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I visited Iceland back in 2014 just when it was on the cusp of tourism mega-fame. Iceland had been gaining increasing attention across Europe since 2011 when Easyjet first announced direct flights from the UK. Now it is a tourism hot-spot!
In the past 5 years the number of tourists visiting Iceland annually has doubled. And now with the “Iceland Stopover” becoming increasingly popular to and from the USA / Canada these tourism figures will only increase.
If you haven’t been already, fear not, you’ll still feel as if you have the entire island to yourself. Iceland remains the stunning wilderness that you’re hoping for. In this article I’ll tell you about my time in Iceland (this is a blog after all, gotta keep it personal), a bit about things to do in Iceland including the best trips for exploring Iceland, horse riding in Iceland and a guide to Reykjavik. Now, let’s get started.
Exploring and Horse Riding in Iceland
Reykjavik is a small, colourful capital. I stayed in the Loft Hostel which has a great rooftop bar frequented by locals and guests alike and is located on the main shopping street. Two-person private rooms start from €120 (this is a bargain in Iceland, trust me).
On that note, Reykjavik is expensive, let’s not beat around the bush here. The average price of a pint of local beer is around €8. So be prepared for that. However, other things such as day trips can be reasonably priced.
In Reykjavik make sure you visit the penis museum, yep, it is proud home to the world’s largest display of all things penis! Other “must-sees” are the Hallgrímskirkja cathedral and the old town centre where you’ll find the parliament and town hall.
Food is great and varied in Reykjavik. I loved The Laundromat Cafe for veggie options and atmosphere. If you’re into fish/seafood you’ll find a plentiful supply in this city. Kex bar is a great place for drinks and a bite to eat too. When I tried to go I turned up just as it was closing, so if you go, please tell me all about it! Exploring Reykjavik is just one of many things to do in Iceland. Now, let’s see what the rest of the island has to offer.
Tours Around Iceland
There are tonnes of spots in Iceland that you’ll recognise from Justin Bieber music videos, Game of Thrones episodes or many, many movies. From powerful waterfalls to vast glaciers, Iceland’s terrain is varied and visually impressive.
Most people will opt to do some variety of Golden Circle tour. On any Golden Circle tour you’ll visit the Geysir geothermal park, Gullfoss waterfall and Thingvellir National Park as a minimum. It’s popular for a reason. These are some of the most stunning sights in Iceland.
Another popular day trip from Reykjavik is to the Blue Lagoon. When I went I opted for the comfort package, but the basic package is fine if you bring your own towel. Relax in the warm turquoise waters, pack on a silica mud mask and just chill – perfection.
I also did a day tour along the South of the island. This included glaciers, Reynisdranger sea stacks, Skógafoss waterfall, Seljalandsfoss waterfall, and the Skógar Folk Museum. The highlight for me was Seljalandsfoss as there was a double rainbow right in front of the waterfall when I arrived. Also, you can walk behind the waterfall and see it from a completely different view. Definitely Instagrammable. In fact, the entire country of Iceland is a photographer’s dream.
And , of course, if you’re visiting between September and April a trip to chase the Northern Lights in a given. Unfortunately for me I visited in summer so missed the chance to see this gorgeous natural phenomenon. A group bus tour or a self-guidied driving tour are just a couple of ways to see the amazing sights of Iceland. During my time in Iceland I saw the island from an even more unusual perspective by horse riding in Iceland. How did that go? Let me tell you.
Horse Riding in Iceland
Horse riding in Iceland is by far top of my list of things to do in Iceland. I am horse mad! I’ve been riding since I around 6 and I just love it. I’ve had horseback adventures in Australia, Peru, the Philippines and more but this was one of the best horse riding experiences that I’ve had anywhere in the world. The Icelandic horses are famous for their small sturdy appearance and unique gait, the tölt. I did a day trip with a group up into the mountains on a horse called Pegasus. There were geysers and hot springs all around us. The terrain was rocky and uneven in places, but flat and comfortable in others. It was a perfect intermediate ride. We rode along the edges of cliffs and beside rivers until we go to a series of natural hot springs where we were able to dismount and go for a swim. This was a far cry from the commercial Blue Lagoon. There were no roads up to this part of Iceland. No tourist buses could reach us up in that spot. It was just me, my group and the horses. I got to see a completely different side of the island. And sure, my ass and thighs were pretty sore after 6hrs in the saddle, but the views and the soak in the natural hot spring made it all worth while. I would highly recommend horse riding in Iceland to anyone that is comfortable around horses.
Let’s Wrap it Up
So as you can see there are plenty of things to do in Iceland and so many different ways to explore Iceland. From exploring Iceland on horseback to self-guided driving tours and more, you’ll find your own unique perspective on this incredibly varied country. You can fly direct from Dublin or London to Reykjavik. I HIGHLY recommend you take a window seat, it’s a hell of a view.
Have you been to Iceland?
What perspective did you see Iceland from?
Would you be brave enough to try horse riding in Iceland?