8 Places To Explore In Iceland
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8 Places To Explore In Iceland

8 Places To Explore In Iceland

Let's get one age old question out of the way, once and for all. Iceland is not always icy, whereas Greenland is consistently snow covered. Now that the question has been put to rest, the real dilemma is: How can Iceland -- a country smaller than my home-state of Pennsylvania -- be considered a bucket list tourist destination? The answer is simple: In one day it is possible to stand on the edge of a volcano, get splashed by a waterfall, swim in natural hot springs, and eat some of the best hotdogs around.

I've traveled to Iceland twice, visiting a large portion of my extended family who are native Icelanders. Since I too share these genes I would like to think that along with my extremely pale complexion I have also inherited some insight into the best places to visit while traveling there. So without further adieu, here are my top eight places worth exploring in Iceland.

1. The Blue Lagoon.

If you have been on social media in recent years, pictures of the iconic geothermal spa the Blue Lagoon, have been publicized, with the bright blue water making everyone question if it is all just Photoshop. Well, it's not. Although this is the number one tourist destination in Iceland, it's beauty cannot be topped. Plus, if you like hot tubs, this spa amplifies them by 100 percent.

The Blue Lagoon utilizes the naturally occurring phenomena of geothermal hot springs caused by the lava field it is located on. This may sound dangerous, but it yields only relaxation and incredible views. Definitely a travel must.

2. Eldhestar Volcano Horse Tour.

Horseback riding through an (inactive) volcanic field. Need I say more? And if you are someone with a fear of horses or have never rode before, these are small, fluffy, and well trained, making the experience enjoyable even to the most inexperienced rider. It also doesn't hurt as a conversation starter to begin with, "This one time I was riding a horse through a volcanic field..."

3. Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur.

No, this is not a famous landmark or nature site, but a small hotdog stand in Reykjavik (the capital). The name directly translates to "the best hotdog in town" and it does not disappoint. Not only does the stand have an incredible view of the harbor, but it has even gotten the attention of former president Bill Clinton who endorses the stand after trying a hotdog on a visit.

What sets the dogs apart is the red color coming from the primary meat being lamb. They are surprisingly good, this coming from a girl who's family still eats one brand of hotdogs exclusively. To get the full experience however, include the standard ketchup and mustard along with remoulade: a mixture of mayo and pickles. Not near the harbor during your trip to Iceland? That's okay because there are four other stands throughout the country to satisfy your craving.

4. Gullfoss (Golden Falls).

This waterfall is just one of the hundreds in Iceland, but its double falls and chance to see full rainbows over them nearly daily places it above many others. What I found most satisfying about these falls is that unlike many of the ones I've encountered in the United States (think Niagara Falls), Iceland's have hardly any restraints between you and the drop. They are not commercialized, and nearly unfettered by human influence. Standing on the edge of a cliff right next to the falls was one of the most invigorating experiences of my life.With a rainbow above you and a waterfall below you, the power of natural beauty in Iceland is unforgettable.

5. Harpa.

The architecture of this concert hall, alone, should draw you to it with the building made almost entirely of glass panels of varying colors. This design was created for an impeccable view of the Reykjavik harbor, allowing for views of the ships coming in from all sides. If the shear beauty of the hall doesn't entice you, Iceland has since gotten a number of performers since its 2011 construction. Plus, with architecture this unusual it is impossible to not take a few photographs of the outside.

6. Geysir.

Geysir is what English speakers would know as geysers, or natural vents in which hot water and steam erupt. Since Iceland is home to several volcanoes, these are a common occurrence being activated by magma. Geysir is the largest in Iceland, located on a geyser field in which every few minutes one erupts. Watching for the eruptions is the primary source of entertainment, but I always seemed to have my back turned at the wrong moment, missing the action. Maybe you will have better luck than I did.

7. Kolaportið Flea Market.

This traditional Icelandic flea market is located directly on the harbor, with vendors selling fresh fish, produce, and a collection of clothing and knick knacks. My first encounter here involved being pressured into trying pickled shark. It tasted exactly how you would expect and needless to say It did not go well. However, walking around this market is where you can get a true sense of the traditional Iceland experience and cuisine. If you are a bread and cheese fanatic such as myself prepare to enter paradise. I left this market with pounds of cheese along with Rugbraud and Flatkokkur two common breads that I ate nearly daily for breakfast, lunch, and I hate to admit it, but dinner too. Needless to say, a few extra pounds of bread weight is worth it and this market does not disappoint.

8. Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral.

Standing tall above the other buildings in Reykjavik, is this massive Lutheran cathedral. It cannot go unnoticed when walking around the capital, and therefore must be included in this list. The cathedral features a huge statue of Icelandic viking, Leif Erickson standing tall in front of it. If you have the chance, going to the top offers one of the best views of Reykjavik, the center of activity for this small country full of great beauty.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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