As the land of fire, ice, Northern Lights, and cheap flights, it’s no wonder Iceland has become one of the world's most popular destinations. From 2000 to 2014, the number of foreign visitors has more than tripled, according to the Icelandic Tourist Board [PDF].
Unfortunately, a good portion of those visitors don't make it outside of Iceland's famed Golden Circle, which means they miss out on some of the most memorable experiences the country has on offer. Planning a trip to Iceland? Consider making time for some of these slightly-off-the-beaten-path adventures.
1. FLOAT NEXT TO A GEYSER AT THE SECRET LAGOON.
For a no-frills, authentic hot spring experience, make a stop at the century-old Secret Lagoon, Iceland's oldest swimming pool (it opened in 1891 and began offering swim lessons in 1909). The Secret Lagoon is located right off the Golden Circle in Fludir, atop active geothermal grounds that naturally heat the water year-round. Adding to its appeal: It has an active geyser on the premises, which (safely) erupts every five minutes.
2. LEARN ABOUT ICELAND'S "HIDDEN PEOPLE" AT THE ELFSCHOOL.
Elves, gnomes, dwarves, trolls, fairies, and other huldufólk ("hidden people") have long captured the imaginations of Icelanders. (According to one 1998 survey, 54 percent of Icelanders believe in the existence of invisible elves.) If you're looking to get up close and personal with the magical creatures—or at least hear the stories of those who have—check out The Elfschool in Reykjavik. Open year-round, the school hosts lectures and discussions about people who have come in contact with elves. You can opt to end your visit to the school with a private walking tour to one of the country's most popular "elf sighting" spots, located adjacent to the school.
3. EXPLORE THE DIMMUBORGIR LAVA FIELD.
Dimmuborgir, located in northern Iceland, is an enormous lava field filled with otherworldly rock formations and volcanic caves. The site has numerous hiking trails, including routes leading up to the towering Hverjfall Crater, and might look familiar to Game of Thrones fans—it served as one of the main wildling campsites.
4. HIKE TO GLJÚFRABÚI, THE SECRET WATERFALL.
Southern Iceland is home to some of the country's most beautiful waterfalls, including the mighty Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss, where you can hike behind the falls, and a hidden waterfall few travelers know to seek out—Gljúfrabúi. Just a five-minute walk from Seljalandsfoss, Gljúfrabúi is tucked away behind mountains, accessible only through a small opening in the rock formation. You may get wet on your hike there—you have to cross a stream—but that temporary discomfort is well worth the awe-inspiring, secret spectacle that awaits you on the other side.
5. LEARN ABOUT OLD ICELAND AT THE GLAUMBAER MUSEUM.
For hundreds of years, Icelanders lived in grass-roofed “turf houses,” designed to insulate against the country's harsh winters. Today, travelers can visit these traditional Icelandic homes at north Iceland’s Glaumbaer Museum, located right along the Ring Road. Depending on how much time you have, Glaumbaer can be a short (free!) photo stop in-between destinations, or a full-blown dive into a piece of Iceland's architectural history.
Sure, you can hike between the Eurasian and North-American tectonic plates at Thingvellir National Park. But for a truly unusual experience, opt to snorkel through them. Guided tours take divers into the Silfra fissure, a navigable, underwater crack where the two tectonic plates are drifting apart at a rate of two centimeters per year. You won’t witness sea life on this snorkel expedition, but get your waterproof cameras ready for some of the most vibrant shades of blue you’ve ever seen.
Geology nerds, take note: One tour company has actually made it possible for travelers to go inside the (dormant) Thrihnukagigur volcano. Visitors are lowered through the crater opening in a basket-like elevator, and are given around 30 minutes to explore the volcano floor. The tour takes five to six hours total, including travel to and from Thrihnukagigur.
8. VISIT GRÍMSEY ISLAND IN THE ARCTIC CIRCLE.
For one of the most remote Icelandic experiences possible, consider taking the three-hour boat ride to Grímsey Island. The only part of Iceland located inside the Arctic Circle, Grímsey Island is just over three square miles and home to fewer than 100 residents. But what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in opportunities for adventure. You can hike, bike, dive, fish, swim, and, if timed right, view puffins and the Northern Lights.
While most of Marvel Cinematic Universe is magically brought to life on sound stages, the box office-busting superhero movie franchise also makes use of real-world locations around the world to bring its stories to life. Here are 20 Marvel Cinematic Universe movie locations you can visit in real life.
1. WARRIOR FALLS // BLACK PANTHER (2018)
If you want to be the next king of Wakanda, you have to challenge the current king to ritual combat at Warrior Falls. While close-ups and action footage of Black Panther’s Warrior Falls were filmed on a soundstage in Atlanta, Georgia, establishing and wide shots were filmed at Iguazu Falls, a water system on the border of Argentina and Brazil in South America.
