In the past decade or so tourism has grown considerably in Iceland. More and more people are discovering it and want to take travel there.
What is Iceland Famous for? Iceland is famous for its stunning unspoiled nature and unique atmospheres such as volcanoes, geysers, hot springs lava fields, fish, and Northern lights. Also, it is also well known for being a peaceful country and crime is almost non-existent here. It is also well known for being an eco-friendly country.
Even though Iceland is growing in fame, some people still don’t know what a wonderful country it is or that it could be their next vacation destination. I admit that I was one of those people.
I remember my very first impressions as a child when I heard the word “Iceland” was that it was a land covered entirely in 4 feet of snow all year round. Boy how wrong I was!
I got my first look at the real Iceland from a TV program and it was the total opposite of my mind’s picture. If you are someone who thought like me, then this blog post will help you realize the true beauty of the country.
For those who already know that Iceland isn’t all ice, you’ll find some really interesting things about the country if you haven’t already traveled there.
One Of The Safest Countries
When we talk of safety there are several aspects to it, health, crime, and environmental conditions.
When it comes to crime, it is almost non-existent in Iceland. It is easily one of the best features the country is known for.
REMEMBER: Keep in mind that there is still a chance of risks when it comes to nature, i.e. unpredictable weather conditions, unique geological conditions and road safety.
But medical care in the country is also excellent and so is their hygiene.
Plus the water in Iceland is some of the cleanest in the world, so much that the tap water there is also safe to drink. If you are used to buying bottled water just remember you don’t need to do that here, the locals do find that amusing seeing as the tap water is also of the same quality.
Located in the heart of a volcanic landscape, near the town of Grindavík, Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa and is one of the most visited sites in Iceland.
The water is rich in salts and algae and has a milky blue hue. The color is because of the high silica content in it. The silica also forms into soft white mud on the bottom of the lake and bathers like to rub it on themselves.
In the bathing and swimming area of the lake, the water measures an average of 37–39 °C.
NOTE: You are required to shower before entering the water and also note that this is not suitable for children under the age of 2 years.
And lastly, a journey to the Blue Lagoon will not just be a soak in the wonderfully hot water, but there are other facilities here too like a sauna, restaurants, in-water bar, water-massage, and a mask bar.
This is a full holiday experience. This will be a relaxing, rejuvenating and an unforgettable experience for you.
Iceland is a country with a great diversity of landscapes.
It is famously known as the “Land of Fire and Ice”.
Why? It is because of the presence of active volcanoes as well as glaciers. Some of the world’s most active volcanoes, as well as some of the world’s largest glaciers, are found here.
In the south-west, there are moss-covered lava fields, soaring fjords in the north-west, and barren highlands in the center.
If you take a road trip in Iceland you will be witness to the diversity here. You’ll find each turn of the road reveals a new form. Every season brings about a new view too.
The Most Eco-friendly Country
Iceland is THE most environmentally friendly country in the world. They are highly committed to sustainability.
This is the same for everything in their lives be it transport, cuisine, healthcare, or tourism.
It is what I love the most about the country as it is something that is very difficult to find in other countries, particularly with those that are even more famous for tourism than Iceland.
Icelanders use eco-friendly products wherever possible.
More than 99% of the electricity produced in the country and almost 80% of the energy produced comes from hydropower and geothermal sources.
There are many more ways that they contribute to the environment, and hopefully, this will inspire others to follow in their footsteps if they already aren’t.
Having mentioned this fact about the country it is also best to know that Icelanders do not look well upon foreigners who disrupt this practice.
To see the magnificent natural phenomenon that is the Northern Lights in Iceland, the best time is from September to April.
Sightseeing trips are organized to see the Northern Lights. And the excursion guides are skilled in finding the perfect locations to see the phenomenal sight.
The ideal places to see the lights are away from the heavily populated and light-polluted areas.
NOTE: There are hotels in the country-side that give a special Northern Light wake-up service.
The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is a very popular route with tourists.
The tour is on the south of the island and has the most tours and activities related to travel.
There are many spectacular things to see in this route, like Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir geothermal field, Kerið crater, and Gamla Laugin (Secret Lagoon), etc. to name a few.
You can either take a guided tour or drive the route yourself.
Being the capital as well as the largest city of Iceland, Reykjavik is the center of culture, economy, and governmental activity.
It is an extremely popular tourist destination for its history, culture and natural beauty.
