We Saw So Many Great Sights In Iceland
On our travels from north to south, we saw such an amazing variety of waterfalls, volcanic and geothermal sites in Iceland. We loved the chance to explore Reykjavik and found a lovely collection of outdoor art. But the natural beauty drew us out for several full day trips.
We started our visit to Iceland with a tour in Northern Iceland from Akureyri. On our stay in Reykjavik, our first day took us around the Golden Circle Route. Our final day trip showed us the picturesque Reykjanes Peninsula. Each tour delivered such an amazing variety of waterfalls, volcanic and geothermal sites in Iceland.
The Science Behind The Sights In Iceland
We saw extensive volcanic and geothermal features in Iceland. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge ran across Iceland. This marked the line between the Eurasian Plate and North American tectonic plates. The plates currently move apart at a rate of about 1 inch per year. As such, Iceland was geologically active with both earthquakes and volcanoes.
Earthquakes happened on a regular basis in Iceland. In an average week, the seismic network detected 500 earthquakes. Most were considered minor. Large quakes (3+ on the Richter scale) generally were in the volcanoes.
Iceland had hundreds of volcanoes and approximately 30 were active volcanoes. There were two large volcanoes in Iceland. Katla was hidden under Mýrdalsjökull glacier and Bárðarbunga was beneath Vatnajökull glacier. Both have been particularly active since 2010.
The largest earthquake in Iceland was in 1784 with a magnitude of 7.1 on the Richter scale. The second largest one was in 1912 at 7.0 on the Richter scale. The more recent earthquakes (around 6.5 on the Richter scale) occurred in June 2000 and then again in May 2008. As we travelled around Iceland, we saw evidence of this volcanic activity.
Iceland also was known for its geysers. Extremely hot waters ran under the ground. Some of this erupted as geysers and some created colourful (if smelly) hot springs. And in Iceland, much of the heat was harnessed for geothermal power. The massive waterfalls found in Iceland were used for hydroelectricity. As a result, most residents had access to inexpensive hot water, heating and electricity.
The Sharp Black Lava Fields
On our day trip in Northern Iceland from Akureyri, we stopped to view the Skutustadagigar Pseudo Craters. This ring of craters was a National Monument.
The second volcanic site we visited from Akureyri gave us a view of the lava formations at Dimmuborgir. The large eruption in the Þrengslaborgir and Lúdentsborgir crater row more than 2,000 years ago created this area of hardened lava lakes, natural arches, pillars and craggy grottoes. It was fun to walk at the bottom of towering lava.
On our tour around the Golden Circle, we visited the Thingvellir (or Pingellir) Lava Fields. Thingvellir National Park was a UNESCO site. It provided an interesting view into Iceland’s geological and historical heritage. We walked along the sheer rock walls. And learned that Thingvellir was also the site of the oldest still standing parliament in the world or Althingi founded in 930 AD.
On our tour along the Reykjanes Peninsula we stopped at the Eldhraun lava field. Sharp black lava rocks jutted from beneath soft green moss. It was created when the Laki fissure and the adjoining Grímsvötn volcano poured out an estimated 14 cubic kilometres of basalt lava and clouds of poisonous gases.
We got such an interesting look at earthquake and volcanic features. A great surprise on our tours to see the waterfalls, volcanic and geothermal sites in Iceland.
Bubbling Geothermal Sites
The first view we got of geothermal sites in Iceland came on our tour of Northern Iceland from Akureyri. The Namafjall Geothermal Field was a colourful field of gurgling sulphur cauldrons and boiling mud pits.
On our Golden Circle tour from Reykjavik, we stopped at the Geysir geothermal area at Haukadalur. The Strokkur geysir blew hot steam high in the air every 5 to 10 minutes. We found a spot up-wind of the bubbling pool and got the greatest show.
When we visited the picturesque Reykjanes Peninsula, we saw the geothermal site at Krysuvik. An extensive set of boardwalks provided access to the different areas in this large site.
Later in the day, we stopped at Gunnuhver. The large field had several areas where steam billowed out. The largest mud pool was 65 feet across and constantly spewed dense, cloudy steam at a scalding 570˚F. Close by we saw the geothermal plants that harvested this energy.
