Bucket List Series: The Land of Fire & Ice

Think Iceland: a wintry sweep of frozen terrains perhaps characteristic of its namesake. Icy topography and biting winds aside, that isn’t all there is here.

 

Hallmarked by her dramatic landscapes, the stunning North Atlantic island flaunts a cache brimming with inimitable experiences, Iceland-style.

 

FIRST AND FOREMOST, discovering this Nordic nation is best done via an epic road trip. Along the famed Ring Road is the way to go. It is an incredible circuit encircling much of its coasts that strings together most of Iceland's one-of-a-kind treasures:

 

 

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The Radiance of Vatnajökull Ice Caves

Stunning glacial views of the Vatnajokull Ice Cave

 

Kaleidoscopic rays of sunlight filter through the crystalline columns overhead and all around.

 

The cave is awash with cerulean gleam that gently illuminate your path as you navigate pockets of frozen crevices, the ice beneath your feet emanating a chilly glow. 

 

After all, what is Iceland without some ice right? And this isn't just any ice, Vatnajökull Glacier is the largest in Europe and, I daresay, most spectacular as well. 

 

During the winter months, these ice caves are carved into the undersides of the glaciers by meltwater, engineering a natural wonder like no other. Iceland's fickle temperatures and climate ensure the remarkable transience of these features: ever evolving, no two caverns or ice sculptures are ever the same.

 

It's like looking into the beautiful face of Mother Nature.

 

Accompanied by a trusty guide, don some crampons and a safety helmet to enter the most striking of them all, the Crystal Ice Caves. This glacial nonpareil certainly befits its lucent name, exhibiting a glowing allure reminiscent of a raw jewel. 

 

 

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Darkness at Diamond Beach

Iceland's Diamond Beach; credit to Extreme Iceland

 

An expanse of monochrome backdrop, speckled with blocks of transparent ice 'diamonds' which are moulded at the hands of the waves before being scattered here.

 

The Southern coast of Iceland yields a dazzling darkness in the form of Diamond Beach, a charming contrast of icy purity and inky coal-black.

 

These intricate ice sculptures sit like gemstones upon the jet black volcanic sand and offer myriad photo opportunities, from the boulder-like to the tiny fragments, and a wealth of exploration. 

 

Needless to say, Diamond Beach makes for a magical setting right out of a fairytale.

 

 

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Dive between Continents: the Silfra Fissure

 

This is where the Earth rips open.

 

And here is where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates diverge. The craggy vertical rock faces run straight up on both sides of the fissure. Yes, you're literally delving into a crack in the Earth's crust.

 

It is filled with the clearest of glacial waters which have been filtered through porous rock for close to a century. 

 

As a result, there is an unmatched, almost vertigo-inducing underwater visibility of over 100 meters - a true diver's paradise.

 

Its three sections, Silfra Hall, Cathedral and Lagoon, each boast unrivalled scenery that is sure to take your breath away.

 

 

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Elevator into Þríhnúkagígur Volcano

Inside the þríhnúkagígur volcano; credit to Hey Iceland

 

Within the metal basket of an open cable lift, you descend 120 metres into this sleeping giant's fiery heart. 

 

Thus enter the smouldering depths of Thrihnukagigur (easier to pronounce than its native Icelandic moniker) Volcano, which was once filled with red-hot lava.

 

The intensity of pent-up heat within the magma chamber is palpable, as the platform lowers you slowly. In fact, this is the only volcano on earth inside which is perfectly safe to explore! 

 

Painted in a shockingly natural, radiant blend of vibrant hues, the monstrous scale of the chamber is dramatically alarming. Its last eruption over four thousand years ago has shaped textured rock facets in bizarre formations. 

 

Once you reach the chamber grounds, it is irresistible to explore every curve and edge of the lava rocks, all vividly photogenic. The deepest reaches of Thrihnukagigur truly make for an out-of-this-world experience. 

 

 

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Bathe in the Bowels of Grjótagja

 

Forget the oversold tourist hotspot of Blue Lagoon. One woman's opinion, but Grjótagjá does it better and is also a lesser-known site that's no less breathtaking. 

 

The photograph of this hidden gem already speaks volume of its allure. 

 

Grjótagjá is a lava cave concealing a beautiful natural geothermal spring. Its splendour was not lost on Hollywood; a memorable Game of Thrones scene took place right here.

 

Within is a thick, toasty warmth that offers solace from the biting cold. The crystal clear waters offer a glimpse into the rocky bottom and casts an azure glow on the surrounding rocks - a positively ethereal sight to behold. 

 

Clamber onto the cave's different ridges and ledges for a different angle on this subterranean beauty.

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