There is a lot that a lot of people don’t know about Iceland, including the best time of year to visit.
Iceland is straight out of a fairy tale book. Its harsh landscapes and dazzling fjords, volcanoes, coastlines and northern lights attract people from all over. Along with New Zealand, Iceland is one of the last two great landscapes to have been discovered and populated by mankind.
Today Iceland is an outdoor paradise that everyone should see and experience. But it’s also important to go at the right time of year for the right activity. There’s no point going there during the long daytime summers if you want to see the Northern Lights or in the winter if you want to explore the hinterland of the island.
Background and history of Iceland
- Capital and largest city: Reykjavik
- Population: 370,000
- Currency: icelandic krone
- Independence: 1944 (From Denmark)
- Landing area: 102,775 km2 or 39,682 square miles (approximately the size of Kentucky or Tennessee)
Iceland has one of the youngest histories dating back to the Norwegian settlement of the Vikings over a thousand years ago. The biggest city is Reykjavik and it’s home to around two-thirds of the population, so once you get out and start exploring the island, there’s not much bigger cities. Iceland is dominated by its central plateau which is full of lava and sand fields, glaciers and mountains (it even has one of the most active volcanoes in the world under the glacier). The main road makes a circuit around the island.
- Fun fact: Iceland’s only native land mammal was the arctic fox that walked the ice caps of the Ice Age
It is believed that colonization began in 874 AD. Subsequently, it spent much of its history under Norwegian and Danish control. It was always a very harsh climate and the population was very vulnerable to climate change and severe famines, for much of its history the population could not exceed around 40,000 people. During World War II, it was invaded by the British to deny it to the Germans, then by the Americans to free the British troops.
Iceland is a land of glaciers and many of the world’s most active volcanoes. About 30 volcanoes have erupted in recent history. All of this makes Iceland the true land of ice and fire (but they don’t have ice zombies or dragons)!
The arctic circle
There are several definitions of what the Arctic Circle is, if you use the definition that it is the southernmost point where the center of the midnight sun is visible at the June solstice and the northernmost point where the center of the midday sun is just visible on the December solstice, then the polar circle is 66 ° 33′48.7 ″. In this case, much of Iceland lies south of the Arctic Circle, with the circle barely cutting the northernmost part of the island. If the definition is the temperature of 10 ° Celsius in July, then most of the country is in the zone.
- Anecdotes: The English word “Geyser” comes from the geyser called “Geysir” in Iceland
- Fun fact: Iceland claims to have the oldest and oldest parliament in the world
Today Iceland is a very wealthy country and is not part of the European Union, although it has many strong agreements and treaties with them.
When to go and how to visit
If you are planning to explore this wonderland, be sure to visit it in the summer. The days will be long and the weather will be the hottest, the winters are long, bitter and gloomy. While it is possible to get organized tours to this island (and there are many), perhaps the most common are the self-guided tours. It is very easy to tour the island on your own and the cost of hiring guides is considerable. Over the past 20 years, the number of tourists flocking to this island has exploded and now around 2 million tourists visit it each year.
Some of the top tourist attractions in Iceland include:
- Reynisfjara Beach: Famous for its columns of black sand and rugged basalt
- Jokulsarlon Lagoon: An unforgettable glacial lagoon
- Vatnajokull Ice Caves: Ice caves at the bottom of the Vatnajokull glacier
- Blue lagoon: Geothermal wonderland with thermal water
- Gullfoss: The biggest waterfalls in Europe
- Laugavegur: Has the longest hiking trail in Iceland measuring 49 miles
- Thingvellir National Park: Historically important for the island and the site of the old parliament
- Askja: Huge Caldera – You need 11-14 hours to complete this trip
- Geysers in Haukadalur: Full of geysers, hot springs and bubbling mud pools
Iceland’s main attraction is ecotourism, so come take a tour of this wild wonderland and take in the spectacular scenery. Just come in summer (unless you want to see the Northern Lights).
Next: An Iceland Travel Guide: 10 Things To Know When Planning Your Trip
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