The best things things to do in Iceland
The best things to do in Iceland
With Christmas fast approaching, I thought now would be a good time to start looking at winter breaks to help to get you in the festive spirit. So, with that in mind, I thought I’d take a trip to one of Airport Park and Ride’s favourite places and do a list of, what I think are, the best things to do in Iceland.
Whether you’re after whale watching, bar-hopping or Northern Lights spotting, Iceland is the perfect place for a festive trip. And, with a dramatic volcanic landscape and ‘proper Christmas weather’, Iceland is the perfect backdrop to a truly awe-inspiring road trip. Read on for our top tips on how to make the most of your time on this beautiful and mesmerising island.
See the Northern Lights
The best time of year to see the Northern Lights in Iceland is between November and March, so you’re practically guaranteed the perfect display if you head over for a pre-Christmas break.
The conditions do have to be right, though; you’re more likely to see them if you go at a time of the month when the moon is small. And it needs to be a clear night, preferably with temperatures below freezing – which, let’s face it, shouldn’t be a problem in Iceland in November or December.
You can go on organised tours (they’re around £30), or just find yourself a dark area and look at the skies and see what you can see.
If you stay somewhere that has outdoor hot tubs, you can stay warm whilst you keep an eye out for the northern hemisphere’s most stunning natural phenomenon.
The glacial lakes at Jökulsárlón
The lake of Jökulsárlón is in the south east of the island and is close to the Vatnajökull National Park.
The glacial lagoon is one of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions, with the option to take an amphibian boat tour to get as close as possible to the icebergs.
Jökulsárlón has a certain ‘other worldliness’ about it, looking like it could be something from, if not another planet, then certainly from the long and arduous journey, fraught with both beauty and danger, in some sort of high-fantasy epic.
Jökulsárlón, in our humble opinion, should be one of the first places on your Iceland bucket list.
The Blue lagoon at Grindavik
The geothermal spa at Grindavik is a naturally heated pool, surrounded by lava fields that are scattered with magnificent volcanic boulders.
You can sip strawberry champagne as you relax in the comfortably warm waters of the Blue lagoon. It’s the perfect way to while a day away, regardless of the weather. There’s a swim-up bar where you can buy a wide variety of drinks, from healthy smoothies, to champagne. There’s also a spa, offering skin treatments, including algae face masks, in water massages and volcanic rock scrubs.
A visit to the spa costs between £29 and £141, depending on the package that you choose, but you can easily stay there all day; they even have a selection of cafés and restaurants – including a pool side café and a particularly opulent Lava Restaurant. There’s even a sushi bar, called Blue Café, with beautifully fresh sushi on the menu, that offers stunning views across the lagoon through its floor-to-ceiling windows.
Whale watching in Akureyri
The Icelandic coasts provide some of the world’s most fantastic destinations for seeing marine animals in their natural habitat, and whale watching is one of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions.
The north coast is particularly well known for being a fantastic place for spotting whales, with Akureyri – a small city and fishing port, which, ironically, is Iceland’s second largest conurbation – being widely regarded to be one of the best places for taking a boat trip and having a good chance of seeing a variety of whale species, including bottlenose, humpbacks and minks.
One thing to bear in mind when it comes to whale watching in Iceland, is that the weather can be subject to sudden and great change – so whale watching boats can be cancelled at short notice, if the seas become too rough.
Snorkel between the tectonic plates in the Silfra at Thingvellir
This is literally, the only place in the world where you can do this, so for our money, it is an absolute must do!
The Silfra, in the Thingvellir National Park, is filled with crystal clear glacial water, that provides some of the best snorkelling and diving in the entire world, with visibility of around 120 metres.
There is no wildlife, but swimming along the ever-expanding (at around an inch a year) chasm between the Eurasian and American tectonic plates is an utterly bizarre experience that anyone visiting Iceland should definitely partake in.
There’s no need to worry about the cold, either, as you’ll be provided with suitable gear to keep the cold out whilst you swim. You’re even given a mug of hot chocolate after you get out of the water.
And with a starting price of circa £80, I think that there can be no reason to miss out on this once in a lifetime experience!
Hire a car and explore the rest of Thingvellir
Full of crystal clear lakes and rolling green hills in the summer and an untouched snowy wilderness in the winter, Thingvellir National Park is simply stunning, whatever time of year you choose to visit.
You can take a tour of the park, that will take you to the exact spot at which the Vikings held the first ever parliament. But, I reckon it’s much more fun to rent a car and drive there yourself. This way, not only do you get to drive a fast car (rent a good one, the roads are worth it in the summer. In the winter, get a 4×4 that can grip the icy roads!) along some fantastic roads, you also get to make sure you arrive before the coach loads do, and watch the sunrise (in winter, it rises at around 10.30am, so don’t worry about being up at stupid o’clock) over undisturbed snow.
Visit Gullfoss Waterfall
Iceland’s ‘Golden Circle’ is a popular tourist route in Southern Iceland, it covers about 190 miles from Reykjavík into the southern uplands and back and is home to the highest concentration of natural wonders in Iceland.
