Iceland may not be HOT in Summer with temperatures reaching an average of 14°C but what is hot is Game of Thrones. When the final season is all over re-live your favourite scenes and put yourself in the starring role in Iceland, home to some of the series most dramatic scenes and locations.
Even if you have never seen an episode of Game of Thrones, Iceland is a feast for your senses. The stunning landscapes amaze, the thermal springs revitalise, the Reykjavik food scene is tantalising and in July the Midnight Sun is a truly incredible phenomenon.
There is so much to explore on the Island that prioritising what you can see during your trip could be a problem? We recommend some or all the following!
Thingvellir National Park
Thingvellir National Park is a UNESCO listed site. Geographically it straddles the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates and at points you can actually see where the two plates are separating. Kids love standing or snorkelling between the two, after all they study such phenomenon in Geography; but to be totally honest all the adults we know also had to have their pics taken to prove they had been in America and Europe at the same time! At Almannagjá gorge near Öxaráfoss waterfall Game of Thrones’ fans (GOT’s) will recognise the path to Eyrie. This is a fantastic place to hike and experience dried magma fields, glacial springs and ancient mountain peaks not forgetting Iceland’s moss – used in many local beauty products!
Whilst in the park, visit Lake Thingvellir the wildlife and fish in the lake are diverse due to the mineralisation in the ground water. The angling season runs from May to September if you fancy ‘taking the bait’ – but strict rules apply so we recommend booking a tour. GOT’s may recognise the lake as Westeros and nearby Brienne fought The Hound, apparently!
Dimmuborgir, which translates to ‘dark fortress’ – how apt – is an area of dramatic lava rock formations. The cliffs and pillars were formed by lava streaming over a lake causing it to boil and quickening the cooling process underneath. Now the area is filled by rock stacks, caves and caverns. In Icelandic folklore, the lava caves were home to vile trolls including Gryla who is renowned for her appetite for children and her gigantic pet cat who, believe it or not, ate children over the Christmas period! For GOT’s this is where Mance Raider held his wildling army – you will need to imagine the snow north of the wall in July.
Grjótagjá is a small lava cave with a stunning geothermal hot spring within its depths. There is an ‘other world’ magic and beauty about this cave and it may be why producers chose this as the place where Jon Snow abandoned the Night Watch by committing to Ygritte a Wildling. GTO fans be warned, there is no waterfall, as in the series, that is the power of a different magical source – CGI! Although you can no-longer bathe here you can dip a toe in and take a moment to be inspired by nature.
Hverir is a geothermal field of wasteland where hot springs, boiling mud and steaming chimneys give the lucky visitor the impression they are on Mars, a location for other films I think! GOT producers used the steam chimneys as the appearance of a blizzard in Series 3 and you too can experience the landscape if you take a walk, however the sulphur smell is strong here and you may need a nose peg.
The Mývatn Nature Baths are the north of the islands equivalent to the Blue Lagoon in the south. After all this exploration you deserve a pamper. The baths are centred around a lagoon with temperatures of 30 – 40 degrees Celsius and the water is packed with minerals said to be good for respiration and skin. The two steam baths directly over the geothermal springs reach temperatures close to 50°C so be sure to be fully hydrated before immersing yourself. If you are travelling as a family there is a separate children’s pool for family fun.
Inland from Vik is the Mýrdalsjökull glacier was the filming location for the Fist of the First Men on Westeros. The volcano Katla, regarded as one of the most powerful volcanos in the world, sits within the glacier and mother nature has really worked her magic on and under the landscape here. Höfðabrekkuheiði is a good area for hiking but travellers on the glacier must be careful we recommend you go with a guide and if you are an inexperienced hiker there are jeep tours that get you up close to the world ‘North of the Wall.’
Reynisfjara black sand beach lies beside the fishing village of Vík í Mýrdal and is considered to be one of the islands most beautiful beach locations. Just off shore are the sea stacks, believed in folklore to be trolls trying to pull ships from the ocean to shore turned to stone by the dawn. The stacks are home to thousands of seabirds including puffins, guillemots and fulmars so birdwatches will love this location. GOT fans will again recognise them as the landscape ‘North of the Wall.’ Visitors must be careful on the beach and stay away from the water’s edge as rogue, very large waves can be dangerous.
The Midnight Sun
The peak of the Midnight Sun is around the Summer Solstice – 21st June but from May to August the sun sets just before midnight. You can see this phenomenon from anywhere on the island but, the further north you are, the later the sun will set. Choose one of Iceland’s many beautiful locations and get your camera ready as the slow sunsets and sunrises cause incredible colours in the twilight skies and on the natural countryside. Midnight Tours are available so you could go whale watching, the Summer months are a prolific time, and catch the Midnight Sun at the same time. That is two off your bucket list!
Food and Drink
Exploring Iceland can be an exhausting time so head to the local restaurants and bars to refuel, recharge and relax. Modern Icelandic chefs are creating a food scene that will delight your taste-buds and we recommend you try.
Skyr – Similar to yoghurt but made out of cheese it has been eaten in Iceland through the centuries. Traditional at breakfast it is served with fruit and a sweet topping.
Fish – Plokkfiskur or fish stew – it is a favourite in most restaurants all of which will have their individual twist on the traditional recipe. Make sure you accompany your stew with locally made rye bread and a slab of Icelandic butter it is incredible.
Lamb – In Iceland if you are looking for lamb you must try ‘hangikjöt’. Hangikjöt is a smoked lamb and it can be served hot or cold and is delicious. If you are daring try the smoked sheep’s head.
Cakes – A visit to a bakery is essential. You will find it impossible to choose from the array of sugary treats so our advice is pick a few! Snúður is a must, cinnamon bread covered with chocolate, caramel or sugar glazes.
Coffee – Icelanders are crazy about coffee and we guarantee that in every coffee shop you will be delighted especially with the locals favourite, Latte.
Craft Beer – Iceland has an ever-growing beer scene and there are plenty of local choices on offer in the bars.
Brennivin – a local Icelandic spirit reminiscent of schnapps, but not sweet, used to toast a celebration or special occasion. We recommend you do not have many!
Appelsín – Iceland’s own sweet, orange, fizzy, non-alcoholic drink.
What You Need to Know.
- International flights normally land at Keflavik Airport situated in the south of the island approximately 30 miles from the island’s capital Reykjavik.
- During the winter months many roads are closed and some only accessible for 4WD in the Summer most roads are open.
- Tours to major sites are available across the island.
- Currency is the Icelandic Krona – food and drink can be expensive but natural wonders are free!