10 Things We Love About Iceland

1. Snorkeling in Silfra

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What an experience! Snorkeling isn't exactly the first thing that comes to mind when you think Iceland but it is one of the top 10 scuba diving destinations in the world. For those not certified, snorkeling is the way to go.

Silfra fissure is a crack between the North American and Eurasian continents. So you are actually swimming right between two tectonic plates. How many people can say they've done that? 

My guess would be not many.

The water is crystal clear to allow for unobstructed viewing, the dry suits keep you warm and actually dry. Only a small part of your face actually touches the water- for good reason because even in the summer the water is very crisp. Your guides are filled with knowledge about the environment and you get to come out of the water a pretty kickass human for having just completed that. We took a tour through Dive Iceland. They provide all the gear and even make sure to snap a few photos so you don't have to worry about it. 

If you are looking for a unique experience, make time for this one.

2. Walking on a glacier

The Mýrdalsjökull glacier is located in the south of Iceland.

The glaciers are truly something you need to see in person. There are guided tours, which you should do for safety reasons and for environmental reasons, but if you don’t have the time or the funds, there are spots where you can get out and stand on the outskirts of a giant glacial mass. It is astounding and awe-inspiring and also a little heart-breaking to witness the melting you may have read or heard about. The evidence is undeniable.

3. Whale Watching from Husavik

The best window to see Humpback whales near Husavik is from April through October. Orcas may be spotted from April to May.

I’ve been whale watching in the Pacific Ocean off of the western coast of California, but this felt like a whole different rodeo. That crisp air whisking across your face, the open sea in front of you hosting a world of cold-ocean creatures and that breathtaking moment when you see a humpback whale breech the surface are all reasons why this was one of our favorite things on the trip. It doesn’t matter if you snag a good picture or not, all that matters is that moment you share out there on the water with a whale in the wild.

It’s a powerful moment.

4. Staying in a cozy cabin with a view

The "hobbit hut" is located not too far from Iceland's south coast. 

The "hobbit hut" is located not too far from Iceland's south coast. 

I didn’t care that we had to drive across what looked like an abandoned field out in the middle of nowhere to get to it. I didn’t care that the bathroom was separate from the main cabin. I didn’t care that the shower was a bucket.

Literally.

I didn’t care that my grandfather had built me a play house when I was 8 that was probably bigger than this was.

It was perfect. We called it our “hobbit hut” and I loved it.

It was charming and felt like being a kid at camp again- except this time we could drink wine and eat prosciutto while looking out our window and spotting fat rabbits scurrying by.

5. The waterfalls

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Whether you stop at one of the major falls like Gullfoss or Skogafoss or just pull over to admire one of the falls along the road, Iceland is a land for people who love waterfalls.

We stopped counting one day while driving in the rain after hitting 100 falls.

There’s something to be said for being able to pull off the highway and snack on a sandwich alongside the sound of a waterfall pummeling down over the side of a cliff.

There are quite seriously so many waterfalls, that you’ll spot a group of people pulling off somewhere and when you realize what they’re looking at, your response will be, “Oh,  it’s just another waterfall.”

Waterfalls for days…

6. The goofy puffins

Puffins spend the fall and winter out in the open ocean living on fish.

Puffins spend the fall and winter out in the open ocean living on fish.

There’s not many places in the world where you can watch puffins in action. You can also eat Puffin in Iceland, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it, especially after having such a fun encounter with these dopey little birds. I would assume they taste like chicken though. There are several recommended spots to go Puffin-spotting and they deliver. You can spend an afternoon watching these funny birds go about their lives fishing, recovering from crash landings, flying like an abomination to the skies, napping, huddling and just being plain-old cute.

7. Not over-run/over-crowded

 Melissa Farley enjoys and afternoon along the northern coast of Iceland.

Yes there were tourists. Tour buses filled with tourists, even, especially on the Golden Circle. However, we found that once you got out of that main area, you were often rewarded with no crowds.

If someone were to tell you they want the opposite of Disneyland, take them to Iceland. This would be that.

We know Iceland’s popularity is growing with travelers and will probably continue to increase in interest, but for now, it is still a mellow country to escape to to get away from it all. We also found that if you tackle high-tourist attractions early in the morning, it is a better experience.

8. The response you get when you say you’re going there

Pretty much every single time someone asked us where we were going for vacation and we said Iceland, the response we’d get would be, “Wow! Really? Iceland? Why Iceland?” When we’d list our reasons and show some pictures, we’d often find that we had just inspired someone else to put Iceland on their travel bucket list. We don’t really consider ourselves adventure travelers, but this was just unique enough to peak our interest and let us feel a little daring about it.

9. Iceland's geothermal landscape

Water from the Strokkur Geysir falls on Melissa.

Water from the Strokkur Geysir falls on Melissa.

 Fan portraits.

This is a place where you can physically see the Earth’s power.

All over this country, the land is bubbling, steaming, shooting up geysirs, melting, splitting and actively forming. There are so many opportunities to observe, firsthand, the earth at work in this area-and it is grounding.

You start to understand how the world is not as it once was and will not stay how it is now – it is a constantly changing and evolving thing.

Just be prepared to smell like sulfur. A lot. Seriously – their hot water is geothermally heated by the earth. It took us a while to figure out that was happening and couldn’t understand why the rotten egg smell seemed to intensify when we showered. It’s just the smell of the earth’s insides, baby!

10. Driving

We drove a loop around Iceland on the Ring Road, AKA Route 1. It's a fantastic way to see the country during the summer months.

We drove a loop around Iceland on the Ring Road, AKA Route 1. It's a fantastic way to see the country during the summer months.

Pat did all the driving on this trip and he remarked how much he enjoyed it.

The roads are open and uncongested, the routes are picturesque and there’s a healthy mix of flat-land driving, mountain driving and only a touch of city driving.

The rental car was the most expensive piece of our trip to Iceland, more than renting a car in the United States, so be prepared to pay a pretty penny for the car and for any gas refills, but the freedom it allowed us was incomparable.