Thursday, 31 May 2012 5:45 PM
Iceland is home to a wealth of unique scenery that is truly stunning to behold and because it is in Europe, it is not difficult to visit if you book a last-minute cruise there. If you do, it's well worth taking an excursion on to dry land to explore further.
The country is famous for its volcanic landscape, barren expanses of lava plains and cool temperatures, while people also come here to spot the Northern Lights. Indeed, it is almost like stepping into a whole new world when you arrive on these shores.
While the capital of Reykjavik is a cosmopolitan place with plenty to see and do, the major draw for many people is to get away from the city limits and spend time out in the rural landscape - so be certain to book a trip that allows you to do this during your time in Iceland. Here are some of the most popular sites to visit.
Visit this national park and you can expect to see a slice of the scenery Iceland is most famous for. However, it's not only geological marvels you will find here - like the Mid-Atlantic Rift crest - but also historical ones, as it was where the country's parliament was founded.
As you travel across the park, you can expect to admire views of seemingly endless lava plains that are dotted with wildflowers and soft green moss thanks to the fertile conditions of the soil. In many places, the greenery is broken up by desolate patches of barren land peppered with rocks like the mountains that loom overhead, meaning the vista almost looks like what you would see on Mars.
The park runs between the glaciers of Ok and Langjokull, with the latter being the second largest in the country after Vatnajokull. The expanse of solid ice contrasts magically with the darkness of the rocks around it and covers an area of 1,000 sq km in total, while measuring as much as 900 m in thickness at some points.
The Borgarfjordur district is home to its own stunning landscape and you can travel across it and further afield to see some memorable natural attractions. The waterfalls of Hraunfossar are a particular highlight. Although they are made up of numerous tiny streams, each running from the lava field, it makes for a dramatic sight when they join together to drop 900 m into the Hvita River below.
Further away, you will find one of the longest fjords in Iceland, Hvalfjordur, while other views you can expect include mountain ridges and deep valleys. Make sure your camera is always close at hand so you can capture the scenery you pass.
The Blue Lagoon
This is perhaps the most popular tourist attraction in Iceland - and rightly so. The geothermal pool measures 5,000 sq m, contains six million litres of water - which is renewed every 40 hours - and is an incredibly vibrant shade of sky-blue. A further unique property of the lagoon is that it is situated between two continents, as the tectonic plates of America and Euro-Asia meet here.
Part of the attraction of visiting here is being able to take a dip in waters that are warm when the temperature outside is cold. In the seawater, you will feel any aches, pains and tension in your muscles easing away as you relax. You may also come out feeling rejuvenated, as the water contains a blend of minerals and algae, the combination of which is believed to have therapeutic qualities.