Exploring Natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Iceland

Iceland’s vast and diverse landscapes paint a picture of ethereal beauty and wonder. Every corner of the island nation tells a story, from icy glaciers to bubbling geysers and the Heritage Sites in Iceland. Nestled within these landscapes are treasures recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as World Heritage Sites, signifying their universal cultural and natural importance.

This article ventures into the heart of Iceland, spotlighting its famed UNESCO sites and emphasizing the pivotal role of sustainable tourism.

Heritage Sites in Iceland

Historical Context of Heritage Sites in Iceland

UNESCO’s endeavor to identify and protect places of great cultural and natural significance began in 1972. These sites, termed ‘World Heritage Sites,’ hold value not just for the nation they belong to but for humanity as a whole. Iceland, with its rich history and unique geology, has earned its place on this coveted list, emphasizing the world’s collective responsibility to preserve these precious locations for future generations.

Cultural World Heritage Sites in Iceland

Iceland’s culture is as rich and layered as its topography. The UNESCO-recognized cultural site, the Þingvellir National Park, stands as a testament to this. This historic location witnessed the establishment of one of the world’s first parliaments in 930 AD. The landscape is adorned with remnants of booths and a church, depicting stories from a bygone era.

Natural World Heritage Sites in Iceland

Heritage Sites in Iceland

Nature has been particularly generous to Iceland. Vatnajökull National Park, another UNESCO-recognized site, is a splendid showcase of this. Encompassing dramatic landscapes from vast glaciers to active volcanoes, it’s a natural marvel. The park embodies the raw power and majesty of Mother Nature, making it an essential destination for nature enthusiasts.

Iceland, often called the ‘Land of Fire and Ice,’ boasts a mesmerizing blend of glacial landscapes and volcanic formations, making it an environmental wonder on Earth. UNESCO has taken note of this raw, untouched beauty, bestowing the World Heritage Site status upon some of its standout natural sites.

Vatnajökull National Park

The crown jewel among them is the Vatnajökull National Park. Spanning an impressive 14% of Iceland’s total land area, it stands as one of Europe’s largest national parks. Here, the Vatnajökull glacier, Europe’s largest ice cap outside of the Arctic, meets active geothermal areas, causing dramatic interactions between ice and fire.

These give rise to diverse phenomena like ice caves, bubbling mud pools, and explosive geysers. Such juxtapositions of frozen landscapes with hot springs beautifully showcase the geological contrasts and make this park an unparalleled destination.

Volcanic Island of Surtsey

Not too far away, the volcanic island of Surtsey offers another remarkable story of creation and transformation. Emerging from the North Atlantic in 1963 due to an undersea volcanic eruption, Surtsey provides a pristine natural laboratory. Scientists from around the world have since been observing the colonization processes of plant and animal life here, making it a unique location for biological research.

Yet, these sites aren’t just geological wonders. They are alive, evolving, and constantly shaping the character of Iceland. Each visit promises a new experience, be it witnessing the northern lights dance above a glacier or understanding the raw power of nature as a volcano rumbles. Every element of these World Heritage Sites offers insights into the past, present, and future of our planet.

Importance of Preserving These Sites

Heritage Sites in Iceland

The natural and cultural gems of Iceland, honored with the distinction of being UNESCO World Heritage Sites, are more than just travel destinations—they’re a testament to Earth’s rich history and the shared heritage of humankind.

But these sites are under threat. Iceland’s unique geological formations, although stunning, are fragile. The delicate ecosystems of places like Vatnajökull National Park, with its sprawling glaciers and biodiverse habitats, are highly susceptible to external pressures.

Increasing tourism, while beneficial for the economy, has led to the trampling of delicate vegetation, littering, and unintended erosion in certain areas. Then there’s the more looming, omnipresent threat of climate change.

Rising temperatures threaten to melt glaciers, subsequently affecting the very essence of some of these sites. The erosion of coastlines, altered bird migration patterns, and shifts in entire ecosystems are stark indicators of the need for immediate preservation action.

But it’s not just the environment. The cultural essence, like the ancient parliament site at Þingvellir, carries stories of human civilization, stories that may lose their physical anchors with neglect.

Local and international conservationists, researchers, and policymakers have been rallying behind preservation efforts, but they’re not alone in this mission. The onus also falls upon tourists and local communities.

By understanding the significance and actively partaking in conservation, whether it’s through adhering to park guidelines, supporting conservation initiatives, or simply spreading awareness, every individual can contribute to the continued legacy of these magnificent sites. After all, in preserving these sites, we’re safeguarding stories, histories, and ecosystems that enrich our global heritage.

Tips for Responsible Tourism

As global citizens, it’s crucial to tread lightly and responsibly. Choosing eco-friendly modes of transportation, opting for sustainable accommodations, supporting local businesses, and respecting local customs can make a world of difference. Remember, every action counts when preserving the places we love.

Conclusion

Iceland’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites are not just landmarks; they’re testaments to the nation’s cultural richness and natural prowess. Their unmatched beauty and historical significance are treasures that demand respect and preservation.

