Renowned for its majestic landscapes, Iceland is a wonderland of unimaginable beauty that everyone must visit at least once in their lifetime.
Unforgettable LandscapesEverywhere you turn in Iceland you are met with spectacular sights, whether it's the towering glaciers, serene fjords, or erupting geysers. The island country is defined by its dramatic landscape which includes geothermal hot springs such as the Blue Lagoon that offers a warm, mineral-rich soak amid ice and snow. The rugged terrain is perfect for adventurous hearts, boasting a plethora of outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and glacier climbing.
The Northern LightsOne of the country’s most famous aspects is undeniably the mesmerizing spectacle of the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis. These magnetic and beautiful light displays paint the night sky in magnificent shades and leaving indelible memories.
Unique WildlifeThe wildlife in Iceland is also worth mentioning, as the country is famed for its wild horses, puffins, and whales. In fact, Iceland is one of the prime locations for whale watching, boasting a high percentage sightings.
Vibrant Icelandic CultureBeyond its natural beauty, Iceland is a country rich in history and culture. A visit to the capital, Reykjavik, reveals the country’s vibrant artistic community, with a wealth of galleries, museums, and music festivals. History enthusiasts will also appreciate the well-preserved historical sites, which tell the sagas of the island's Viking history.
The Enthralling GeologyThe geological history of Iceland is just as captivating, with its amazing volcanic activity and geysers that will leave you in awe. The country sits on one of the world’s most volcanically active hot spots offering awe-inspiring visuals.
Icelandic CuisineDon't forget the exotic and wholesome Icelandic cuisine that offers a unique gastronomic experience. With an emphasis on sustainability, dishes are made with fresh local produce including wild game, ocean-fresh seafood, and the national dish, Hangikjöt, a type of smoked lamb. Anyone searching for a travel destination that encompasses outstanding natural beauty, thrilling adventures, rich history, and a vibrant cultural scene, Iceland should be at the top of your list.
The History of Iceland
The captivating saga of Iceland, an island nation nestled in the heart of the North Atlantic Ocean, is a tale that spans over a thousand years. As any historian would understand, the luminous nature of Iceland’s past is mainly rooted in its unique geographical setting, a stark blend of glaciers, volcanoes, and geothermal springs - a breeding ground for tales of fire and ice. The very landscapes that decorate its terrain contain eons of stories, a testament to the resilience of the human spirit among the forces of nature. A journey to Iceland not only immerses one in the beauty of its landscapes but also chronicles humanity’s interaction with nature, making it an ideal destination for history buffs and travel enthusiasts alike.
The Settlement Era
Iceland’s narrative begins around the late 9th century, during an era known as the Settlement Era. Scandinavian explorers, popularly known as Vikings, embarked on a journey that led them to this remote North Atlantic island. Preserving their rich stories and customs, they left an indelible mark on the cultural fabric of the island. An important chronicle, the Landnamabok, documents their settlements and lineage - a tangible experience of the historical journey. A visit to Iceland gives one the unique opportunity to traverse the same landscapes those courageous settlers once did, unmasking the resonating Viking heritage hidden within the nooks and crannies of the island.
Commonwealth and Changing Fortunes
The period following the Settlement Era, referred to as the Commonwealth Era, saw the island's inhabitants establish one of the world's oldest functioning legislative assemblies, the Althingi, in 930 AD. This era paints Iceland as a beacon of early democracy and judicial system, an aspect that still imbues pride in Icelanders. Equally fascinating is the Sagas of Icelanders—a collection of medieval texts that depict heroic epics, offering both historical and imaginative insights into their lives. A journey to Thingvellir, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, takes you back in time where several historical events unfolded, marking the changing fortunes of Iceland’s history.
