It's no secret that Iceland is an otherworldly wonderland of fire and ice, a land of volcanoes, ice-strewn beaches and quirky singers who wear swan dresses to award shows. One thing people who've never visited Iceland often fail to realize, however, is just how close to civilization many of the country's wildest wonders of nature are. Believe it or not, you can see many of Iceland's most spectacular scenes on day trips from Reykjavik, the capital city.
Located halfway between central Reykjavik and Keflavik Airport, where all international flights to Iceland arrive, the Blue Lagoon is as convenient as it is spellbinding, with fluorescent blue water that seems too beautiful to be real. What's more is that the lagoon, owing to its geothermal feeding mechanism, remains at an inviting 104ºF year-round, which means that you can swim there no matter when your travel plans take your to Iceland.
The easiest way to visit the Blue Lagoon is using your own rental car, but it's also easy to book a Blue Lagoon tour from Reykjavik, or even to visit while on a long layover at the airport. In fact, Icelandic flag carrier Icelandair offers Iceland stopover packages that allow you to see destinations like the Blue Lagoon between flights, even if you've only got a few hours to spare.
If you have more time than a single day, an alternative to the Blue Lagoon (which, in spite of how awesome it is or maybe because of it, can get rather crowded) are the Myvatn Nature Pools, which are more secluded and sit among some creepy-looking lava fields.
Thingvellir National Park
Don't worry about trying to pronounce the name of Thingvellir National Park for now. Instead, focus on marveling at the incredible spectacle that unfolds there: The meeting of the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. Or, more accurately, their separation – they move apart as many as 2.5 cm per year.
To be sure, while you probably won't have long enough in Thingvellir to notice Iceland moving further away from the nearest land, you can explore the manmade treasures that sit inside the park, including the first Icelandic Parliament building, which is just one of the reasons the park is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Known in Icelandic as "Golden Waterfall," Gullfoss rises more than 100 feet above its surrounding landscape, which combined with its fast flows makes it Europe's largest waterfall according to volume of water.
Summer is the best time to see Gullfoss in all its splendor, due to the melting of nearby glaciers, but you can enjoy it all year-round: Gullfoss sits on Iceland's aptly-named "Golden Circle" tourist route, which means that any Reykjavik hotel can arrange an easy day trip there – if you choose not to explore the country using your own rental car, of course.
On the other hand, Gulfoss is beautiful during the winter too, the snow around it often taking on the icy, blue color of the water. Unfortunately, you've only got a few hours of light to work with during the winter months, which means you've got to meticulously schedule this day trip from Reykjavik!
Here's a fun fact about Geysir: Discovered – and named – in the late 13th century, it's the source of the English word "geyser," among analogues in other languages. Of course, the splendor of visiting Geysir extends beyond the thrill of knowing you're visiting the "original" one. For one, there are no barriers around Geysir, which means that you can get as close as you'd like to the hole, keeping in mind of course that you alone are responsible for your safety.
TIP: Geysir sits in close proximity to a number of other geysers, namely Strokkur, which erupts far more frequently than Geysir itself, and whose surrounding pools give off a wide variety of beautiful colors, in addition to Geysir's brilliant turquoise.