Where to explore outside Reykjavik
If you want to get a grip on the land of fire and ice outside of the city (as well you should), there are a number of options.
The golden circle route is a popular tourist trail, and takes in some of the country’s best-known natural attractions, Thingvellir National Park, Gulfoss waterfall, and two geysers – the inactive Geysir and Strokkur, which erupts at five- to ten-minute intervals. There are organised tours run by companies like Superjeep, which will take you zooming over the landscape in a 4×4, but for those who prefer to explore independently (and at lower cost), renting a car is the best bet.
Many come to Iceland in the hope of seeing the Northern Lights. Catching them is never guaranteed, though you are most likely to be treated to a show from September to April, when they are at their most vibrant. The Lights can be seen all over the country (and even from the city centre), but Thingvellir National Park is a popular viewing spot (as is the Grotta Lighthouse (no website), around 45 minutes’ walk or a short bus ride from the city centre).
Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon – a vast, sulphur- and silica-rich geothermal pool reputed to confer numerous health benefits on bathers – may be brimming with sopping sightseers, but its steaming volume of opalescent water is unlike anything you’ll see anywhere else in the world. Seljavallalaug (no website), a thermally heated pool at the foot of the Eyjafjoll Mountains in South Iceland, is a less touristy option with stunning scenery.
Other beauty spots include Jokulsarlon Lagoon, from which you can get an incredible view of the ice cap. Photo opps aplenty – just as you’ll get wherever you are in this unique country.