2. STARK INDUSTRIES // IRON MAN (2008)
After three months of being held captive by a terrorist group in Iron Man, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) returns to the United States and gives a press conference about his ordeal at Stark Industries HQ in Los Angeles. However, the press conference scene was filmed on location at the headquarters for Masimo, a medical technologies company based in the city of Irvine. The company’s offices have also been featured in Transformers (2007) and Dodgeball(2004).
3. CULVER UNIVERSITY // THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008)
In The Incredible Hulk, Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) is a nuclear physicist and biochemist at Culver University in Willowdale, Virginia. For the film, the campus of the University of Toronto was used for the fictional school, while Morningside Park in Scarborough, Ontario was used for the university’s quadrangle. The park was the main filming location for General “Thunderbolt” Ross’s (William Hurt) attack on the Big Green Guy.
4. RANDY’S DONUTS // IRON MAN 2 (2010)
In Iron Man 2, Tony Stark—in full Iron Man armor—lounges inside the large, iconic donut on top of Randy’s Donuts when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) meets him to talk about the Avengers Initiative. The exterior of the real Randy’s Donuts location in Inglewood, California was used for filming, while the interior of the scene was filmed at Yum Yum Donuts in Playa del Rey, about 20 miles away.
Randy’s Donuts has also been featured in Get Shorty, Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles, Earth Girls Are Easy, Dope, and episodes of Arrested Development.
5. COUNTY HOSPITAL // THOR (2011)
As soon as the Mighty Thor arrives on Earth, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) immediately hits the God of Thunder with her van. She rushes him to a small county hospital in Santa Fe. The production team used an office building called the Toney Anaya Building in Santa Fe, New Mexico for the hospital’s exterior.
6. PIER 13 // CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011)
After small and skinny Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is transformed into the tall and hunky Captain America, a HYDRA infiltrator steals the super soldier serum and speeds away through the mean streets of Brooklyn, New York. Instead of filming in the borough, the film crew simply used the exterior of the Titanic Hotel at Stanley Dock in Liverpool, England for the climax of the chase scene at Pier 13.
7. LOKI’S PLATFORM // THE AVENGERS (2012)
In The Avengers, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is in Germany when he delivers a rousing speech about humanity. In real life, the scene was filmed just outside of Tower City Center on Cleveland, Ohio’s Public Square. (You can actually see the city’s iconic Terminal Tower in the background.)
8. NEPTUNE’S NET // IRON MAN 3 (2013)
In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark has a panic attack when he’s signing autographs for fans at a seafood restaurant called Neptune’s Net. While there is a real Neptune’s Net in Malibu, California, the scene was actually filmed at Dania Beach Bar & Grill in Dania Beach, Florida. The production moved from California to Florida because the real Neptune’s Net is located on the Pacific Coast Highway and it would’ve been virtually impossible—not to mention expensive—to shut down the busy highway for filming.
9. OLD ROYAL NAVAL COLLEGE // THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013)
In Thor: The Dark World, the climactic battle between Thor and the Dark Elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) takes place at Old Royal Naval College, located on the south bank of the river Thames in Greenwich, London. Thor even asks a confused subway rider how to get to Greenwich after he’s transported away from the fight.
Due to its popularity and cinematic look, Old Royal Naval College has also been featured in Cinderella (2015), Skyfall (2012), The King’s Speech (2010), Les Misérables (2012) and Netflix’s The Crown.
10. THE MALL // CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014)
When Captain America and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) are on the run from undercover HYDRA soldiers in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the superheroes hide in plain sight at a mall in Washington D.C. However, the scene was not filmed in the nation’s capital; it was shot on location at Tower City Center in downtown Cleveland, Ohio.
In fact, much like The Avengers, most of Captain America: The Winter Soldier was filmed at various locations in “The Land” (Cleveland’s nickname), including the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Cleveland Public Library, Cleveland State University, the Cleveland Arcade, Cleveland Museum of Art, the Western Reserve Historical Society, and Pilgrim Congregational Church. Even the city’s highways were used to film the movie’s exciting chase scenes, namely the Cleveland Memorial Shoreway over the mighty Cuyahoga River.
11. XANDAR PLAZA // GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)
While Guardians of the Galaxy takes place on the cosmic side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a few real-life landmarks and buildings were used during filming. Most notably, the Liége-Guillemins Railway Station in Liège, Belgium was used for the centerpiece of Xandar Plaza, where the group of alien misfits are arrested at the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy.
12. HYDRA RESEARCH BASE // AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015)
At the beginning of Avengers: Age of Ultron, the titular superhero team fights their way through a forest in the fictional country of Sokovia. Their goal is to retrieve a Chitauri Scepter and the Mind Infinity Stone from inside a castle-like HYDRA research base, which was filmed at Fort Bard (or Forte di Bard) in Bard, Aosta Valley, Italy. The old fort was used as an outpost to protect the valley from Napoleon Bonaparte during the 19th century. Fort Bard is currently the location of the Museum of the Alps.
