Iceland is a country where beautiful scenery abounds. If you love the outdoors, this is the place for you! There are 4 distinct regions, each with a different flare and sights to see. We recommend a tour or two to get started, then you may want to rent a car or take a longer tour to explore in more depth.
Icelanders have a fierce pride of their relatively short past. The first settler, Ingóflur Anarson, arrived from Norway in 874. In 930, the island’s 36 chieftains met together at Pingvellir for their first annual assembly. Probably they did not realize it at the time, but it was an auspicious choice, and this is also where the great North American and Eurasian continental plates come together.
This constant movement between the two continents makes Iceland a serious geologic hot spot, a fact that has led to an almost exclusive use of geothermal energy. In fact, Reykjavik, the world’s most northernmost capital city, receives hot water and all it’s power directly from a geothermal plant located about 40 km from the city. In fact, 80% of their electricity is generated by geothermal means, with the remainder being hydroelectric. Iceland is enviably a 100% “green” country.
Icelanders take great pride in their history and language. Even though they are a nation of only 320,000, they maintain their original language as spoken by Ingóflur Anarson and the settlers. It is a kind of old Norwegian, but I doubt even many Norwegians would be able to recognise it. It sounds very strange to English speakers, but there is a kinship in sentence structure and even a few recognisable words from both German and English. Not to worry, however, because English is also taught in the schools and is spoken widely.
Much of the history was passed down by word of mouth through “Sagas” – tales of incidents that happened along the way. Some tell of terrible battles, and others highlight the courage of the early settlers. There are many of these cherished Sagas, all of which were eventually transcribed but still have a kind of life of their own. A recent television series aired 6 of these as a kind of dramatic documentary and was very popular.
The people are mostly a mixture of Norwegian and Scottish. How did that happen? The Vikings lived to raid and take slaves. They were a very violent society, but in many ways had admirable traits. DNA research done in conjunction with the National Museum has demonstrated that the mixture of the lines comes primarily as a result of Scottish women who were taken away as slaves. This gives the country a very Viking feel with a bit of Celtic tossed in for good measure. Altogether a pleasing and very interesting combination.
The food is in a word, “different”. Traditional Icelandic dishes would not for the most part agree with the American or even British palate. However, it is said that their version of the venerable Hot Dog is the best in the universe – especially if consumed from a little cart along the waterfront where you can find a photo of Bill Clinton enjoying one a few years ago! Saying that, you can find anything to suit your taste, especially in Reykjavik, as you might expect from an international city.
We have several tours of Iceland and recommend that you take at a minimum the Hop-On Hop-Off City Tour, or if you have only a limited amount of time, the 2.5 hour Reykjavik Sightseeing Tour, and what is called the “Golden Circle” tour. If you want to go further beyond, here are all our Tours of Iceland. Renting a car is even a good option, because outside of their rush hour in Reykjavik, traffic is sparse.
Iceland is great – feel free to explore, and you will enjoy your trip. Just watch the weather!
A Convenient Hotel on Airport Grounds We flew through Iceland recently and overnighted at the Airport Hotel Smári. It is conveniently located right on the grounds of the airport (Keflavik) serving Reykjavik. This hotel is [...]
The Hilton Reykjavik Nordica is a very nice hotel centrally located just on the outskirts of Reykjavik. The nightly price was reasonable for Iceland, and the rooms were much larger than expected, decked out in [...]