Hikers Under the Northern Lights

Iceland’s Sights of Splendor

Your travel bucket list just got a little longer.

Over the last few years, Iceland has soared to the top of travelers’ bucket lists, with more than 2 million visitors descending upon the Nordic island in 2017 — a whopping 24.2% increase from the prior year. That’s a big influx for such a tiny country (population around 338,000) — but maybe summer 2018 is a good time to go, with die-hard soccer fans in Iceland fleeing to Russia to cheer their national team’s very first trip to the World Cup. Here, for those looking to sneak in a getaway while the getting’s good, a look at the sights you don’t want to miss (and probably can’t pronounce).

HALLGRÍMSKIRKJA BDMcIntosh HALLGRÍMSKIRKJA Dominating Reykjavík’s skyline, this concrete Lutheran church is the largest in Iceland, and was designed to resemble Iceland’s glaciers and mountainous landscape. Towering 244 feet tall over the capital city, the landmark church offers a lookout point from its observation tower, with a breathtaking view of Reykjavík’s colorful houses and, on a clear day, the surrounding mountains. Banet12 Towering 244 feet tall over the capital city, the landmark church offers a lookout point from its observation tower, with a breathtaking view of Reykjavík’s colorful houses and, on a clear day, the surrounding mountains.

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CHASING WATERFALLS fotoVoyager CHASING WATERFALLS Iceland is also home to the largest waterfall in all of Europe: Gullfloss. Situated in the Golden Circle, just an hour and a half north of Reykjavík, this majestic force of nature is fed by the Langjökull, Iceland’s second-largest glacier. On a sunny day, visitors might be lucky enough to spot a rainbow shining through the mist. (Check out The World’s Most Magical Waterfalls.) MIDNIGHT MAJESTY Moment/Getty Images MIDNIGHT MAJESTY Another reason to visit Iceland this summer, while the die-hard soccer fans all flock to Russia: The days stretch endlessly, with the midnight sun dominating the horizon from May to August. Because of Iceland’s close proximity to the Arctic Circle, it’s the perfect place to experience 24 hours of daylight, the quality of which transforms into a romantic, golden hue during the late hours.
Horses in the mist
Sunset landscape of Hvitserkur in Iceland
xavierarnau/E+/Getty Images; Moment/Getty Images WESTFJORDS Chalermkiat Seedokmai WESTFJORDS The dramatic landscapes of the Westfjords peninsula, featuring jagged cliffs and coastal vistas speckled with tiny fishing villages, present otherworldly photo ops off the beaten path. It’s a quieter part of Iceland — fewer than 10 percent of tourists ever make it here — but its beauty will knock you out. DANCING LIGHTS powerofforever/E+/Getty Images DANCING LIGHTS Perhaps the most awe-inspiring experience you can have in Iceland is watching the dancing show of the northern lights (or aurora borealis). Caused by the collision of the sun’s electrically charged particles with atoms as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere, this natural phenomenon produces intense streams of color that are typically green, but can also appear in hues of purple, red, pink, orange, and blue.
Stokksnes aurora
Mixed aurora dancing over the Jokulsarlon lagoon, Iceland
iStock/Getty Images BLUE LAGOON iStock/Getty Images BLUE LAGOON Set against a backdrop of volcanic rocks in the southwestern region of Iceland, the Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa and one of Iceland’s most visited attractions. With temperatures hovering between 98 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit and 360-degree views of the surrounding lava-rock fields, the mineral-rich, milky-blue waters of the Blue Lagoon are a great place to blow off some steam.



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