In recent years, rumors have begun to spread about the existence of a small Nordic island nation in the North Atlantic Ocean; an island defined by dramatic landscapes, with volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, lava fields, and elves. Yes, elves.
Rumors of this magical place are spreading like wildfire, and travelers have started arriving from all over the land. Though how do you know if Iceland is a country for you? Even though it’s a pretty safe bet in terms of an incredible vacation, what kind of travelers does it suit?
5 Types of Travelers Who Visit Iceland
Iceland is the perfect destination for solo travelers. Not only is it exotic and incredibly unique, with some of the world’s most jaw-dropping scenery, it’s one of the safest countries in the world, and crime rates are incredibly low. Hitch-hiking-is-a-common-practice kind of low.
While the country’s main language is Icelandic, English is spoken fluently, and there’s almost no language barrier (you may have difficulty pronouncing street signs though!) There is a lot of infrastructure for tourism, so it’s very easy to join a tour, or rent a car to get where you want to go.
And you won’t get bored! Although you may not be traveling with company, there is so much in Iceland to keep you occupied. There’s a range of urban adventures throughout Reykjavik, with an eclectic cultural, nightlife, and food scene. But then, outside of the city, you have a huge range of opportunity; you can hike out onto glaciers, or try your hand at ice-climbing. You can visit active volcanoes, white-water raft, or catch the incredible Northern Lights.
Iceland is a country full of natural wonders, and it is difficult to remain unmoved by the amazing diversity of it’s landscape. Though contrary to popular belief, Iceland is not an island which is covered completely in ice.
Iceland is a stunning playground with everything from majestic glaciers, cracked lava fields, gushing geysers, vibrant green fjords and geothermal lagoons. Also, due to its location between two tectonic plates that are spreading apart in the mid-Atlantic range, the country has a high concentration of active volcanoes; one of the highest in the world.
For nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, these pristine landscapes are some of the most beautiful in the world. And due to a lack of tourism, once you rent a car and drive out of the city, you’re practically alone. Rent a cottage in Iceland to immerse yourself fully.
Unlike other parts of the world, you’re not restricted on where you can explore. But please be aware that the nature in Iceland is fragile, and you should understand your impact. Simple things like not littering, leaving places the way you found them, and respecting both nature and wildlife. In Iceland this means not walking or jumping on the moss. It might look nice and springy, but it takes forever to grow back.
Wildlife access in Iceland is unparalleled; it’s truly a wildlife enthusiasts dream. Horses roam freely by the side of the road (though note that these are usually owned by someone regardless of roaming free), and exotic seabirds, like puffins arrive by the million to breed.
Iceland is home to a huge array of exotic seabirds who nest on coastal cliffs all around the country in massive colonies (breeding season between April and August). You can literally walk on top of these if you’re not careful, and get incredibly close for stunning photography.
Though if you’re more interested in marine mammals, Icelandic waters are home to around 24 species of whales, and the North has extraordinary whale watching. Home to many different species of whales, dolphins and birds, take a sailing trip out from Húsavík to Skjálfandi during summer.
You’re most likely to see seals and dolphins, though with any luck you’ll witness the spectacular humpback whales leaping out of the water in a breach, or perhaps even spot an orca.
Iceland is a country defined by it’s outdoors, and her portfolio of adventure / adrenaline activities is enough to rival New Zealand for the title of adventure capitol of the world.
Nothing gets you closer to Iceland’s raw, natural landscapes than hiking across it, and with the choice of grassy meadows bursting with wildflowers, lava fields, black-sand deserts and icefields, the options of hiking terrain here are both varied and vast.
During summer months of June and July, Iceland experiences the midnight sun – a natural phenomenon where the sun never sets. With 24 hours of daylight, and a law that allows you to camp anywhere for free, many travelers choose to pitch a tent.
Swimming is a popular pass time, and almost every Icelandic town boasts an outdoor geothermal pool or lagoon. There are also opportunities for white water rafting, ice-climbing, horse-riding, scuba-diving, visiting man-made ice caves, quad biking, snowmobiling, skiing, and that’s just to name a few!
Related: Top 10 Outdoor Activities in Iceland
‘Iceland is a country of striking and sometimes supernatural beauty, which is matched by its rich and extensive folklore.’ It has a mythical history like no other place, filled with stories of elves, trolls, vikings, ghosts, and supernatural beings.
Those visiting the country can visit the sites of thousands of years of mythology and folklore – and perhaps even to see elves and trolls yourself, if some locals are to be believed. Folklore is such a huge part of Iceland’s cultural identity, that you can even make a trip around Iceland based on myth and legend! (There’s also the Game of Thrones appeal).
Surveys suggest that more than half of Icelanders believe in, or at least entertain the possibility of the existence of, the Huldufolk – the hidden people. And this sparks environmental protests to this day. Roadwork projects that run into trouble are sometimes said to be angering local elves and a medium must be consulted before work can continue.
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Photo credits: Featured header image by TJ Drysdale Photography and Follow Me Away. Solo traveler with truck / Northern lights by Moyan Brenn of TravelBusy.com. White water rafting by Arctic Adventures.