Published June 13, 2017
So, you’ve come to Reykjavík, the elf-infested city of glacial whalesong dreams. Let’s assume you’ve noticed by now that pretty much every second plot of land in the city centre is currently a building site coughing out clouds of dust to a symphony of heavy machinery. Where should you go to find the blissful tranquility you’ve heard so much about? Here are some ideas.
Snorkelling At Silfra
Þingvellir’s Silfra Fissure lies directly on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. This means that, theoretically, if you touch both sides of the narrow scuba path at once, you are in both Europe and America. Wow! The fissure is filled with clear, icy water, and a relaxing current. Lazily mozy your way down the fissure while donning a warm suit that creates a zero gravity-esque experience—a trip that’s both figuratively and literally immersive.
Þórsmörk By Superjeep
Þórsmörk is a wild and beautiful area that’s forbidden to normal road vehicles. You can get a bus there and stay at the Volcano Huts, but those on a schedule might want to opt for a Super Jeep tour instead. You’ll be whisked over the black sands to the near-vertical Gígjökull glacier tongue, and taken to dramatic canyons, purple mountains, and surprisingly verdant woods in a dreamlike area of raw and powerful nature.
Reykjanes Peninsula Daytrip
A fun alternative to the Golden Circle is a tour of the Reykjanes peninsula. You can see hot geothermal water bubbling up at the vividly coloured Seltún geothermal area in Krýsuvík, drive over the tectonic divide, see a torrent of steam pouring from Gunnuhver, take in the dramatic rock formations at the Reykjanesviti lighthouse, and still get back to Reykjavík in time for dinner.
Into The Volcano
Fulfil your Jules Verne dreams by descending into the belly of a dormant volcano. After hiking a picturesque track to the mouth of Þríhnúkagígar, just beyond the Reykjavík suburbs, you’ll don a helmet and take a suspended elevator hundreds of metres down into the earth, seeing lava formations that look like they’ve just dried, and deep, fleshy colours, like a Rothko cave. It’s a strangely emotional experience that you won’t forget quickly.
There’s no better way to experience the desolate and vast Icelandic glaciers than on the vibrating leather seat of a snowmobile. Zoom through dusty badlands in a sea of white as far as the eye can see, while also, you know, hopelessly attempting to jump the vehicle. Snowmobiling is surprisingly meditative and soothing as well—the perfect antidote to the crowded Golden Circle. And don’t worry, they provide suits and gloves.
“Forward!” Back!” “Stop!” “Down!” Get ready to hear these words often. Rafting in Iceland is full of rapids and splashes, but it’s still relaxed: it’s action-packed enough to induce adrenaline, but calm enough to not make you consider your mortality. At the halfway point of the tour down the Hvitá river, you can jump off a jutting cliff into the frigid water. Do it. You won’t regret it.