12 Reasons Why Iceland Is Weirdly Wonderful
Sitting in the North Atlantic Ocean, Iceland has one of the world’s best vantage points to enjoy the Northern Lights. But there’s much more to this island, from lava-scorched landscapes to awesome local legends…
Iceland might have a smaller population than Leicester, but its scenery is like nothing you’ve ever seen. The Northern Lights are the main headline-grabber, and you’ll know why if you’ve ever been treated to their spectacular dance in the sky. We’re running trips there between January 24 and March 6 in 2016, which those in the know agree are pretty amazing value.
Of course, the Lights – AKA Aurora Borealis – are an entirely natural phenomenon, so they don’t always show up. But on our trips, we offer you two repeat tours if they don’t come out to play.
Lights aside, there’s a whole host of weird, wacky and downright wonderful stuff to savour in Iceland. Just check out this little bag of tricks…
Singing concrete. It’s a thing
Built by a Berlin artist, Tvísöngur is a clump of concrete bubbles with a very special party trick. Reflecting traditional Icelandic harmony, the wind creates a kind of tune as it blows through each bubble.
They believe in elves
We’re not pulling your leg, lots of natives really do. And they’re so serious that many building projects have been altered to prevent damaging any rocks where elves are thought to live.
There’s some amazing lake action
Surrounded by rare red volcanic rock, Kerid Crater Lake is not to be missed. Some 3,000 years old, it contains an expanse of impossibly bright blue water. It’s not far from our Golden Circle Tour either – where you can see Gullfoss waterfall, the jets of Geysir and the lava plains at Thingvellir National Park.
There’s some unusual cuisine
Local delicacies include Hákarl – rotten shark which is buried and fermented for months (we’ll let you judge the taste). It’s often served on a traditional winter platter, which also boasts rams’ testicles, boiled sheeps’ head and seal flippers. Yum.
Rolling in mud is cool
Sloshing around in dirt is usually reserved for the rugby pitch. Not in Iceland! The Blue Lagoon silica spa is one of the country’s top attractions. Minerals are pushed to the surface by the hot water, and the mud cleanses and exfoliates your skin.
Hollywood loves it
It’s no surprise that many a Tinsel Town blockbuster has been shot here. The Vatnajökull glacier was used in Batman Begins and Interstellar, while the Jökulsárlón glacial lake was used for a car chase in Die Another Day.
Horses look like ponies
Icelandic horses might be teeny weeny, but don’t call them ponies. Short and stout, they’re still officially considered horses, and are exported around Europe due to their popularity.
There’s a Viking village
Axes and horned helmets at the ready! This rural settlement was painstakingly constructed for an Icelandic movie that never got made. Watch this space though, as Universal is apparently showing interest.
Bathing is blissful
Reykyadalur is a geothermal river in Iceland’s ‘smoky valley’, where boiling natural spring waters mix with cold river currents. The result? Steamy natural baths along a popular trekking route.
It’s great for whale-watching
During the winter months you might see minke whales, white-beaked dolphins and harbour porpoises off Iceland’s coast. Boat trips set out from Reykjavik, and you may even spot a humpback whale launching itself out of the sea (if you’re really lucky).
There’s a Middle Earth vibe
Iceland or Mordor? Some of the scorched lava formations look right out of Middle Earth. The Dimmuborgir site is the pick of the bunch with its array of jagged rock and a naturally-formed archway known as ‘The Church’. There’s even a myth that Satan landed here when he was chucked out of heaven (comforting).
Winter isn’t coming. It’s been
Game of Thrones is no stranger to Iceland. Arya Stark’s trek across the Seven Kingdoms was filmed here, as were the Night’s Watch going beyond The Wall. Thrones star Jon Snow had his romantic tryst with Ygritte in the lava cave of Grjotagja. Probably wise not to try and recreate that one, though.