Circling Iceland: The World’s Northernmost Capital to the World’s First Parliament

Located just south of the Arctic Circle, Iceland is even closer to the East Coast of the United States than the distance in between New York and Los Angeles—and a mere 2 to 4 hours by plane from many major cities in Western Europe.

To add to that, Iceland is about as welcoming as a country gets (#2 on the world’s happiest countries list). An abundance of unspoiled nature, breathtaking landscapes, vibrant culture, and friendly people: there’s more than enough to see and do when you visit Iceland!

Reykjavik: Ancient Roots, Modern City

Travelers arrive in Reykjavik, Iceland, with a sense of excitement and adventure. The northernmost capital in the world, Reykjavik, is the first recorded landing site of Norwegian fugitive Ingólfur Arnarson in 874 A.D.; he and his wife are recognized in the Landnáma (also known as the Landnámabók, the book that records the settlement of Iceland) as the country’s first permanent settler. His descendants, and many others, have all helped make Iceland an excellent place for cultural exploration, total relaxation, and thrilling outdoor experiences.

If you’re anything like this city’s current famous entrepreneurs, you like a bite to eat and local haunts: dramatic nature within a 2-hour drive of the airport, if necessary. Fortunately—though not everything in Iceland is within that 2-hour window—many of the country’s more famous sites are very close to Reykjavik.

Here are 7 encounters you’ve got to experience when you visit.

The Seven Essentials

1. The Golden Circle Tour: Þingvellir National Park – Gullfoss Waterfall – Geysir

The Golden Circle Tour is considered to be one of the most popular attractions in Iceland. You’ll get to see some of Iceland’s natural wonders, including Europe’s largest waterfall, Gullfoss, spectacular geysers, natural hot springs, and breathtaking Þingvellir National Park: this makes it ideal for Iceland custom travel.

Make sure your camera is fully charged—you won’t want to miss your chance to capture the stunning scenery on this awe-inspiring excursion!

2. The Blue Lagoon: Relax on your vacation

One of Iceland’s most famous attractions and acknowledged by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon geothermal pool is surrounded by black lava and modern architecture. This soothing natural heated spa is a picture-perfect place to relax and unwind. Better yet, there's a private set of suites that allow you to enjoy the experience of the Blue Lagoon away from the crowds, and an ultra-luxe suite with its own lagoon, wood-burning fireplace, kitchen, and butler.

Spend the day soaking in aquamarine waters, and indulge yourself with a volcanic rock scrub or a calming massage in the water!

3. Solheimajokull Glacier: A walk on the wild side

Located near the infamous Eyjafjallajökull Volcano and within the same icecap as the very active Katla Volcano, this unearthly beauty is only 2 hours east of Reykjavik by car. A smaller offshoot of Mýrdalsjökull Glacier, Solheimajokull’s blue ice struggles to the surface of black volcanic ash—and makes for some pretty impressive landscapes.

4. Jökulsarlon Glacial Lagoon: Bergy bits and Growlers

Take a boat ride through a turquoise gulf of shimmering iceberg fragments filled with bergy bits and growlers that can be visited safely via Polarcirkel boat. You might even get lucky and see a few seals on the journey, too!

5. Whale Watching Tours: Live from Reykjavik

Want to get up close and personal with the gentle giants of the sea? Whale watching tours that set out from Reykjavik’s Old Harbor are extremely popular. There are a number of boat trips that give you the chance to see incredible marine life—minke, humpback, and blue whales, as well as white-beaked dolphins, harbor porpoises, and numerous sea birds, including puffins!

6. The Northern Lights: Capture a bit of winter’s light

A remarkable natural wonder that has to been seen to be believed: Iceland’s high latitude and incredible skies make this wondrous land of fire and ice the ideal destination to see the Northern Lights in all their luminous glory. Winter season (September-March) in the best time to witness this incredible spectacle.

7. Silfra: The Divide Between Tectonic Plates

When the Icelandic Althing—an assembly meant to settle disputes among the members of early Iceland—was established in 930 A.D., the open-air meeting took place on the grounds of Þingvellir. What they didn't realize was their proximity to one of the most fascinating and fierce locations on Earth: the boundary between tectonic plates. Today the assembly is held in Reykjavik, but the beauty of the original location remains intact as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The fissure, named Silfra (or 'silver', 'silvery') seems to have acquired its name from the color of the waters flowing from Langjökull, a nearby glacier. This is one of the most unique hotspots in the entire world: it is the only known place where you can dive into a rift between tectonic plates while surrounded by land.

Iceland is quite the catch. Surprised by the diversity? We are, too, every time we visit.

There’s even more—and we can help you see it all!