Destination Guide: Iceland

High at the top of many traveler’s bucket lists (more so in recent years than ever before) is to take a trip to Iceland. Lush and green in the summer and an ice paradise in the winter, it’s no wonder so many people want to visit such a remarkable place. No matter when you decide to go, you’ll find yourself awash in a new world filled with frozen glaciers, active volcanoes, and warm and bubbling thermal hot springs.


Land of Fire and Ice, Iceland is a true Viking paradise.

No matter what you are interested in (food, nature, music, etc.) Iceland has the scene for you. Its home to some of the most beautiful landscapes, some up-and-coming musicians, and some of the most unique foods you’ll ever find. All of this from a small nation of about 338,000 people!

 
The problem with driving around Iceland is that you’re basically confronted by a new soul-enriching, breath-taking, life-affirming natural sight every five goddamn minutes. It’s totally exhausting.
— Stephen Markley, Tales of Iceland or "Running with the Huldufólk in the Permanent Daylight
 

The nature

Let it be known from here on that Iceland is one of the most naturally beautiful places on the planet. In the summer months the landscapes are so green that you would swear you’ve walked right into a scene from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Shire from the Lord of the Rings series. Then in the winter the mood completely shifts, and an aura of mystery and bewilderment takes over as everything turns into an ice-covered exhibition of what it once was. Needless to say, no matter when you decide to venture into the Land of Fire and Ice there will be things to see and do.


IcelandWild.JPG

Wild:

A natural state or uncultivated or uninhabited region.

 

Go to the Blue Lagoon or any other hot spring

One of Iceland’s most famous attractions, the Blue Lagoon is a thermal hot spring that has been converted into a day spa for tourists and locals alike. You can warm your body in the bubbling waters, cover your face and body with the exfoliating silica mud, and relax as the steam gently unclogs all of your pores. And don’t worry, the spa is open year-round, so even in the frigid temperatures of an Icelandic January (-5° C woo-hoo!) you can still relax while you’re surrounded by a frozen tundra. If the crowds or price scare you off from this local hot spot don’t worry, because Iceland is full of thermal pools just like this. Landbrotalaug, Gamla Laugin (aka The Secret Lagoon), and Hrunalaug are just three of the many options for you to “get your soak on” while avoiding the  4800 ISK price tag of the Blue Lagoon.

BlueLagoon.jpg

Silica Magic

The Blue Lagoon’s Silica clay is famous for it’s healing powers.

 

Eat Locally

You’re in Iceland to experience Iceland, so you better be eating the local cuisine. Try all the traditional dishes you can, including Hákarl, Súrir hrútspungar, Lundi, and Slátur (loosely translated these would be fermented shark, ram’s testicles, Icelandic puffin, and blood pudding). If the Icelandic names freak you out though, you can always just order whale or horse meat, both of which are widely served across the country. And for anyone who has a less-adventurous stomach you can always pick up a hot dog from the local Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, which has served famous stomachs like Bill Clinton and members of Metallica.

 

Icelandic Horse at Gamla Vínhúsið in Reykjavík.

During the Summer

Hiking is a popular option, to one of the country’s many waterfalls or scenic overlooks. National Geographic lists Laugavegurinn Pass as one of the world’s best hiking trails, though in the summer it may be inundated with tourists. Whale watching is another popular activity with a plethora of tour options, and can lead to some once-in-a-lifetime views of pods and breaches. If nothing else though, during the summer in Iceland one of the most unique activities you can do is walk in the midnight sun. Because of its location, the sun does not set in Iceland during the summer for very long (if at all). Peak season for this is around the summer solstice in June, where the sky is lit for almost 24 hours a day. A unique opportunity to say the least, walking/hiking in the midnight sun (whether it’s through the city streets or on top of one of the Northern Fjords) is a must on any Icelandic bucket list.

Image Courtesy of Guide to Iceland.

Image Courtesy of Guide to Iceland.

During the Winter

If you aren’t scared off by freezing temperatures or the fact that it gets dark around three in the afternoon, Iceland in the winter may be just the place for you. If it’s the Northern Lights you’re chasing, winter may give you the perfect opportunity to view the majestic lights in the north sky. If you’ve got more of a kick for frozen tundra and icy snowmobile rides, a journey into the heart of Iceland via the Golden Circle may be just what the adventurer within is asking for. Winter is (understandably) the cheapest time to visit Iceland, and while most tourists are scared off by the below freezing temperatures, a true explorer that may want to save a few bucks would be hard-pressed to find a better place to visit.

 
 

Iceland’s Music Scene

Some may look at Iceland and think “A country that small can’t have a thriving music scene.” but they’d be totally wrong. Icelandic folk, rock, EDM, and even reggae are just a few of the many options waiting for you. Artists like Of Monsters and Men, Ásgeir, SAMARIS, and Hjálmar are just a few of the many to come out of the Iceland scene. And if you’re really looking for a unique music experience, head to “Iceland Airwaves” a massive music festival held every year in Reykjavik featuring music from new artists from all over the world.


 

Iceland is one of the most unique places you can visit today. A place where you can go from bustling city to no-man’s-land in a matter of hours, it’s no wonder so many people want to visit. No matter when you go, where you go, or for how long, you’re guaranteed to have an experience unlike any other. So book your ticket, pack your bags, and make sure you’re both mentally and physically ready for the trip of a lifetime. You’re venturing into Viking territory now, so good luck. SKÁL!

Jake Allegro