Today may seem like any other day to you, but to the people of Iceland it’s an important national holiday — it’s Icelandic National Day. Essentially the Scandinavian country’s 4th of July, it’s a celebration of Iceland’s official independence from Denmark and formation as its own republic in 1944.
In honor of the momentous day, here are five cool things to do in Iceland.
Take a Dip in Some Natural Hot Springs
Thanks to Iceland’s geographic profile, the country is a natural mix of ice, water, and serious geothermal activity. The result is a slew of natural hot springs, some of which are actual perfect for a relaxing soak (as opposed to boiling you alive). The most famous hot springs is Blue Lagoon. It’s a forty-minute drive from the capital of Reykjavík and consists of massive complex with spa facilities, restaurants, bars, and even a VIP section. But if that strikes you as being too touristy and overdeveloped there is still a ton of other hot springs to check out.
Go Whale Watching
A must-visit locale for any whale enthusiast, Iceland’s waters are known to be home to over twenty different species. Visitors can take their pick from any number of boat tours that’ll take watchers out on to the ocean to spot the majestic creatures or even stay on land, possibly even having a meal at a restaurant, to see some whale action just off shore.
See The Northern Lights
After hot springs and whales, Iceland other famous feature is Aurora Borealis, AKA the northern lights. The natural light show created by cosmic rays bouncing around in the upper atmosphere, the northern lights, is best seen between September and April. You can choose to either be guided on a tour by an expert or go looking for the light show on your own. If you choose the former, just be sure to use the Aurora forecast from the Icelandic Meteorological Office to find out where to catch the show.
Hang Out in Reykjavík
After taking in the natural wonders of Iceland, it might be good to check in with Iceland’s culture. And the cultural central of Iceland is its capital city of Reykjavík. You can spend the day checking out the city’s variety of historic and art museums and galleries and then enjoy downtown’s famous nightlife.
Search for Elves & Trolls
Icelanders have a long tradition of paying tribute and honoring their folklore beliefs. The most popular Icelandic folklore creatures are elves, known as Huldufólk (hidden people) and is so ingrained in the national culture that road are rerouted and construction projects redesigned to avoid harming their fabled homes. Oh, then there are also trolls. You can arrange to take a tour to see some elvish and troll stomping grounds, check out the museum dedicated to Iceland’s mystical wonders, and even get a lesson at the country’s elite school about elves.