The Nordic country of Iceland is known for its dramatic landscapes featuring volcanoes, geysers and hot springs, glaciers, waterfalls, beaches, mountains, and rivers. Also referred to as the “Land of Fire and Ice,” Iceland is truly a magical land. The country’s geographic isolation has allowed it to preserve its culture and language. As per Icelandic folklore, this is a country where “Huldufólk” (hidden people of elves) live in the rocks, trolls roam the hills, and mythical creatures guard the nation from invasions.
Iceland is also known for unique natural phenomena like the mystical Northern Lights; the geothermal and volcanic activities; unique ice and glacier caves and black sand beaches. Experiencing the natural phenomena of Iceland, should be among the top most priority for the adventure seekers.
Holidayme presents 10 natural phenomena you must witness in Iceland
1. Dive in a fissure between two tectonic plates
Silfra is a rift formed between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates after a series of earthquakes in 1789. Located in the Thingvellir National Park, Silfra is known for its clear waters of Langjökull Glacier with underwater visibility up to 100 meters. Silfra is the only place on earth, where you can dive and snorkel between two tectonic plates. The diving and snorkelling site at Silfra is the place where the two continents drift away 2 cm per year. The water temperature is between 2 to -4 degree Celsius and it never freezes due to a constant supply of fresh glacial waters. So, put on a dry suit, figure out your GoPro cam, and just dive-in between two mighty tectonic plates!
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2. Step-in between two tectonic plates
Iceland’s Thingvellir National Park is known for its jaw-dropping landscapes featuring geysers, waterfalls, tectonic fault line and The Alþingi, the country’s first parliament and the world’s oldest parliament! Explore the tectonic fault lines and understand how the North American and Eurasian plates are drifting away from each other by 2 centimetres per year. Walk between two tectonic plates at the Almannagjá Gorge and see the rocky continental walls. Make your way to Peningagja (Money Gorge) and don’t forget to drop some coins for good luck.
3. Get up-close to mighty waterfalls
Iceland’s dramatic landscapes are often accentuated by its stunning waterfalls. Some of the key waterfalls of Iceland are Seljalandsfoss, a spectacular waterfall amidst a backdrop of basalt column. Skogafoss looks stunning surrounded by green moss and black soil. The mighty Gullfoss drop into a gorge with full force. Kirkjufellsfoss is highly photogenic due to the pyramid shaped Kirkjufell Mountain in the background. Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe and has an otherworldly charm. Get up-close to some spectacular Icelandic falls and don’t forget to bring your camera.
4. Walk inside a dormant volcano
Iceland is a volcanic country with close to 130 volcanoes, out of which 18 are active since the first men stepped on the island. One amazing volcano of Iceland is quite distinguishable. It’s the only volcano in the world which can be entered. Thrihnukagigur Volcano last erupted 4000 years ago and since then it’s lying dormant. Here, you can enter the magma chamber, the heart of the volcano and explore the natural caves which are devoid of solidified lava. An open lift lowers the visitors into the crater and volcanologists explain the colourful rocky formations.
5. Cross the crevasses of a glacier
Iceland is home to several glaciers, including Europe’s largest glacier – Vatnajökull Glacier. Vatnajökull Glacier also includes Iceland’s highest mountain, Oraefajokull (2110 m), majestic ice caves, and several sites that have made their mark in popular Hollywood movies and Tv series like Game of Thrones, Batman Begins, Interstellar and the James Bond film – A View to a Kill.
Explore the vast expanse of Vatnajökull Glacier with a guided walking tour and learn a great deal about glaciers. Cross the crevasses and crevices, hike all the way to Iceland’s tallest mountain, Oraefajokull and explore the beautiful Fjallsarlon Glacier Lagoon.
6. Explore the underground ice and glacier caves
Glaciers account for 10 percent of Iceland’s total area. Cold winters and permafrost often create natural ice and glacier caves across the country’s glaciers. These glacier and ice caves can be visited between November to March. Check out the Vatnajokull Ice Caves, known for its ice walls that are up to 1000 metres thick in some places. It’s known for its amazing sapphire blue colours with black soil. Apart from Vatnajokull, some of the popular caves to visit are Langjokull Ice Cave, Kverkfjöll Ice Caves, Falljokull Ice Cave and Svínafellsjökull Ice Cave.
7. Tread across the windswept lava fields
Iceland’s volcanic magmas have cooled-off and are now covered in moss. The craggy and broken landscape is visible while driving around the country. You can walk through the lava fields and explore the lava tubes and the underground lava tunnels which are now dormant. Iceland’s lava fields are covered with moss, the most common plant found in the country. However, one must exercise caution while treading across lava fields and always follow the prescribed paths.
8. See the black sand beaches and diamond icebergs
Iceland’s beaches are as dramatic as the country’s hinterlands. Iceland’s black sea beaches are the result of volcanic rock erosions over millennia. Check out the Diamond Beach, located in the Jökulsárlón Lagoon. This amazing black sea beach is known for its glistening icebergs that rest on the beach. Another key black sea beach is Solheimasandur, known for its black sand and the wreckage of a US Navy DC-3 aircraft that crashed in 1973. Reynisfjara is a world-famous black sand beach that has featured in several Hollywood films like Noah, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the highly popular tv series – Game of Thrones.
9. Watch the majestic geysers and geothermal pools
Iceland has plenty of geothermal energy pumping through its ground. In Iceland, hot springs serve as the naturally heated swimming pools. The Blue Lagoon, Iceland’s famous tourist attraction is a man-made lagoon that draws water from the geothermal power plant nearby. Iceland is also famous for its geysers, known for its hot gushing waters that erupt frequently. The Strokkur Geyser is known for its dramatic eruption every eight to 10 minutes. On average, hot, steamy waters reach up to 15 to 20 meters while some of them can reach as high up to 40 meters.
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10. Chase the enigmatic Northern Lights
Iceland’s greatest attraction is the flickering hues of green, blue, pink lights filling up the night skies. In fact, Iceland is among the best places to see the mystical Northern Lights as there is very little light pollution and cloudy skies. Do remember that September to April is the period where you can see the Northern Lights in Iceland.
The best places to see Northern Lights in Iceland are the Westfjords, or North Iceland, and taking a cruise on Faxafloí Bay or Eyjafjörður Fjord. However, if you don’t want to venture out to cold and far flung areas of Iceland, You can find a secluded spot in the country’s capital Reykjavík and hope that there is negligible light pollution. The best places to see Northern Lights in Reykjavik are Grótta lighthouse, located on the Seltjarnarnes Peninsula. Öskjuhlíð forest, and Laugardalur Park are also good spots to see the mytical Northern Lights.
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