The nature in Iceland is the main reason most tourists visit Iceland. Magnificent glaciers, smouldering volcanoes, thundering waterfalls, eerie wilderness, mountain ranges or lava fields, gushing geysers or serene rainbows – a spectacular sight greets you at every turn. Sometimes called the land of fire and ice, Iceland is a land of extreme contrasts, best revealed in its ever changing, dramatic landscapes. Full of natural wonders and awe-inspiring phenomena, places where our planet’s most powerful forces can be seen still at work, Iceland is, above all, a land of astounding beauty. Spellbinding, elemental, mysterious, and at times otherworldly, it is Iceland’s nature that has inspired ancient and modern travellers, adventurers, explorers, scientists, artists and poets, from the Viking Age to the present day.

Geological features
Tectonic plate boundaries go through Iceland making the country very volcanically active and geologically diverse. Volcanic activity has sculpted some of the landscape’s most fascinating features, such as the beautiful basalt column formations, often adorned with waterfalls, and the multi-coloured rhyolite mountains. Subterranean heat creates geysers, hot springs, natural geothermal pools and iridescent, delicately tinted, mineral-rich silica pools.

Glaciers cover over 11% of Iceland and the Vatnajökull (Vatnajokull) ice cap is Europe's largest glacier, the biggest outside the poles. Iceland has 12 other major glaciers, imperceptibly carving mountains and ravines on their unhurried journey. Glacier rivers abound, each with a splendour of its own and Þjórsá (Thjorsa) is the longest at 230 km, flowing through the highlands. Jökulsárlón (Jokulsarlon), the Glacier Lagoon, is a natural wonder of breathtaking beauty with its floating icebergs of milky white and bright blue capturing the interplay of light and ice crystals.

Wildlife consists mostly of birds, and the Icelandic waters are rich in marine mammals, such as whales and seals. Birdlife in environments from mountains to wetlands, to lakes, lava fields and coastal cliffs is diverse and accessible. More than 370 bird species can be seen in Iceland and it is home to one of the world’s largest colonies of the Atlantic Puffin. Reindeer live in the wild in east Iceland.  Marine life is vibrant, and minke whales, humpback whales, white-beaked dolphins and seals can easily be sighted.

The Northern Lights
The Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis, is another natural phenomenon of outstanding beauty that can be seen in Iceland, usually from September through March. Seeing the Northern Lights, especially seeing them in Iceland, is an awe-inspiring, unforgettable experience.

Seeing any part of Iceland’s stunning scenery is an authentic discovery. The striking contrasts of Iceland’s nature, its poignant strangeness combined with its raw elemental power leave an indelible impression. The staggering dimensions of landforms and a sense they evoke of being in a landscape just taking shape, while simultaneously ancient as the beginning of time, is an experience almost mythical in quality. The sheer beauty of Iceland’s nature leaves no one untouched, and few can leave Iceland without an ardent vow to return.

More information about Icelandic nature can be found on our Attractions and National Parks pages.

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