Iceland has become a pretty popular tourist destination in the last few years. It is a small country but it has a big personality. Many people visit it to see the astronomical phenomenon called the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights, which are shafts or curtains of colored light visible on occasion in the night sky. Although it is quite unpredictable, many people still yearn to see it in person.
Iceland is a Nordic island country of Europe located in the North Atlantic Ocean. The country's population is just below 400,000 but during peak tourist season, there are more tourists than locals in the country's main city, Reykjavik.
Having visited Iceland, here are my thoughts on what makes it so unique.
1) Natural Beauty - the country is mostly unspoiled. I think the locals want to keep it that way, but as the demand for more hotels or attractions arise, I worry about the country being overdeveloped and it might lose its natural beauty. Iceland offers endless waterfalls, unique rock formations, volcanoes, and glaciers that will keep you busy exploring for weeks.
2) The People - the locals are wonderful! I have to say that they are some of the nicest people I have ever met. When we arrived there, our GPS couldn't find the hotel we were staying at. We stopped by the local store and the store keeper contacted the hotel (our cell phones were not working), and then the hotel owner drove to where we were and showed us in person how to get to the hotel!
3) Language - they speak English very well! This makes communication pretty easy for North American visitors.
4) Accessibility - Being a small country makes getting to places fairly easy. The main road, commonly referred to as the Ring Road, will take you to the main attractions in the country, but if you have more time, you can take other roads and explore more of the back country. Some areas require a 4x4 vehicle, a ferry ride, or a quick flight.
5) Affordabiltiy - I think this will shock someone who has been to Iceland. Although it is fact that most goods and services in Iceland are pretty expensive, I want to point out the affordability of the airfares through Iceland Air and Wow Airlines are very enticing! Also recently, American Airlines has announced that they are planning on expanding their flights to Iceland, so this should create more competition and supply, so that should even make the prices for air fare better for us travelers!
6) Free Stopover - Iceland Air offers a 7 day stopover in Iceland with no extra charge. 7 days will give you plenty of time to explore Iceland through private tours, or on your own if you are able to rent a vehicle.
7) Roads - the main road is well maintained, but please note that the weather in Iceland changes every 5 minutes! This is not an exaggeration either! Make sure you visit www.road.is before you drive anywhere. The site is pretty accurate and very helpful!
8) Icelandic Horses - there are beautiful horses, but then there are Icelandic horses. They are small, but they probably the most beautiful horse I have ever seen. While we were driving one day, we saw a bunch of people pulled over on the side of the road, and they were there admiring these horses. We did the same thing and even petted a few of them.
The Icelandic horse is a breed of horse developed in Iceland. Although the horses are small, at times pony-sized, most registries for the Icelandic refer to it as a horse. Icelandic horses are long-lived and hardy. In their native country they have few diseases; Icelandic law prevents horses from being imported into the country and exported animals are not allowed to return.
9) Burning Calories - Visiting Iceland demands an active participation to thoroughly enjoy your stay. Not every attraction can be seen from the comfort of your tour bus or rental vehicle. You have to be out there to see this amazing natural landscape, which means you will be burning calories. On our recent trip to Iceland, we averaged 20,000 steps a day! We were tired but it was worth it!
10) Northern Lights - Yes. It is a majestic sight. The first time I saw the Northern Lights was in Alaska. I will always be in awe of this phenomenon and it is something worthy of seeking to check off your bucket list. There are a lot of local tours from Reykjavik that will take you outside of the city to wait and hope for the opportunity to see the Northern Lights. Most of the tour companies will pick you up from your hotel, and some even give you the option to go back a 2nd time for free if your first attempt to see the Northern Lights was unsuccessful.
All in all, I promise that you will enjoy visiting Iceland. It has so much to offer and there never seems to be enough time to see everything you want to see! But if you have the opportunity to visit it, do it!
For available trips, visit www.existtravels.com to see if there is an all inclusive trip from your city to Iceland!