Modern Era and Independence
Across the centuries, the island's fortunes waxed and waned, yet it persevered through hardships and catastrophic disasters, such as the Laki eruption in 1783. Its history took a significant turn in the 20th century when it peacefully attained independence from Denmark in 1944, manifesting its inherent Hardy spirit. Museums, national parks, and historical sites around the island offer an intimate glimpse into the striving journey towards independence. To visit Iceland means to take a deep dive into the modern transformation, admiring the brave and relentless spirit of those who paved their paths towards freedom and independence.
From its earliest days as a Viking domain to its modern position as a thriving, independent nation, Iceland's history is nothing short of remarkable. The rugged landscapes worked by the first settlers, the pivotal moments of the Commonwealth Era, and the stories of courage, resilience, and fortitude in the modern era— this unique mix creates the enchanting symphony that is Iceland's history. A trip to Iceland offers more than just breathtaking views—it's a tangible experience of a deep-rooted historical journey, waiting to be discovered by those who seek it.
The Culture of Iceland
Iceland, an unparalleled Nordic paradise, displays a vibrant contrast where fire and ice coexist. Its culture reflects this contrast, with its fascinating blend of ancient traditions meshed seamlessly with modern appeal. Saturated in rich folklore, interesting customs, and a diverse artistic landscape, Icelandic society proves to be as awe-inspiring as its dramatic and unique natural environment. Its steadfast people, famed for their resiliency, and jovial camaraderie, are as warm and welcoming as the country's many geothermal springs. Delve deeper into the heart of this sublime island nation, and you'll find a world ripe with mesmerizing traditions and experiences, compelling any travel enthusiast to add Iceland to their Bucket List.
The Resilient and Welcoming Icelandic People
The very essence of Iceland are the Icelanders themselves. Renowned for their stoicism and resilience, a critical attribute carved from centuries of navigating a challenging environment, they are also a jolly, friendly lot. A strong sense of community and camaraderie is pervasive, likely a product of the country's small population, and visitors are often surprised by their level of hospitality. The Icelandic language, though challenging for outsiders to master, is another unique element showcasing the country's well-preserved cultural heritage. Most Icelanders are trilingual, fluent in Icelandic, English, and another language, making it a very tourist-friendly destination.
The Substance of Ancient Folklore and Modern Art
Iceland's culture is deeply ingrained in folklore and saga. Its history is intertwined with legendary tales of trolls and elves, enhancing the mystique that encapsulates the Icelandic landscape. Even today, these mythical creatures form an integral part of their daily conversations and beliefs, with a significant part of the population admitting cryptic belief in their existence. Icelandic literature, shaped by the ancient sagas of gods and heroes, is celebrated worldwide and continues to thrive even today. But it's not just ancient history and sagas where Iceland's bohemian spirit thrives. Prominently reflected in its modern music scene, architecture, design, and visual arts, Iceland's cultural diversity is highly vibrant and forward-thinking.
The Peculiar and Delectable Icelandic Cuisine
To truly immerse oneself in Icelandic culture, one shouldn't overlook their distinctive, flavorsome cuisine. Predominantly sourced from the wild Atlantic waters and lush, green pastures, Iceland's foods are fresh, organic, and inventively presented. Traditional dishes such as 'Hákarl' (fermented shark) or 'Svið' (sheep's head) may sound peculiar, but your culinary adventure wouldn't be complete without giving them a try. For those with a less adventurous palate, Iceland offers a bountiful selection of lamb, seafood, and skyr - a delicious, healthy yogurt unique to the country. The thriving coffee culture is yet another aspect of Icelandic society that you should indulge in, with the capital city, Reykjavik, boasting various trendsetting coffee houses.
As a vibrant hub of multicultural experiences, Iceland brims with unexpected treasures. From the stoic, joyous people to the enthralling blend of ancient sagas and modern arts, and the exquisite cuisine, every element serves to cultivate a deeply-engraved cultural imprint that is hard to forget. A visit to Iceland is not merely a journey; it's a stunning immersion into a storied culture that has been centuries in the making.
