When I first suggested a spa holiday to a city which is surrounded by breath-taking natural landscapes, I don’t think my friend was thinking of Iceland and its freezing temperatures. But, with a little persuasion and the promise of relaxation followed by a few glasses of the local “Moonshine” we were soon on our way to Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik.
Reykjavik is located in the southwest of Iceland and is home to some of the world’s most stunning natural scenery. Majestic snow-capped mountains tower above geysers spurting steam into the chilly atmosphere, and azure lakes lie within ancient volcanic craters.
Reykjavik Iceland is famously known for its natural hot springs thanks to its volcanic environment. The city’s geothermal wonders include: Nauthólsvík, a beach on the south coast which has an artificial spring and enables swimmers to relax in 20°C waters and hot tubs with water temperatures reaching 35–42°C; Laugardalslaug swimming pool in Laugardalur valley with its Jacuzzis, thermal baths and an 86-metre water slide; and perhaps the most famous of them all, Blue Lagoon, where visitors can experience the natural benefits of geothermal seawater from the mineral-rich hot springs.
Reykjavik’s natural landscapes attract an array of wildlife but for me, the most spectacular of them all are the whales. Boat trips depart regularly from Reykjavik harbour and passengers have a high chance of catching sightings of Minke whales, Sperm whales, Blue whales, Humpback whales and Killer (Orca) whales during a tour. One of the most magical times to see these creatures within their natural environment is at midnight during mid-summer as the colours of the glowing midnight sun bounce off the sparkling ocean waters and surrounding snow-dusted mountains.
Hiking is one of the best ways to explore this stunning capital region and there are hundreds of hiking trails and paths which lead to volcanic mountain ranges, nature reserves, cascading waterfalls, gushing rivers and the Golden Circle. Mount Esja is 914-metres high and one of the most popular routes for hiking. There are several different routes up and around the mountain so hikers of all abilities can enjoy the trip. Those brave (and fit) enough to reach the summit will enjoy panoramic views of the city, fjords, mountains, lava fields and hissing hot springs below.
Videy Island is located just a few minutes from the city by boat and offers numerous trails for walking and cycling. The isolated island is also home to Yoko Ono’s Imagine Peace Tower which is in the form of a wishing well and emits a strong tall beam of light into the sky as a beacon for world peace.
The Northern Lights
One of the main reasons why I wanted to visit Reykjavik was to catch a glimpse of the famous and extraordinary Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). This natural phenomenon has plenty of scientific explanations but once I saw the curtains of glowing green and purple colours ripple across the dark night sky, the facts soon disappeared and the sheer beauty of this sight overwhelmed me. This is one tour that should not be missed and the best times of year to witness the breath-taking occurrence is between September and April and on a clear night if you have the choice. Many tour operators offer nightly trips from Reykjavik city centre and there are options to suite every budget, from coach tours to private guided trips with accommodation.
Scuba Diving and Snorkelling
When you think of the average temperature in Iceland you don’t consider it to be a place for scuba diving and snorkelling. However, the crystal clear waters and mild current (and a 5mm wetsuit) enables divers and snorkelers to experience some of the best diving conditions in the world – and the underwater sights aren’t bad either. Silfa Lake in Thingvellir National Park is a great place to explore the fissure between the Eurasian and American plates and the underwater glaciers. Certified divers can head off to geothermal underwater springs in Lake Kleifarvatn or Silfa or tours around the southern coast of Iceland to explore sunken shipwrecks and diving sites.
Anna Ridley is a freelance Travel Writer who has a passion for travel, writing and fizzy wine. After living in the French Alps for two years, she now lives back by the beach in Cornwall where she is attempting to work her way through her “bucket list”.