July 9, 2014 (Scottsdale, AZ)
Where would you go this summer, if you could travel anywhere in the world? There certainly are no shortages of destinations to imagine flying off to and spending some time exploring or relaxing at. According to Fodors.com, one of the best places to visit in Europe this summer is Iceland. If you are an adventurous person, looking to travel somewhere you can explore rugged landscapes, meet warm and friendly people and experience a kind of beauty that is unparalleled, Iceland should be on your list of must-see destinations.
The Culture in Iceland
When thinking of traveling to Europe, Iceland is probably not the first country that comes to mind. Most people know little about the country. Iceland was settled by emigrants from Scandinavia and the British Isles. It was the last country in Europe to be settled. Iceland remains sparsely populated, with a population of 318,452. Iceland’s people are warm, friendly, resilient, and have strong family values. In addition to the beautiful landscape, Iceland has many museums that reflect their culture.
Natural Beauty of Iceland
Iceland is a place full of natural beauty. The country is sparse of trees, but what it lacks in foliage, it makes up for with astonishing waterfalls, spectacular white glaciers, lava fields, crisp blue hot springs and black sand. Angel MedFlight Videographer and adventure traveler Jeff Loewe traveled to Iceland last year. He appreciated the beauty and the diversity of the country; “the coolest part to me was being able to surf and ski in the same day, having overhead waves at sunset and skiing at sunrise was pretty phenomenal!”
Iceland Offers It All
Iceland is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise, known for having the largest national park in Europe. Surfing, skiing, mountain-biking, hiking, whale watching and ice climbing are abundant. Vatnajökull National Park covers 13 percent of Iceland. The park has a diverse landscape filled with geothermal pools and glaciers. Towering snow covered mountains are the backdrop for crystal clear glacial lakes that are filled with floating icebergs. Iceland’s highest peak, Öræfajökull, overlooks black sands, created by thousands of years of volcanic ash deposits. Loewe says,“the Island has roads that go around the east and west sides, that allow you to see the waterfalls, volcanoes, glacial pools and mountains. ” If you choose to go to Iceland in winter between September and April, chances are you will see a spectacular light show in the sky. Iceland is noted for its magnificent views of the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights. Because the Icelandic winter is so dark, on a clear night it is easy to see the eerie greenish glow in the sky. One can also go exploring through some amazing lava tubes. Iceland boasts spectacular geological formations due to its position on the Mid-Atlantic ridge and from having so much volcanic activity. In summertime, Gjábakkahellir Cave near Þingvellir National Park is the most popular place visited. Something else you may see on your adventures are Icelandic horses. This unique breed comes in hundreds of colors, and is known for its fast four-beat gait known as Tölt. Icelanders use this horse to traverse the rugged terrain.
Iceland is perhaps best known for the abundance of geothermal energy. Icelanders and visitors alike use some of the one hundred geothermal pools to bathe and relax in. The hot water is very soothing and therapeutic. Bathing or swimming in these natural hot pools is a deeply rooted tradition among Icelanders. The geothermal pools not only provide health benefits, but also a source of heating for homes and water.
The most famous of these naturally heated pools is Blue Lagoon in Reykjavík.
Exploring the Regions of Iceland
Iceland boasts a great night-life in the capital city of Reykjavík. Known as the starting point for travelers of Iceland, the city is surrounded by beautiful mountains, and has a combination of modern and traditional architecture. Museums, monuments and the oceanfront music and convention center are all throughout the city. Loewe says, “dining out and ordering a beer can be expensive, a beer can cost about $10.00 U.S.” The price, however, is definitely worth the experience.
Northern Iceland is the second largest populated area of the country. In the northern city of Akureyri, you will find charming, traditional wooden homes, golf courses and one of the largest fjords – Eyjafjörður. You may want to visit The Húsavík Whale Museum or check out the most powerful waterfall in Europe – Dettifoss Waterfall. Loewe visited Dettifoss and said, “it’s really indescribable; I couldn’t put my camera down.” He said that he traveled on an unplowed, snow-covered road to the waterfall. The one road to the falls was specially constructed for the film Prometheus, whose opening scene is a magnificent shot of Dettifoss falls.
Iceland is more than just a vacation destination, it is a rugged and beautiful land, filled with stunning natural features, warm and welcoming people, and a rich history.