The Food of Iceland
When people think of Iceland, they usually imagine its stunning natural beauty with dramatic landscapes of glaciers, volcanoes, and hot springs. However, there's another dimension to the vigor of Iceland that one should not miss out on - its fascinating culinary scene. So, if you are someone bitten by the travel bug and are also a food enthusiast, you must add this beautiful Nordic island to your travel goals. The distinctive confluence of its inland and coastal cuisine presents an unexpected feast to your taste buds with a strong hint of the Viking history.
A Delicious Mix of Tradition and Innovation
Icelandic food sends you on a historical gastronomic journey by retaining its traditional influence while embracing modern culinary trends. The typical Icelandic diet revolves around dairy, lamb, and fish - resources that are locally and profusely available. Traditional Icelandic dishes like 'Hangikjöt' (smoked lamb), and 'Plokkfiskur' (fish stew) truly showcase the country’s rich culinary heritage. However, in recent years, Iceland has seen a rise in inventive chefs who are borrowing flavors from around the world to spice up the local fare. In Reykjavik, the country's cosmopolitan capital, you'll find everything from Vietnamese pho to American-style barbecue, yet with a unique Icelandic twist.
From Farm to Plate: The Best of Sea and Land
Icelandic cuisine prides itself on its freshness. The waters that surround the island are teeming with a variety of seafood such as cod, haddock, and Arctic char. Icelandic lamb, fed on the verdant wild pastures and mountains, has a unique flavor, unsurpassed in quality. 'Hákarl' (fermented shark), albeit a challenging delicacy, introduces you to the tougher side of Icelandic culinary history when food preservation was a necessity. Visit a local market and you'll find an array of fresh produce from robust root vegetables to wild mushroom and berries, owing to the long daylight hours during summer that bestow a unique, potent flavor to the crops.
Unique Food Experiences
Experiencing Icelandic food is not just about dining in restaurants, it’s also about understanding the local food culture. There are several food festivals and culinary Tours that allow you to explore and indulge in the country's gastronomical delights. The Great Fish Day in Dalvík is a popular seafood festival, while the Reykjavik Food Walk lets you taste your way around the city, savouring overalls, local cheeses, lamb, homemade ice-cream, and even craft beers. Moreover, you can even venture to go on a Viking Sushi Adventure boat tour in Stykkishólmur, where you can taste scallops and sea urchins straight from the sea.
Without a doubt, Iceland offers a gastronomical adventure as captivating as its sceneries. So, pack your bags and get ready to embark on a Nordic culinary journey like no other, satisfying your wanderlust and your appetite in one memorable trip!
What to See and Do in Iceland
Iceland is the land of fire and ice, a nation that sits atop a geological hotspot, scattered with geysers, volcanoes, and hot springs. At the same time, it boasts of ice fields and glaciers that sculpt the landscape. It offers vast open lands, with dramatic cliffs and breathtaking fjords that present some of the most staggering views on this planet. As a traveler to this Nordic nation, here are the 10 experiences you should not miss.
1. Exploring Reykjavik, Iceland
The capital city, Reykjavik, is a cultural hotspot laden with history, art, and music. An integral part of your travel itinerary should be a visit to the National Museum with its Viking treasures, the Hallgrimskirkja Church offering panoramic city views, and the Harpa Concert Hall, noted for its stunning glass façade. Also, stroll through the Old Harbor area, savoring a strong cup of coffee and traditional Icelandic bakeries.
2. Bathing in the Blue Lagoon, Grindavík, Iceland
These famous thermal spas warrant a visit. Located in a massive geothermal field, you can immerse yourself in the therapeutic warmth of mineral-rich waters against a backdrop of lava fields. It's an unprecedented experience where you pamper your body while soaking in the mesmerizing landscapes.
