I hope people aren’t getting sick of my Iceland stories yet. I’m really not trying to be “that guy” who humble brags about his European exploits, but it’s hard not to reference an amazing trip of a lifetime that just happened a month ago. Couple that with what’s been a high interest in the photos I uploaded to Facebook and I feel like “how was Iceland?” has been a popular topic of conversation for me this summer (not that I’m complaining). Generally, there’s been two main reactions to my Icelandic getaway:
A) Some sort of version of “that’s awesome.”
Even though Iceland is becoming an increasingly popular and trendy travel destination (it was top of National Geographics Traveler “World’s Best Destination” in 2012) , a lot of people still aren’t sure what the allure is. Unfortunately a lot of people I’ve spoken with think that it’s basically a polar ice cap in the Atlantic Ocean. I could literally go on and on about why you should start planning your trip to Iceland, but I’ll stick to my top ten. Here they are:
1) It’s Easy to Get To:
Iceland is a 4.5 hour direct flight out of JFK. Icelandair also offers direct flights from Boston and Washington DC. It took me longer to get to Vegas than it did Iceland.
2) Iceland has an Extremely High Standard of Living:
Like most of it’s Scandinavian counterparts, Iceland has an extremely high standard of living. The country is extremely well educated and well traveled. They have an astounding 99% literacy rate. All of this means that it’s also one of the safest countries to travel in so might be a great vacation to book if you’re traveling alone or with a small group.
I noticed how technologically advanced Iceland is. Almost everywhere, even the most remote locations, takes debit or credit card and all of the gyms and pools are operated by electric wristbands. It made the trip that much more convenient (and you get better exchange rates with credit cards).
3) It’s Extremely Tourist-Friendly:
Iceland’s number one source of income is fishing. It’s second is tourism. Because of this, it’s extremely easy to plan and book your trip and getting around is a breeze. In my experience, the customer relations and guest services in Iceland were above and beyond what I’m typically used to. Every tour we booked (as well as car rentals) came right to our hostel. Again, another aspect that made the trip that much more fun and less stressful. Even though it’s remote, because of it’s small size, the roads are extremely well marked. We were able to get around using just a map and the road signs (I’m aware people have been getting around this way for years, but I’m part of the GPS generation…this was nice for me).
4) 24 Hours of Daylight (Or Darkness):
Visiting Iceland in June affords you 24 hours of daylights. I know that the same things happens in Alaska and Canada and other parts of Europe, but those places don’t have Reykjavik’s party scene or hot springs or Europe’s biggest glacier. It was pretty impressive to be able to drink or hike all night. In the winter, Iceland sees almost 24 hours of darkness, which I’m sure is cool in its own right.
5) Mecca of Outdoor Activity:
We went horseback riding, snowmobiling, hiking, snorkeling, and whitewater rafting and that was only the tip of the iceberg. Cross country skiing, snowshoeing, ice climbing, glacial hiking, camping, ATVing and camping are all popular options and all of this is done is some of the most beautiful and surreal landscape that you’ll ever see.
6) Climate and Geography Variations:
Where else can you go to the beach one morning and a few hours later be snowmobiling on a glacier or start a hike in shorts, change into snow gear, and then end that same hike in shorts. Iceland also gives you flat lava fields extending for miles, geothermal activity and live volcanoes, glaciers, canyons, waterfalls, and an inland desert. The climate or geography will not bore you.
7) Reykjavik: Europe’s Party Capital:
If you consider yourself a career drinker or bona fide party animal, then you need to get to Reykjavik. It’s hailed as the nightlife capital of Europe and it’s easy to see why. Last call is 5am and the pregames last till 2AM. Bar hopping is the go-to here and there’s enough variety that you can hop from a Eurotrashy club to a microbrewery to an Irish pub all in one block.
8) Hot Spring Hopping:
This should be self explanatory. You can conceivably spend a day hiking and swimming in various hot springs (or hot rivers).
9) Game of Thrones is Filmed in Iceland:
For the rest of you GoT nerds, the Vatnajökull Glacier doubles as north of the wall. I didn’t run into Jon Snow, but maybe you’ll be luckier.
10) It’s A Good Excuse to See Other Parts of Europe:
Icelandair offers passengers to other destinations in Europe up to a 7 day stopover for no additional airfare. So, if you’re already planning a trip elsewhere, why not tack an Icelandic stopover to your itinerary or use this deal to see several different locations.
*If you need any more convincing, head over to my other Iceland posts and check out the pictures. That will convince you.