This year, I spent my summer holiday in Iceland. What was it that convinced me to swap my typical (and much loved!) beach holiday for a week in a country that includes the word ice in its name? At first, it was the draw of seeing glaciers, active volcanoes, whales, puffins and steaming natural hot pools. But once I arrived, it became clear why a trip 'North of the Wall' during the summertime is such a good idea. There is a lot more to Iceland than ice and I was delighted to discover that there are cartloads of colourful reasons to visit between May and October.
If there is one thing you've heard about Iceland, it's the Blue Lagoon and the rumours are true - it's very, very blue. The unusual colour is created by the silica deposits in the water which causes a layer of steam to rise from the surface as the temperature is kept at a balmy 40 degrees. And the lagoon isn't just a feast for your eyes, it's also a feast for your body.
Conveniently located close to the airport, you can jump right in and soothe those stiff post-flight muscles in the mineral-rich water. There's even a swim-up bar for an ice-cold Icelandic brew!
From June to September you will see plenty of interesting plant life in Iceland. Among the most unique and surprising sights are the moss-covered lava fields. These are everywhere but my first glimpse was on the outskirts of Thingvellir National Park where two of the earth's tectonic plates meet leaving visible cracks and faults in the ground. During my trip I learnt that there are over 600 species of moss in Iceland. Perfectly suited to the climate, this little family of plant life has made this Nordic country it's home.
In the south of Iceland, around the town of Vik, you will find miles of black sand beaches with enormous basalt stacks jutting from the shoreline. There is something wonderfully wild and dramatic about this area and it's no surprise that Icelandic folklore identifies these basalt columns as trolls that were caught in daylight pulling ships to shore and immediately turned to stone. Offshore from the otherworldly beaches, it is possible to see all manner of marine life from harbour porpoise to minke and humpback whales. With very few other boats in the water, wait peacefully and you'll be rewarded with the slow and gentle rising of a fin from the surface followed by the spray erupting from a blowhole mere metres away.
The geothermal field of Hverir is a unique wasteland with pools of boiling mud and steaming chimneys of rocks. Toxic fumes escape the surface creating bubbling, steaming sulphuric creators. Look down, and you'll see shades of orange, red and brown meld together like marble under the steaming piles of rocks. Beware: you might not want to find yourself downwind of one of the bubbling mud pools, it can get a little smelly!
Last but not least, are the icebergs of Jokulsarlon, or the 'Glacier Lagoon'. Located just off the highway 1 that follows the length of the south coast, it is one of Iceland's biggest drawcards. A gigantic glacier stands at the mouth of an ice lagoon, winding its way out to sea. Watch as large chunks of ice break away from the main glacier and crash into the icy water below. These newly formed icebergs are then carried along by the current and out into the Atlantic Ocean. Hard to believe that you can see all this from the side of a road? Welcome to Iceland.