3. Visiting the Geysir Geothermal Area, Iceland
Get ready to be stunned by the sight of water and steam shooting high into the sky at this geothermal hotspot. The most active geyser, Strokkur, erupts every few minutes, offering a thrilling spectacle. The surrounding geothermal fields, bubbling mud pools, and fumaroles complete the otherworldly scenery.
4. Marveling at Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland
Witness the power of nature at the Gullfoss Waterfall, where torrents of water plunge into a deep crevice. The vast sheet of water cascading down the canyon creates a surreal spectacle that will leave you mesmerized. On a sunny day, you might even be rewarded with the sight of a rainbow over the falls.
5. Glacier Hiking or Ice Caving in Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland
With guides accompanying you, undertaking a glacier hike or exploring ice caves in Europe's largest glacier field is a mind-blowing experience. Walking across ice fields, exploring deep crevasses, and gazing at the stunning blue ice caves is a unique adventure that the park offers.
6. Walking on Diamond Beach, Jökulsárlón, Iceland
This black sand beach is adorned by translucent icebergs that wash ashore, looking like twinkling diamonds against the black sand. Strolling along the beach photographing these glittering ice formations is a truly magical experience. Don't miss the spectacular sight of the nearby Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.
7. Whale Watching in Húsavík, Iceland
Húsavík, known as the whale capital of Iceland, is the perfect place to undertake a whale-watching tour. Boarding a traditional Icelandic oak boat, you can see humpbacks, minke whales, and occasionally, the majestic blue whale in the waters of Skjálfandi Bay. You can also spot dolphins, seals, and a rich variety of seabirds, including puffins.
8. Exploring the Fjords of the Westfjords, Iceland
One of the most remote areas in Iceland, the Westfjords, boasts of deep fjords flanked by towering cliffs that are home to millions of seabirds. Hike across the cliffs, sail across the fjords, or simply drive the scenic routes taking in the landscape in all its unspoiled beauty.
9. Northern Lights Viewing, Iceland
The ethereal beauty of the Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights cannot be overstated. During the winter months, look out for the clear, cloudless nights when this divine light show paints the sky in shades of green, purple, and pink. Head outside Reykjavik to avoid city lights for a clear view of this celestial spectacle.
10. Driving the Golden Circle, Iceland
Last but not least, the Golden Circle route allows you to see some of Iceland’s most spectacular sights such as the Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and the Gullfoss waterfall. You also pass through beautiful landscapes encompassing mountains, lakes, and traditional Icelandic farmlands. It's a road trip that embodies the diverse beauty that Iceland offers.
Iceland is an idyllic destination where the beauty of raw nature is on full display. It's a country that has a little bit of everything for travelers - from rich history, captivating geology, unique native fauna, to breathtaking landscapes and thrilling outdoor adventures. It's a place that transcends your typical holiday destination, offering experiences and memories that last a lifetime.
Why You Should Travel to Iceland
Iceland, a Nordic island nation distinguished by its evocative landscapes and profound natural beauty, has become a hotspot for global jetsetters. The country is a harmonious blend of glacial and volcanic terrain that captivates every beholder's eye. When travelers embark on their journey to Iceland, they are not merely visiting another country; they are bracing themselves for a once-in-a-lifetime transcendent experience. Its landscapes, with poetic names like Landmannalaugar and Borgarfjörður, are famous worldwide for their surreal and dreamlike quality. Think of turquoise-blue glaciers, erupting geysers, rugged fjords, black sand beaches, and rolling green pastures. Each stop represents awe-inspiring beauty, leaving travelers dumbstruck by Mother Nature's creative prowess.
