In modern culture, Iceland remains a mysterious and desirable location, thanks to its unique cultural heritage and ethereal natural beauty.
With a distinct national identity, awe-inspiring natural scenery, and a very distinct way of life, there are many reasons why Iceland remains a popular destination for tourists and adventurers alike.
10. The Food
Icelandic food has developed a reputation around the world for being divisive, particularly due to its strong grounding in fish, lamb, and dairy products.
However, in modern times, the use of greenhouses has made fruit and vegetables more common on the island, seeing a rise in vegetarianism, veganism, and healthier diets.
That being said, traditional dishes are still served and favored by the locals, with meals like slatur (salted offel), hangikjot (smoke-cured lamb), skyr (yogurt-like cheese), and hakarl (cured shark) being widely consumed.
9. The Alcohol
Unsurprisingly for a country that can be so dark, cold, and isolated, the Icelandic people have created some of the heartiest alcoholic beverages in the world.
Popular favorites include Brennivin (a clear schnapps), the fiery Floki whisky, countless brands of ales, and Viking Beer, a local brew that is popular with tourists and locals alike.
8. The People
Despite a reputation as hardworking and reserved people, Icelanders are considered some of the friendliest people on the Earth, despite the challenging and at times bracing environment in which they live.
While friendly, Icelanders are not the most outgoing people, so don’t be alarmed if they appear quiet at first. Once you get to know them, you will have a friend for life!
7. The Wildlife
With the rich and diverse landscape of Iceland, comes an equally rich and diverse population of wildlife. One of the most famed creatures that resides on the island is the puffin, which can be found along the northern coastline.
Similarly, there are several species of seals, seabirds, fish, sheep, arctic foxes, mink, mice, rabbits, and reindeer, making it perfect for budding wildlife photographers and enthusiasts.
6. The History
One thing widely associated with Iceland is the fascinating Nordic history and its roots in the Viking clans of northern Europe.
People have lived on the island since 874 AD, when Nordic explorer Ingolfr Arnarson became the first permanent settler, building his homestead in present-day Reykjavik, with countless Scandinavian settlers and their (often Celtic) thralls following closely after.
Over the centuries, this led to the continuation of Nordic culture, which grew and changed under the influence of this beautiful and volatile land.
5. The Landscape
The most striking thing about Iceland is the diversity and beauty of the landscape, comprising volcanic mountains, volatile geothermal plains, frozen tundras, black sandy beaches, and some of the largest glacial fields in the world.
With so much natural beauty at every turn, it is not hard to see why countless people lose themselves in the wonder and otherworldliness of the landscape.
4. The Culture
There are countless museums and cultural exhibits that showcase the history and traditions of Icelandic society, with the most notable being the National Museum of Iceland, which was established in 1863.
Whilst starting purely as an Icelandic collection, the museum quickly turned into an antiquarian collection thanks to the influence of the museum’s second curator Sigurour Guomundsson.
Urban centers like Reykjavik are also great places to immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of Iceland, with the Harpa Concert Hall, a striking glass structure that pays tribute to the glaciers and basalt stacks synonymous with the country.
The home of frequent concerts, both by the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra and other performers, remains an important place of culture in Reykjavik and Iceland as a whole.
3. The Whale Watching
One thing that draws countless tourists to the country is the opportunity for whale watching.
As the coastline of Iceland is the home to over twenty species of whales, including minke and humpback whales, tourists flock at the chance to see these majestic creatures in their natural habitats.
These trips also allow you to observe the amazing coastline from drastically different angles, as well as the countless species of ocean birds and coastal wildlife that call the waters their home.
2. The Spas
For those seeking to immerse themselves in Icelandic culture, and get some much-needed relaxation while they’re at it, the Myvatn nature baths are naturally occurring hot baths, featuring a central lagoon, swim-up bar, steam rooms, and spas.
Despite the northern location, the region enjoys a temperate climate, making it a perfect place for people to strip off, relax, and enjoy the natural healing minerals of the water, which was formed thousands of years ago as a result of geothermal steam generated beneath the surface of the bedrock.
1. The Northern Lights
Should you be lucky enough to traverse Iceland in the winter, then you would be amiss if you didn’t check out Aurora Borealis, also known as the northern lights.
Taking its name from the Roman goddess of the dawn ‘Aurora’, and the Greek word for wind ‘boreas’, this strange and beautiful natural phenomenon occurs when solar wind particles interact with the Earth’s magnetic field.
This interaction excites the particles, creating the luminescent green and purple lights that have become synonymous with this part of the world.
There are countless tours in Iceland that will attempt to ‘hunt’ the northern lights, and whilst this is by no means a guarantee, these specially guided tours offer the best chance of spotting it for yourself.
And there we are, everything you need to know about Iceland and what it has to offer.
The Icelandic people are a proud and hospitable community, steeped in a rich history and culture.
This, combined with the breathtaking, and the surprisingly varied natural landscape goes some way to explaining why the country remains such a frequented and romanticized destination amongst tourists from all around the world.
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