It feels like Iceland will forever stay on my must-see list. I've spent so long in the wrong hemisphere and I'm always planning trips to far-fetched places, but that often means sacrificing the real gems that lie right under my nose. I'm always that girl who can't resist a tropical island or exploring the jungle in some exciting new land, so it's hard to schedule in time for a snowy break but I won't be happy until I have. These last few years, it seems like everyone I know have been off gallivanting around the Blue Lagoon, posting lust-worthy pics of them playing in the snow or eyeing up the Northern Lights - it's the stuff dreams are made of.
Being back in the UK and experiencing my first European winter in more than three years, I'm embracing it with wide-open arms and I'm loving every second. While the cold was a shock to the system, I'm loving the Christmas decorations, the frosty mornings, the festive spirit, the winter coats and snuggly jumpers. It's really making me realise what I have been missing these last few years of chasing the sun and perhaps I'm ready for something new now. I'm excited to explore a whole new hemisphere and to find the magic in places that I haven't yet had the pleasure of experiencing.
Whenever Iceland is mentioned, the mind instantly conjures up images of dramatic volcanic landscapes draped in snow and crisp with frost, it's a magical image. A land both within reach and yet completely separate to everything I have previously experienced, but while we always hear about the same few attractions of Iceland, I feel that there is so much more waiting to be discovered. There is still a wholly unique Icelandic experience waiting for each visitor to capture the charm and the beauty of the country when their visit. Planning a visit to Iceland? I've done a bit of research to find the most unique ways to explore the country.
15 unique ways to discover the magic of Iceland:
Visit the Blue Lagoon
All of Iceland's electricity comes from hydroelectric or geothermal power, and if that doesn't inspire you enough, the famous Blue Lagoon is a wonderful side effect of this power. Lava fields alongside a geothermal plant were accidentally turned into a spa rich in minerals, sulphur, salt and silica back in the 70's and now it is one of the country's most popular attractions. Need some time to relax on your trip and escape the cold, why not take a dip in the blue waters and lose yourself in the swirling mist?
Go dog sledding
Imagine yourself racing through the snowy landscape on board your own sleigh pulled by those gorgeous, energetic huskies. It's the ultimate arctic experience and one you won't want to miss, if you're a dog lover then this is the trip for you!
Visit ice caves
Something you can only do during winter when the caves are truly frozen, you can now explore ice tunnels over 200m long under Iceland’s second largest glacier, Langjökull. Bathed in the ethereal blue light, you can even get married in a special ice chapel under the ice.
Explore the inside of a volcano
The land of fire and ice is punctuated with incredibly unique volcanic experiences where you can explore these amazing geological formations.
Make the most of the midnight sun
During the summer, it never gets completely dark in Iceland, while the evenings are cooler they remain bathed in a stunning mix of sunrise and sunset. Make the most of it and get outside - go take part in activities or go for a hike. Or if you fancy a really unique experience, why not go to the Secret Solstice Festival? Taking place on June 21-24 in Reykjavik, it is the festival of the midnight sun and gives you a perfect opportunity to party all day and all night long.
Go to Elf School
Just outside Reykjavik, it's possible to learn even more about the mystical folktales that surround Iceland by attending a real-life Elf School.
Go on a snowmobile tour
Fancy a bit more action? Race across the ice on a snowmobile for an experience that will take your breath away.
View this incredible landscape from the air
Why not take a helicopter ride over Iceland and gain a new perspective on the landscape - from volcanoes and geysers to endless fields of snow and ice?
Explore caves with hidden lakes and waterfalls
For the explorers among us, there are endless caves waiting to be explored including Grjótagjá, a volcanic cave lake that looks magical. Or experience the incredible Gljúfrafoss, a waterfall hidden in a cave that can be found in cracked cliff.
Hike glaciers or go snowshoeing
There's nothing quite like getting out and experiencing nature in all it's glory, so why not take the chance to explore by going on glacier walks? With climate change gradually melting the polar ice, the glaciers are also being slowly diminished so one day soon it could be a really unique experience to look back on.
Watch the Northern Lights from your own private igloo
My absolute dream is to watch the Northern Lights - I was so disappointed to not see the Southern Lights while down in Tasmania, Australia. But what would really take this experience to another level would be to watch the lights from one of these adorable bubble rooms at what is known as the 5 million star hotel - what a magical experience! Fancy being out in the open air? Why not watch from your own private hot tub?
Visit some incredibly unique museums
You can view an encyclopaedic collection of mammal penises at the Icelandic Phallological Museum, while The Icelandic Sea Monster Museum explores the area's history of aquatic cryptid sightings.
Go diving between two continents
At Þingvellir National Park you can find Iceland’s largest lake, Þingvallavatn which is the only place on the entire planet where you can see two tectonic plates, the American and the Euro-Asian plate, gradually breaking apart year by year. It is the only place where the split is so dramatic, and if you're feeling brave, you can even dive or snorkel between the two plates in Silfra - a gorge filled with crystal clear water.
Haukadalur Geothermal Field
Eat putrified shark
An Icelandic specialty, Hákarl originates from the days when food needed to be purified during the long winters. With a taste likened to blue cheese but 1000x stronger in taste and smell, it was originally processed from Greenlandic Shark, then buried under rocks for six months before being hung to dry for another three months. Another local delicacy is sheep's head.
When I finally get to Iceland, I don't know how I'll squeeze everything in - there's just so many incredible experiences waiting to be had. If you're planning a trip this winter, I hope this list helps you to make your trip as unique and unforgettable as possible.