As we revel in their splendor, let’s also pledge to ensure their sustainability. In preserving them, we not only cherish the past but also ensure a legacy for future generations. So, on your next visit, embrace Iceland’s wonders responsibly, for such beauty is rare, and it’s in our hands to keep it that way.

Recent Posts

Reykjavik
blue lagoon
Guide to the Best Sites for Camping in Iceland

Guide to the Best Sites for Camping in Iceland

Sea Kayaking

Sea Kayaking

One of the most exhilarating ways to experience Antarctica, the Arctic and beyond.

Sea kayaking holidays in the humbling wilderness of Antarcticathe Arctic, and some of the world’s most biodiverse regions, are guaranteed to stir your soul. Paddle between brash ice and icebergs of all shapes and sizes, absorbing the majestic scenery as it unfolds before you. 

In Antarctica, keep your camera on-hand for unforgettable encounters with penguins, seals and whales, and occasionally leopard seals or orcas. In the Arctic, prepare to  paddle under nesting bird colonies, past massive glaciers and around large iceberg. 

Led by experienced guides, you and your small group of like-minded adventurers will paddle between ice floes, brash ice and icebergs of all shapes and sizes. Paddling is one of the best ways to access and intimately explore the beautiful coastlines we visit and therefore make the most of your time in the wild and remote destinations we visit

Top reasons to choose a Sea Kayaking holiday

Annotation 2023-04-28 030538

See wildlife unobtrusively

Kayaking is one of the best ways to spot rare wildlife, from penguins to puffins.

Annotation 2023-04-28 030913

Better access

Access intimate bays and coves that bigger crafts can’t reach.​

Annotation 2023-04-28 030939

Knowledgeable guides

Our experienced sea kayak guides will help bring your chosen destination to life.

Annotation 2023-04-28 031035

Become an expert

Hone your kayaking skills and gain a hobby for life!

Annotation 2023-04-28 031035

Make friends

Become lifelong friends with your small group of like-minded adventurers.

Annotation 2023-04-28 031119

Stay fit on your holiday

Being active every day on your holiday means you don’t have to feel guilty about being spoilt by our expert chefs!

Annotation 2023-04-28 031119

Enhance your experience

Add another layer to your once-in-a-lifetime holiday and make the most out of your time in some of the most remote places on earth.

Annotation 2023-04-28 031213

It's fun!

Have the time of your life exploring some of the wildest places on earth from the water.

FAQs

Our guide to paddler ratio is 1:10 and we provide an accompanying safety Zodiac. There are 26 places available in Antarctica and tropical voyages, 20 in temperate regions, South Georgia and all Arctic trips except in Franz Josef Land where the maximum is 16 kayakers.

Kayakers must be 14 or over.

Sea kayaking is offered in place of regular shore excursions. We aim to paddle as often as possible. Depending on the voyage, we generally aim to paddle twice per day.

We will give you a drybag for extra clothing, binoculars and anything that needs to be kept dry. You should also carry a water bottle. We recommend bringing a waterproof camera or phone, or ensuring you have a good quality waterproof case.

If the weather changes during our outing we will head back to the ship and perhaps join a shore excursion. The ship’s captain, expedition leader and kayak guide always maintain close contact to ensure a safe paddling experience. We do not attempt to paddle too far away from the ship. The emphasis is on experiencing the destination rather than travelling long distances.

The kayaks are made with a hard plastic and are easily paddled in swell and conducting shore landings, and through small patches of brash ice. We manoeuvre around the larger ice chunks and floes.

Polar regions

Kayaking in the poles offers a unique wildlife viewing experience. In Antarctica, we have many opportunities to encounter penguins, seals and whales, and occasionally we may even spot leopard seals or orcas. In the Arctic, we’ll paddle under nesting bird colonies, past massive glaciers and around large icebergs, however we maintain a safe distance from polar bears and walruses. Our guides carry rifles and flare guns in the Arctic to ensure your safety against polar bears.

Temperate regions

Kayakers in wild temperate regions will have a unique wildlife experience, with possible encounters with seals and basking sharks. You will have the opportunity to view some of the largest sea bird colonies in the northern hemisphere.

Tropical regions

The superb wildlife-viewing opportunities are endless in the astonishingly biodiverse nature reserves we visit. Kayaks offer a unique opportunity to view marine and land mammals, coral reefs, tropical fish, sea birds and an astonishing range of rainforest birds. We will bring our snorkelling gear with us during our paddles and take advantage of any opportunities to view marine life up close.

In the unlikely event of a capsize, your experienced guide will assist by righting the kayak, stabilising it then pumping it out. Paddlers will re-enter with the guide’s help, or with a support Zodiac. With drysuits and warm clothing underneath you will be comfortable in cold water for up to half an hour. Note that the kayaks have separate compartments with bulkheads, which means they will float after a capsize.

No. Each kayaking place is for one person only. Passengers are unable to share a kayaking place as we customise the kayaks and dry suits for each individual kayaker at the beginning of each voyage.

