Continuing with our Why Travel series, we're discussing Iceland: the land of ice and fire. Iceland held this title long before George R.R. Martin and Game of Thrones made it cool. Its exceptional landscape of rugged, moon-like terrain combined with its proclivity for volcanic eruptions makes Iceland a dream destination for many people.
Why Travel to Iceland?
Iceland is a breath of fresh, often chilly, air from your typical trips. It's a short flight from the east coast of the US and from Western European countries. Make sure you arrive in Iceland with your sense of adventure and your camera.
Iceland's Film Industry
You may feel at home after landing in Reykjavik simply from seeing the landscape. It's oddly comforting and probably because you've seen most of Iceland in various movies and TV shows. If you've seen Oblivion, Game of Thrones, Batman Begins, various James Bond films, Prometheus, or The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, then, you know Iceland. After visiting, Iceland's landscape is instantly recognizable on the big screen.
Armed with your camera, you can get some great photos and/or video of the landscapes in Iceland. Who knows, maybe you'll be the next Christopher Nolan…
Seasons in the Land of Ice and Fire
Visiting Iceland in the summer or winter provides a truly unique experience due to the drastic differences between night and day. In the dead of winter, the sun rises around 11am and sets around 3pm. During the summer, you have the "undying sun" where the sun never truly sets, hanging out in its dusky/dawn phase late at night and in the wee hours of the morning. The summer is a balmy 60ish degrees Fahrenheit, perfect for hiking, mountain climbing, horseback riding, or just sitting outside with a cup of coffee.
Traveling during these seasons exposes you to a truly vibrant city. Spring and Summer trips bring whales to the oceans surrounding Iceland, while visiting in winter offered a show of the Northern Lights unlike you've ever seen. NO matter what your schedule, there is no bad time of year to visit Iceland.
The winter is, expectedly, cold, with high temperatures barely reaching above freezing. During the winter, you'll get to take advantage of Iceland's spectacular geothermal resources. Imagine, a shower which never runs out of hot water. Constant snowfall, but clear roads due to geothermally heated streets. Or a heated salt water lagoon in the middle of a moonscape. All of these exist in Iceland and are even more delightful during the winter months. There's no experience quite like soaking outside in a geothermal pool while snow falls around you.
Pro Tip: Take a midnight boat charter into the Atlantic to catch the purest Northern Light shows. These boat operators also offer whale watching tours. There are very few times during the winter when whales pass by Iceland as it's much too cold. Don't get fooled into the whale watching charters that still operate during the winter. You'll end up on a boat during an Icelandic winter with no whales.
Good Food and Great People
Iceland is not quite renowned for its foodie culture, but when they do food, it's done exceptionally well. Everything from hot dogs to subs to burgers is delicious. And their fish and chips - so fresh! There's something to be said for deep water cod caught the same day it's battered, fried, and placed in front of you with a heaping pile of fries. They also have some uniquely Icelandic items like Arctic Herb Salt (which I still need to get more of) and of course, famous Icelandic wool. If you're a yarn enthusiast like I am, you'll definitely want to get your hands on some of this yummy wool.
While Iceland has amazing food and goodies to bring home, it's served by some of the nicest people. Iceland opened their country and their hearts to tourism, which is now their primary source of income. Because of tourism, Iceland has the lowest unemployment rate (2% as of July 2017) of the developed world. However, tourism has been taking its toll on the locals, with prices and rents skyrocketing to make room for tourists and in the increased popularity of AirBnB.
When you visit Iceland, you'll find polite and reserved people, most of whom can speak English extremely well. Everyone is willing to help you and eager to share their beautiful home and culture with you.