You crawl back into time, as you become at one with the Vikings, who race through the iced glazed mountains and charge into the geothermal springs of the Blue Lagoon. The steam rises and envelops the Vikings as they fall into eternal slumber, their Icelandic home shape shifting before their own eyes. What was once a Vikings domain was captured by the ‘Hidden Folk’ who lurk underground, where the trolls and faeries discuss politics and the elves bring magic to Iceland for first timers. In Hellisgerdi Park the Hidden Folk have a royal family, the Queen And King and their royal children, made up of elves, trolls and other mythological beings. At times they stay true to name, hidden from its Icelandic human companions but then there are stories, where the hidden folk merge as one and infiltrate the human domain. The elves and Icelandic humans warm their hands by the open fire, watching as the flames crackle and pop, foretelling a tale of the tourists who would come to Iceland for the first time and ask… what is there to do in Iceland for first timers?
They arrive, bags in hand, a little weary from the journey, sinking into a sleepless slumber, where time goes oh so slowly. They make an itinerary of things to do in Iceland for first timers, being new to the country themselves, fleshing out a mini novel in a matter of seconds. They would dine like royalty, at the few vegan and vegetarian friendly restaurants that were available… Nostra, Svarta Kaffid, Eldur and Is, chowing down on dairy free crepes and drinking fruity cocktails by the gallon. They would sign petitions against the cruel whale hunting pastime that locals would promote as a must have activity to do in Iceland for first timers and celebrate the beauty of nature as they bathed under the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, as it glistened under the light of the fleeting Icelandic sun. But what could they do in Iceland that would take them off the tourist track, unique activities that they could promote in their guidebook of unique and cool things to do in Iceland for first timers? They discovered magical Iceland Vacation Packages which offered unbelievable experiences like an Iceland Discovery Tour, 10 exquisite days of pure Icelandic delight, with highlights like climbing an active volcano (Grábrók ), which hasn’t erupted in 3,500 years and Arnarstapi, home to wild birds who swoop and soar over their lava kingdom, protected by pagan figure Barður Snæfellsás who lives in Snæfellsjökull and guards against the evil that lurks in the darkness of night.
- Swim Between Two Continents In Silfra, at Thingvellir National Park
You don your snorkel gear, the two of you like dancers in perfect harmony, diving into the open waters of Thingvellir National Park. The water is ice cold at -4°C, but strangely cleansing as you gulp fresh water, in the Silfra fissure. Its recognized as one of the worlds most sought after diving sites and you feel incredibly lucky, as you swim and scuba dive between two continents- North America and Europe, feeling like you are on the edge of glory. The North American and European tectonic plates were once joined as one, lovers at first site, but now they are drifting apart, until one day their dalliance in love will be fueled by passionate hatred as they drift apart once more, never to be joined again.You scour the underwater depths for colourful Nemo’s swimming through coral and seaweed but you come up empty handed, entranced instead by the bright green algae that is draped across the fissure’s rocky sea kingdom.
It reminds you of the trolls who serve the Hidden Folk Royal Family, is it their hair that lines the seas rocky edges? A morbid but nevertheless fascinating thought for a first timer in Iceland, who believes in all things magic and fairytale lore. The water is pure and clean as if blessed by the Hidden Folk themselves and you feel as though you are drinking manna, its cooling properties healing your frazzled mind. As you swim back to grab some air you both hoist yourself up onto dry land like mermaids, shivering but nevertheless blown away by the experience of swimming between two continents. But there is more to Thingvellir than just diving and you explore the native birch woodland, amazed at the grouchy ‘Great Northern Diver Bird’ who keeps its beady eye resting watchfully on the tourists that come and go as if warning them to not spoil the beauty of mother nature.
2. Boycott Cruel Pastimes Like Dog Sledding & Whale Hunting. Instead Visit And Volunteer At Melrakkasetur The Arctic Fox Centre
As an animal lover your heart aches as you watch tourists exploit animals like dogs, sharks, whales and Arctic Foxes, all for the sake of ‘a harmless bit of fun’. But its not fun, it is cruel and you decide to make the most of your first trip to Iceland and volunteer at Melrakkasetur The Arctic Fox Centre that has rescued Arctic Foxes from the hunters who have killed them for centuries. You learn about the relationship between humans and foxes over the years, the only native terrestrial mammal in Iceland, who were often cooped up in fox farms, to be used in fur and meat. And while you are relieved to hear that foxes are no longer used for fur, it breaks your heart to learn that the two beautiful Arctic Fox Ambassadors, were taken in by the sanctuary, after their parents had been killed in a legalized fox hunt in 2015.
