Sunday, January 10, 2016

10 Reasons to Visit Iceland in 2016

Thingvellir Iceland
Stunning landscape at Thingvellir!

In March, Icelandair service from Chicago to Keflavik starts. Of all of the places we have visited, Iceland easily makes our favorite list time and time again. Dramatic raw, natural beauty and peaceful settings always have us yearning for a return trip. When I learned last year that Icelandair would be beginning service out of O’Hare, I was immediately ecstatic and brainstorming about a new journey to the island of Fire and Ice. Here are ten reasons to plan a trip to Iceland this year!

Northern Lights: Dancing lights in the sky! I am sure many bucket lists include viewing the Aurora Borealis. While viewing Northern Lights is weather dependent, you have a chance of seeing them in Iceland from September through mid-April. We have yet to see them and are hoping we can return in October to experience the natural light show!

The Midnight Sun: On our first visit to Iceland, we found ourselves walking around Reykjavik at 10PM with the skies still full of light. Really a magical experience! You can take advantage of long days mid-May through mid-August through additional sightseeing and tours. Plus, light all day long is quite invigorating!

Reykjavik Street
During one of our night walks in Reykjavik in the summer--you can still see how light it is!

Thingvellir and the Golden Circle: The Golden Circle showcases the dramatic and stunning scenery of the island situated right on the Mid-Atlantic ridge. Thingvellir sits on the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge so you can literally stand both on the North American Plate and Eurasian Plate at the same time. Besides its stunning landscape, Thingvellir is culturally important to the nation and where Vikings clans met and the parliament was first established in 930. Along the Golden Circle is Geysir, the geyser after which all geysers are named, and Strokkur. While Geysir now rarely erupts, Strokkur erupts every 8-10 minutes. Breathtaking! Also on the Golden Circle is Gullfoss an absolutely tremendous waterfall.

Golden Circle
The mighty Gullfoss!


Whale Watching: Few experiences are more inspiring than seeing whales in there natural habitat. Be sure to bundle up for a whale watching tour, but seeing these graceful creatures is worth it! If you go from the Reykjavik Harbor also keep your eyes out for Puffin Island where you can see the adorable birds flying around.

Dolphins spotted on our whale watching tour near Reykjavik.
Geothermal Spas: There is nothing in the world like enjoying an outdoor geothermal pool in your bathing suit when it is only about 40-50 degrees out or even cooler! The Blue Lagoon is a must see and is not far from the airport or Reykjavik. However, we really enjoyed Laugarvatn Fontana within the Golden Circle. The Blue Lagoon is man-made while Fontana has been built on natural hot springs. Plus, we found it to not be quite as busy as The Blue Lagoon. However, both are wonderful experiences!



Reykjavik: Don't underestimate Reykjavik when visiting Iceland. The capital is home to several museums including our favorite 871 +/- 2 The Settlement Exhibition where you can see the foundations of a real Viking home excavated in Reykjavik. We also enjoy shopping in Reykjavik where you can pick up quite a collection of unique products made in Iceland. There are sculptures throughout the city and a peaceful pond where you can feed swans and other birds. Be sure to also walk along the harbor and mount Hallgrimskirkja for amazing views!

Walking in Reykjavik!
Pristine Natural Beauty: Immediately upon landing in Keflavik, we were captivated by Iceland's raw natural landscape. Sculpted by seismic and volcanic activity, the nation is like nothing we have seen anywhere else. There are plenty of opportunities to explore different landscapes including two on our list for next time Snaellfellsnes and the black sand beach in Vik. There also is Skaftafell Ice Cave in Vatnaj√∂kull National Park, Lake Myvatn, Seljalandsfoss and so much more! 


Thingvellir

Riding Icelandic Horses: Icelandic horses are beautifully, gentle and friendly. The breed has been kept pure but not allowing other breeds to enter Iceland and barring Icelandic horses that have left from returning to the nation. So, riding an Icelandic horse is close to riding those the Vikings themselves have ridden. A ride is a truly Icelandic way to experience the landscape. A wide variety of tours ensure that every rider can find something he or she will love!

Riding Icelandic horses
Riding an Icelandic horse is a one of a kind experience!

Friendly People: On both our trips we found Icelanders friendly, welcoming and helpful. They share information about their wonderful home with great joy. Really just a refreshing experience!

Relaxed Pace: We have found that we can actually relax when visiting Iceland. The entire nation has a population of approximately only 323,000. So, you do not have the normally stressful hustle bustle of other vacation spots. Enjoying the natural landscape really allows time to balance your mind, body and soul. Iceland is a place where you can refocus and rejuvenate your life!

Magical view from Geysir Geothermal Area.

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