It is also one of the world’s safest, cleanest, and greenest cities.
Although it is not a huge metropolis, it is a place of widely contrasting activities. The city is energetic and live with activity and excitement.
You can explore the art, music, cuisine, history, sights, and experience life of Icelanders there.
There are many day trips that you can take too, from the capital to surrounding glaciers, mountains, hot springs, and volcanoes.
Here are a few of the top attractions to visit in the capital city; Hallgrímskirkja, National Museum, settlement exhibition, Icelandic Phallological Museum (don’t take your kids with you here), and Harpa.
The music of Iceland is also quite popular, particularly the sagas or heroic ballad poetry.
Singing sagas date back to the Viking era. This tradition of singing can still be found today in Icelandic folk songs called rímur.
In addition to folk music, there are other styles of music too in like pop, contemporary and classical.
Iceland is home to many famous musicians and bands as well.
The best-known musician from Iceland is probably Björk. Some others are Voces Thules music group, The Sugarcube rock band, Sigur Rós rock band, and Hafdís Huld.
You’ll encounter flavors that you’ve never tasted before. Icelandic food is among some of the healthiest in the world.
Some popular ingredients in Icelandic meals are lamb, fish, and dairy.
When you visit the country you will be able to find a mix of opportunities to taste both traditional and modern cooking.
Their dairy products are also gaining popularity for their wholesome flavor, such as the yogurt-like Skyr.
Due to the harsh climates, animal products make up a bigger part of Icelandic cuisine. However, herbs and vegetables are grown locally in geothermally heated greenhouses and this provides a supply of fresh vegetables year-round.
TIP: It is also highly recommended for foreigners to try their street food, particularly a local favorite, the pylsa (hot dog).
Also if you are bold enough, try the traditional Icelandic food which is easily available.
For traditional cuisine, food is still preserved using primitive storage methods instead of refrigerators. Traditional food consists of pickled, smoked, salted and cured fish and meat.
Plus all parts of the animal are consumed (due to the long winters) so you’ll find things like singed sheep heads, fermented shark, or pickled ram’s testicles.
More and more visitors are discovering the wonderful marine cuisine of Iceland.
Freshly caught fish is a staple of Icelandic cuisine. And as they are blessed with fertile fishing grounds all kinds of fish are available all year round. The locals mostly eat plaice, haddock, herring, shrimp, and halibut.
Trying some of the local dishes in fishing restaurants will be quite an experience I hear.
Several of my sources said that you need to be quite daring to try the seafood there, I’d like to take on that dare any day when I finally visit this beautiful country.
Here are some of their seafood dishes Hákarl (fermented shark), Harðfiskur (dried fish) that locals love, Plokkfiskur (fish stew), fish soup and herring usually served raw.
Hákarl, also known as fermented shark or rotten shark, is a very popular dish in Iceland, it is the national dish there.
The meat from the Greenland shark (or other types of sleeper shark) is cured using a special fermentation process and then hung up to dry for 4-5 months. Fresh meat of this shark is poisonous but is safe after being processed.
Be daring as I said before, particularly with this Hákarl because it has a pretty strong ammonia smell similar to many cleaning products (and well you know…).
Newbies would involuntarily gag on their first try because of the high ammonia content, so you might want to pinch your nose when you eat this for the first time.
It tastes a lot better than the smell apparently so eating rotten shark is definitely worth a shot. It’s mostly an acquired taste really, so don’t give up on the first shot.
Famous chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain have also tried this.
I said before that food in Iceland will introduce your palate to new flavors.
TIP: I would recommend that you not look into how Hákarl is made. Just let it surprise you! Otherwise, you might decide to miss out on a novel experience.
The traditional drink served with Hákarl is Brennivin. It is a clear unsweetened schnapps and is considered as the signature liquor in Iceland.
The taste of this drink is similar to vodka or Scandinavian akvavit. It is made from fermented grain or potato mash and flavored with caraway seeds and is a type of aquavit.
It is sometimes referred to as “Black Death”. Don’t let the name scare you away though, it’s not poison!
Ranking way on top of the list of the happiest countries in the world, Iceland is a country with a rich and diverse culture.
It is known for its literary heritage and for its prose and poetry, especially sagas and Eddas.
The people of Iceland are very proud of their Viking heritage and language and have a strong sense of tradition. Icelanders still continue some of their Viking beliefs such as the one of the existence of elves.