While Fort Bard was used to film the exterior, England’s Dover Castle was used to film the interior of the HYDRA research facility.
13. MILGROM HOTEL // ANT-MAN (2015)
After he is released from prison, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) moves into his former cellmate Luis’s (Michael Peña) apartment at the Milgrom Hotel in Ant-Man. However, the real filming location was the historic Riviera Hotel on Jones Street in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. It was originally built as a luxury hotel in 1907, but now serves as low-income housing.
14. THE AIRPORT BATTLE // CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016)
In Captain America: Civil War, the epic showdown between Team Iron Man and Team Captain America takes place at Leipzig/Halle Airport in Schkeuditz, Germany. The airport was also the location for other movies, such as Flightplan (2005) and Unknown (2011).
15. EXETER COLLEGE // DOCTOR STRANGE (2016)
When the villain Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) conjures a dark and mysterious spell from the Book of Cagliostro in Doctor Strange, he contacts Dormammu of the Dark Dimension. He recites it inside of the chapel at Exeter College in Oxford, England to seek revenge on the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton).
16. DAIRY QUEEN // GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017)
At the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Meredith Quill (Laura Haddock) and Ego (Kurt Russell) pull into a Dairy Queen in Missouri in 1980. That Dairy Queen is actually the location of BB’s Cafe, a restaurant in Stone Mountain, Georgia, about 20 miles outside of Atlanta.
17. FORESTS OF ASGARD // THOR: RAGNAROK (2017)
In Thor: Ragnarok, Heimdall (Idris Elba) leads a large group of refugees through the forests of Asgard to find sanctuary in the mountains. A majority of the superhero movie was filmed on sound stages in Australia, while Tamborine National Park and Cedar Creek Falls in South East Queensland were used for Asgardian forests and waterfalls.
18. MIDTOWN HIGH SCHOOL // SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (2017)
Peter Parker (Tom Holland) attends Midtown High School in Forest Hills, Queens. The production team for Spider-Man: Homecoming used Franklin K. Lane High School in Brooklyn, New York as the exterior for the fictional high school, while Henry W. Grady High School in Atlanta, Georgia was used for its interior.
19. MUSEUM OF GREAT BRITAIN // BLACK PANTHER (2018)
In 2018’s Black Panther, we meet the film’s antagonist Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) while he's viewing African art and artifacts at the Museum of Great Britain, a stand-in for the British Museum in London. Instead of traveling to England, the film’s cast and crew filmed the scene at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia.
20. SHAWARMA PALACE // THE AVENGERS (2012)
At the end of The Avengers, Iron Man remarks that he’s never tried shawarma after he spotted a shawarma joint while flying around Manhattan during the Chitauri Battle. During the last post-credits scene, we find the very exhausted superhero team chowing down on the yummy Middle Eastern treat.
Director Joss Whedon filmed the scene at the then-Elat Burger (now Shalom Grill), located at 9340 West Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles. To keep the scene a secret, Whedon filmed it a day after the film’s world premiere, when the entire cast was in Los Angeles.
Fun fact: Sales of shawarma rose in Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Boston following the release of The Avengers in May 2012.
If you’ve ever wanted to live out your childhood dream of sleeping under the sea, here’s your chance. The Maldives is already home to several underwater restaurants, an underwater spa, and underwater guest rooms, but now it's getting its first fully submerged villa.
Dubbed “The Muraka,” or coral in the Maldivian language of Dhivehi, this exclusive residence will be located at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island resort, and is slated to open this November. The tropical nation, famed for its marine life and coral reefs, is a popular luxury honeymoon destination.
While other Maldivian resorts offer underwater bedrooms, those look out onto man-made aquariums, according to Architectural Digest. What sets the Conrad’s resort apart is that it sits on the ocean floor, 16.4 feet underwater. It’s located in the Alifu Dhaalu Atoll, one of 26 natural atolls in the Maldives, known for being one of the best places to view whale sharks. The Muraka, which can accommodate up to nine guests, has two levels—one above water, and one below—and includes a powder room, gym, kitchen, bar, living room, dining area, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, butler’s quarters, and private security quarters.
So how much will all that go for? When it opens, the starting rate is estimated to be $50,000 a night, according to Architectural Digest. The Conrad brand has an affinity for underwater spaces. It brought the first underwater restaurant, Ithaca, to the Maldives 13 years ago, and since then many other hotel chains have followed suit.
Dubai also started unveiling its “Floating Seahorse” underwater villas in 2016, but not all of those are available yet, Condé Nast Traveler reports.
See below for more photos of the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island.