Arctic Adventures and the Aurora Borealis
The adventure opportunities in Iceland are virtually unparalleled. Iceland's unique topography offers an array of outdoor activities that are hard to find elsewhere. Fancy snorkeling between two tectonic plates? Head to Silfra fissure in Thingvellir National Park. What about glacier hiking, ice caving, or bathing in geothermal pools? Iceland has it all. Not to mention, the popularity of Iceland's Ring Road, a circuit that wraps around the entire country, offering the chance to witness majestic waterfalls and dramatic cliffs. Another major draw to Iceland is, of course, the Northern Lights. To see the sky painted with swirling hues of green, blue, and purple is a visceral, otherworldly experience. The Northern Lights (also known as Aurora Borealis), which remain elusive in most places, are frequently visible in Iceland, especially during the winter months.
Culture, Cuisine, and the Convincing Case for Visiting Iceland
Besides its astounding natural allure, Iceland also presents a wealth of cultural richness. Known for their friendliness and hospitality, the Icelandic people have preserved their Viking history and Norse traditions, offering a unique cultural experience. Icelandic cuisine, albeit distinct and unusual for some, is another facet that invites exploration. From fermented shark and dried fish to mouthwatering lamb and fresh seafood, the culinary adventures match the country's geographic ones. In a nutshell, a blend of otherworldly landscapes, adrenaline-pumping adventures, rich cultural experiences, and esoteric cuisine makes Iceland a must-visit destination for every global traveler. So, why should you chart a course for this extraordinary land? For one, where else could you experience a day under the Midnight Sun or a night under a skyscape painted by the dancing Aurora? Nowhere else offers the same blend of raw, untamed nature and innovative, welcoming culture. It’s high time you packed your bags and prepared to embark on the exciting journey of a lifetime to Iceland!
Tips & Tricks for Traveling in Iceland
Trust me, you're in for a treat if you're planning a trip to Iceland. This Nordic island nation is known for its breathtaking sceneries - rugged landscapes, thermal hot springs, captivating Northern Lights and majestic glaciers. To make your travel to Iceland better, here are 10 useful tips and tricks derived from the experiences of seasoned travelers.
1. Rent a Car
Given its vast and remote landscapes, one of the best ways to explore Iceland is by driving around at your own leisure. Public transportation is limited outside Reykjavik, and many of the country's most breathtaking sights are scattered throughout the island. It's best to rent a car, preferably a 4x4, especially during winter season for a hassle-free travel experience. Plus, it provides flexibility in your schedule, allowing you to start your day early or stay late to capture the sunset or the Northern Lights.
2. Be Weather-Wise
Iceland's weather can be unpredictable, sometimes experiencing multiple seasons in a day. Check weather updates regularly on websites like Vedur.is. Dress in layers and carry waterproof clothing. It's especially important to prepare for harsh conditions if you're driving, as roads can get icy or closed due to snowstorms. Protect your cameras as well against the elements.
3. Don't Just Stay in Reykjavik
While Reykjavik is beautiful and filled with vibrant culture, Iceland’s real beauty lies in its wild countryside. Explore the Westfjords, visit the spectacular waterfalls in the south, venture into the highlands or take a dip in the hot springs in Myvatn. Leave the city behind to experience Iceland in its raw and mesmerizing form.
4. Book in Advance
Whether it’s accommodation, car rentals, popular tourist spots or restaurants, it's always good to book or make reservations in advance since Iceland’s popularity has surged over recent years. Also, remember that some campsites or locations are only open during specific seasons, so checking their schedule and booking in advance can save you from disappointments.
5. Use an Icelandic SIM Card
For easy communication and navigation, buy a local SIM card. Most places in Iceland, even remote ones, have good cellular coverage. It also helps to use map services while driving, or translate Icelandic language on the go.
6. Consider Self-Catering
Eating out in Iceland can be expensive, so consider buying groceries from local supermarkets and self-catering. Bónus and Krónan are two popular grocery chains where you can find a wide range of affordable products. Self-catering also gives you an opportunity to experiment with local Icelandic ingredients.
7. Respect the Nature
Iceland's unique landscapes are incredibly beautiful but also delicate. Always stick to marked paths, don’t litter, disturb the wildlife or damage the vegetation. It's important to leave the places you visit as beautiful as you found them.
