The beautiful island of Iceland may be known for its volcanic activity, twinkling night sky lit by the Northern Lights, and charming capital, Reykjavik, but there is much more to be discovered atop this tiny stretch of land approaching the Arctic Circle. Here, we explore just a few of Iceland’s hidden gems, giving you even more reason to explore this wonderful part of the world.
Recognisable as the setting for a few scenes in Game of Thrones, this massive volcano was used as the backdrop when Jon Snow and pals went north of the wall. Used to represent the icy tundra of the Fist of the First Men as well as the Frostfangs, Snæfellsjökull is a 700,000-year-old stratovolcano with a massive glacier covering its summit.
The amazing site is also the setting for Jules Verne’s 1864 novel, Journey to the Centre of the Earth – in which the volcano plays host to the centre of the earth’s entrance.
Grótta in Reykjavík
If you can tear yourself away from the beautiful restaurants and boutiques found in Reykjavik’s small centre, you should make your way to the west of the city and visit the Grótta nature reserve. Home to a wonderful selection of indigenous birds and perhaps the best sunset views in the city, Grótta is a captivating place to visit during a trip to the capital.
If you arrive during low tide between July and April, you may also be able to walk out to the picturesque lighthouse which is just off the coast.
Iceland is not a country short on waterfalls (Foss in Icelandic), but Gljúfrabúi is slightly off the beaten track and something of a secret which locals like to keep to themselves. Located in the south of Iceland, Gljúfrabúi is located a five-minute walk from the Seljalandsfoss (which you are much more likely to visit as part of a tour), located next to a local farm. If you find a couple of rocks which form a cave entrance, venture through them and you will be greeted with a stunning natural waterfall, with numerous streams cascading overhead.
A frozen lava field close to the Krafla volcano in the north of the nation, Mývatn Lake was created by a massive lava eruption over 2,300 years ago. The landscape is typified by lava pillars and pseudocraters – creating a frankly bizarre backdrop. The Mývatn Lake was another site which was used as a setting for Game of Thrones, this time the location of Mance Rayder’s wildling army camp.
If you’re planning on making camp there this summer, be aware – the lake is home to a huge volume of midges.
Holuhraun Lava Field
Iceland’s volcanic eruptions may have seriously disrupted air travel, but they’ve also helped create some truly spectacular backdrops. The Holuhraun lava field takes on the appearance of Mordor with trails of lava winding across this charred, barren backdrop. Although you can’t get too close, you’ll be able to feel the amazing warmth of the volcanic earth beneath your feet.
The lava field will remind you just how wild and powerful the planet is, capable of destruction and devastation in the blink of an eye.
If you’ve scanned through this article for mentions of Game of Thrones, Grjótagjá cave is an absolute cracker. The cave is the real-life location in which Jon Snow and Ygritte had their famous first steamy encounter. A fully functioning thermal pool, the cave is popular with visitors in the know – who look to create their own steamy moments (even if this is just natural, thermal steam) within the beautiful location.
A long, but relatively easy, hike, the Stakkholtsgjá Canyon is a stunning descent underground with waterfalls and rock faces dominating your views. Make sure you pack a decent pair of waterproofs though, the last 100 metres of this hike require you to wade through a river to reach the final reward of a stunning waterfall.
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