8 Reasons why Iceland is 2016’s hottest destination and should be yours in 2017.
By: Valerie Holyoak
Iceland probably has one of the most diverse cultures a traveller could wish for. Each area of the island has different things that you can see, each as spectacularly different as the next. This Nordic island will amaze you with its volcanoes and geysers, hot springs and lava fields. The magical glaciers will blow you away. These are in the national parks and are protected. Reykjavik is the capital and most of the population lives there. Iceland is sometimes known as ‘The Land of Fire and Ice’ and once you have visited it, you will understand why. Everyone you talk to will have a list of suggestions for you to see and do. You will find there is a huge selection of interesting things to check out. Here I have compiled a short list of interesting things that I hope you will find interesting.
Just a few miles from the airport you will catch a whiff of the all-familiar smell of eggs, you’ll see steaming hills and lava fields. Where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates collide you can expect to see spurting geysers, volcanoes and the weirdest rock formations ever! Some of the beaches are made up of black sand and everywhere you look you will see glaciers and streams. I think this is the reason why you see so many rainbows, and not because I was high this time! It really is like some ‘other world place’. There seems to be a surprise around every corner. It is – quite honestly – staggering beautiful and words don’t do it justice. You must see this for yourself!
Closer than you think
The capital Reykjavik is just a five-hour flight from Boston! What is even better is that it is a direct flight! How easy is that! It is also only three hours from London so is well within reach as far as flight times go. Flights are very competitive especially in the economy section. Icelandair has a special deal where they let the passengers stop – at no extra cost – at over 18 cities en route in Europe and Scandinavia. So you get a stopover in places like London, Paris or Madrid for free!
Less expensive airfares
If you can plan your next trip around mid May to June you will find that the fares are less expensive. Even better if you can book in advance, this way you will save a couple of hundred dollars. Icelandair gives every passenger a bottle of water on boarding and provides good inflight entertainment. Sometimes it is possible to see the northern lights on you trip. You’ll also find that your accommodation is way cheaper if you go this time of year. Tourist attractions cost slightly less, as you just miss the peak season. There are also fewer tourists, but you still get to see as much as you like with lots of daylight hours. Car rental prices double in peak season so this is another reason to go just out of the season.
Here’s a place you just gave to go and visit! The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is about thirty minutes from Reykjavik and is in a lava field. It’s a huge expanse of naturally heated water. The color of the water is a baby blue which is set against the pitch black lavascape and looks like something out of a sci-fi movie! There are many therapies and treatments that you will see visitors taking full advantage of. You can pay for a quick dip or half-day luxury treatment, which includes meals and drinks. Either way, you will have a great day of relaxation in the most beautiful setting you can imagine!
Perfect for cycling and horse backing
You’ll find that Iceland offers many different ways to see the country, there’s something for everyone, from hiking, driving, kayaking to horse riding. One of the nicest ways, I think, is to rent some bicycles and cycle your way around. Whether you choose to take a challenging route or a nice, gentle road, you will find that it is a great way to see the most spectacular views. The roads are fairly quiet and on the whole cyclist are respected as having a right to also be on the road. Another way to see the country is on horseback. Icelandic ponies are small but incredibly hardy creatures. They are actually considered the world’s purest breed. For many years they were the only form of transport. An interesting point here is that they are known as a ‘five gate’ breed, which means that they have not only a walk, trot, canter and gallop, but also a ‘tolt’ which is something like a very fast walk (like a speed walk). They are really cute, sociable animals and I think this is a great way to travel and sightsee.
Aurora Borealis is possibly one of the most amazing sights in the world and certainly one of the most spectacular phenomena to see. There are few better places to see this than in Iceland. Some hotels will offer you an all-inclusive package, along with hot tubs and fine dining during the time of year when you can see this. One hotel will even keep a lookout for the lights and wake the guests when they appear. September to mid April is the best time of year to see this, as those are the darkest months. They tend to be active for two or three nights then not appear for a couple, so if you plan them as one thing you ‘must see’ then you should at least stay for seven days. Of course, there is really no guarantee that you will see them but if they are going to appear then this is the best place for you to look. You are more likely to see them in a full week than only a few days.
If this appeals to you, you can actually dive between the two continents! I don’t know where else you can do this in such clear, blue waters. The place straddles the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates and with visibility of up to 200 feet this is something that you must do! You do need to have Open Water Qualifications but there are guided snorkeling trips that anyone can go on. You will see some very spooky drop offs and the most amazing rock formations! There are quite a few dive operations that offer the most amazing tours. You’ll be able to snap the perfect shots, as the water is just so crystal clear. Maybe a little cold but that’s a small price to pay for the incredible beauty you will find down there!
Reykjavik is Cool!
You will find that Reykjavik is an outstanding cultural hub. Galleries, theatres, museums and gardens abound here! Who would have thought that you would get all that in Iceland? But you do! There is also a great art and music scene, so if dancing the night away is your thing, then you will not be disappointed. You’ll also be able to visit the fish market, which is an experience in itself! If you are a ‘foodie’ then you will be able to sample fish dishes that don’t get any fresher! If you like all things ‘ancient’ then you really should check out the 10th century Viking log house. Another museum that I love is the Skogar Museum, which was founded in 1949 by a 90-year-old man who raised the flag every single day. This museum shows how Icelanders used to live many years ago and has some interesting stuff there about fishing and farming. Icelanders love music and there is a music festival nearly every month so you will be able to take your pick of any of the remarkable shows they offer.
Icelanders are an incredibly friendly people, easy to talk to and get along with. If you don’t hear English (which is widely spoken) then you will no doubt be hearing Nordic, which is the Icelandic language, which is pretty much the same as ancient Norse. Puffins appear between mid April and mid August and if wildlife is your forte then you will find it well worth the effort to see them. They are just the cutest little creatures! Whale watching trips are freely available and you may be better going to the northern coast to see them. Between Jun and July, the days are the longest with the sun barely setting. It takes a bit of getting used to but does give you all the time in the world to explore. Whatever you want to see in Iceland, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. I don’t for a minute think you will be disappointed at what Iceland has to offer!