While they are highly traditional, they are also modernized and highly advanced in technology. It is a country with a perfect blend of tradition and modernization. There are some popular TV shows that are from Iceland too like LazyTown created by Magnús Scheving.
I’ve already defined some other parts of their culture that are popular all on their own, their cuisine and music.
Iceland is a geothermal paradise and as a result, there are many, many natural hot springs all over the island.
You will find hot springs of all sizes and shapes, so some could be the size of a bathtub and some the size of a small lake.
You already know of the most popular hot spring, Blue Lagoon, in addition to that there is the Secret Lagoon, Mývatn Nature Baths, Reykjadalur, and Fontana Geothermal Baths to name a few.
This is the ice of the Land of Fire and Ice.
Glaciers are not just blocks of ice. Over time, they form crevasses, cracks and occasionally even stunning ice caves too.
Visiting these glaciers are a popular activity with tourists and locals.
These are some of the best glaciers to visit, Vatnajökull, Hofsjökull, Langjökull, Eyjafjallajökull, and Mýrdalsjökull.
Vatnajökull is the biggest glacier in Europe. There are glacial lakes and ice caves to see here.
Having both disadvantages as well as advantages, volcanoes are obviously the fire of Iceland.
The disadvantages are obviously volcanic activity which makes Iceland one of the most volcanically active places on earth.
Some of the advantages are the wonderful geothermal pools, dramatic natural landscapes, and geysers. The geothermal energy is a huge benefit.
Eyjafjallajokull is most likely the most famous volcano in Iceland.
Then there are the Katla, Snæfellsjökull, Askja And Krafla volcanoes that you can visit. There are loads more volcanoes that you can visit in addition to these.
Iceland is one of the most important geyser sites in the world. It is a popular attraction in the country.
There are many geysers on the island both active and dormant. The most famous is Geysir. And some others are Strokkur and Óþerrishola.
The Great Geysir
Also called Geysir, the Great Geysir is likely the most popular geyser in the world. In fact, the English word “geyser” comes from Geysir.
Geysir is located in the southwestern part of the island in the Haukadalur valley.
Although the eruptions there may be infrequent (having paused for years in the past) it is known to hurl boiling water up to a height of 230 feet.
NOTE: It is one attraction in the Golden Circle, so you don’t have to go out of your way to see it.
There are other geysers to see in the Haukadalur valley too like the Strokkur geyser.
Iceland is the ideal place for those of you who love road trips.
The ruggedly beautiful landscapes may also prove to be novel challenges to you.
The scenes vary and are breathtakingly beautiful.
Self-driven trips are the most in-demand.
The internationally popular, Icelandic horse, is as its name suggests native to Iceland.
The horses in this breed are small, almost pony-sized. But they have long life spans and are sturdy.
They still play a vital role in the lives of Icelanders such as for farming, showing, recreation and races, although to a lesser extent due to modernization.
They are perfect to explore the untouched natural landscapes of Iceland.
Many farms all over the island provide horse riding tours for any level of experience. And those tours may last from one to ten days.
The puffins’ popularity has risen over the years. Puffin watching has become one of the most famous activities to do in the summer.
The best time to watch these beautiful birds is during between May and August. For the most part, they are out fishing during the day but you can view them in the evening when they are most active.
Iceland is home to the largest puffin population in the world and you can observe them in their natural habitat in places all over the country.
Some of the best places to see puffins are in Vestmannaeyjar, Lundey and Akurey near Reykjavik, Látrabjarg cliffs, and Vigur Island.
During the summer months, from April to September is the ideal time to go whale watching.
In the summer, when several species of large mammals come to the island’s shores to feed, it is the best opportunity for you to observe the marvelous creatures in their natural habitat.
There are orcas, humpback whales, and blue whales. Whale watching trips are available throughout the country.
There are many beautiful waterfalls in Iceland but Gullfoss the most popular and is an iconic waterfall in the country.
It is located in the southwest of the island the Hvítá river canyon and is another site belonging to the Golden Circle.
The water from the Langjökull glacier surges down into a crevice of 32 meters, in two stages. Stage one falls to a height of 11 meters and stage two, 21 meters.
That is a very dramatic display of nature’s true power and incredible beauty. I admit, Gullfoss is a sight unlike any other I’ve seen before, it’s incredibly bewitching.
Both locals and tourists alike love to visit Gullfoss. There are also other activities you can do around the falls in addition to sightseeing.