Iceland is known as the ‘Land of Fire and Ice’ due its highly active volcanoes and glaciers. This extraordinary contrast in features allows for some amazingly beautiful geological structures. This Nordic slice of paradise is perfectly located between the United Kingdom and the Greenland; it is a sight to behold. It is not only home to jaw-dropping landscapes and wildlife but also to the world’s strongest man (Hafthor Bjornsson), lovingly known as the “Mountain” in the famous television series called The Game of Thrones.
10 Cool things that make Iceland a unique proposition for every traveler.
Table of Contents
1. Northern Lights
Iceland is perfectly balanced on the edge of the Arctic Circle. It is the perfect location to witness the Northern Lights or the Aurora Borealis. Some of the best places to witness northern lights are situated in Western Iceland which includes Akranes, Borgarnes, and the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. If you can’t make it to those smaller villages, you can still enjoy the northern lights from the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik. Located on the very edge of the Arctic Circle in Iceland, it also offers one of the most accessible ways to see the Northern Lights.
2. The Viking Connection
The Vikings were considered as one of the greatest sea men since they could cross the Atlantic without the help of a compass. Also, they were known as the most fearsome warriors to have ever fought on our planet. Iceland has a fair share of Viking history to share with the world as they were the first few settlers on this island.
The Norsemen are said to have arrived from Norway and started settling in Iceland during the 8th century. Owing to that, the Icelandic history, culture and genealogy have a rich influence of the early Norsemen. Even the Icelandic horses of today’s era have a Viking connection.
3. Geothermal Spa’s
Iceland is geographically placed in the ‘hot spot’. It experiences a lot of geothermal activities in the form of hot springs and geysers. Icelanders have bathed in these volcanically heated waters since the Viking era. The Blue Lagoon is one of the most popular geothermal spa and tourist attraction in the Iceland. The pale blue water contrasted with the black lava rocks is absolutely gorgeous. And the silica mud mask is also known for its healing powers and working miracles on the skin of its bathers.
4. Icelandic Elf School
The Elves are etched into the Icelandic folklore and Alfaskolinn and the Icelandic Elf School is a testament of that. The school is not a globally recognized place for learning, but that’s where local students and tourist go to learn about the Icelandic folklore of elves. However, at present only a minority of the population believe in elves. It’s noteworthy to know that in 2013, a highway construction was halted over an ancient lava field because it was said to endanger the elf population of the area.
5. Midnight Sun
It might sound unlikely to you but in some parts of the world like Iceland, midnight sun is a reality. It is due to the reason that during the summer solstice, Iceland gets about 21 hours of sunlight in a day. Therefore, it is a common theme in Iceland to witness a full blown sunlight even in the wee hours of the night.
6. Icelandic Names
Family names or surnames don’t exist in Iceland. They use the traditional naming system of the olden Nordic generations. This practice involves adding the father’s first name with ‘-son’ in case of a son or the father’s first name with ‘-dottir’ in case of the daughter. And occasionally mother’s first name is also added to child’s last name. If a first name wasn’t previously used in Iceland, the Icelandic Naming Committee must approve the name. And it might get a little confusing because the telephone directories lists the citizens alphabetically just by their first names.
7. Ice Caves
With all the crazy cave systems and stunning ice caves you’d probably start believing in the existence of elves and trolls. The most stunning ice caves are located in Iceland’s Vatnajokull glacier which is also the biggest glacier in Europe.
The amazing shades of blue are enough to keep you entertained during wintertime because you are only allowed to visit many caves during the coldest months of the year. This is to avoid any mishaps that might occur due to ice collapsing during the warmer months when things start melting.
8. Snorkelling between Two Continents
The land on either side of the Mid Atlantic Ridge of the North American Plate and the Eurasian Plate moves apart every year at the rate of 2.5 cm. The ridge passes directly through Iceland, creating a crack in the Earth.
Glaciers get melted and fill this crack with the clearest water on the Earth. Snorkelling here produces some of the most breath-taking views underwater. The water here is so clean that it is considered safe to drink. The ridge is narrow enough and if you ever dream of setting foot on two continents at once, this is the place.
9. Sledding on a Dog
Iceland is one of the best places to go sledding on a dog. Sledding across the great white snow accompanied by those fluffy huskies can be an adventure of a lifetime. Tours are offered for most parts of the year but it is a sought-after event especially during the summertime when the tourist season is at its peak. The doghouses are not very far from Reykjavik. It’s a perfect way to try out this unique experience.
With a name like Iceland, it is easy to assume a place full of penguins and polar bears but the wildlife in Iceland is very diverse and boasts of some of the most amazing wildlife. From the fluffy and adorable Icelandic sheep dogs to East Iceland’s population of reindeer. The coastal waters are home to majestic creatures like the blue whale and arctic seals. If you’re a birdwatcher, Iceland has some of the most unusual and beautiful species of birds. Few of the most famous species of the bird includes barnacle goose, long-tailed duck, red-throated loon, horned grebe and the great cormorant.