8. Soak in the Hot Springs
No trip to Iceland is complete without experiencing its geothermic spas and hot springs. The most famous one is Blue Lagoon, but there are plenty of less crowded and more affordable options all across the country like Myvatn Nature Baths or secret local hot-pots.
9. Capture the Northern Lights
If you're traveling between September and April, you have a good chance of witnessing the magical Northern Lights. To increase your odds, escape from city lights, check the aurora forecast, and be patient. Make sure your camera has the right settings for night photography.
10. Embrace Slow Travel
Rather than hopping from one attraction to another, take your time to really experience the places you visit. It can be tempting to cram as many sights as possible, but you will enjoy your trip more if you spend more time exploring each location. Embrace Iceland's slow, peaceful pace and beautiful isolation.
Hopefully, these tips will help make your travel to Iceland an unforgettable experience. The country offers a unique blend of natural beauty, warm and welcoming locals, and interesting traditions that make visiting it a truly rewarding adventure.
Other Places You Might Like
If you are someone who absolutely loves the natural wonders, breathtaking landscapes, ancient history, and vibrant culture of Iceland, then you're in for a treat. Here are a series of cities across the globe that offer a similar experience to Iceland. These destinations are sure to inspire and enchant in equal measure and maybe even make you feel like you've found a second home.
Starting with the capital of Iceland itself, Reykjavik is an unmissable destination for those who are in love with Iceland. The city is packed with rich culture, history, and some of the most stunning sights in the country. Explore the old harbour, walk the colourful streets, and don't forget to take a dip in one of the city's many thermal pools. Its close proximity to stunning landscapes- famous geysers, hot springs, and waterfalls of the Golden Circle route- makes it an absolute delight for nature lovers.
If you're mesmerized by the natural beauty of Iceland, Tromsø in Norway won't disappoint you. Known as the 'Gateway to the Arctic,' Tromsø offers similar cold-weather experiences like dog sledding, whale watching, and the incredible Northern Lights. Nestled in the stunning Norwegian Fjords with a backdrop of snowy peaks, this Norwegian city will certainly remind you of the Icelandic landscapes.
Queenstown, New Zealand
If you love the adventure, adrenaline, and awe-inspiring landscapes of Iceland, Queenstown in New Zealand is a must-visit. Known as the adventure capital of the world, Queenstown offers thrilling activities including bungee jumping, skydiving, and skiing. Much like Iceland, the city is surrounded by incredible landscapes, from the Remarkables mountain range to the serene Lake Wakatipu, and the famous Milford Sound fjord.
For those who love the charm of Iceland's small picturesque towns, the cobblestone streets of Edinburgh, Scotland, will take you back in time. Edinburgh is ripe with history and folklore, reminiscent of Iceland's sagas. You can explore the well-preserved medieval Old Town, the beautiful Edinburgh Castle, and Arthur's Seat sizeable volcanic mound in the heart of the city. The sweeping views of the city from atop will remind you of Iceland's dramatic landscapes.
Whitehorse in Canada's Yukon Territory shares a fundamental commonality with Iceland: its remarkable wilderness. Much like Iceland, the city is famous for its natural attractions, including the hot springs, glaciers, and the Aurora borealis. Whitehorse is a wildlife enthusiast’s dream, with opportunities for spotting deer, caribou, and even rare bird species.
Located on the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, Ushuaia in Argentina, often referred to as 'The End of the World,' offers a combination of mountainous landscapes, icy blue waters, and rich wildlife. For those who love Iceland for its isolation and rugged beauty, Ushuaia is a perfect match. Here, you can take part in various activities such as hiking, skiing, and wildlife watching, particularly penguins and seals.
So, if Iceland holds a special place in your heart, these destinations might be able to create the same magic for you. Each city offers a unique experience that echoes elements of what makes Iceland so captivating. Why not start packing to embark on the next exploration?