Think of Iceland and the first thing that comes to mind is the Blue Lagoon (which I must add, is amazing), but the Blue Lagoon isn’t the only natural attraction here.
Home of Bjork (the famous quirky singer), and plenty of puffins, this stunning island is located in the north of Europe, neighbouring the Faroe Islands, 18 unspoiled islands which form part of the Kingdom of Denmark.
Iceland is a living wonder with the most intriguing landscape. The sun never sets in the summer and the volcanic activity never stops.
Years before I visited this unique island to take part in their half-marathon. To say that I was not blown away by this geothermal wilderness with its Viking history and milky blue lagoon is an understatement. But there is more to Iceland than the Blue Lagoon.
Built on top of huge hot water tanks that heat the city, this dome shaped building sits on a 61 metre high hill in Reykjavik, the capital. Inside is a revolving restaurant, and an observation tower offering 360 degree views with a mountainous backdrop. Learn about the viking history in the waxworks museum where the ancient sagas tell their tale of the country's viking history. The building is a symbol of Icelandic architecture, and is where hot water is collected and distributed amongst the capital.
“A church,” I hear you cry but this is no ordinary church! It's a church with a jagged difference: jagged that is in terms of architecture. Built over a period of 40 years, the tower can be seen from almost everywhere in the city and stands above the colourful chalet type buildings as a beacon. It took 40 years of construction and is one of Reykjavik’s most notable landmarks with tall slender columns.
Geysir / Strokkur
Nearly everywhere you go in Iceland is just spectacular but if you’ve ever wanted to see boiling mud and tall erupting geysers then head to the southwest of the island to Geysir. Located in the Golden Circle this area provides one of the most natural shows on the island. Reaching 30 metres high, the Strokkur fountain geyser erupts so frequently that you are guaranteed to get some amazing footage. Apparently Geysir was dormant for years and only began erupting again in 2000 when an earthquake revived the area.
A glacier lagoon dubbed ‘nature's ever-changing sculpture park.' This stunning landscape is dotted with small icebergs and fragments of glacier that constantly shift. It is a six hour drive from Reykjavik, and is part of a Golden Circle tour, which takes in many of Iceland's landmarks including natural geysers and hot springs.
Mount Eyjafjallajokull glacier
The famous volcano that erupted all over the world (literally) in headlines when it caused travel disruption in 2010. A day tour will take you here and you even get two icy waterfalls thrown in for the price.
You can’t go to Iceland and not see an Icelandic horse. As small as ponies, this local breed can be found within the natural pastures of the idyllic valley of Hvergaldi. This garden city is also home to many green houses and you can even see white steam rise out of its barren landscape.
Over twenty types of whale can be seen in the Icelandic waters, the most popular being minke and humpback whales, (although these are also popular in restaurants with diners). Puffin colonies lay off the coast of the capital and it is estimated that Iceland has over 8 million puffins (and yes, they do eat these as well).
Reykjavik itself has many weird and wacky statues that give the capital its charm but don't expect anyone to rush here, they take everything at their own pace. Icelanders appear to be nocturnal and you won't find many on the streets until after the midnight hour but with the country having nearly 24 hours of daylight in the summer, you can say that the city never sleeps. Contrary to belief, prices aren't that steep, since Iceland suffered in the recession, food and drink are now a modest London fee.
But a trip to Iceland would not be complete without a visit to the milky blue, bubbling waters of the Blue Lagoon, after all it probably was what drew you to this country in the first place. The largest bath tub in the world, 40 degree centigrade. a geothermal natural wonder. 5000 metre lagoon set in a lava field.
If you're lucky enough to have longer than a weekend here, hire a car and explore the rest of the island. Activities are aplenty, try your hand at snowmobiling, dogsledding, glacier walking (all year round), or if you want to see what lays under this fascinating country then try lava tube caving. Of course there are always Northern Lights tours in Iceland to keep you entertained between October and March.
The Iceland Half Marathon takes place in August. You can even run the whole marathon if you prefer. With such spectacular scenery to run around, Iceland is one of the last natural paradises on Earth and is so much more than the Blue Lagoon…