Iceland has been the hot new tourist destination for the past several years. I’m not sure who is in charge of their marketing and promotions department, but whoever it is, they need a raise. It seems as though every travel blogger I follow has been posting their own photos of Iceland.
I barely remember hearing anything about the tiny Nordic island nation five years ago. Now, it seems everyone is rushing to experience the country for themselves. And for good reason — the country is stunning.
Some facts about Iceland-
- The country is tiny — I mean seriously small. The entire island is just over 100,000 square km or 40,000 square miles. To put that into perspective — my home country of the United States is NINETY FIVE times larger than Iceland. Here’s a map I found comparing Iceland to the size of California:
- The entire country has a population of less than 350,000 people, and more than two-thirds of locals live in Reykjavik.
- Because they have such a small population, the number one dating app in Iceland is called Íslendinga-App, and the app has actually been designed to make sure your potential romantic interest isn’t somehow related to you!
- Iceland is consistently named one of the, if not the, most peaceful nations on Earth.
- More than half the population of Iceland believes in elves, or “the hidden people” they call them.
- Until March 1, 1989 beer was illegal in Iceland! Now the country celebrates Beer Day every March 1st to commemorate its legalization.
- Iceland is the only country in the world where every citizen has access to the internet.
- There are (thankfully) no McDonald’s anywhere in Iceland.
- Iceland is one of the few countries that has no snakes, and in fact owning a snake as a pet is illegal.
- Until 1987, in an effort to encourage people to get out and socialize, nothing was aired on TV on Thursdays. And until 1983, no TV was aired during the month of July, because it was considered a vacation month.
- One out of every ten Icelanders will publish a book during their lifetime.
If these facts alone aren’t enough to make you want to book a trip, here are my favorite photos of Iceland from my recent visit:
If there is a country with more waterfalls than Iceland, I would love to visit. As we drove along the highway, a new, huge waterfall would appear every time we turned a corner. Some of the larger ones were set back off of the highway, while others flowed directly beside it.
Wide Open Spaces
Even though we visited during summer, which is peak season, we often drove with the roads all to ourselves. It was almost surreal to have this long stretch of highway surrounded by rolling green hills and frequent waterfalls laid out before us without anyone around to disturb the scene.
With such long summer days in Iceland, you’ll experience a phenomenon known as midnight sun. Although the sun has set and will rise again only a few hours later, it’s still bright outside. Even at midnight, there’s still plenty of sunlight. The opposite phenomenon occurs in winter, when Iceland only receives sunlight a few hours a day.
We completed the famous “Ring Road” on our journey, which is essentially a road trip that takes you around the entire country. As you drive along, keep in mind that only one-third of the population lives in these more rural areas. You’ll pass the most gorgeous postcard-worthy towns.
In Iceland, you’ll have plenty of chances to get seriously close to the wildlife. Much of the wildlife roams free. In fact our car rental company warned us about suicidal sheep! They don’t pay attention to motorists before they run across the highway. Fortunately, we didn’t encounter any sheep with death wishes on our trip.
If you approach them very quietly, you can also capture photos of Iceland’s famous puffins. This photo took more than thirty minutes to capture, but it was completely worth it. One popular place to find puffins in Iceland is on your dinner plate, as locals often dine on them. Raw puffin heart is considered a local delicacy.
Geyser Hot Springs
A popular stop on the Ring Road is the Geyser Hot Springs. These geysers are highly active and erupt every few minutes, spouting water up to 30 meters (100 feet) into the air.
Nearby the geysers, boiling mud pits and steam vents can be found. The temperatures of the boiling mud pits can reach up to 200 degrees Celsius or nearly 400 degrees Fahrenheit!
Some of the purest water on the planet
The water in Iceland is so clean that even the government’s tourism website encourages you to drink straight from the source. One of the best ways to cut costs in this notoriously expensive country is to refill your water bottles every time you see a river or stream.
I’ve saved the best for last — the world-famous Glacier Lagoon. The lagoon is filled with large chunks of ice that were once part of larger glaciers. The deep blue lagoon waters, known as Jökulsárlón, are one of the country’s most popular tourist spots.
Contrary to what you might think from the photos, the lagoon’s waters aren’t still. The large ice pieces are constantly moving, slowly drifting past.