so much too offer.
Where else can you visit a country where you have a beautiful city, breath-taking beauty, stunning waterfalls, volcanoes, geothermal pools, black sand beaches, iceberg lagoons, and the northern lights.
With so many amazing things to see and do, it was very hard to decide which places to see on my birthday visit.
When we were planning the trip to Iceland, we looked at many different places, and even considered going all around the Island. In the end, we picked the places that stood out for us as we knew we only had a certain amount of time and money.
Because it took us a while to decide, I wanted to share the very best places that we visited and the spots which should be included on every first timers visit to this amazing country.
13 First Time Experiences You Need To Have In Iceland
1) Hiring a car and seeing the beautiful scenery en-route
You can book tours in Iceland, but we knew we wanted to explore further, and so we made sure we hired a car. One of the best decisions we made!
For us Brits, driving on the right hand side of the road is unnatural to us (we drive on the left). We however took it is our stride and managed to get around Iceland with ease.
By driving from place to place, we were about to see all the beautiful scenery that Iceland has to offer. Around every turn there was another mountain, another waterfall, and another breath-taking scene.
What we did think was strange was that there seemed to be no-one on the road! It almost became a joke because we would go miles without seeing anyone. One day we were driving and we noticed a car behind us – we were shocked to see it!!
It is beautiful to drive around Iceland. I would highly recommend it!
2) Relax in the Blue Lagoon
You can’t go to Iceland without having a dip in the Blue Lagoon!
With its unique looking blue water, and the surrounding lava rocks, you just start to relax as soon as you get in there.
With temperatures around 37’c and 40’c, it’s like having a hot bath outside.
As well as relaxing in the water, you can also try the silica mud mask. You can apply as much as you want to your face and body, and leave it on for at least 5 minutes. After you wash it off, you skin feels silky smooth. I definitely noticed the difference.
Oh, and the best bit? You can grab yourself a beer whilst you’re in the lagoon.
3) Wonder at the hot springs in Hveragerdi
Hveragerdi is a small town located 45km from Reykjavik, and is on the main route to the south part of the island.
We stopped off here as we had found out that it had a geothermal park. The hot springs are right on the door step, and its easy to park up and walk around them.
We were in awe to see water boiling on the surface. Never before had I seen this natural phenomenon. The water was bubbling away and letting off pockets of steam. It really made me realise the wonder of nature.
4) Walk behind Seljalandsfoss waterfall
Seljalandsfoss waterfall drops 60m into the river below, and it is an amazing sight to see.
Whats great about this waterfall is that you can walk all the way around it (and apparently, it’s the only know waterfall in the world where this is possible).
If you don’t mind getting a little spray on your face, it’s a very worthwhile visit and for you to get a unique photograph from a very different perspective.
5) Skogafoss waterfall and its incredible views
Skogafoss waterfall is the result of the change in coastline over hundreds, if not thousands of years.
The coastline was originally where Skogafoss was, and when the sea receded, the former sea cliffs remained. This is now the home to Skogafoss waterfall.
What I loved about this waterfall, is that you can get up close to it at the bottom and the top. You can walk along the banks of the river to where the waterfall plummets.
If you are fit and have the energy in your legs, you can also see the waterfalls from the top. When you climb the 370 steps, you are rewarded with a beautiful scenery. Even on a dreary day like the one we had, we were still bowled over by the diverse scene in front of us.
6) Rock formations at Dyrholaey
Dyrholaey is not far from Vik. It has an amazing black sand beach and fantastic rock formations in the sea. The cliff tops have an arch in the rock, and it has been known for boats to sail under it.
Along the headland, stands the impressive lighthouse. It was a wet and windy walk up the hill but it was definitely worth the huffing and puffing!
A walk on the beach is needed, especially if you are used to seeing gold sandy beaches. It very surreal, but so beautiful against the foam of the sea waves. And it helps when the sun comes out.
7) Dark lava columns encompassing Svartifoss waterfalls
Another waterfall, and oh so amazing!
Svartifoss is surrounded by hexagonal basalt columns which were formed when lava cooled very slowly. These columns made the waterfall look more majestic than it already did.
You have to walk to the waterfall (about 2km), however it is well signed and relatively easy to get to.
The waterfall is in a ravine and you can clamber over rocks to get closer to it, but be careful!
8) Wonder at Skaftafellsjokull Glacier
On first sight of Skaftafellsjokull glacier, you realise how enormous, and beautiful, glaciers can be.
Only a 30 minute walk from Skaftafell National Park visitor centre, you come across a pool which has been formed by the glacier meltwater, and beyond that you can see the 4m high glacier, streaked with soil.
It was quite eery going so near a glacier. Even from where we were standing, you could hear the creaking and cracking of the glacier – proof that’s it’s a always on the move.
Such a wonderful place to see, especially when you look up to see the mountain Vatnajokull bearing over you.
9) See the Northern Lights
We stayed at Fosshotel one of the nights, and whilst we were there we were able to see the Northern Lights.
We were so lucky to see them, as the previous days had grey skies. Not this time. It was a beautiful night and the lights were great.
I have to admit, they weren’t as green as I had seen on photos, but I realise now it was because the camera allowed all the light to come in and pick up the extra colour.
Not only did we see the lights, but the sky was so clear, we were able to see the Milky Way. I hadn’t see that many stars in all my life. It was a spectacular show, and we would have stayed out all night if it wasn’t so cold.
The Northern Lights, whether in Iceland or another country, is a must to see. I would love to see them again.
10) See floating icebergs at Jokulsarlon
This has to be one of the best places I have been.
Jokulsarlon is a large glacier lake, and everywhere you look you can see icebergs. They have a blue hue colour, and they float along as they make their way to the sea.
When they get to the sea, some of them are pushed back onto the beach with the waves. This is an awesome sight. You can get up close to the icebergs, as we did, and take some great photos!
11) Watch the Strokkur geyser erupt!
Strokkur is one of Iceland’s well-known geysers. It spouts water 30 metres into the air every 8 minutes, so you can always catch it.
It’s a really great experience to see.
12) See the wonder of Gulfoss waterfall
Gulfoss is one of the waterfalls on the Golden Circle tour. The water plummets down 32 metres in two stages into a rugged canyon.
This was on our list to visit, and we did go there, however our view of the waterfall was somewhat obscured by the driving snow and wind.
It was so funny. We had to hide behind a sign, just to be able to take a photo of the waterfall. We couldn’t look directly at it for too long, as the snow whipped our face.
I know that it can be an amazing sight to see though, and I will be going back when the weather is a little clearer.
12) Discover yummy food and cool bars in Reykjavik
Reykjavik is an interesting capital city. We stayed here for two nights and we had a great time.
There’s some real nice places to eat and drink, and its definitely worth having a stroll round the neighbourhoods and seeing the Icelandic way of life.
This is where many Icelanders live, and you can definitely tell. It’s busier than any where else we went, but still chilled out.
13) Whale watching
We had planned to go whale watching out of Reykjavik. Unfortunately the weather had different plans for us. It was so windy they had cancelled the tours.
I know this is an experience which would be amazing, and so even though I haven’t manged to see any whales, I would recommend that it’s something you do.
And so there you have it. 13 amazing first time experiences you should have in Iceland. And if you don’t get through them all the first time, you’ll have to book another trip out there!! I know I will be!!