Experience the land of fire and ice

How about an island getaway? Enjoy the history and culture, great fish dishes, hot springs, geysers, waterfalls, volcano and glaciers. Wait, what? Yep, glaciers, because we’re talking about an island getaway to the Land of Fire and Ice, Iceland. There’s all that and, Viking lore, baking a loaf of rye bread in the ground, black sandy beaches, whale watching, Northern Lights and hiking on a glacier. Intrigued? We gotcha covered. The travel advisors at GetAway Travel can send you to the Land of Fire and Ice with a packed itinerary designed to give you memories that will last a lifetime. 

Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall with Kirkjufell mountain in background

 Take a trip to a happy place 

 The Nordic nation of Iceland has some fabulous landscape which filmmakers have used to their advantage. Parts of Star Wars’ Rogue One, some James Bond scenes as well as Game of Thrones has scenes filmed in Iceland.  

The geothermal grotto and cave, Grjotagja is among areas of Iceland featured in Game of Thrones

The country has been consistently rated as one of the happiest in the world which translates to great vibes for visitors. July and August are the warmest months, but June with its 20 or so hours of daylight during the summer solstice is pretty popular. 

Most of Iceland’s population lives in the capital of Reykjavik which is powered almost entirely by geothermal. Iceland is a pioneer in geothermal energy use because of its unique geological situation. It is a nation that sits atop a rift between continental plates as well as a volcanic hotspot. 

Reykjavik Iceland

There are places in Iceland where the geothermal activity is warm enough that yes, you can bake bread in the ground. There are hotels and restaurants that will help you prep the rye bread dough, bake it and then you get to slather butter on it and eat it. 

 The Blue Lagoon, architectural marvels 

 The Blue Lagoon, no — not the movie, is a spa experience you shouldn’t skip if you are in the Reykjavik area. It is a pristine pool heated by geothermal waters and it stays the temperature of bath water year-round. The milky blue water has a high silica content so it’s very beneficial to the skin. You just sort of soak, float, unwind and take a mud spa treatment if you wish. If it’s the right time of the year, you can experience the Northern Lights. 

The Blue Lagoon

Shower when you are done and dine at the nearby restaurant. 

The Blue Lagoon has one of the black sand beaches in Iceland. The striking beaches are formed from volcanic material that is worn down. The black sand beach at Reynisfjara is very pretty as are the Vik and Dyrhólaey beaches. There’s something magical about watching the sun set or rise with a black beach as a backdrop. 

Hallgrímskirkja Church

The Hallgrímskirkja Church is the city’s most famous landmark. With its stunning height (244 feet tall) and curved sides like wings, it is a popular spot to visit. For a fee you can take an elevator to an observation platform at the top of the tower for spectacular panoramic views of the city. 

Inside the church is a huge 5,000 pipe organ and there is really not a bad place to stand for some memorable pictures. Hallgrímskirkja is at the top of one of the prettiest and most popular shopping streets, Skólavordustigur. 

Hallgrímskirkja Church Interior

The next most famous landmark is the Harpa Concert and Conference Hall. The hall has received numerous awards for design and beauty. It is home base for the Icelandic Symphony and it also hosts exhibitions and shows throughout the year. On the seafront by the Harpa is the Sun Voyager sculpture. This famous steel sculpture of a stylized boat was created by Jon Gunnar Arnason. 

 Natural marvels and lights 

 The Golden Circle is a 186-mile route that goes through Reykjavik and the surrounding area giving visitors a taste of a lot of geological wonders. You’ll see the geyser geothermal area. The Strokkur Geyser is the most dependable to be able to see and photograph an eruption.  

Europe’s largest glacier is in Iceland. The Vatnajökull glacier in Vatnajökull National Park feeds the meltdown lake in the park and if you can’t visit Antarctica, taking a boat tour in Jökulsártón Glacier Lagoon is the next best thing. Get up close and personal to gorgeous blue, white and turquoise icebergs mixed with volcanic waste floating in the water. 

Vatnajökull National Park

Visit the ice caves on a tour, take a tour because the caves melt and reform with the weather and you want to make sure you are touring a cave and not a puddle or ice chunk. 

There are striking waterfalls in Iceland. At the Dettifoss Waterfall the water plummets 147 feet down with such force the mist from it can be seen for miles. The falls were featured in the movie, Prometheus. The Gullfoss Waterfall cascades down through multiple drops and if the weather is cooperating, you can walk behind the Seljalandsfoss Falls. 

Seljalandsfoss Falls

Now to the fire part of the country’s nickname. There are active volcanoes on the island and get information from your travel advisor about booking a tour because the guides are aware of which volcano may be erupting. It is best not to wander around an active volcano site without a guide. The volcanoes are on a strip off the Golden Circle and they include Fagradalskfjall, Eyjafjallajokul, Katla and Hekla. 

Eyjafjallajokul volcano crater

The Northern Lights are an atmospheric phenomenon of waves of colored light and they can be viewed throughout Iceland, but they look the best away from light pollution. There are actually apps and websites that help you track where the best places to view the lights would be, and there are light tours that take you out of the city to viewing places. 

Humback Whale in Iceland

Take a whale watching tour! Tours are available along the South coast and at the waters around Reykjavik, but also on the North coast where the waters are quieter and that area attracts more whales. 

 Museums and the cuisine 

 The museums in Reykjavik are fabulous. The National Museum of Iceland has a huge collection of artifacts and archeological items and they are arranged in chronological order so its like taking a trip back in time. The Saga Museum has life-size and life-like replicas of historic scenes from Viking times.  

The largest whale museum in Europe is the Whales of Iceland Museum. There are life-size models of 23 whale species and interactive exhibits. 

You are guaranteed to see Northern Lights at the Northern Lights Centre. The visual displays of Northern Lights from throughout the country are projected on a 23-foot wide screen. There is an interactive exhibit and you can get a lesson on the best way to photograph the lights. 

Northern Lights

The Perlan Museum, including the rotating Perlan Dome has nature exhibits which include the world’s first indoor ice cave, a glacier exploratorium and a planetarium. There’s also a café, restaurant and ice cream parlor.  

Perlan Musuem, Reykjavik

Speaking of ice cream, it is extremely popular in Iceland. As a matter of fact, there are ice cream parlors that stay open until the wee hours of the morning so you can have a sweet, icy treat after checking out the nightlife in Reykjavik. Indulge your sweet tooth by trying a snúôur, a soft iced cinnamon bun or a kleina which is a sort of twisted doughnut/pastry creation. 

Icelandic Horse

While it is doubtful you hear “yum — Mutton!” every day, don’t skip the Icelandic lamb stew which is called kjötsúpa. This rich, tasty stew includes herbs, onions, leeks, rutabaga, carrots and potatoes. The hotdogs, made with lamb, pork and beef, are world renowned. They are served on a warm, steamed bun with raw onions, crispy fried onions, ketchup, sweet brown mustard and a remoulade. There are more than 300 species of fish off the waters around the island and three species of salmon. Fish is on the menu! 

kjötsúpa – lamb soup

You can find craft beer everywhere and there are vodkas as well as a number of non-alcoholic drinks, including one similar to Fanta orange soda, made in Iceland. 

We are going to gently advise you to stay away from the fermented shark (hákarl) and if someone offers you a tipple of Brennivínor, that’s a cumin flavored liquor nicknamed black death. Enough said. 

hákarl curing in shed

 If Iceland is an island getaway you’re considering — give GetAway Travel a call. We can be reached at:  (262) 538-2140, e-mail: sue@getaway.travel or paul@getaway.travel 

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