Extreme Experiences in Iceland You Won’t Find Anywhere Else

Extraordinary Contrasts in the Land of Fire and Ice

Joe Tobin

|June 14, 2019

Joe is a proud Michigander that finds himself in unusual, beautiful, and faraway places. He enjoys getting lost, drinking with strangers, and worshipping at the church of rock ‘n’ roll.


Intense, harsh, and absolute but also gorgeous, magical, and serene, Iceland’s beauty comes from its unusual contradictions. As a land of extremes, Iceland is a place where active volcanoes stir next to glacial ice, where the churning sea meets mountain peaks. To see the real Iceland is to face these extremes.


From one extreme to the next, Iceland’s natural wonders exist to capture the imagination. Just south of the frigid Arctic Circle, the island’s landscape is the dramatic product of a radical geothermal environment. 

The steady volcanic effects of the heat and steam burst through the glacial surface with drastic results. Nowhere else in the world do such contrasts exist in nature and culture. Iceland’s locales defy expectations and must be seen to be believed.

Explore the Real Iceland

River Iceland Drone Bridge Car

River, bridge and car from the drone in Iceland

Iceland is a place isolated from the rest of civilization by great distances, turbulent oceans, and unforgiving terrain. A place where the ice age never really ended, where the land is weathered and ancient.

Since the Viking Age, Icelanders have decided to call this remote island their home. They’ve put down roots and endured. They've grown up among the cold winds and the crashing waves, with the smoky-gray sky above and the steam rising up from beneath their feet. Iceland is, quite literally, a weathered rock in the eye of the great Atlantic storm.

Often, in extreme locations of the Earth, with great hardship comes great reward. Nowhere else is this so clear than in Iceland, where you can hike on a massive glacier one hour and in the next, plunge in the cool pools of a tectonic rift. Iceland’s extraordinary sights astound and beg to be seen.

Explore Lake Myvatn, the Alien World

Grotagja Cave North Iceland Myvatn

Grotagja Cave in North Iceland, Myvatn

Blast off to North Iceland and take a trek to what seems like a far, distant world. Lake Myvatn and the surrounding geothermal area feel as if it dropped straight out of sci-fi.

Around the lake, you'll find purple mud pools. Red stone reminiscent of Mars. Misshapen lava towers. Geothermal waters run vivid blue and steam rises from stone stacks. Craters pot-mark the surface of the lava fields. You are far, far from home.

In a place so otherworldly, it's no surprise that Lake Myvatn has been used as a practice area for astronauts heading to space. The astronauts of space shuttle Apollo 11 trained in this very landscape. 

Brave Black Sand Beaches In The Land of Fire & Ice

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach South Coast Iceland

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach in South Coast Iceland

Volcanoes built Iceland and are still spewing forth new land to this day. Even now, age-old obsidian rock is collapsing straight out of the hot earth into the icy Atlantic Ocean. Waves, storms, and winds continue to take their toll, pulverizing the volcanic rock into black beaches on the South Coast.

Constant volcanic activity has privileged Iceland with countless head-turning geological formations and oddities. Few of these sights are as unusual and exotic as the black sand beaches that dot the coastline.

The most famous black beach, Reynisfjara, rests between creation and destruction. The black sand shore sits between volcanoes and glaciers to the North and the raging Atlantic to the South. Reynisfjara is distinguished by the freestanding Reynisdrangar basalt columns that somehow manage to survive the sea. The beach is also bordered by the mysterious Gardar basalt cliff that appears to be trying to flee the crushing surf to the sky. 

The black sand beach of Reynisfjara is a perfect example of beauty made possible with time and adversity. Here, two massive, opposing heavyweights collide--the ocean and the earth, both to which you mean nothing. It is the spot where push meets pull.

Encounter Unspoiled Hot Springs

Hot Spring Reykjadalur

Hot Spring in Reykjadalur, Iceland

Think of a runner’s high or of that moment you take off your shoes and fall into the couch after a long day of work. The triumph after a huge effort is one of life’s most painful pleasures. Only in Iceland can the weary meet comfort within a foot or two of one another.

Explore the Reykjadalur Valley and Hveragerdi for both the task and reward needed to let out that sweet sigh of relief. Brave the austere elements of Hellisheidi Mountain Range on a guided hiking tour. Traverse the 4½ mi (7km) day hike through the geothermal area surrounding Hengill Volcano, and afterward slide into the sweet salvation of a thermic hot river. Strip down and let your body fall into the sweet, warm bliss of one of West Iceland’s hot springs. 

Iceland has plenty of off-the-beaten-path discoveries waiting to be found by those who are willing to explore. The fruit of your own labor is always a bit sweeter when you go way out there to pick it.

Savor The Midnight Sun & The Northern Lights

Northern Lights Magical Auroras Iceland

Northern Lights in Iceland

The summer days are long in near-arctic Iceland and the winter nights are longer. 

During summer solstice, there are almost 24 hours of daylight. This phenomenon, known as the Midnight Sun, only occurs once each year in June.

Both Icelanders and tourists make the most of the extra daytime of Midsummer with festivals and events. Secret Solstice is one of the most popular music festivals in Reykjavik. Celebrations include live music acts, a rave in a glacial cave, and cozy live shows in an ancient lava tunnel.

In the winter, the Northern Lights come to dance above Iceland. The lack of light pollution and closeness to the Arctic Circle make for perfect viewing conditions. 

Head over from September to April to watch the aurora borealis transform the night with dancing illuminations.

Check out Reykjavik

Hallgrímskirkja Reykjavik Church Iceland Capital City

Hallgrímskirkja Church in Capital City Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik is the ideal capital. In between North America and Europe, a perfect base to explore the rest of Iceland. 

It's a city full of food, celebrations, and warm fireplaces. And with the Blue Lagoon just 45 minutes away, it’s no wonder that it’s a top destination for wellness travel. 

There's a cozy, almost magical quality in Reykjavik that makes the city so special. 

The kind of generosity, comfort, and creativity you find in the capital is uniquely Icelandic. You’ll find yourself wishing for it again as soon as you are away.

One Extreme To The Next

Blue Lagoon Pool Nature Baths

Blue Lagoon pool natural bath in Iceland

Iceland’s beauty can be found in its stark contrasts. The difference from one arctic extreme to the next takes place only moments from one another. The sheer amount of change from region to town, from mountaintops to seashores, from the road to the trail, sparks the imagination. 

Iceland challenges you to wonder what's over the next hill, what's around the next bend in this wild island of extremes.

So pack your bags and book a ticket to the extreme! Check out our summer tours in Iceland.