Gullfoss means Golden Falls, and it gets its name from the brownish hue of its water. These falls are truly magnificent and are known for being the largest volume falls in all of Europe. It is also notable for having two distinct drops that are at right angles to each other. From the main overlook, the view is slightly obscured, so it appears as if the lower falls plunges away into an abyss. Today, it is hard to imagine that this popular tourist attraction was almost lost. At one time, foreign investors proposed to build a hydroelectric powerplant on it. But a local woman fought vehemently against the project, even threatening to throw herself over the falls if the plant was constructed. Thankfully, her efforts paid off and Gullfoss was saved.
The Blue Lagoon is one of the first things that comes to most people’s minds when they think about famous tourist attractions in Iceland. This geothermal spa is located in Grindavik on the Reykjanes Peninsula. The manmade lake is fed by superheated seawater vented from a nearby lava flow. Many people believe that its milky blue waters, which contain minerals, silica and algae, can actually soothe and improve certain skin conditions, such as eczema. It is important to note that travelers who want to enjoy a dip in the Blue Lagoon should book well ahead of their visit. This attraction is so popular that it is often sold out.
Visitors to Iceland have the opportunity to embark upon a very unique excursion — exploring ice caves that have been carved by rivers of meltwater deep underneath the Vatnajokull Glacier. Inside of these caves, explorers will discover a mesmerizing world where they will be surrounded by surreal blue ice formations. In some areas, black volcanic ash trapped in the ice have created a ribbon effect against the blue. Tours of these caves, which are also known as Crystal Caves, can only be done in the winter, as there is always a danger of collapse during the warmer summer and spring months, and visitors should only enter them with a trained guide.
Located on the edge of Vatnajokull National Park is a beautiful glacier lagoon. Its waters come from melting glaciers, and the lagoon has been growing larger each year. It has, in fact, grown in size fourfold since the 1970s. It is one of the deepest lakes in Iceland, if not the deepest, and is filled with icebergs that have been calved from the glacier. The lagoon and the surrounding area is very beautiful and is so surreal that it has often been used in films, such as “Die Another Day” and “Tomb Raider.”
With its inky black sand, rugged basalt columns and large crashing waves, Reynisfjara Beach can appear at times almost otherworldly. This gorgeous beach, which is also home to comical puffin birds, is located near the village of Vik on Iceland’s south coast. Not surprisingly, this beach’s strange appearance has inspired at least one tale. According to local legend, the basalt sea stacks that can be seen in the ocean were formed when two trolls tried to drag a three-masted ship to the shore during the night. But they were unsuccessful and when the sun rose, the daylight turned the trolls to stone. A word of warning — the raging waves at this beach can be very dangerous so tourists are warned to keep their distance.