If you want to see some of the wonders of the world, then a visit to Iceland to see the Northern Lights has to be at the top of the list. My Mum and Dad recently went on a cruise around the Fjords in Iceland, where they had the chance to see the Northern Lights, and they came back to tell us all about how fantastic it was, and that it was such a once in a lifetime experience.
Iceland is a very unique place to visit, with totally different things to offer than countries in the south of Europe. I hadn’t thought about it so much, until I heard my parents recommending it, so I decided to do a little research on the things to do and see there.
As I mentioned, the Northern Lights would definitely be one of the must see features of Iceland for me. Also known as Aurora Borealis or polar lights, they are a natural light display that occurs when solar winds disturb the Earth’s magnetic field – and the result is a mesmerising and colourful display in the sky! You can get an idea from pictures of how amazing this would be, but I’m pretty sure nothing could compare to the real thing. I’d love the chance to try my own attempts at capturing this in photos too.
Following the Golden Circle is another popular option when visiting Iceland. This is one of the most popular routes for touring the south of the country, and is made up of three main stops. After setting out from the capital, Reykjavík, it passes the Þingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss waterfall, and the geothermal area in Haukadalur, containing the geysers Geysir – which is dormant and Strokkur – which still erupts every five or ten minutes. There are other small stops on the route too.
Travelling with a guide along a well known tour route would be a great option when visiting a country for the first time, to make sure that you don’t miss out on any of the sights, and to get their expert local knowledge and insight.
Christmas in Iceland
Christmas is a time when people often like to visit colder places, where you could imagine Santa Claus living! Iceland would fit the bill there, although interestingly tradition in Iceland talks of not just one Santa but actually 13 Santas, known as Yule Lads! It could definitely be a magical place to visit with the kids over the festive season, and a great way to introduce them to new traditions. The Christmas period in Iceland starts on the 23rd December and lasts until the 6th of January (known as Epiphany).
Shops will normally be closed from the 24th-26th December, but popular trips like the Northern Lights will still be operating as well as other activities like snowboarding or whale watching.
The biggest party of the year in Iceland is at New Year’s Eve so this could be a great time to visit too, to take part in those festivities. Like in the UK, it’s celebrated with fireworks but it sounds like the fireworks in Iceland could be more spectactular, lasting the whole evening with a grand finale at midnight.
Obviously, you will need to wrap up pretty warm when visiting a colder country over the winter season. I’ve been advised from family and friends that it’s best to wear plenty of layers, avoiding 100% cotton and it’s better to use the “non scratchy wool” such as merino wool to make up your layers. This is especially important to plan well when travelling with children as you’ll want to be well prepared, and for the kids to be comfy and happy.
Wildlife in Iceland
There’s plenty of wildlife to see in Iceland too, which is great for children, or if you want the chance to try out your wildlife photography skills! One of the animals I would love to see would be puffins, which are quite commonly found in Iceland. Látrabjarg Cliffs in the Westfjords of Iceland, the westernmost point in Europe, is one of the three largest bird cliffs in Iceland and is a great place to see the Atlantic Puffins.
There are also plenty of seals (Z’s favourite animal, so they would be a must-see for us). You can find good seal watching locations at Svalbarð, Illugastaðir and Hvítserkur.
Beaches in Iceland
Although you might think of Iceland for it’s cold weather and Northern Lights, there are also plenty of beautiful beaches in Iceland too. Since Iceland is an island, there’s no shortage of coastal areas and many of them are home to sandy beaches. There’s Nautholsvik in Reykjavik which is a thermal beach, with hot water flowing into it’s bay. If we visited during the summer, then beaches like this would definitely be on our to do list.
Have you been to Iceland, or are planning to? Share your tips and experiences with me in the comments section if so!
All images credited to: http://www.iceland.is/press-media/photos