Nicknamed as the “land of fire and ice”, Iceland is truly an alluring destination that offers an exciting, blissful and surreal escape for all kinds of travelers. Famous for its dramatic landscapes, astonishing natural phenomenon and geothermal springs, Iceland is like a sprawling natural amusement park that offers endless opportunities for fun and adventure. Whether you’re traveling alone or a group of your closest friends, a trip to this mountainous island will make you wonder if you are in a sci-fi flick, another planet or fairy tale.
From Mother Nature’s awe-inspiring phenomenon to otherworldly landscapes, there are plenty of good reasons to visit and explore Iceland. Here are some reasons why you should include this Nordic destination to your bucket list.
1. The Northern Lights
Very few places on the face of the earth can offer a more stunning and serene view of the Aurora Borealis than Iceland. For an unforgettable and unspoiled view of the Northern Lights, visit the UNESCO World Heritage site Thingvellir National Park. If, however, you prefer an urban view, go the dome-shaped Perlan, or Reykjavik’s Grotta Lighthouse. In west side, the Snaefellsjokull glacier offers splendid mountain backdrops for this dazzling carnival of lights.
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2. Otherworldly landscapes
The landscapes in Iceland are nothing short of amazing. Simply driving to Reykjavik from the Keflavík airport will impress, but its true beauty can be found on the Golden Circle route – a famous route that encompasses the most spectacular natural scenes of Iceland, and can be self-driven easily in a day.
From volcanic craters and supreme waterfalls to mammoth erupting geysers to barren LOR-esque lands, it will awestruck and impress even the most wordly travelers. Gulloss – the waterfall in Hvítá river’s canyon – promises to wow all its beholders.
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3. The magnificent ice caves
Often labeled as the “Crystal Caves”, the frozen caves of Iceland are indeed a spectacle and a sight to behold. The man-made Langjokull – the second largest glacier in Iceland – and Jökulsárlón on the southern coast are two of the best and most popular spots for ice caving.
4. Fresh and mouthwatering Nordic food
The island nation has an awesome bounty of fresh seafood, including salmon, lobsters, organic cod and a whole lot more. Treat your taste buds and stomach with Nordic dishes like seared salmon with fresh berry jam, fresh scallop with bold seasonings and plokkfiskur (fish tastefully with potatoes). And when visiting Reykjavik, don’t forget to swing by its well-known hot dog stand, which serves tasty lamb hot dogs topped with remoulade, crunchy onions and mustard.
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5. It’s safe
Worried about getting robbed or cheated by a taxi driver? Safety is clearly a major concern for all travelers, especially to those who embarking on their first solo adventure. But trust me, you won’t have any worries or an ounce of fear, when exploring this country. Deemed as one of the world’s safest countries, Iceland has been ranked number one since 2011 in the Global Peace Index, beating the likes of Japan, Singapore, Denmark, Austria and New Zealand.
What’s more, it has extremely nice and friendly locals, making it even more appealing to foreign travelers. As a matter of fact, the Icelanders are so accommodating to travelers that hitch-hiking has become a rather common practice here.
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6. The welcoming Icelanders
Passionate and proud about their culture, Icelanders enjoy sharing myths and stories that they have heard from their grandparents. For a true taste of the Icelandic culture, head to Frystiklefinn or also known as the Freezer – a hostel and a professional theater in the quaint town of Rif. Featuring the talented and marvelous Kári Viðarsson, the theater has a show that tells the story of one of Rif’s local legends, and is packed with Icelandic humor.
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7. Iceland isn’t dotted with tourists
Want to experience a soothing break free from the crowds of tourists? In spite of its flourishing tourism, the tourist crowds in Iceland are nothing in comparison to Paris, Rome, Bali and London. Here, you can visit popular landmarks, immerse into their culture, and soak in the beautiful scenery, without navigating through a sea of selfie-sticks and tourists.
