Five Reasons to Visit Iceland in 2016

I always knew Iceland would be beautiful, but there are many beautiful countries in the world. That said, I’m going to make a bold statement: I honestly believe Iceland to be the most visually stunning country I have ever seen. Need more? Here is my Iceland guide that will help you with five reasons to visit Iceland in 2016.

5. Icelandic Horses

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All Photos By Will Rochfort

Does anyone out there remember My Little Ponies from our childhood? Now, take that pony, remove the highlighter-pink coloring, and voila! You have an Icelandic horse.

Truthfully, I didn’t even know these were a thing until I spotted a herd on the side of the road. Will was driving, so I was left to my own devices while I mashed my face against the glass of the car window. I saw what I thought to be a small pony, but then quickly realized it wasn’t a pony. But what was it?!

Naturally, I yelled at my sweet husband to pull over so I could race across the {deserted} road to ogle the four-legged creature. They were delightful!

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As it turns out, Icelandic horses are a breed of their own, developed from ponies brought to Iceland by the Norsemen in the 9th and 10th centuries. They’re small like ponies, but very tough and robust. In Iceland, they’re shockingly healthy as a result of the import/export laws: horses cannot be imported into Iceland and once a horse leaves the island, it is not allowed back.

4. Turf Houses

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During our tour of the southern coast, I was fixated on turf houses! To me, these uniquely-roofed homes epitomized an idyllic world full of elfish lore and mystical creatures. You can imagine my dismay when we reached the final day of our trip and–gasp!–I still hadn’t seen a turf house.

Fortunately, I saw a small symbol on the side of our road map, indicating a historic site named Keldur. Even better: Keldur is the oldest surviving set of turf houses in the country!

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Because we were visiting Keldur in the winter, the place was deserted. And just as I hoped, the turf houses were freaking adorable. According to what I read, the majority of Iceland was not forested when the country was settled, but there was plenty of grass! Additionally, the turf on the roof acted as insulation during the cold and windy months.

Because trust me, Iceland is WINDY in the winter!

3. Black Sand Beaches

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Black sand beaches aren’t a novelty; there are quite a few of them around the world. But until Jokulsarlon Lagoon, I had never, ever seen a black sand beach littered with massive chunks of blue ice next to crashing ocean waves and a backdrop of snowcapped, rugged peaks. I’m reticent to use the word breathtaking, but y’all? That’s exactly what it was.

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Will and I spent hours wandering around the beach. He set up photo after photo, patiently waiting for the sun to pop out and illuminate the ice with that surreal glacier blue color. I took the time to amble down the beach, snapping my own pictures while marveling at the massive pieces of ice that were simply laying around. Was this real life?

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Elfish lore, black sand beaches, and brilliantly-blue icebergs. Is Iceland even real life?! Click To Tweet

2. Elfish Lore

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Iceland is pretty and a natural wonder, but one of my favorite aspects of the country was the local’s staunch belief in the existence of elves!

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Called Huldufólk, the secret folk are a common factor in daily activities in Iceland. Building projects are even re-routed or protested if the construction is determined to go through elf territory {and there are a myriad of stories about times homeowners abandoned projects when they went awry thanks to the elves!} And if you make even the slightest hint that the Huldufólk aren’t real? You better get out of Dodge Iceland.

1. The Northern Lights

Seeing the Northern Lights had been a bucket list item of mine for years, and was largely why Will surprised me with the Iceland trip to begin with. I could never fathom seeing all those beautiful colors in the sky, and so badly wanted to witness the phenomenon for myself!

As luck would have it, it was cloudy during the first part of our trip. We reached our final night, knowing that it was do-or-die. We went to dinner at a hotel about 60 minutes from our lodging, crossing our fingers that the sky would be clear when we finished eating. And it was! Unfortunately, our own hotel was socked in so we couldn’t take advantage of the front desk phone call service that our reception offered {If requested, they will call your room in the middle of the night when Northern Lights are spotted. That way, you don’t sleep through it!}

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Rather than miss out on the sky show, Will and I opted to wing it. We hopped in our rental car, drove down a random dirt road, parked, and shut off our lights. Then……we waited. And stared at the sky. And stared some more. Luckily, we only had to wait 20 or 30 minutes before the telltale green streaks began to spread across the sky.

THE NORTHERN LIGHTS!

While we didn’t see the most elaborate display in existence, I was beyond elated. Will and I were mesmerized, watching the sky change colors as we stared through the windshield of the car. I can’t begin to understand the whole “electrically charged particles from the sun crashing into each other when they enter the earth’s atmosphere,” so instead, we simply admired the show.