The Blue Lagoon was the last stop when we toured the stunning Reykjanes Peninsula. This was one of Iceland’s most popular attractions. We saw the open lagoons not used for swimming. But on a return visit, we definintely planned to book some time at the pools and spa area.
We were happy we saw such an interesting variety of geothermal features on our tours to see the waterfalls, volcanic and geothermal sites in Iceland. Many of these are often missed by visitors to Iceland.
Two Big Waterfalls In Iceland
Iceland was a country known for its stunning waterfalls. The first waterfall we saw was Godofoss on our tour of Northern Iceland from Akureyri. Godafoss was an Icelandic word that meant “Waterfall of the Gods.” It was certainly a stunning sight when we looked out over the horseshoe falls. They reminded us of Niagara Falls which are an easy day trip for us at home.
On our Golden Circle tour from Reykjavik, our final stop was at the Gullfoss Waterfall. We took the path at the top level for a panoramic view over the waterfall. A walk down gave us an up close view of the two thundering tiers of this waterfall.
We planned to see the Dynjandi Waterfall with the seven cascades that caused it to be called “The Thunderer”. But many of the tours on our stop in Isafjordur were cancelled.
We were happy we visited the Godafoss and Gullfoss waterfalls on our first look at the waterfalls, volcanic and geothermal sites in Iceland. But we know there are still many more waterfalls for on a return visit to Iceland.
Such Great Waterfalls, Volcanic And Geothermal Sites In Iceland
We saw a wide variety of waterfalls, volcanic and geothermal sites as we travelled around the world. The volcanic islands of the North Atlantic drew us from one volcanic site to another. Both the Canary Islands of Spain and the Azores Islands of Portugal left long lasting impacts on us. The Azores also had many hot spring sites that we enjoyed. And of course, we visited the amazing geysers of Yellowstone.
We saw some great waterfalls at the beginning of this cruise around the Nordic countries with Oceania Cruises when we cruised along the Norway Fjords. But we were so excited we saw such a variety of waterfalls, volcanic and geothermal sites in Iceland. On three tour days in Iceland, we moved from one amazing sight to the next. We were glad we spent some time and explored Reykjavík. But no visit to Iceland was complete without an immersion in the outdoor splendours.
We did not see all the waterfalls, volcanic and geothermal sites in Iceland. And we missed the Northern Lights. So there is still much left for a return visit.
Did you enjoy our look at the waterfalls, volcanic and geothermal sites in Iceland? Other than the Northern Lights, was there one that we missed?
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This post brought back such happy memories. My husband and I did the Golden Circle tour, and he proposed at Gulfoss waterfall, totally was not expecting it! You used the perfect word, “thundering” to describe that waterfall, it’s so powerful! It’s not wonder that it’s called the waterfall of the gods!
Stephanie, How wonderful to remember Gulfoss as the place where you were proposed to. A special moment at a special place! Linda
Iceland! How AMAZING that you get to visit this wonderful wonderful country! I wanted to go there but there are travel restrictions right now for me so I can’t 🙁 You seem to have had such a great experience and I can only envy this amazing trip. I’m bookmarking this for later if they lift the travel restrictions and I am able to visit in fall. 🙂
Ann, We were so glad we visited Iceland in 2019. Too bad it has taken me this long to finally get my blog posts caught up. There is so much to see and do. Well worth putting Iceland on the travel wish list. We will definitely return. Linda
Iceland is full of natural wonders but reading this post about its geography made me realize how much more there was to those sights. I remember reading one of your earlier posts on Strokkur geyser or maybe some other one . I was quite fascinated with the fact that they have regular sprouting. The Gullfoss waterfall has always been on my list and I totally envy you for having seen it in person. It looks huge and amazing.
Ami, I hope you get to visit Iceland one day. I wanted to put all the great outdoor natural sites together in one post. So much similarity. But each so different. And we did not see them all! Linda
Wow there are so many amazing natural sites to see. I would love to go to a geothermal hot spring to swim. I absolutely love that sort of thing! I would love to get to Iceland one day. It looks like such an amazing adventure!
