Iceland is unlike any country I have ever visited. Nature is BIG; its beauty almost rendered me speechless. My husband and I couldn’t wait to get up each morning because each day was filled with extraordinary landscapes shaped by the country’s 130 volcanoes, and with every step, we became even more infatuated with this land of fire and ice.
These were some of the highlights of our Northern Lights Tour hosted by Collette Travel.
Our tour began and ended in Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital city. We enjoyed the old world charm of this city that showcases Icelandic culture, peaceful areas to stroll and relax—as well as modern architecture. Reykjavik is quiet, has little crime and its friendly atmosphere is palpable.
2) The Northern Lights
Seeing and experiencing the Northern Lights was a top-tier bucket list item for me. Although our visit was in winter and it was very cold at times, the exquisite snow-covered scenery made us forget about the weather. We packed correctly, layered our clothing and were just fine.
But, ah, getting to see the elusive Northern Lights can be challenging. There are several parameters that determine whether you will view them or not, including location and weather—no rain, no wind, clear skies. (Hello, it’s winter in Iceland, these things happen.) The plan was to go out to see them every night that we could. We were fortunate to see them on our very first night.
3) The Iceberg Lagoon
The famous Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is about five hours from Reykjavik and experts say that the ice in some areas is more than 1,000 years old. The lagoon flows into the ocean and is, therefore, composed of both seawater and freshwater. That mixture creates its other-worldly, unique turquoise color.
We loved the exaggerated weather of the season, the immense snowpack and enormous waterfalls covered in snow and ice, so different from anywhere else we have ever been.
4) Waterfalls: Gullfoss, Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss
Iceland is a watery wilderness with some waterfalls so tall it is difficult to see the very top and others so enormous they would dwarf Niagara Falls. Each waterfall (foss means waterfall in Icelandic) delivers another astonishing impression. The magnitude and the enormity of 105-foot-high Gullfoss is striking.
Getting to the top of Skokafoss requires ascending 450 steps. You can barely see the top from the ground.
Wet, misty Seljalandsfoss is one of the country’s best-known waterfalls. In summer, you can actually walk behind it but in winter, it’s closed because the path is too icy.
5) Black Sand Beach
Reynisfjara’s black sand beach, with its textured, basalt stacks creates an ethereal landscape that was featured in Season 7 of Game of Thrones, “North of the Wall.”
6) Diamond Beach
Nothing prepared me for the wonder of Diamond Beach. Seeing the black volcanic sand with blue icebergs in the distance and the crystal clear small icebergs was beyond anything I could ever dream could be real.
What’s appealing to the over 50-luxury traveler?
- The unusual landscape provides even a seasoned traveler with new, never-experienced adventures.
- Iceland offers luxury accommodations at every price point as well as private tours.
- A group tour, like the one we took with Collette Travel, is a fantastic way to see Iceland. The tour operator handled the logistics, which maximized our time at each location. Our itinerary included helpful details, including where we would find the most authentic local meals. Our tour guide, Barbara, kept track of the weather forecast and played an instrumental role in making it possible for us to see the Northern Lights.
- Many groups traveling to Iceland skew toward older adults. Ours was cohesive and everyone seemed to have a lot in common.
- The biggest decision is whether to visit Iceland in winter (the average temperature is in the 30sF), when it’s possible to see the Northern Lights, or in other seasons, when the temperature is warmer (averaging in the 50s) and the landscape is easier to navigate.
- Pack clothing that can be layered, as well as rain gear. (Summertime in Iceland is not bathing suit weather).
- Although they may not be able to participate in every activity, even travelers with physical challenges can go to Iceland. Our tour leaders were very accommodating and were able to make sound decisions based upon the weather.
Disclosure: Our trip was hosted by Collette Travel but all opinions expressed are our own.
All photo credits (except Northern Lights): Suzanne and Craig Stavert
IF YOU GO
- In Travel & Leisure: The Best Times to Visit Iceland
Check out the YouTube video of our visit to incredible Iceland, a must-visit destination, made by Collette Filmmakers.
Get the full story of Suzanne’s adventures in Iceland on AdventuresofEmptyNesters.
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