While it's geographically one of the closest overseas destinations, Iceland is worlds away from anything you’ve seen before. Come to the land where reindeer roam and polar bears visit. It’s an enchanted land where the water spews out of geysers and cascades down the world’s most incredible waterfalls. If Iceland isn’t on your bucket list yet, it’s about to be.
Camping Under The Northern Lights
We’ve all seen dazzling pictures of the Aurora Borealis lighting up the night sky with freezing tourists shivering as they marvel at the phenomenon. But what if you could witness the spectacle from the comfort of your own room? That’s right. You can actually camp in a heated, transparent igloo, lying on the floor, staring up at the translucent colors presented by the Icelandic sky. Camping just got a whole lot cooler than sleeping in your dad’s Winnebago.
Blissful Blue Lagoon
Swimming in Iceland? If these two words don’t fit together comfortably in your mind, then you haven’t seen the Blue Lagoon. A geothermal spa and major tourist attraction in the island nation, Blue Lagoon stays at a comfortable 100 degrees F and dazzles the eye with its milky blue color beneath the rising steam. Take a dip and enjoy the benefits of the water’s minerals that are believed to aid in curing and preventing common skin diseases, or just enjoy the breathtaking scenery that will surely replace your desktop background.
The Wild Side Of Iceland
Humpback whales breach off the coast; reindeer stroll the fields; arctic foxes scour the land for prey. In Iceland, you are likely to see wildlife like you’ve never seen it before. Blue whales make cameo appearances throughout the year, as do polar bears traveling by iceberg from neighboring Greenland. You may even consider taking a boat tour to search out the Atlantic Puffin, a seabird common to Iceland. From the animals that make up a large portion of the population to the land that they inhabit, everything about this country will seem like a fairytale.
A Geothermal Playground
With much of the activity in Iceland occurring underground, you can witness the wonder as geysers spew boiling water over 200 feet in the air. Strokkur is one of the more famous geysers, as it erupts every five to ten minutes. With boiling temperatures below ground and freezing temperatures above, find yourself comfortably in the middle, witnessing the best of both worlds.
When you find yourself standing atop the vertical cliffs of the Hvítá river over the Gullfoss, don’t pinch yourself--it’s not a dream. The water twists and turns through the surreal canyon between two luscious meadows before cascading over 100 feet down into the canyon at nearly 5,000 cubic feet per second. The sensation upon witnessing this spectacular sight is enough to turn any Niagara enthusiast green with envy. Other surreal waterfall to visit include Seljalandsfoss, Selfoss and Goddafoss (seen below).
Þingvellir National Park
Walk among the ridges separating the tectonic plates that have pushed North America apart from Eurasia since prehistoric times. More canyons, waterfalls, and incredible rock formations speckle the landscape. You can even go snorkeling and scuba diving on the northern shore of Þingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland. And together with Strokkur and Gullfoss, these incredible sights all sit one after the other making up the famous Golden Circle, and all are under an hour drive from the nation’s capital city. Plan your visit ahead of time on the park’s website.
Dine In Style
The Perlan is one of the most architecturally unique and fascinating restaurants in the world, as you can learn about on its official website. Situated in the center of a hilltop park in Reykjavik, the glass dome building is a must-see for any newcomer to Iceland. In the fourth floor dining area, you can dine on exquisite crepes while sucking down a world-class cocktail and glaring out the glass walls unto the spellbinding scenery of Reykjavik. From the 360-degree outdoor viewing deck, you can see the entire city from panoramic telescopes. And while this might sound like an upscale dining experience, the prices are quite reasonable, so stop in for a quick lunch and hang around for the unforgettable scenery.
Have you ever left a museum or a tour with a fascinating fact eternally wedged in your brain? If you enjoy the sensation, then tour the captivating museums around the country and see how much your brain can retain. Witness the enthralling artifacts recovered from the Viking Age at The Settlement Exhibition, then take a bus to Árbær Open Air Museum where you can walk through a Viking village to get a feel for life in that brutal era. Afterward, head to the Víkin Maritime Museum to learn of the seafaring history of the Icelandic people, including the construction of the Reykjavik harbor, and enjoy the sounds of local musicians who put on shows by the water.
Small Nation Hospitality
A country with a population smaller than most cities, Iceland really has that "small town" hospitality. Voted the number one friendliest country in the world, the Icelandic people are exceptionally welcoming to foreign visitors. After being greeted and treated as family by the locals, be sure to witness their quirks that make them all the more amiable. In Iceland, public nudity is as ritualistic as lathering every food item in gravy. The people have no family names and--you guessed it--love their alcohol. If you really want to know the lovable strangeness of the Icelandic people, just Google Former Reykjavík Mayor Jón Gnarr, who previously performed as a comedian, actor and punk rocker, and is most famous for dressing in drag for Gay Pride.
Beat The Crowds
While Iceland has remained off of most tourist maps for decades, tourist trends are on the dramatic rise. With new flights opening up to Reykjavik every year, it’s only a matter of time before this untouched city will be crammed full of chain stores and high-priced eateries. The fame that Iceland has recently been receiving among travel websites has placed it on many travelers’ bucket lists. Hurry and get there before they do. Wait too long, and you’ll arrive only to see other tourists.