Visitors often exclaim that Iceland is “out of this world” when, in reality, flights to Iceland take just about five hours from the U.S. East Coast! It may be “otherworldly,” yet travelers can’t wait to return again…and again.
So what makes Iceland such a hot destination? Some people say it’s exotic – truly the planet exposed. Other people describe it as surprising, exciting, amazing. The European country that is so close it actually touches America. That might even explain why everyone there speaks English (as well as Icelandic, of course).
Combining cosmopolitan sophistication with charm and cordiality, Iceland has become one of the world’s most fashionable hot spots, well known for its legendary nightlife and even more for its spectacular outdoor adventures. While it perfectly blends modern technology with ancient traditions, Icelandic culture is interminably and irrevocably linked to nature.
Fire and ice, volcanoes and glaciers – these are the inescapable dichotomies of life on this North Atlantic island. Situated on tectonic plates that continually shift, leaving violent scars on the landscape, Iceland is on the dividing line between the continents of Europe and America. The terrain is at once stark and surreal, awesome and wondrous, forming the perfect backdrop for life driven by nature and conquered but not tamed by man.
Warmed by Gulf Stream currents, Iceland’s temperature is milder than the name suggests. While winter nights glow with Northern Lights and linger until mid-morning, springtime brings long daylight hours that blend into endless days of summer under the incredible Midnight Sun.
Reykjavik is the world’s northernmost capital city, with a growing population of 120,000 that expands to 180,000 including the entire metropolitan area. Tourism is the fastest-growing industry, and the wide range of accommodations, from large and sophisticated to small and quaint, illustrates the Icelanders’ willingness to meet the demands of their visitors.
Restaurants feature outstanding international cuisine, focusing on pure, fresh ingredients. Lamb and seafood are the specialties, and their preparation is unsurpassed; Icelandic chefs study their craft in culinary institutes around the globe and apply their skills with a deft and creative touch making the dishes uniquely Icelandic. Visitors to Iceland should also know that taxes and tips are included in the prices shown on the menus!
Cultural events run the gamut from symphonies and opera to punk and rap – music is an enormous part of Icelandic life! The favorite pastime, however, is swimming, and geothermally-heated outdoor swimming pools are found throughout the city and countryside – open year ‘round, so don’t forget your bathing suit while on vacation in Iceland!
Round out your stay with a visit to some of Reykjavik’s numerous galleries and museums, including several that focus on the country’s Viking history and settlement.
Escape the sprawling boundaries of Reykjavik, leave behind the glow of street lamps powered by hydroelectricity and homes heated by geothermal energy, and discover the magnificent countryside that truly defines this land. Rugged mountains provide a skyline that defies imagination and becomes the perfect foil for waterfalls that gush or trickle from melting glaciers left over from the last Ice Age.
There are few fences or other manmade barriers to keep sightseers away from this photographic dreamscape. Icelandic sheep and horses, descended from those brought ashore by Viking explorers before the first millennium, roam freely on moss-covered fields of lava and are a living connection to the country’s heroic past.
One of the most interesting and least expected sights in Iceland is the Blue Lagoon. Situated just minutes from the airport, with a name that evokes images of tropical waterfalls and lush greenery, this Blue Lagoon is something every visitor on travel to Iceland must experience.
A stone-covered path to the lagoon is heated to keep it free of ice and snow on even the coldest winter day. After a brief stop in state-of the-art bathhouse facilities, you’re ready to relax in this natural hot tub. A heavy mist rises from the warm water, and as darkness approaches, dim lights lend an eerie glow to the surrounding lava rocks. Once refreshed, enjoy a gourmet meal in the café before returning to civilization.
Those who have discovered Iceland know that it cannot be understood, appreciated or enjoyed without discovering the most important part of the country: its spirit. Iceland is bound to its Sagas, treasured books written on sheepskin in a language developed more than twelve centuries ago, still read and spoken and understood today. It is a unique part of Nordic history and culture that has survived in spite of nature and has thrived because of it.
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