One of which, is the ‘Golden’ waterfall, otherwise known as, Gullfoss waterfall; Iceland’s most popular and most beautiful waterfall, providing visitors with magnificent visions of cascading water against the back-drop of snowy mountains.
There’s a café there, as well, that gives you a choice of warm foods and some stunning, panoramic views across the waterfall and surrounding mountains.
Have a bath in Lake Mývatn
The volcanic area of Mývatn is a large wetland nature reserve, and just happens to be one of the most unspoilt and stunning places in a country full of unspoilt and stunning places.
In the centre of the reserve is a shallow lake, that was created by a lave eruption over 2000 years ago, and is seething with wildlife – including 13 different species of duck.
While you’re there, don’t pass up the opportunity to visit the Mývatn Nature Baths. They give you the chance to experience the warm, wet pleasure of geothermal bathing, without the same level of commercial bustle that you can often find at the Blue lagoon.
Geyser geothermal field
It’s easy to imagine – in fact, it’s almost impossible not to imagine – that you’re on an epic, high-fantasy adventure whilst wandering through the hot breath of this truly living landscape.
Stokkur is, at the moment, the most active spouting spring in Iceland, erupting every couple of minutes, to a height of up to 40 metres.
The Geyser fields are in the Golden Circle, tours of which will cost you in the region of £50 for a day trip, during which you can take in not only the geysers, but the Gullfoss waterfall and Thingvellir National Park, too.
Found within the Vatnajökull National Park, on the southeast coast of Iceland, Skaftafell is a protected area, said to have an almost Alpine landscape. The scenery consists of an extensive combination of volcanoes, waterfalls, glaciers, wilderness and mountains. And, there are campsites and hiking trails for those who love a good ramble. Make sure you see the Crystal Cave while you’re there, it is not to be missed!
Skaftafell has its own small airport with regular sight-seeing flights enabling you to see the beauty of Iceland from above. The routes aren’t set in stone, they are very much weather-dependant, so expect a surprise every time.
Visit the volcano beach at Snœfellsjökull
Rising majestically from the water’s edge, a prehistoric active volcano; thrusting 1,446 metres into the sky.
Snœfellsjökull is one of the world’s seven greatest natural energy centres, and has long been believed to have mysterious powers.
Purveying the landscape around it from the centre of the National Park that takes its name, Snœfellsjökull is home to some seriously glorious views.
One of the best ways to explore the park is on horseback, riding down the beach, marvelling at the inimitable splendour of the volcano, rising from the water, whilst surrounded by an abundance of wildlife.
Drive the Ring Road
Being a fairly small, and extremely beautiful island, one of the best ways to take in as much of Iceland’s scenery as possible, is by car. And as it happens, the Icelandic people have done their best to make this as simple as possible.
The Ring Road encircles the entire island, and is only 800 miles long, so the journey can be rushed into a day or two. But, when you have such a plethora of amazing stop-offs to make along the way, I’m not sure why you’d do that.
I recommend that, instead, you take a good seven days over it, stopping every time it takes your fancy. Don’t forget to enjoy the roads, as well. The driving experience itself is reason enough for this journey – probably best done in the summer, though.
Break bread at a geothermal bakery
Iceland is full of geothermal activity, and the Icelandic people are keen on utilising the natural heat and power of it as much as possible.
At Fontana Wellness, a stunning outdoor spa, on the edge of Lake Fontana, purely for your delectation; the chance to try bread, freshly baked, underground, by nothing but the geothermal heat of the island itself.
The bread is pretty flipping good; moist and moreish, it tastes great with local butter and maybe some smoked fish. It makes the perfect treat after a swim or enjoying the spa facilities at Fontana Wellness.
Eat at The Fish Company in Reykjavík
Reykjavík is Iceland’s capital (and only, really) city. And, although most of the things you’ll want to do while you’re there are out in the country, Reykjavík is still a really cool city, that deserves to be explored.
With its arty culture and loads of museums, there’s enough there to keep you entertained for a good couple of days.
There’s also a fantastic fish restaurant, called The Fish Company. It’s a bit pricey, but then that’s to be expected in Iceland, and the quality of the food is well worth the price.
The Fish Company serve a stunning array of traditional Icelandic foods, with modern, international twists.
They do a delightful version of Iceland’s favourite meal – pan-fried lamb, served with saltkjot – and the starter of fish soup with langoustine, grilled monkfish and coconut jelly is a winner as well. In addition, they even do a tasting menu that provides pretty good value for money, as well.
Airport Parking in Glasgow from Airport Park and Ride
With flights from Glasgow Airport to Reykjavík taking just over two hours, there couldn’t be a better time to go and enjoy the festive paradise that is Iceland. And when you’re planning your trip, there is no better place to book your airport parking in Glasgow than on Aiport Park and Ride. We have the largest selection of, and best prices you’ll find for, Park Mark awarded airport car parks in Glasgow, all of which come with on-demand shuttle buses to the airport.
So, book your Glasgow Airport parking with us and make sure that you can holiday happy, knowing your car is safe while you’re enjoying the best things to do in Iceland.
Airport Park and Ride; airport parking made simple.