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24 Comments

  • Reply Krysten December 10, 2015 at 6:12 am

    Oh my gosh Iceland looks so magical!!
    I have always wanted to see the Northern Lights. I saw them once in Northern Canada, but I was really young and I have wanted to see them again ever since!! SWOON

    • Reply heather December 10, 2015 at 7:20 pm

      You and your husband should take a romantic vacation to Iceland 😉

  • Reply Amanda December 10, 2015 at 8:17 am

    oh my gosh this has been on my list for years!!!

    • Reply heather December 10, 2015 at 7:20 pm

      I mean, I’m biased but…DO IT!

  • Reply Patrik December 10, 2015 at 9:12 am

    Thanks for sharing! I will be at Reykjavik Airport for 45 min. in April on my way to Switzerland. Next time I need to stay for a awhile! Northern lights are on my bucket list too.

    • Reply heather December 10, 2015 at 7:20 pm

      If you can adjust your flight even to stay for a day or two, it’s totally worth it!

  • Reply Whitney Vestal December 10, 2015 at 9:27 am

    Woah. Beautiful pictures!

    • Reply heather December 10, 2015 at 7:21 pm

      Thanks Whitney!

  • Reply Caryn December 10, 2015 at 10:29 am

    Incredible shots, as always. Thanks for the re-cap, it’s been on my list since you first went and I got a glimpse of it’s beauty. I have a few friends who have been now and say it’s absolutely incredible.

    • Reply heather December 10, 2015 at 7:21 pm

      It honestly is. Will and I are dying to return in the summer months to get into the interior– there aren’t any roads, just brutal 4×4 roads–so it would be an amazing experience!

  • Reply Sara from Sweden December 10, 2015 at 11:19 am

    ooooh I’m going to Iceland for a week of horseback ridning in 2016!! I want to go to Colorado too though!

    • Reply heather December 10, 2015 at 7:21 pm

      Seriously, one day, let’s swap. You come stay at our house and we’ll go stay at your house in Sweden. Deal?! 😉

  • Reply Maddie December 10, 2015 at 11:49 am

    I’m trying to convince my friend to go — actually, it’s more or less her waiting for me to get my passport. We can fly directly from Edmonton, Alberta to Iceland. Which is very convenient.

    • Reply heather December 10, 2015 at 7:23 pm

      Yes! That’s how we did it too– there are direct flights from Denver to Iceland. You take a nap, wake up, and you’re there! And honestly, the flight wasn’t as bad as I thought– since the plane goes directly north, you fly up and over the globe. May sound like common sense, but I hadn’t realized that until I was actually on the plane!

  • Reply Grainne December 10, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    Wow, that looks incredible! I NEED to go there sometime!

    • Reply heather December 10, 2015 at 7:23 pm

      You really should– you’d love it!

  • Reply Natalie @ Free Range Human December 11, 2015 at 11:12 am

    I’ve always thought of the Northern Lights as something that I wanted to see someday, but, for some reason, lately they’ve really started to inch their way up my “I REALLY want to see that!” list. Sounds like it’s time to head north 😉

  • Reply Angela @ Happy Fit Mama December 11, 2015 at 7:11 pm

    Iceland has been on my must go list for years. I work with a guy who is a photographer and his pics of the black sand beaches are amazing. I can’t wait to see it in real life. And the Northern Lights are pretty darn amazing. We saw them often where I grew up in Northern Michigan.

  • Reply Ashton December 12, 2015 at 11:39 am

    Love this post! I visited in March, saw the Northern Lights, rode Icelandic horses, scrambled over glaciers, ate AMAZING lobster bisque, and enjoyed spending hours in all of the natural hot springs. It’s one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Your post makes me want to go back 🙂

  • Reply Lynn December 13, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    I went there in June. I definitely recommend going there in the summer too. We climbed several of the volcanoes, including the one that erupted in 2010 and the highest mountain in Iceland. Plus, the puffins!

  • Reply Heidi December 14, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    It’s on my bucket list and I’m piecing together a few weeks there in 2017 to mountain bike. It’s honestly so reasonable in price airfare wise out of DIA that I cannot resist… and the scenery, oh my gosh! I feel like I’m being stalked by all things Iceland, though… had to laugh when I saw this post!

  • Reply Michael wilkerson February 13, 2016 at 9:16 pm

    No offense, but why is Iceland showing up everywhere? $$$$ maybe

  • Reply Michael wilkerson February 13, 2016 at 9:21 pm

    I don’t mean cheap vacations, I mean folks given free trips to push Iceland. Many of the blogs I follow are pushing Iceland. If they are being paid or encouraged to sell, shouldn’t that be disclosed?

    • Reply heather February 16, 2016 at 5:50 pm

      Hey Michael! Not sure. This was a sponsored post (as I indicated) but our trip last year was not sponsored. My husband surprised me with the trip for our engagement, so I can’t answer the rest of your questions. But I will tell you that if the trip was sponsored, authors legally have to disclose that info. Not cool if they are not!

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