At Bold Earth, our goal is to carefully craft adventures that offer authentic experiences for our students. We spend months researching new trips and activities to make sure that we are building safe itineraries, finding reliable partners, and maximizing the time that we have on our tours. Which is why, last spring, I made a site visit to Iceland before we ran our first trip there. The goal was to make sure that we were visiting the best places to visit in Iceland.
Getting to Iceland is fairly simple. There are a lot of reasonably priced flights from many US cities. However, the flight times can be strange. Travelers typically arrive very early in the morning and you can be jet-lagged and hungry. Clearing customs is easy, but navigating the food courts is trickier. You need a boarding pass to purchase food inside of security. My advice; wait until you meet your Bold Earth leaders outside of security. They will have snacks waiting for you. The Bold Earth team will also provide students in advance with photos of where to go to exit security.
When you visit a place like Iceland, there are always going to be a few things on your must-do list; places to visit, food to eat, and things to do. For the Iceland Adventure and Iceland: Fire and Ice program, we tried to balance the things that are on everyone’s bucket list, with some activities that are off the beaten path. For instance, a trip to Iceland would not be complete without a visit to the Blue Lagoon, a hot spring spa that is a byproduct of a geothermal power plant. Minerals that are beneficial to skin are pushed up to the surface by hot water, coating the rock below and making the water look almost fluorescent blue.
Fun fact: Outside of gasoline for cars, Iceland is powered entirely from clean, geothermal energy!
We begin our trip to the land of ice and fire by immediately getting off the regular tourist track. Hiking the highlands by way of the Landmannalaugar trail is a spectacular way to view Iceland. In fact, National Geographic listed it as one of the most beautiful trails in the world due to its variety of terrain and scenery. This 4-day trek is well worth the effort.
Iceland is famous for its waterfalls, and rightly so. During my visit, I lost track of how many gorgeous waterfalls we visited. There is also no lack of variety. Gullfoss is a massive, multi-tiered waterfall that drops off into a strange abyss. Others, like Skogafoss, cascade down from green hills. We even hike behind some of the falls, immersing ourselves in the mist and scattered light.
I’ve traveled all over the world, and I have never seen beaches like the ones we visit in Iceland. The basalt columns of the Reynisfjara beach, where they filmed scenes from Game of Thrones, create a natural fortress along the coast. I could have spent hours exploring the rocks. Diamond Beach is a black sand beach where ice washes ashore. This gives the appearance of giant diamonds resting on a black-velvet backdrop. This is very close to where our group goes rafting and glacier sea kayaking.
The Golden Circle:
The Golden Circle should be on anyone’s Iceland shortlist. Imagine a geyser that blasts steaming water 100 feet into the air every few minutes. Visiting Thingvellir National Park is like stepping into a time machine. This was the epicenter of Viking culture and it’s easy to imagine the medieval fairs and elections happening here over 1000 years ago.
My favorite part of the Iceland site visit came down to the hot springs. At one point on our trip, we will take an evening hike up to a secluded hot spring creek that runs a few hundred yards long. There, you can gaze at the surrounding mountains and hop from one spot to the next to find the pool with the perfect temperature for you.
A trip to Iceland would not be complete without visiting Reykjavik. This walkable city is vibrant with culture and arts. I spent hours walking into the markets and sampling the local cuisine. For a taste of home you can even grab a hot dog, a dish Icelanders can’t seem to get enough of. There are beautiful sculptures placed throughout the city, and the architecture is very impressive.
Iceland is one of my favorite destinations I’ve visited. Regardless of if you visit with family or on a Bold Earth adventure, Iceland is worth the trip. If you have any questions about Iceland, feel free to give us a call at 303-526-0806 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re always excited to talk adventure!