Iceland the land of Fire and Ice. A place where glaciers and active volcanoes exist.

Iceland is a Nordic island country located in the North Atlantic.  The name of the capital city Reykjavik means Bay of Smokes. Actually, it’s an island with ice, not palms with a population of nearly 320, 000 most of them living in the capital Reykjavik. Reykjavik, the city where hot water is cheaper than the cold water.  The best place to socialize and date are the open geothermal pools, private or public. Yes, you’ll need that swimsuit on the ice too!

Hanging out: Geothermal Pools vs Natural Hot Spring

It might be hard to imagine wearing a sweater above a swimsuit, but this is a common thing in Iceland where swimming is a year-round activity, a favorite one among Icelanders. Except, accessories and clothes made of Icelandic wool can be found in every corner.

The geothermal open pools are the gathering spot in Reykjavik for catching up on the latest happenings in the city and where most of the people will meet their friends for a chat.

Of course, they love to bath and swim too in Iceland.

Except, there are also the fabulous hot springs that can be found in nature. These thermal natural pools have a higher temperature than the air. Most hot springs release groundwater that is heated by shallow intrusions of molten rock in volcanic areas. The mineral waters rich in silica and sulfur here can reach temperatures from 37-39 ℃ and are considered to have healing effects on some skin diseases and help with good circulation of the body. The Natural hot springs are hardly irreplaceable experience truly unique to Iceland. While there relaxing in the baths right in the middle of nature astonishing views of the natural surroundings is what to expect at least.

Keep in mind though for their hard accessibility and a bit of hiking in nature where you can’t expect facilities or commodities like the one offered in the public or private geothermal pools. In most of the cases their locations require driving off the main roads and because of the high popularity as well as the usual small sizes, you may find them not available most of the time. For the geothermal pools taking a shower before entering the pool is a must. The most popular in Iceland and must-visit is the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa.

There are seven geothermal pools in Reykjavik and most of them include indoor or outdoor pools with hot tubs, water slides, steam baths, and gyms. The biggest one and most visited pool is Laugardalslaug.

The people in Iceland like to bath and adore their pools. Hot or cold, summer or winter, is where they most likely will spend their time with friends and families. Because of that, they are quite used to being without clothes most of the time. But, the thing is that before you use the pools you have to take a shower naked first, to enter the water clean. This means that sometimes and in some places, you may have to share a shower. It’s good to know before you go because it can be a bit of surprise if you don’t see it coming.

Finally, if you prefer swimming in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean visit of the sandy geothermal beach at Nauthólsvík would be your best choice. It’s where the cold waters of the Atlantic and hot geothermal waters meet making it an ideal place for swimming or sailing for some even in winter time.

Purchasing a Reykjavik City Card will save you big time on the entrance fees, not only of the pools but the parks and museums as well, including the public transport.

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Reykjavik on foot

Small cities are just great: walking and talking with ice cream all day long. On top of it with so much ice, we would only need cream. In Reykjavik pools and ice cream go hand in hand making it a great place for ice cream lovers too.

If you are one of those people that enjoy daytime and sun, the next good thing you’ll find in Iceland is so-called Midnight Sun. A period during the summer when daylights can last up to 24 hours. Now, when you have a whole day that never ends in hot summer months, exploring the city on foot sounds inviting.

Where to go? Head to Reykjavik city center, in the downtown area where most of the restaurants and bars are and the well known for its nightlife and shopping a Laugavegur street is. But, for a total shopping thrill go to the largest mall in Iceland, Smáralind located in Reykjavik. There are always a few public parks to be expected in every city where most of the people spend the afternoons strolling or chilling. In Reykjavik, the best place for that is the Austurvöllur public park in the downtown. On the grass or at the cafes, it is up to you where you’ll soak up the sun.

The colorful houses of Reykjavik mixed with the postmodern architecture of the buildings make the enjoyment of it all even better.

Considered to be the typical Icelandic house structure the Turf houses are very emblematic of Iceland.

