The Vikings call it “the land of ice”, tourist brochures add fire: we will allow ourselves to blow the wind there. This trio was needed to create these unique landscapes that attract travelers from all over the world, who come to contemplate what cannot be seen anywhere else. The earth takes on multiple forms, unknown colors dress it when powerful or discreet sounds animate it. And the sky changes at a crazy pace, lights up, darkens … This nature is a permanent source of wonder just over 3 hours from Paris. Especially since the tourists are not yet too numerous. If you are vaccinated, no more PCR testing, no more quarantine, and you will feel like you have this land of ice and fire all to yourself!
Reykjavík, the small capital at the top of the globe
Reykjavíkwill be your first contact with Icelandic society and its particularities. The city can be explored on foot or by bicycle, in quiet streets or on cycle paths surrounded by nature. The National Museum should be a priority during your visit. The two floors of the museum take us on a journey through time, from the first settlers to today. In the city center, the beautiful Hallgrímskirkja church shoots its concrete organs skyward, while small houses made of wood, stone and colored corrugated iron surround Lake Tjörnin. Then, we walk along the port where we land miraculous peaches and where the Kólaportið flea market is held, a concentrate of popular Iceland. In the evening, we recommend that you take a dip in the naturally warm waters of the Laugardalur swimming pool. Icelanders go there from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., summer and winter, to swim, of course, but also to chat, read the newspaper … And if you are lucky enough to be in the capital on a Friday or Saturday, experience the Rúntur, name of the legendary Reykjavík nights. We go constantly from pub to pub to drink (a lot), dance and listen to groups. For dinner, the capital’s restaurants offer inventive cuisine incorporating the best seafood, available in abundance.
Water and fire at the gates of Reykjavík
Many sites are spread around the capital. Among the curiosities, we will not miss the new Sky Lagoon , which has quickly become a must see in the destination. We immerse ourselves in hot water with an overflow basin that springs from the bowels of the Earth. Between black volcanic rocks, swirls of white smoke, a breathtaking view of the sea, the pleasure for the eyes and for the body is immense.
The other star of 2021 in Iceland is obviously the Fagradalsfjall volcano, which woke up on March 21 after 800 years of sleep. Since then its activity has not ceased and it is in permanent eruption. To observe this spectacular lava spectacle, where molten rock can sometimes spring up like a geyser (visible from Reykjavík), head to the Reykjanes peninsula, between Vogar and Grindavik.
A visit to the Thingvellir Valley National Park will satisfy nature lovers, fishermen, but also history buffs. Here, between lakes, rivers, lichen, grass and the black, open plains of the fault lies the oldest parliament in the world. Yes, this little house with five pointed roofs hosted, in the year 930, the first Icelandic Assembly, the Al ﬂ ing.
The geothermal area of Geysir, with its many fumaroles and bubbling ponds, gave its name to the astonishing natural phenomenon that is the geyser. This is where the country’s most famous specimen, the Strokkur , springs . Not far away, in Gullfoss , nature is once again expressing itself with splendor. The water here does the opposite. She rushes down several landings and falls noisily between black cliffs. The foam which rises in the sky grazes the rainbow which appears during the sunny days.
The Vestmann Islands can be the subject of an excursion by plane or ferry. They offer a concentrate of Iceland: superb cliffs populated by birds (boobies, puffins, murres), a colorful village standing out against dark lava fields, an important fishing port.
We like the setting of the island of Surtsey, a piece of land that may be younger than you, since it emerged from the water in 1963. A boon for scientists who are studying its progressive colonization by plants and animals.
Storming road n ° 1 …
Now is the time to leave the surroundings of the capital. You will follow road n ° 1, the only fully asphalted axis. It forms a circuit that goes around the island and serves superb sites from which there are many hiking possibilities.
Before reaching Skógar, we visit the most interesting folk museum in the country, which is located near a superb waterfall. The road continues to Dyrhólaey, near Vik. This sheer promontory and the southernmost point of Iceland is surrounded by eerie black sand beaches where terns defend their territory, brushing the heads of walkers. Past Kirkjubaerjaklaustur, you cross the impressive landscapes of the immense black plain of Skeiðarársandur.
… discovering the ice caves
Now meander hundreds of rivers that emerge from the melting ice of the majestic Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest glacier looming in the distance. Skaftafell is at the foot of the latter. This national park is crisscrossed by many paths that allow you to approach the glacier, the Svartifoss waterfall and its basalt columns, while contemplating, below, the coast and the black and silver plain. This corner is ideal for discovering the famous Icelandic ice caves. In winter, they form under the Vatnajökull glacier. This unique activity can only be done with a guide between November and March. Indeed, the caves are ephemeral, because they melt and disappear in the spring. Discover this world of ice with intense blue colors of incredible beauty, before a stop further east at Jökulsárlón , made famous by James Bond. In a glacial lagoon surrounded by black rocks, the Vatnajökull breaks up into bluish icebergs. Blocks of ice float on opaline water crisscrossed by a tourist boat.
Then, after admiring the deep fjords of the east coast, where tiny villages nestle, take a sea kayaking tour, cycle around Lake Mývatn , observe sulphurous fumaroles and face the Cascades trail. (where Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe), it will be time to get back on the plane. With only one desire: to come back as quickly as possible and continue to explore this incredible piece of land.