Iceland

Best views in Iceland: 10 surreal spots to see

Best views in Iceland: 10 surreal spots to see

1

Mælifell

a volcano in the middle of the desert

The Mælifell volcanic cone (2114ft tall), a majestic basalt pyramid covered by a supernaturally bright green moss, towers over the seemingly endless wilderness of Mælifellssandur, a vast field of black ash. To the south, the foothills of the huge Myrdalsjokull glacier fill the horizon. To the north you can see the mountains of the Fjallabak region. The site, another of the best views in Iceland, which combines black, green and white so intensely, is illustrated in Yann Arthus-Bertrand's famous coffee table book The Earth From the Air.

Mælifell

Getty Images

2

Kirkjufell

the 'church mountain'

On the northern coast of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Mount Kirkjufell and its series of waterfalls (Kirkjufellsfoss) are a true symbol of Iceland - and one of the most photographed sights in the country. Kirkjufell rises from a wilderness landscape composed of lava flows levelled by erosion and covered with grass and moss, or snow in winter. Sometimes the Northern Lights or a rainbow make an appearance to enhance the scenery still further... The climb up Kirkjufell (one-and-a-half-hours each way) is only recommended for experienced hikers.

3

Seljavellir (or Seljavallalaug)

the oldest swimming pool in Iceland also has among the best views in Iceland.

Built in 1923 on the south side of the Eyjafjallajokull volcanic glacier, as if lost in the middle of nowhere, this 86ft long and 33ft wide man-made pool is fed by a natural hot spring whose waters stay at around 30-34°C. Following the eruption in 2010, the pool was buried under a thick layer of ash. It took more than a year for the locals to clean it up and restore it to its former glory.

To get there : From Reykjavik, follow Highway No.1 south towards Vik and turn left onto Highway 242 towards Raufarfell and drive to the end of the road. From the parking lot, it is a 20-minute walk (easy, even if it is a little uphill, and you have to ford the river) to reach the pool. It is worth the effort to see another of the best views in Iceland.

4

Laki craters (or Lakagígar)

remains of the country's most severe eruption

Part of Skaftafell National Park, the Laki area consists of a massive 15-mile long fault with more than 130 craters, formed in the late 18th century by the eruption considered to be the most significant of recorded history. Between 1783 and 1784, nearly 530 billion cubic feet of lava was disgorged across the area, covering more than 212 square miles. The toxic gases that escaped destroyed farms and livestock, leading in turn to the loss of more than 20% of the Icelandic population. The stunning, chaotic beauty of this area, only accessible by 4x4 vehicles, is studded with black sand dunes and lava tunnels.

Laki craters

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5

Mjoifjordur

a fjord worth seeing

This little-known fjord, one of the most magnificent and pristine in Iceland, is one of the jewels of the eastern fjords. Flanked by spectacular cliffs and waterfalls, green hills and fish jumping out of the frozen water, the ' narrow fjord' is worth a visit, as it is definitely among the best views in Iceland: the access road is unpaved, and takes time (some of the hairpins are very sharp). When you get there, the view is one of striking calm and beauty. A rusty herring boat stranded on the beach and a few dwellings complete the scene. The areas around the fjord offer some wonderful hikes.

Mjoifjordur

Fotolia

6

Lonsoræfi

In the south-east of Iceland, this remote and sparsely frequented nature reserve is a real paradise for seasoned walkers. Explore 123 square miles of glowing rhyolite (volcanic rock) mountainscape in fiery shades of red, glacial lagoons, deep valleys, and populated only by a few flocks of sheep and reindeer. Hikes in this area are difficult and reserved for experienced trekkers . We recommend getting the assistance of a mountain guide. The only road on the reserve is a bumpy 15 miles long, and even then still only suitable for experienced drivers with a Super Jeep.

lonsoraefi

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7

Ljotipollur

Iceland's largest active crater

The ill-named Ljotipollur ('ugly pond' - yet the site is spectacularly beautiful) was formed following a major explosion due to the confluence of magma and water beneath the surface, which left behind this crater measuring a mile long and a quarter-of-a-mile wide. The path to the crater crosses beautiful landscapes of tephra (eruption debris) deserts, lava flows, marshes and rugged glaciers. On arrival, you are greeted by one of the best views in Iceland. It hugs the Landmannalaugar mountain ranges, and the bright red sides of the crater plunge into brilliant blue water.

Ljotipollur

Karnholz

8

Lake Langisjor

the 'Inland Sea'

Between mountains and glaciers, Lake Langisjor stretches for more than 12 miles amid mineral landscapes where absolute silence reigns. The water is transparent and fluctuates between turquoise and deep blue depending on the weather. The ascent of nearby Mt. Svenstindur offers one of the most beautiful mountain vistas of the country. Stretching over a great distance, it reveals among others the Hekla volcano, the craters of Laki, lava fields, the ice cap of the Vatnajokull and finally (and especially) the splendid long and slender lake of Langisjor.

Bertrand Jouanne

9

Aldeyjarfoss

the Old Man's Waterfall

As with Godafoss Falls, it is the Skjalfandafljot River - which has the Vatnajokull Glacier as its source - that plunges from a height of more than 60ft here. The water pours into a narrow gorge, bordered by a magnificent chain of basalt columns. This is also one of the best views you will find in Iceland. Taking a dip is out of the question, not only because of the very low temperature of the water, but also because of the constant bubbling which is accompanied by loud rumbling sounds. The flow rate of the waterfall is relatively constant throughout the seasons, except in winter when the curtain of water thickens and creates other small falls nearby.

10

Hornbjarg

the cliffs at the edge of the earth

To the extreme north of the north-western fjords, the Hornstrandir nature reserve is located at the edge of the polar circle. Completely isolated from the rest of the island, the reserve can only be accessed by boat. The northern tip of the reserve features majestic cliffs, some of Iceland's highest, including Hornbjarg (1650 ft), populated with thousands of birds (Atlantic puffins, guillemots and other sea birds) as well as polar foxes. The vistas from the cliffs, among the best views in Iceland, are particularly exceptional.

Agust Atlason