Experiencing Iceland’s Raw Beauty | Luxury Travel Advisor

As we’ve had to postpone our travels mainly because of the pandemic, I imagine a weekly dose of travel dreaming can be excellent drugs. Here is a reminder of the pleasurable that awaits us in Europe at the other stop of this crisis.

Iceland, with cinematic scenery showcasing nature in its rawest variety, thrills outdoorsy tourists. Its intriguing landscape, from rugged coasts to steaming volcanoes and craggy glaciers, provides site visitors a array of adventures tough to locate wherever else.

A single of my most unforgettable Icelandic encounters was my very first tour into a dormant volcano. The Þríhnúkagígur volcano, a 50 percent-hour drive from Iceland’s cash city Reykjavík, last erupted about four,000 years in the past. When its magma drained out, a cavity large more than enough to keep the Statue of Liberty remained. 

Today, through a dear 6-hour “Within the Volcano” tour (which features two-mile hikes to and from the volcano), you can ride a carry through a squeezy opening at the volcano’s leading, then four hundred ft down into its broad chamber. Within, lamps carry out the chamber’s pastel colors, and drinking water, seeping through its ceiling, rains down evenly as you investigate the bouldery flooring.

For a shorter (a single-hour) and substantially less costly volcanic expertise, you can visit Raufarhólshellir, billed as “The Lava Tunnel” — a 40-minute drive from Reykjavík. This five,000-calendar year-outdated lava tube was carved by a river of molten rock that was pressured to burrow deeper after its floor had hardened. When the lava drained out, it still left guiding an intensive tunnel protected in colourful formations. 

After passing beneath a handful of “skylights” wherever the ceiling had collapsed, you enter the intact lava tube — as large as a railroad tunnel in places. Delicate lights brings out the tube’s soft colors and fanciful attributes. At the turnaround point you can expertise a handful of minutes of utter darkness when the guide shuts off the lights.

Extremely, Iceland is not only home to thirty active volcanoes, but a variety of sprawling glaciers. Of the approximately 10 p.c of Iceland that’s protected by glacial ice, the Sólheimajökull glacier on the South Coast is a single of the most accessible.

There, several firms provide excursions of different lengths and trouble. A 50 percent-working day outing with Icelandic Mountain Guides starts with a walk previous an iceberg-loaded lagoon to the foot of the glacier. Then the guide can help connect spiky crampons to your boots for the climb up spooky-hunting canyons of ice and black ash.

As soon as on leading, Sólheimajökull is smoother and whiter. As you crunch throughout the ice, the guide describes how the glacier moves, wherever those people mysterious cones of black ash appear from, how gaping sinkholes look, and how weather change is melting the ice so rapidly that Sólheimajökull could vanish inside of a century.

Even on standard land, Iceland is a wonderland for hikers. Þórsmörk — “Thor’s Woods” — is a leading location, with effectively-marked trails primary to thrilling sights over volcanoes, glaciers, and valleys. Available only on gravel roadways that require fording speeding rivers and streams, most site visitors get there aboard specially outfitted, jacked-up buses.

The key explanation to check out Þórsmörk is the glorious hike to the leading of Valahnúkur mountain. Setting up from the site visitors complicated in Húsadalur Valley, the hike to the summit is a lot less than a mile, but it is really staircase-steep in stretches and gains 900 ft in elevation.

On leading, your sweat earns you a commanding watch of a few glacier-topped volcanoes, together with the infamous Eyjafjallajökull, whose 2010 eruptions choked European air travel. Considerably underneath, the large Markárfljót river valley sprawls to your north and the Krossá river valley to the south, their glacier-fed torrents speeding towards the sea.

For those people who like that somebody else do the climbing, horseback using in Iceland is a exclusive expertise. The descendants of ponies brought in this article by Viking settlers, Icelandic horses are tiny, strong, and docile. They are renowned for their five gaits: Together with walk, trot, and gallop, they have two excess “gears” — the tölt, which is rapid and extremely sleek, and the skeið, a significant-speed “traveling speed.”

A whale-looking at cruise provides a a lot more leisurely expertise and a opportunity to spy the elusive undersea mammals of the North Atlantic. You can expect to see dolphins, porpoises, and midsize minke whales (viewed on area menus) fairly than large humpback or blue whales. Various tours depart from Reykjavík, but locals say the greatest whale-looking at is in North Iceland, from the cities of Húsavík and Akureyri.

For all its ruggedness, Iceland also has its comforts — an abundance of thermal baths heated by the island’s geothermal energy. From touristy “quality” baths these as the Blue Lagoon to municipal pools favored by locals, you’re never ever a lot more than a shorter drive from a thermal bath. Envision wrapping up a vigorous working day of checking out Iceland’s outstanding outdoors with a calming soak in 100-degree drinking water. Aaaaahhh!

From volcano chamber explorations to geothermal pool plunges, Iceland is packed with prospects for adventures and pursuits that you can not easily do wherever else.

Rick Steves (www.ricksteves.com) writes European travel guidebooks and hosts travel shows on general public television and general public radio. E mail him at [email protected] and abide by his blog on Facebook.

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