You wipe the tears and concentrate on the future, marveling at Ingi and Móri, two blue morph males who gaze into your eyes with a mischievous glint in their eyes. You learn about the incredible Pall Hersteinsson, the late Norwegian scientist who founded The Arctic Fox Centre after decades of research on the foxes since the 1980’s, who sadly died in 2011. You marvel at Kristjana Samúelsdóttir otherwise known as Jana, who last year aged 92 donated money for the upkeep of the centre and all its precious foxes, the very next day. And most of all you are fascinated by the rich history of Iceland’s only native mammal, who the centre is striving to keep safe from fox hunters and thus from extinction.
3. Why Go To A Regular Spa Day When You Can Bathe In A Beer Spa?
After witnessing the plight of the Arctic Foxes you crave a spa day, where the masseuse can magically massage the knots and ease away the tension in your shoulders with one expert touch. But here in Iceland, even a spa day has its own unique twist; enter a delightful notion of a beer bath, where you bathe in water made from beer, water, hops and yeast, while everyone aged over 20 has access to a beer tap, drowning in a sea of beer deliciousness. And while you laugh at the thought of beer being good for you, you are told quite sternly that beer hops are rich in anti oxidants and alpha acids which have an inflammatory effect on the body. You are amused to hear that the beer treatment has a positive effect on health but immediately bite back your words as your muscles loosen under the healing powers of the beer hops.
Your skin feels cleansed, albeit smelling of beer, while the yeast which has been fermented at a low PH level, tightens and softens your hair follicles as it envelops you in a delightful blend of protein, potassium, iron, zinc and magnesium. Although you are only allowed 25 minutes in the beer bath and are told you cannot shower for 4 hours, you are taken to relax at the appropriately named relaxation room, dreaming about being turned into a massive pint of beer. Your time is up and you head into the restaurant where a whole host of delicious beers and beer themed food is presented before your famished, grumbling stomach. You start with Camembert cheese, beer bread, redcurrant jam, presented with a side salad, dipping the soft beer bread into oozing Camembert cheese, while you slurp beer heartily as you raise a glass to the aforementioned beer spa, a unique experience in Iceland for first timers that noone could forget.
4. Climb An Active Volcano & Don’t Die Trying…
You discover that a trip to Iceland is a rare treat, after booking yourself into a 10 day Iceland Discovery tour, and learning that on Day 9 you are to climb Grábrók volcano, where you’ll climb the many steps to the crater summit. You feel the wind whipping through your hair, as you overlook lava fields , looking down into the crater from the rim. Even though the volcano has not erupted in 3,500 years, you still feel the volcanic energy coursing through your veins as you approach the volcanic crater. And when you reach the gushing waterfalls of Hraunfossar (Lava Waterfall) and Barnafossar (Children’s Waterfall), you stay frozen in awe, watching the rivulets slide into tranquil blue waters. The cliffs are enveloped in a warm cloak of moss but it poses an oddly fairytale like charm, a welcome sight in Iceland for first timers. You trace the path that the Hidden Folk once took before you, until you reach Deildartunguhver, Europe’s hottest and highest flow thermal spring, where the trolls and faeries bathe together in ecstasy and delight.
As the night draws to a close, your fun is not over just yet, you ticked an active volcano off your bucket list and now you want to party until the early hours, with your new found friends as The Hidden Folk watch in the distance, casting a score of brightly coloured lights and stars across the sky, as you dance in the open, ice glazed fields.
5. Visit the Myvatn Nature Baths And Revel In Natures Bounty
You trudge up to the North of Iceland, in search of man made hot springs, reveling in the beauty of the Myvatn Nature Baths. It’s rugged, but a deceptively recent construction, carrying on centuries of locals modern bathing pastimes in a 2004 setting. Away from the Blue Lagoon, the crowds are quieter here but you don’t mind, luxuriating in the peace of man made nature. You slip into a dream filled sleep, where the Arctic Foxes dance freely in the wild and the waterfalls dance under the light of a thousand stars . As you come to, you feel the tension leaving your body, delighting in a real geothermal bath, as the steam rises and clouds you in a mystical gaze. You read the steam as you read the tea leaves, foretelling a future of travel prosperity, where you explore a world untouched, outside of your very own imagination. Iceland for first timers was once a daunting prospect, as you were told about the Icelandic delicacies like ‘rotting sharks’ and sheep brains that you were told were a delicacy.
But instead under the warming heat of the nature baths, you found a completely new world, where nature is bountiful and blessed, where sanctuaries exist to protect the rights of animals and where veggie and vegan friendly options were popping up on the menu, the more that time went on. You discovered how magical nature could be as you reveled in manmade springs and trudged through birch woodlands and couldn’t contain your laughter at the look on people’s faces when you told them you went to a ‘beer spa’. And as your plane came crashing back to reality you couldn’t help feeling that you had left the most magical place on earth.
Have You Ever Been To Iceland Before? What Would You Recommend To Do In Iceland For First Timers?