Contact Us

Previous slide
Next slide

Balcony Stateroom Superior

Deck: 4 & 6

Cabin and balcony combined size: 29.2m² – 35.2m² (314.3ft² – 378.9ft²)

Beds: 
Icon

King bed

 
Icon

Twin beds

Features

Icon

Private en-suite (wheelchair accessible)

Icon

Private balcony

Icon

Full size window

Icon

Desk area

Icon

Closet space

Icon

Room-controlled thermostat

Icon

Room safe

Icon

42″ flat-screen TV

Icon

Mini bar*

Cabin Inclusion

  • 1 x 3-in-1 polar jacket per person (polar voyages only)

Some of these rooms are equipped with wheelchair accessible bathrooms.

*Please note mini bar items are chargeable in all cabins except Junior Suite and Captain’s Suite

Sea Kayaking

Sea Kayaking

One of the most exhilarating ways to experience Antarctica, the Arctic and beyond.

Sea kayaking holidays in the humbling wilderness of Antarcticathe Arctic, and some of the world’s most biodiverse regions, are guaranteed to stir your soul. Paddle between brash ice and icebergs of all shapes and sizes, absorbing the majestic scenery as it unfolds before you. 

In Antarctica, keep your camera on-hand for unforgettable encounters with penguins, seals and whales, and occasionally leopard seals or orcas. In the Arctic, prepare to  paddle under nesting bird colonies, past massive glaciers and around large iceberg. 

Led by experienced guides, you and your small group of like-minded adventurers will paddle between ice floes, brash ice and icebergs of all shapes and sizes. Paddling is one of the best ways to access and intimately explore the beautiful coastlines we visit and therefore make the most of your time in the wild and remote destinations we visit

Top reasons to choose a Sea Kayaking holiday

Annotation 2023-04-28 030538

See wildlife unobtrusively

Kayaking is one of the best ways to spot rare wildlife, from penguins to puffins.

Annotation 2023-04-28 030913

Stay fit on your holiday

Being active every day on your holiday means you don’t have to feel guilty about being spoilt by our expert chefs!

Annotation 2023-04-28 030939

Knowledgeable guides

Our experienced sea kayak guides will help bring your chosen destination to life.

Annotation 2023-04-28 031035

Enhance your experience

Add another layer to your once-in-a-lifetime holiday and make the most out of your time in some of the most remote places on earth.

Annotation 2023-04-28 031035

Make friends

Become lifelong friends with your small group of like-minded adventurers.

Annotation 2023-04-28 031119

Better access

Access intimate bays and coves that bigger crafts can’t reach.​

Annotation 2023-04-28 031119

Become an expert

Hone your kayaking skills and gain a hobby for life!

Annotation 2023-04-28 031213

It's fun!

Have the time of your life exploring some of the wildest places on earth from the water.

FAQs

Our guide to paddler ratio is 1:10 and we provide an accompanying safety Zodiac. There are 26 places available in Antarctica and tropical voyages, 20 in temperate regions, South Georgia and all Arctic trips except in Franz Josef Land where the maximum is 16 kayakers.

Kayakers must be 14 or over.

Sea kayaking is offered in place of regular shore excursions. We aim to paddle as often as possible. Depending on the voyage, we generally aim to paddle twice per day.

Sea kayaking is offered in place of regular shore excursions. We aim to paddle as often as possible. Depending on the voyage, we generally aim to paddle twice per day.

If the weather changes during our outing we will head back to the ship and perhaps join a shore excursion. The ship’s captain, expedition leader and kayak guide always maintain close contact to ensure a safe paddling experience. We do not attempt to paddle too far away from the ship. The emphasis is on experiencing the destination rather than travelling long distances.

The kayaks are made with a hard plastic and are easily paddled in swell and conducting shore landings, and through small patches of brash ice. We manoeuvre around the larger ice chunks and floes.

Polar regions

Kayaking in the poles offers a unique wildlife viewing experience. In Antarctica, we have many opportunities to encounter penguins, seals and whales, and occasionally we may even spot leopard seals or orcas. In the Arctic, we’ll paddle under nesting bird colonies, past massive glaciers and around large icebergs, however we maintain a safe distance from polar bears and walruses. Our guides carry rifles and flare guns in the Arctic to ensure your safety against polar bears.

Temperate regions

Kayakers in wild temperate regions will have a unique wildlife experience, with possible encounters with seals and basking sharks. You will have the opportunity to view some of the largest sea bird colonies in the northern hemisphere.

Tropical regions

The superb wildlife-viewing opportunities are endless in the astonishingly biodiverse nature reserves we visit. Kayaks offer a unique opportunity to view marine and land mammals, coral reefs, tropical fish, sea birds and an astonishing range of rainforest birds. We will bring our snorkelling gear with us during our paddles and take advantage of any opportunities to view marine life up close.

In the unlikely event of a capsize, your experienced guide will assist by righting the kayak, stabilising it then pumping it out. Paddlers will re-enter with the guide’s help, or with a support Zodiac. With drysuits and warm clothing underneath you will be comfortable in cold water for up to half an hour. Note that the kayaks have separate compartments with bulkheads, which means they will float after a capsize.

No. Each kayaking place is for one person only. Passengers are unable to share a kayaking place as we customise the kayaks and dry suits for each individual kayaker at the beginning of each voyage.

Contact Us

× 24/7 Whatsapp