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Iceland: magic island of fire and ice

Sapphire waters fed by hot springs are one of the reason LGBT people go to Iceland.

Iceland: magic island of fire and ice
Image courtesy of Rainbow Reykjavik
Rainbow Reykjavik guests enjoying themselves in the Blue Lagoon.

A visit to Iceland wouldn’t be complete without immersing yourself in the milky waters of the iconic Blue Lagoon.

It’s just one of the wonderfully weird must-sees in this place that feels incredibly remote, but is just three hours flight-time from London and only five from New York.

Because the sapphire waters of the lagoon are just a short bus ride from capital Reykjavik’s main airport, they are a first or last experience in the country for most.

Tourists and locals alike come to bathe in the geo-thermally heated pool of the Blue Lagoon. Whether there’s snow on the ground or the summer sun beating down, you’ll be beautifully warm once in the lagoon and the mineral-rich waters really do condition and tone your skin.

Once wet, you smear your face with the white-silica mud, provided at the pool’s edge, to maximize the exfoliating effect. Plus you can lounge in the steam cave and take a turn under the hot waterfall that gives you a powerful shoulder massage.

That same natural geothermal energy which heats up the lagoon provides hot water to Iceland’s homes and even acts as under-floor heating for some of the pavements so they don’t ice up.

The Icelanders are a hardy bunch, perfectly prepared for harsh conditions, but this is an incredibly beautiful part of the world. The capital, Reykjavik, is cosy and welcoming, not bleak. It’s an enjoyable city to explore. The main shopping area is full of cool boutiques and chic bars but it’s all on a human scale, more like a large village.

From mid-May to mid-July, Reykjavik is a city that never sleeps – you can enjoy daylight 24-seven and turn it into a party capital.

One of the other highlights of a visit to Iceland is the Golden Circle. You can hire a car and navigate yourself, or there are plenty of tour operators available who will do all of the driving for you.

An expedition to the Golden Circle will include a visit to the Gullfoss, or golden waterfall. It drops 32 meters in a spectacular double-cascade, sending up a shower of spray and shooting out rainbows before the water disappears down a narrow ravine. Even the slippery ice adds to the effect, twinkling in the sunlight.

Not far away is the country’s other most-visited natural wonder, the Geysir, the original hot-water spout that lent its name to all those discovered after it. Just next to it is the world’s most reliable geyser, Strokkur – about every five minutes a plume of water shoots up 20 meters into the air. Strokkur is surrounded by steaming fumaroles, bubbling pots and colourful springs.

The Althingi of Iceland is the oldest parliamentary institution in the world. While it is now in a nice building in the center of Reykjavik, it originally started in 930AD out in the open.

Europe’s most sparsely populated country is a land of friendly welcomes, a forward-looking society and unparalleled natural wonders. You’ll experience spouting geysers, active volcanoes, tumbling waterfalls, towering mountains, vast lava plains fjords, glaciers, highlands, magical lakes, puffin colonies, and whale watching.

This is one of the most dramatic destinations in the world.

Where to stay in Reykjavik

  • 101 Hotel: A a boutique hotel in the heart of the city center. The luxurious rooms are the perfect place to unwind. Warm up in the big walk in showers or bath tub – there are Blue Lagoon spa products available for extra pampering if you haven’t had enough already.
  • Radisson Blu 1919: A four-star hotel from the trusted brand of Radisson Blu. Perfectly located and makes a great base for exploring the city of Reykjavik and the rest of Iceland.
  • Apotek Hotel: Centrally located, this is a quality hotel that puts you right in the heart of the action in Reykjavik.

Read more from Gareth Johnson

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