Lots of people are traveling to Iceland these days, and there are lots of reasons to go! The country is known for its stunning landscapes, but there are many other things that are interesting about Iceland and its people.
Iceland, also called The Land of Fire and Ice, is home to glaciers and volcanoes. The island was formed millions of years ago by these two forces of nature, and the landscape is very unique. In Iceland you can explore everything from volcanoes, geysers, glaciers, natural hot springs, black sand beaches, lava fields, waterfalls, and mountains. Some of the best sites in Iceland are in remote and isolated areas of the country.
The population of Iceland is around 365,000 people, and like many sparsely populated countries, most people live in towns and cities. Iceland has the lowest population density of all European countries. It was uninhabited long after the rest of Western Europe had been settled. The first recorded history of Iceland began with the settlement by Viking explorers, many of them lords and kings from Norway who fled the tyranny of Harald the fair-haired.
Icelandic has been spoken in Iceland since the country was settled in the 9th century. It is mostly the language that the Nordic people spoke in the Middle Ages throughout the Nordic countries as well as in certain regions of England, Ireland, and Scotland. Despite centuries of foreign rule, the Icelandic language has not been greatly influenced or changed. In fact, Icelanders can still read and understand ancient Icelandic texts without difficulty. The Icelandic language has been rated one of the hardest languages to learn in the world because of its archaic vocabulary and complex grammar. Most Icelanders speak fluent English because it is taught as a second language in schools. Most Icelanders also speak several other languages including Danish, German, Spanish and French.
Iceland is the most peaceful country in the world and has held that title since 2008. The crime rate there is very low and many believe that's because their culture is extremely family oriented. Iceland has no army, navy or air force and their police do not carry firearms while on duty. Iceland's education and welfare system ranks among the best in the world. All Icelanders have equal opportunities in education, easy access to good health care services, and the lowest level of unemployment in Europe with an average of 2.5%.
The country has limitless access to some of the cleanest and purest water you can get. Icelandic water comes from the springs and filters through lava for decades before it reaches the taps. Unlike water in most countries, Icelandic tap water is free of chlorine, calcium, and nitrate and is regularly monitored and tested for high quality results. It also tastes extremely fresh and delicious. You can drink as much of it as you want and all for free! Because of the clean water that is available, many creative microbreweries have popped up. About 35 breweries in Iceland produce world-famous and award-winning beer.
One of the things you will definitely notice when visiting Iceland is the clean and crisp air. You'll always get the feeling that it is a little windy in Iceland. This is because Iceland is an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The wind hitting the shore has traveled a great distance across the uninterrupted sea. Because of the wind, Iceland has some of the purest and freshest air you will ever breathe.
If you're looking to visit Iceland and don’t really care about weather-specific activities, take advantage of the shoulder seasons in spring and fall when crowds are sparse and accommodations are cheaper. There are often cheaper flights during these time periods as well. Flights to Iceland during the winter are going to be the cheapest, except for the main holidays like Christmas and New Year’s (ticket prices skyrocket during those weeks). In my opinion, the best time to visit is in the spring. Even if you pay a little more, you may get more value because of the mild weather and longer daylight hours.
If you want to visit Iceland without the crowds, try to visit in March, April, September, or October. Since the weather is more unpredictable during these times, fewer travelers take the risk. If good weather is not on your list of things you care about, head to Iceland in the dead of winter (December, January or February). It’s going to be colder, but that and the extremely short days keep the crowds low. My last trip to Iceland was in December and I got to see the Northern Lights!
Many people want to go to Iceland for the whale watching. During the winter, it can be hard to spot any kind of wildlife because of the harsh climate. If you’re looking to spot migrating whales passing by, plan a trip between April and October, which is prime whale watching time. You can catch sight of minke, humpback, sperm, and fin whales, along with orcas, and there are plenty of tours on the Reykjavik Harbor that will take you to the best locations.
Iceland has one of the largest puffin colonies in the world. There are a few excellent spots to see Iceland's most adorable bird in its natural habitat, but no matter where you plan to go puffin-spotting, the best time to do it is between April and August. You can even arrange a minibus tour where a local guide will share the history of the islands and take you to some of the local puffin hot spots. You'll also see millions of other birds including razorbills and northern gannets.
Two other animals you will see no matter when you visit are sheep and horses. Wool textiles are a huge part of the country’s retail market and exports, while Icelandic horses have become a popular bucket list item for the tourist industry.
There are some things in Iceland that can only be experienced during a certain season, meaning there truly is no bad time to visit the country. With that in mind, you should make a list of your vacation priorities. No matter when you choose to visit Iceland, though, you'll be treated to the country's unparalleled beauty, exciting outdoor activities and majestic wildlife.