Spanning the Mid-Atlantic Ridge that separates the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, Iceland is a literal hotspot for geothermal and volcanic activity. You can find evidence of its dramatic geological history everywhere, from its famous geysers and volcanoes to long lava tubes and therapeutic thermal baths. As far as things to do in Reykjavik go, witnessing Iceland’s geothermal wonders is a must.
- The Golden Circle
One of Iceland’s most popular natural attractions, the Golden Circle is a breathtaking introduction to the geological treasures of the country. Spend a full day exploring its 3 main sights with experienced groups like Gray Line Iceland, starting at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Thingvellir National Park. The park, which is of historic and cultural significance to Iceland, lies in the rift valley that marks the actual tectonic boundary between the North Atlantic and Eurasian plates. The Golden Circle also includes the famous Geysir, the spouting hot springs after which all other geysers are named. Though Geysir itself erupts only infrequently, the nearby Strokkur geyser throws hot water 65 feet (20 m) into the air every few minutes as a sign of the geothermal nature of the area.
- Volcanoes & Mountains
The unique formation of Iceland, in which tectonic movement caused explosive eruptions of lava millions of years ago, has afforded the country many amazing mountain ranges and volcanoes. Among the most iconic are the Esja mountain range, which can be seen from Reykjavik itself, and the Snaefellsjokull Volcano, which is thought to be 700,000 years old. The pros at Reykjavik Excursions can take you up-close to the volcano itself after a journey through the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, whose geography is marked by lava fields and black-sand beaches. For a better look at Iceland’s incredible ridges, take to the skies—a pilot from Atlantsflug brings you over the Esja range and the still-active Hengill volcano, giving you amazing views of the land.
- Inside the Earth
Venture into the Earth itself to see Iceland’s unique geology as close as possible. The country is dotted with explorable lava tubes and caves both natural and man-made. The enormous Ledarendi lava tube is just a 30-minute drive away from Reykjavik, and the experts at Safari Quads can guide you through its 2,952-foot (900-m) cave to see the distinct lava flakes that indicate the many lava streams that have flowed there throughout the ages. Even more impressive is the Vidgelmir Cave, which at 5,250 feet (1,600 m) is Iceland’s largest lava cave and can be explored with Reykjavik Sightseeing. You can also set foot inside the dormant Thrihnukagigur Volcano itself with Gray Line Iceland by descending one of its 3 craters into the earth.
- Thermal Baths
One of the most luxurious things to do in Reykjavik and an easy way to experience Iceland’s geothermal activity is to soak its natural springs. Though spas and resorts are a modern development, the tradition of enjoying thermal baths goes back to the 12th century. The Secret Lagoon, located in Fludir, was Iceland’s first swimming pool opened in 1891, and the natural hot springs can still be enjoy today with Reykjavik Sightseeing. Other famous resorts include the Blue Lagoon, which gets its name from its therapeutic and vivid turquoise waters, and Laugarvatn Fontana, an idyllic place to unwind after exploring the Golden Circle with Reykjavik Excursions. The countryside is also spotted with natural, undeveloped springs that you can discover for yourself with the experts at Arctic Adventures.
- Geothermal Areas
The living nature of the Earth’s geology is most apparent in Iceland’s geothermal areas, which are often characterized by craters full of hot mud, multi-colored soil, and the pungent smell of sulfate. The Krisuvik and Grindavik areas, both on the Reykjanes Peninsula, are home to steaming geothermal fields filled with fumaroles and mud pots navigable by elevated wooden paths. Visit them with Reykjavik Excursions, or join Gray Line Iceland and head to Landmannalaugar, a picturesque valley bordered by colorfully striated mountains and crossed with bubbling streams both hot and cold.
Which of Iceland’s geological wonders are you most interested in?