The country of Iceland may not be on the top of your bucket list of places to go, but after reading this article you’re likely to change your mind. Iceland is a Nordic country located in northwest Europe and is the world’s 18th largest island. The Republic of Iceland (as it’s officially known) has a truly exceptional landscape. The land is colorful and rugged, with an abundance of volcanoes, geysers, fjords, and waterfalls.
Not only is the landscape breathtaking, the history of Iceland is fascinating as well. A country, whose economy used to rely primarily on fishing and agriculture up until the 20th century is now one of the wealthiest, most developed nations in the world. These are only some of the many reasons to visit the incredible country of Iceland.
Outdoor Geothermal Spas
Even though it’s a cold country, you can find a hot spring practically anywhere in Iceland. The most famous geothermal pool in the country is probably the Blue Lagoon. This spa is located in a lava field near the small fishing town of Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula. Interestingly, all the electricity at the spa comes from geothermal power supplied by the nearby Svartsengi geothermal power station.
The warm water at the spa is rich in minerals like silica and sulfur and is highly therapeutic to for people who suffer from skin conditions. These healing minerals come from deep in the ground and have been brought to the surface by the natural underground hot water pressure. The Blue Lagoon is an extremely popular attraction for tourists and is one of the most visited attractions in Iceland.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Forget the French Alps, with its long, cold winters Iceland is the spot for cross-country skiing. Its best cross-country ski trail runs through Landmannalaugar where you can see black, desolate lava fields and steamy geothermal springs. And after a long day of cross-country skiing, the perfect day to wind down is by taking a dip in the nearby hot springs.
If you’re not into cross-country skiing you may want to check out, Hlíðarfjall, Akureyri’s most popular-ski resort, a place where you can ski or snowboard while gazing at breathtaking views of fjord Eyjafjörður. This ski resort lies in the north of Iceland and is a popular destination for winter getaways.
Iceland is a country of amazing waterfalls, far too many to count. There’s the small and charming waterfall Kirkjufellsfoss, located at Mount Kirkjufell. This beautiful waterfall is best seen in the midnight sun, the time from May to August when the sun sets at midnight!
In contrast, there’s the Skógafoss waterfall, a whopping 60 meters wide and 25 meters tall. This enormous waterfall is found in the area of Skógar, on the south coast of Iceland. The Skógafoss waterfall is considered to be one of Iceland’s most beautiful and dramatic falls.
Glaciers are spectacular, enormous bodies of ice that can be found all over the country of Iceland. Eyjafjallajökull glacier is Icelandic for ‘Island Mountain Glacier’, and at 1,651 meters tall (or 5,417 feet) it’s one of the smallest glaciers of Iceland. However, even though it’s small, you shouldn’t underestimate it.
The Eyjafjallajökull glacier is sitting on top of an active volcano! In 2010 the volcano erupted, spewing volcanic ash several kilometers up into the atmosphere, causing airspace closure over many parts of Europe. If you visit this glacier you can still see the leftover ash from the volcanic eruption.
Until the 20th century, most of Icelanders lived in rural areas in traditional Icelandic turf houses. Grassodenhäusers are the name for these traditional houses, and they are similar to the log cabins of the American settlers of the 1800’s. However, unlike log cabins, these Icelandic turf houses were built to withstand the harsh climate and provide excellent insulation from the cold.
These historic homes look like they stepped right out of the page a fairy-tail book. With their grass roofs and stone walls, they blend right into the countryside. They’re like the Iceland equivalent of hobbit homes.