Nina, I hope you get to visit Iceland. There was such an amazing variety of outdoor sites. Linda
I really want to swim in the Blue Lagoon! It looks so awesome! Any hot springs I love. Can’t wait to plan a trip to Iceland!
We wish we had the time to actually go into one of the hot springs. At least the ones that were swimmable 🙂 Next time we will do that for sure. Linda
I loved my time in Iceland. I backpacked in hip wasted snow for 2 weeks in April about 5 years ago. It was amazing though I didnt see anything green like you guys did. When I was there, the weather was kind of rough so we werent allowed to traverse past the Glacier so I never got up to The Namafjall Geothermal Field in the North, but we saw tons of geothermal pools hiding throughout the country and all the geysirs were amazing
Eric, I am sure visiting Iceland in the winter is a very different and unique experience. We would like to to back at that time to see it again. And of course, to see the Northern Lights. Linda
Wow brought back my memories from Iceland. I had found the waterfalls so amazing and I had actually seen double rainbows there. So pretty. Also I loved visiting the geysers and seeing the phenomenon. I went on the golden circle too which I definitely think is a must.
Raksha, I am glad to have brought back good memories. So many great spots to visit. Linda
I have only walked on lava fields in Guatemala, but it was much fresher. Not with so many plants and small will flowers like the ones in Iceland. Those geothermal areas look stunning! I would love to bathe in them.
Lourdes, We were definitely fascinated with the variety we found. And in such an active area, we are sure there will be many other lava fields to come! Luckily not when we visited. Linda
I just love Iceland. We went several years ago and saw many of the sights you mentioned. I especially enjoyed Gullfoss Waterfall. And the geothermal activity is also really unique, and defiitely worth seeing along the Golden Circle.
Wendy, It was so great to visit Iceland and see such variety. We were happy we got a couple of extra days to take in some new sights. Linda
Amazing Iceland! Just those lovely waterfalls is reason enough to go there. The geothermal bubbling scenes remind me of something similar in Rotorua in New Zealand’s North Island. Iceland is on my bucket list once this lockdown situation is over. 🙂
Jan, Several people have said the sights remind them of New Zealand. Just one more reason we need to visit. Linda
Iceland is a beautiful and an amazing country. I haven’t been to falls yet but hope to visit Iceland again over New Years if restrictions are lifted and if safe to do so. Pinned so I can return to read nearer the time.
Georgina, We only saw a few of the waterfalls of Iceland but we definitely want to return to see more. Hope you get to visit when it is safe. Linda
I hope so too. it’s been too long now waiting to board a flight…:)
In the Philippines, we also have numbers of geothermal but those in Iceland are way better. Ours can’t be accessed easily and not open for tourism. I would love to visit Iceland someday and enjoy that famous bath.
Blair, I am glad to have shown you the geothermal sites in Iceland. We were quite amazed at how many there were. Glad to look at many even if they were not the kind for swimming. We too want to go back and enjoy a thermal bath. Linda
I feel so drawn to Iceland. It may be the contrast it offers to my Aussie landscape or that it’s the opposite side of the world. Thanks for sharing your discoveries.
Justine, I am glad to show you something at the other end of the world. IT was a great discovery for us. Hope you get to visit one day. Linda
Well those tectonic plates moving continuously certainly helps to explain why the volcanos are so active, and why the world seemed to shut down in 2008 when that eruption happened. We thought the impact on travel was dramatic back then, now look at us in 2020?
Jay, It is amazing how many things have impacted travel over the years. I keep reading about the original SARs pandemic and its impact. We were not travelling much at that point so it had no impact. But boy is this pandemic different. Linda
My sister did a road trip around the Golden Circle and stopped by some of the places you mentioned. I wish I could have gone with her to see the bubbling geothermal sites. Seeing the force of nature shooting water up into the air is so fascinating to me.
Did you end up making it to the Blue Lagoon? If so, did you enjoy it?
