Iceland Pictures – Main Attractions

Jim having a drink at the Blue Lagoon pool bar, Iceland

Photos by Jim and Stephanie, June 2013

Visiting Iceland

Iceland is a bleak and barren land bubbling with volcanic action, very hot water, very cold water and vast, empty landscapes. This is a photo record of a week’s Iceland tourism by Jim and Stephanie in mid June, when the midnight sun was riding the sky but rarely seen due to frequent cloud cover. Hint there for potential visitors: maybe try July or August (or even mid winter! ) if you want to see Iceland under blue skies. June was also still chilly as you can see from the pictures.

Iceland’s main attractions

Gulfoss waterfall

Gulfoss waterfall on the Hvita River, Iceland

The massive, roaring, two-level Gulfoss waterfall on the Hvita River is an awesome sight, either partly frozen in winter or a full-on deluge at other times. The deep canyon the water drops into turns left sharply, adding to the effect, as does the moody landscape around the falls, a potent contrast to the lush vegetation beside the river.

Gulfoss is just an hour out of Reykjavik by car or bus. It’s best to go late to avoid torrents of tourists. Take some waterproof clothing, along with a plastic bag for your camera!

Stephanie as close as close as possible to Gulfoss waterfall, Iceland

Stephanie as close as close as possible to the rampant waters of Gulfoss, also known as Golden Waterfall.

Gulfoss is part of the ‘Golden Circle’ tour

The Golden Circle includes Geysir Hot Springs, main sights in Thingvellir (Pingvellir) National Park, volcanoes, a geothermal power station and Reykjavik’s main attractions. This circuit is an efficient and low cost way to see Iceland’s highlights for tourists short of time.
Alternatively adrenalin activity addicts can white-water raft or go canyoning on the Hvita River .

Gulfoss spray and exit channel, Iceland

On sunny days this Gulfoss spray would produce a guaranteed rainbow.

Jim went to Gulfoss with high expectations and – unlike most visitors – was a little disappointed. Part of the problem was that Jim has already experienced Victoria Falls in Africa and Iguazu Falls in Argentina/Brazil and had high expectations of Gulfoss but it didn’t measure up to those thundering monsters on other continents.

However, the falls are easily approachable by those less steady on their feet due to an excellent pathway and for those requiring a little more exertion and bigger views there is a path up to a panoramic overview (top right in photo above).

Gulfoss is easy to reach from Reykjavik but arguably inferior to other local falls too, such as Dettifoss in northeast Iceland’s Jokulsargljufur National Park, where the rumbling glacial water torrents over a 44m drop, making it Europe’s most powerful fall, or Aldeyjarfoss in the northwest that smashes down onto a weird cluster of basalt columns. In fact Jim even preferred the modest Seljalandsfoss fall, also near Reykjavik (photo below).

The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon overview, Iceland

The Blue Lagoon is a big and brilliant geothermal spa surrounded by black, crusted lava, a fantastic frame for the ice-blue waters. The lagoon was created from pumped-in seawater and geothermal power plant runoff. The plant is visible, smoking in the background.

The Blue Lagoon is about 40 minutes’ drive southwest of Reykjavik near Grindavik and the Viking Museum. It’s also 20 minutes from Kaflavik airport.

The Blue Lagoon, view from restaurant, Iceland

This is the view from the Blue Lagoon restaurant that serves fine cuisine at surprisingly reasonable prices.

Icelandic modern cuisine

And not even a tiny taste of rotted shark meat.

The Blue Lagoon hotel, Iceland

A comfortable hotel, almost invisible from ground level, opens onto The Blue Lagoon with balconies over the public waters and access to private bathing areas. It costs a couple of hundred euros a night but Jim thought it was worth the money.

Stephanie in Blue Lagoon with silica mud on face, Iceland

Smearing poolside white silica mud over your face and/or body from poolside buckets (in the busy public pool) or more naturally from the pool floor itself (in the hotel’s private pool) is one of the popular, free, lagoon activities, along with more proper beauty treatments, lazing in the steamy water or knocking back some pricey Icelandic schnapps from the poolside bar.

Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss waterfall, Iceland

Another pretty waterfall, Seljalandsfoss, is 1. 5 hours east of Reykjavik, on the south coast. Glymur, Iceland’s tallest waterfall, is also not far from Reykjavik, though a tricky hike will be needed to get there.

Iceland Weather

Best tourist season: July and Augustwith average lows of 8C (46F) and highs of 13C (55F).
Worst: December – March, cold temperatures with average lows of – 4C (24F) and highs of 2C (35F).
OK: June, and up to 15 September – everything shuts after that, though December is lively in Reykjavik.

Vatnajokull National Park

Jokulsarlon black beach and icebergs, Vatnajokull National Park, Iceland

Jokulsarlon black beach and icebergs, part of Vatnajokull National Park, a massive space around the Vatnajokull icecap/glacier. Apart from offering waterfalls (including Dettifoss, the largest in Europe), the largest glacier and bizarre hiking trails, the park is also home to nearly year-round ice-climbing, ski-dooing (snowmobiles), dog-sledding and iceberg tours.

Pingvellir National Park

Moss covered lava rocks, Pingvellir National Park, Iceland

Moss-clad lava droppings on the edge of the Laki Craters area, a massive row of volcanic bowls in spectacular Pingvellir National Park not far from Reykjavik and a great place to take walks, both long or short, in a surreal and alien environment. Or there’s horseback riding, angling, diving and snorkeling. . .