Ice, and more ice. That’s usually what comes to mind when someone thinks or hears of Iceland. After all, it’s called Iceland for a reason, right?
Sure, but that’s definitely not all Iceland has to offer.
I recently traveled to this strikingly beautiful country and contrary to popular belief, Iceland does not encompass all that much ice–although the glaciers are incredibly amazing–but don’t be disappointed: Iceland has so much more to offer than just ice. Often referred to as the Island of fire and ice, Iceland is one of the world’s top tourist destinations. In fact, in 2016, over 2 million people traveled to Iceland, more than triple the figure from 2010. The beauty of this small Nordic Island is bound to catch your eye and capture your heart for a lifetime. If you’re planning to visit Iceland in the near future, and only have a limited amount of time there, the following are the three places you must surely visit.
If you ever visit Iceland, one place you simply cannot afford to ignore is Blue Lagoon. Situated just 40 minutes drive away from Reykjavík, the capital and largest city of Iceland, Blue Lagoon is an iconic man-made geothermal spa. Blue Lagoon allows you to swim in 40°C pale blue water all year round. Present in a lava field in Grindavik, Blue Lagoon became a reality in 1976. Though, 1981 was when this man-made geothermal spa first became popular with the locals, mainly due to its supposed healing powers. In 1992, after the establishment of the Blue Lagoon Company, the bathing facility was formally opened to the public for the very first time. Ever since then, Blue Lagoon has been attracting visitors from all over the world.
The most photographed tourist destination in Iceland (for good reason), Blue Lagoon is known to benefit the health and the skin of the swimmers. In addition to health benefits and a unique setting, Blue Lagoon offers visitors a range of spa treatments, a shop selling skincare products and places where they can eat, and drink. In short, Blue Lagoon is a place you simply have to visit when you make the trip to Iceland.
It is worth noting there are other lagoons throughout Iceland that offer more privacy, fewer tourists, and equally striking beauty. I spent over a week in Iceland, so had the opportunity to experience multiple lagoons throughout the country. However, those who have less time cannot afford to miss Blue Lagoon–one of Iceland’s most popular geothermal attractions.
Sitting atop the famous Skolavordustig Street, Hallgrimskirkja is a church that can be viewed from almost any point in the city. Designed in 1937 by state architect Guðjón Samuel, Hallgrimskirkja took 40 years to build and was completed in 1986. Additionally, in 2009, the church underwent a massive renovation. Standing 73 meters high, Hallgrimskirkja allows visitors to enjoy breath-taking views of the city and Snaefellsjokull glacier. When I visited, the skies were crisp and crystal clear, allowing for breathtaking views and impossibly beautiful photos of Iceland’s picture-perfect capitol city. A major attraction for visitors to this church is the statue of famous Icelandic Viking Eiriksson, which stands right in front of the church. But be sure to travel beyond this iconic statue and into the church’s interior. You will not be disappointed; unparalleled architecture awaits you.
Sólheimasandur Plane Crash site
This may surprise you, but the Sólheimasandur plane wreckage in Iceland is an incredibly interesting attraction. I was fascinated by this after coming across it while doing some research prior to traveling to Iceland. The mysterious wreckage is of a Douglas Super DC-3, a U.S. Navy plane that crashed on Sólheimasandur beach in November 1973. All crew members survived the crash and immediately made the trip home, but the plane’s wreckage didn’t move an inch. It still lies at the exact same spot it crash-landed almost 44 years ago. The plane’s cockpit has been completely gutted and is as desolate as the beach it crashed on. The plane’s fuselage displays a faded and eerie “United States Navy” on its side, as though it was taken directly from the set of a horror movie. Only a two hour drive from Iceland’s capital, the Sólheimasandur plane wreckage site is a place you surely need to visit while you’re in Iceland. It’s a photographer’s dream, and the site is remote and fairly hidden so other tourists are few and far between, further adding to the stoic nature of this American plane wreck site.