Candy, It is too bad you missed the trip with your sister. Iceland was definitely a spot we were glad to have visited while we had the chance. We saw the Blue Lagoon but did not go in due to time constraints. Next time for sure! Linda
Iceland is the country that our family will enjoy to visit. My husband and son will especially enjoy the volcanoes and geothermal, while I will enjoy the waterfalls and the geothermal the most. Special thanks for the volcanoes virtual tour as I don’t really see it from other posts about Iceland.
Umiko, Iceland is a great spot for families to visit. So many great outdoor spots to enjoy. I am glad to show you a part of Iceland that is not normally covered in blog posts. Linda
This is such a lovely read. How I wish to visit Iceland someday. Thank you so much for sharing about those amazing natural sites. This reminds me of Yellowstone National Park in America.
Chirasree, Some of the spots did remind me of Yellowstone too. I hope you get to visit Iceland one day. Linda
I didn’t know that Iceland was located on a fault line, but it makes sense given all these interesting geological sites. I think normally I associate volcanoes and earthquakes with the Pacific, so it just never crossed my mind! I am so impressed by the incredible diversity of landscapes you were able to see. I have heard that there are very few trees on the island so I was keeping an eye out in your pictures, and it appears to be true. What a lovely trip!
Kevin, We loved all the variety we found on this volcanic island. We were happy we chose a number of tours that showed us the different type of sights. And so happy we got to Iceland to experience this. Linda
Wow these are some awesome natural surroundings and sites to see. The geothermal hot spring sounds very exciting. Would love to get to Iceland one day because it seems it has an unmatched charm about it. It looks like it was an amazing trip for you.
Roy, We were so happy we got a few extra days in Iceland due to the change in the plans. It was great to be able to see more of these amazing natural sights. I hope you do get to visit one day. Linda
Iceland is incredible. Photos are mesmerizing. I can’t even imagine your emotions when you saw it all in reality. Just super. I hope I can be there!
Michael, Iceland really was an amazing spot to visit. And we did not see it all! Each new sight was a great discovery. Certainly one for outdoor enthusiasts. Linda
Looks amazing. Iceland has been on my bucket list for tooooo long. Hoping, as its a major birthday next year to visit. But cant plan to far ahead these days.
Sarah, I hope you get to visit Iceland for your major birthday next year. It is certainly a great spot to celebrate. So many different outdoor adventures. We certainly are not laying out cash yet for trips next year. Things are still too uncertain. But here’s hopeing! Linda
Iceland stoked my obsession for travel when I went to celebrate my 40th birthday. All the areas of geothermal activity and waterfalls are beautiful. We did do one of the massages at the Blue Lagoon. You do it floating, which was one of my favorite spa experiences ever. I am intrigued with taking your suggestion to visit Portugal.
Jamie, What a great spot to travel for your birthday. We are sorry we did not go into the Blue Lagoon. I would definitely want to try that floating massage. And yes, Portugal was one of our all time favourite spots. And the Azores reminded us of some of the same landscapes as Iceland. Linda
I am getting more and more intrigued on Iceland after reading so many geographical diversity here. The movement of tectonic plates continuously affects volcano is what I learned new today. Also this place has witnessed so many earthquakes and volcanoes and therefore it has so many diversities of nature which are born during natural calamities. Waterfalls and geo thermal geysers here look wonderful and very soon I will be planning for Iceland.
Yukti, I am sure you will find so many amazing sights when you visit Iceland. We were amazed at the variety. Many people go for the waterfalls. But we were glad we found so much more. Linda
I was supposed to visit Iceland for the first time in March but unfortunately it has had to be postponed until next year. My plan was to attend a yoga retreat in the north & then hire a car to tour the rest of the island for 10 days. Reading your post & seeing your amazing photos has fired up my enthusiasm. I live in the UK…a long way from any volcanic activity & find all of these features absolutely fascinating…& terrifying! The power of the earth blows my mind. Thank you for sharing – it’s great to see the tours & highlights you experienced which will certainly help with my planning when I do eventually make it…fingers crossed!
Sue, Sad to hear that your trip to Iceland was cancelled this year. I am glad this post will help you to plan when this gets back on the planning board again. There was so much to see. You will love it. Linda