Although we loved exploring Reykjavik we were keen to go beyond the capital city during our trip in order to see some of Iceland’s natural wonders. It’s otherworldly landscape shouldn’t be missed, so be sure to hire a car and go out exploring!
Iceland’s natural wonders
Thingvellir National Park
Seljalandfoss waterfall was our goal for the day, but on the way we stopped off at the UNESCO World Heritage site Thingvellir National Park.
The day we visited Thingvellir, the weather was abominable – sideways rain, 45mph winds, the works! As soon as we got out of the car we ran to the information centre which thankfully, was indoors, but first had to manoeuvre around huge puddles and patches of ice in the car park while being blinded by the rain. The information centre was packed because of the weather, but we still managed to get around the shop and have a play on the interactive video stands. They told you about the history of the lake and how it was created by volcanic eruptions forming palagonite mountains, as well as the habitats of the wildlife found around the lake. We also found out that there are no new species found there due to the distance between the island and mainland.
Eventually we ventured outside onto the curved wooden walkway to see what we could see of the lake from the well-placed viewing platform and surprisingly, I managed to snap some rather beautiful photos. Hazzah!
We left Thingvellir and headed an hour and a half south to Seljalandfoss waterfall. The scenery is isolated and bleak, but stoically beautiful at the same time. On route we passed snowy mountains, icy blue pools and desolate rocky landscapes. There are huge figures made of stone dotted along the roads, and legend has it that they were left there by elves. You barely see another car on the roads (I don’t want to know what happens if you break down!), so seeing these huge figures every so often is eerily cool.
Anytime you pass a substantial amount of water in Iceland a few seconds later you get a distinct eggy smell coming through the vents of the car because of the sulphur – something you do get used to over time I promise!
We parked in another precariously icy car park and tottered our way over to the main waterfall. It drops 60 metres and falls in front of a cave that visitors can walk to, which makes for some breath-taking photo opportunities.
There is a path that trails along to the left of the waterfall which lies parallel to the cliff. We wandered along it finding smaller waterfalls and nooks to explore. At the end of the path we found a huge cave which, once we explored inside, opened up to house another impressive waterfall. To get into the innermost part of the cave you have to skilfully work your way over slippy stones in a shallow river which runs from the base of the waterfall. My friend did this much better than me and was rewarded with some fantastic photos!
As the weather wasn’t on our side, and waterfalls have a tendency to be rather damp, we got pretty soaked! I would recommend taking towels to sit on when you head back to the car. Despite this it’s definitely well worth the long drive and damp clothes.
While consulting the map, we saw there was a geothermal field nearby (well, when I say ‘nearby’ I mean nearby in Icelandic terms – it took us a good hour to drive there!). You could definitely tell when we were getting closer as the air became decidedly eggier as we neared the car park!
After manoeuvring through yet another icy car park (which had all of two cars using it at the time we got there), we made our way up to the neat wooden walkways that guided you around and over the various pools and up to a viewing platform where you could get some great photos of the whole field.
As you walk over the slats of the walkway, you can hear a fizzing noise which comes from water boiling below you. Bubbles billow out of cracks in the rock and leave white rings swirling around the pools. You can see steam rising off the icy blue water, which along with the breath-taking scenery and eerie silence gives the whole geothermal field an other-worldly feel.
Even if you visit during the depths of winter (our trip was in March) you forget about the cold and the damp when faced with such beautiful sites and I believe it’s worth heading out of the city and seeing Iceland ‘proper’ whatever time of year you visit. I can imagine the landscapes differ vastly as the seasons change, and I’d love to come back in the height of summer to explore even more!
Have you visited Iceland and seen some other natural wonders that stole your heart? We’d love for you to share your top tips for beauty sights in the comments below!