8. Flights to Iceland are convenient
Flights to Reykjavik from Boston, NYC and Washington DC take five hours or less, and most of these routes are nonstop. Furthermore, Icelandair offers tons of direct flights to Reykjavik year-round from the country’s major hubs, including British Columbia, Vancouver, Florida, Orlando, Denver and Seattle.
As an added bonus of flying with Icelandair, the carrier offers long or short stopovers in Iceland, allowing travelers to explore the Nordic wonderland while in transit to another hub. Not to mention, the airline helps visitors connect with hotels and local tour groups in the country, making the travel planning process stress-free and easy.
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9. They know how to speak English fluently
You don’t have to memorize dozens of hard-to-pronounce Icelandic words and phrases to explore this country. Although Icelandic is the country’s main language, a majority of the locals can speak English fluently. Even in rural areas, most Icelanders can understand English easily, though some of them don’t speak the language. Moreover, you will always find English translations in restaurants and other public places.
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10. Endless summer days
Iceland’s sky is incredibly bright for over 20 hours a day, from June to August. When the summer season sets in, you can catch the sunset at midnight as well as watch the sunrise around 3 AM in its capital city, Reykjavik. In the northern side, the day lasts even longer, giving travelers an opportunity to soak up the outdoor grandeurs of Iceland all night long, with daylight camping, evening hikes and sunset kayak rides.
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11. Lively nightlife
Reykjavik, in contrast to the country’s rural barren lands, certainly knows how to party. Though it’s a small city, Reykjavik draws party lovers from all corners of the world, to listen to good tunes and experience its fun-loving attitude. Over 40 bars line Laugavegur, the main street, so there is no shortage of places to go here.
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12. Music festivals
Iceland hosts a bunch of music festivals to satiate the appetite of a partyholic or music lover. Held just outside the capital city, Secret Solstice is the biggest festival in the country, and has drawn the likes of “Of Monsters and Men” and “Radiohead”, alongside a slew of EDM acts.
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13. Photogenic churches
The Nordic country is home to some of the world’s most well-photographed churches, including the splendidly gorgeous Hofskirkja Church. One of Europe’s most underrated treasures, Hofskirkja Church is surrounded wonderfully by rolling mountains and moss-covered graves, making for a wondrous and unforgettable photo op. You may also visit Reykjavik’s Hallgrimskirkja Church and be amazed by its contemporary and futuristic design.
14. The majestic volcanoes of Iceland
There are more than 120 inactive and active volcanoes throughout Iceland, thanks to its location on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Fortunately, only 18 of them have erupted ever since humans have settled in the area, meaning travelers can still take in scenic, snow-capped volcanoes as well as explore ethereal craters today.
15. You can snorkel or scuba between continents
The Eurasian and North American tectonic plates as well as African and South American continental plates converge into one epic undersea meet-up at the Silfra ridge. Whether are you diving to the floor of the underwater canyon or floating around, it’s weird and wild feeling to be in a couple of places at once.
16. Geothermal springs
While some may dub it as a tourist trap, there is no doubt the Blue Lagoon is quite special, and for most foreign travelers, a must-see attraction. Sipping Prosecco, kicking back in the blue hot springs, and applying a mud mask is absolutely a unique experience, and one that most of us won’t grumble about.
Sure, there are heaps of people there, but just enjoy it, and do your thing. For an even more unforgettable experience, indulge on a heavenly in-water massage.
Want to relax on a spring without the crowds? Then, head to one of the country’s other hot springs, such as the Laugarvatn Fontana.
17. Extraordinary animals
A visit to Iceland gives you a chance to catch sight of wonderfully weird animals, such as the Artic Fox, majestic Icelandic horses, Puffins, Razorbills, and Seawolf.
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18. You can spot whales humanely
There are 23 kinds of whales in Iceland’s waters, meaning you’re likely to catch sight of those lovely fins. Just make sure, though, to pick a boating company that is committed to letting these herculean sea creatures have their space.
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