Alternative destinations: In West Iceland, take the glacier less traveled

Offering alternatives to overcrowded destinations: You can explore a cave, go into a glacier, sit in a geothermal bath and more in West Iceland.

In Reykjavik, scarce lagoon tickets, crawling traffic and booked restaurants.

Iceland has become the coldest tourism hot spot – and for good reason. A relatively easy flight from practically anywhere in the United States deposits passengers a short drive away from the Blue Lagoon; an hour later, you can be neck-deep in the lava field’s natural geothermal spa.

The Golden Circle is another must-do. It’s about a 300km loop from Reykjavik to the center of Iceland and back. Visitors pass through glorious landscapes that include molten lava eruptions and some of the most spectacular waterfalls before returning to a once relatively quiet capital city now booming with restaurants, souvenir shops, museums and bars.

While it’s still possible to find spots in Iceland that look like a mural, its go-to destinations are often overcrowded. Tickets for the Blue Lagoon are frequently sold out. The Golden Circle has become so tourist-ridden that you can simply follow the slow-moving buses rather than use GPS. And if you dare enter a Reykjavik restaurant without a reservation, you’d better be dining at 4pm If you prefer the road less traveled, go here during the less popular winter months (though it’s cold and dark) or make your reservations early.

West Iceland also offers the only full sheep farm in the country: At remote Bjarteyjarsandur, visitors can herd sheep (traditionally, children race after the animals while adults sip whiskey and watch), shear sheep, pick wild mussels and do other chores, depending on the season. Guests can stay at one of four on-site mountain cottages, as well as inside the farmhouse with the owners, and experience a true farm-to table meal at the farm’s tiny restaurant.

Another only-in-West-Iceland experience is the Bjarnarhofn Shark Museum in the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, where you can learn all about fermented shark meat, a traditional Icelandic dish, and sample it along with Iceland’s signature spirit – Brennivín schnapps.

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