Iceland is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean. It is famous for its magnificent nature, geothermal energy and the idiosyncratic nature of its inhabitants.
Its landscape is marked by glaciers, volcanoes, hot springs, and absolutely no trees. It has become a popular destination for adventurers and seekers of the unusual, offering white water rafting, glacial snowmobiling and hot-spring bathing, as well as phenomena such as the midnight sun and The Northern Lights.
Icelanders have never been known to go the beaten path. Descendants of the ancient vikings (but these days relatively civilized), the nation of Iceland has elected the first woman president, the first openly lesbian prime minister, and was the first country in the world to acknowledge the sovereign state of Estonia. Jón Gnarr, the mayor of Reykjavík, the capital city, was a comedian who ran for office as a joke.
Despite its meager population, it has birthed such famous musicians as Björk, SigurRós, and Of Monsters And Men. Other accomplished Icelanders include 3 different winners of the Miss World competition and two strongmen who each won the World’s Strongest Man competition four times over.
Icelandic, the language of Iceland, is considered the closes living relative of ancient Norse, and is as such related to most of the Scandinavian languages. Here are some fun words to try to learn in Icelandic:
Eyjafjallajökull (AY-yah-fyad-layer-kuh-tel) – The name of the volcano that erupted in 2010. A great word to say to impress your friends, and better yet, almost nobody will be able to correct you if you’re saying it wrong.
“Einn bjór takk” (aydn byor tack) – “One beer please”. The double “n” is pronounced as a sneeze.
“Jæja” (yaya) – an all-round conversation filler. Use it to fill an uncomfortable silence, to signal that you have to go, or just to entertain yourself when you’re bored.
“Gerðu það” (gerthu thath) – the closest icelandic equivalent of “please”. Literally means “do it”
“Ógeðslega gott!” (Oh!-gethslega got) – normal way to say “very good”. Literally means “disgustingly good!”
[b]Where is Iceland and how do I travel there?[/b]
Travel time by plane is about 3 hours from London, 2.5 from Stockholm and 6 hours from New York, it is easily reached and the perfect place to stop “on the way” between the US and Europe. There are currently a number of airlines that provide flights to Iceland, including Icelandair, Wow Air, SAS, Norwegian and EasyJet. Within Iceland, there are local airlines, bus services and tour companies that can take you pretty much anywhere on the island. Tourism is a big industry, and accommodation is relatively abundant in all parts of the country.
[b]What is it like and what is there to do there?[/b]
It is roughly the size of Kentucky and only slightly smaller than England (103,000 km2/ 40,000 sq m). The population of 320,000 makes it the least populated country in Europe. Its position on the 66th parallel, with one peninsula reaching into the Arctic circle, means northern lights in the very dark winters and very bright summer nights.
The landscape is magnificently beautiful and hauntingly terrible, ranging from volcanoes to glaciers, from the bubbly geysers to the cold dead desert of the central highlands.
In Iceland you can ride the unique Icelandic Pony around a moss-covered lava field in the morning, have world class free range lamb for lunch (it’s all free range), and ride a snowmobile on a glacier in the afternoon. Afterwards you can have a reindeer burger for dinner before heading off to bathe in a geothermal pool while looking up at the Northern Lights, and then rounding off the evening with some fermented shark and “Black Death” schnapps. All within day trip distance from your hotel. You can go whale watching and see the seat of the ancient viking parliament. Or in June you can play golf by the light of the never-setting midnight sun.
Icelandic Glacier and Northern lights
The all-important question: What is the weather like?
Not as cold as you might think. Warmed by the Gulf Stream, Iceland has a surprisingly temperate climate for its latitude. Comparable to New England, winter temperatures average at a mild 0 to -10 degrees Celsius (32 to 14 F). In summer, temperatures range between 10 and 25°C (50-77 F). However, due to the notoriously fickle weather and strong winds, you may want to bring a hat just in case, or buy a traditional hand-knitted wool sweater.