The Land of Fire and Ice is a place of legends and seemingly on everyone’s bucket list at the moment … and it’s easy to understand why.
The landscape is a stunning combination of midnight sun, glaciers, active volcanos, geysers, fjords and thermal waters. In summer the island is green and fertile, bathed in near eternal daylight – winter brings ice and snow, and the phenomenal Northern Lights. Photo opportunities are endless and ‘out-of-this-world’.
The Icelandic people are a friendly bunch, enjoying the high profile their beautiful country is gaining on the world stage, happy to welcome visitors and show them the island at its best. There’s an obvious pride belonging to Iceland, not just for the pristine environment and mystical history but also for the modern and lively society – Reykjavik is a vibrant and bustling city with great culture and an exciting night scene.
Iceland’s unique location on the North Atantic Ridge fault line reaches beyond the Arctic Circle, sitting between the Eurasian and American tectonic plates. The area is seismically very active as these plates pull gradually apart, hence there are geological wonders around every corner. The Blue Lagoon is one of the most popular places to visit. Located just outside Reykjavik, the mineral-rich geothermal waters are crowded and expensive but relaxing in the milky-blue waters is an ethereal and unmissable experience.
Also, on the famous Golden Circle tourist route, is Thingvellir National Park. This is the best place to view the fault line – there are even diving and snorkelling opportunities for those wanting to float between continents in the crystal clear water … and brave the cold.
Gullfoss, a dramatic series of waterfalls reached by a steep pathway, is one of Iceland’s most photographed spots, as is ‘Geysir’, where 10,000 year old hot springs entertain the crowds with regular spouting every few minutes.
Iceland is a true wilderness and consequently home to a vast range of wildlife. Famous as Europe’s best whale watching destination, trips depart from Husavik seeking encounters with humpbacks, minkes, bottlenose and blues which accumulate in large number to plunder the fish-rich North Atlantic and Arctic waters – prime viewing time is between April and October.
There are many surreal experience in Iceland, appealing to the adventurous and curious traveller. Not least the volcanic black sands of Joekulsarlon where the shore is scattered with glassy icebergs, abandoned by the fierce surf to glint in the light like glacier mints. The sulphur-scented air is a constant reminder that Iceland is a bubbling and grumbling seismic hothouse; with regular earthquakes and imminent volcanic eruptions. The eerie landscape has attracted film crews for decades; Game of Thrones filmed many key scenes here as well as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Interstellar, Noah and Prometheus.
An Icelandic cruise is usually part of a wider voyage, perhaps including Norway, Britain and Greenland in some form, and often circumnavigates the rugged coast. 1.8 million tourists are expected in 2017 and the cruise industry is keeping pace with this demand as new companies venture to Iceland and more far-reaching itineraries are offered by well-seasoned cruise lines familiar with the territory. Exploration cruises are growing in popularity with smaller vessels able to access Iceland’s more remote ports and thereby avoid the inevitable crowds. With the population of Iceland standing at around 300,000 there’s understandable concern that such a massive increase in visitors to the country may cause undesirable pressures on the locality. Cruise ships are well-positioned to offer less invasive visits as tourists stay on the ship at night, thereby alleviating local property issues, and the cruise line takes full responsibility for recycling and waste produced. Cruise passengers can visit Iceland in the knowledge their impact is controlled, yet still immerse themselves in the culture and environment.