But the fact is that they were structured like that from the necessity of adopting the lifestyle to the natural surroundings and conditions. And yet they turn out to be so irresistible. Unfortunately, we can’t see many of them in Iceland nowadays.

If you’d like to find out the history of Reykjavik and how this city evolved from a village, way back from the Vikings time until the present, a great place for a visit is the open-air museum of Árbær. You’ll see an authentic Icelandic livelihood presented in over 20 different village houses. For more on the Icelandic culture and history, a visit to the National Museum is a must. Viewable from every angle of the city, the landmark of Reykjavik  Hallgrimskirkja church it can’t be missed. Next, the imposing architectural building Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre is worth a visit. The entrance for both is free.

One of the best things Reykjavik can offer is the outstanding nature to be enjoyed, on foot or by bike.

Although there are no trees or forests in Iceland, a lot of trails and places out there in nature with inviting views and stunning surroundings can be explored. The short ferry trip from the coast of Reykjavik will take you to one of the spots to admire the nature, the Videy Island.

Where to take great photos? With its scenic beauty and picturesque nature, Reykjavik has many spots for great photos. But one of the best rated is by the famous Viking ship steel sculpture. Next, the pond Tjornin, where swans and ducks are found swimming in summer or not swimming and moreover heating during the winter, is a totally attractive location for photographing and families. You can feed the birds, but do not touch the swans.

Chasing the Northern Lights

Unfortunately, in winter at some point, the daylights can last for only 3 hours. But, that’s when the best time for chasing the Northern Lights is. From September to March on clear nights in Iceland, you can see one of the most spectacular shows on earth The Northern Lights also called Aurora Borealis. It looks like a fluorescent light in the sky with various colors, most of the time in yellow or green. The bright dancing lights of the aurora are actually collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere.

Although the Northern Lights can be seen from Reykjavik, for getting the most of it, consider hiring one of the local tour operators that know best. They will take you to the locations outside of the city, where in the middle of nature, the dancing colorful lights can be best seen.

Nobody can guarantee when they’ll show or where, but that’s why the people that have spent their lives there are for. In short: a clear winter night, away from the city lights, somewhere in nature where they most likely will show up it’s what a real Northern Lights experience means. Unlike other countries, Iceland exceptional nature is unique. Its a land of glaciers and active volcanoes. Something that most of us are not used to and familiar with. Nobody wants to get lost over there, so chasing the Northern Lights on your own will simply be irresponsible and careless. Locals know best, so take their advice on this.

While the humpback whales migrate in winter to the tropical islands to mate, in the summertime they can be seen in the waters of the North Atlantic in Iceland as well as Orca and the Blue whale. On these tours you’ll be able to observe the whales in the open sea, in their natural environments. During the season for whale watching, in the summer months, there are tour operators providing this excursion on a daily basis that departure from the Old Harbor in Reykjavik.

How about the people?

Icelanders like to talk about the weather. It’s constantly changing over there and somehow affects their everyday life. Actually, they prefer not to plan their activities because of that and simply let it go with the flow.

They love their Brennivín (a popular Icelandic alcoholic beverage) and are proud of their Icelandic horses (although they are small they are not ponies). They do read books a lot. In Iceland, there are more books published per capita than in any other country in the world.

One thing to expect in Iceland and not to get offended by when you are addressed to by your first name and not with Mr/Mrs. Simply, people, there are not used to it, because they don’t have surnames on their own instead they have a name and a combination of their father’s name +addition of -daughter/son (-dottir/son).

This doesn’t come as a surprise since they are a very small nation and everyone are somehow related to each other. But that’s why Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world. Violence crime doesn’t exist in Iceland.

People are really friendly, relaxed and with a great sense of humor. But, don’t try to be funny because you can be easily misunderstood since Icelandic is the official language, not English. In fact, in 2010 they elected a comedian for Mayor (Jon Gnarr) of Reykjavik. No wonder they are listed among top 10 happiest nations in the world according to the United Nations 2018 Happiest Nations Report.