Flights are taking off, hotels are being booked and tour buses are hitting the road. That's right, you guessed it, people are traveling to Iceland again. Despite an understandable dip in numbers during 2020 due to COVID restrictions, tourism recovered and Iceland continues to increase the numbers of tourists visiting the land of ice and fire
Travelers from all over the world are now making the trek to Iceland again, many of whom have visited before and simply can’t get enough of the Land of Fire and Ice. So, what is it about this country that makes it such a popular tourist destination? The list is endless, but here we pinpoint 10 reasons why we think everyone is traveling to Iceland as of late.
Reason 1: Witness nature’s ferocity up close (but not too close!)
Whenever a volcano erupts in Iceland, visitor numbers go through the roof. That’s because many people have the mindset: “If I’m given the chance to see an erupting volcano during my travels, then I will take it, thank you very much”. Volcanic eruptions are such a thrilling natural event that to witness them up close has to be one of the most incredible sights of one's life.
For much of 2021, the eruption at Fagradalsfjall attracted thousands of tourists to Iceland. At the time of writing, the eruption has calmed down, yet the smoking lava field is still a magnificent sight to behold.
Reason 2: Lights, Camera Action!
Filmmakers and television producers have been quick to exploit the veritable goldmine of beautiful Icelandic landscapes for use as scene backdrops. For example, many moments from the popular series Game of Thrones were filmed around Iceland and thus tour companies commonly feature these locations in their itineraries.
Scenes from the film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty were also shot in Iceland. When set on the big screen, these beautiful landscapes are so captivating that many people decide to travel to Iceland to see them firsthand
Reason 3: The greatest light show on earth
The peak Northern Light season in Iceland is between October and April, but if you’re lucky, you may catch them in September as well. For many, getting a glimpse of the aurora holds a number 1 spot on the list of things to do, as hunting the Northern Lights is the type of experience that stays with you forever! Unfortunately, because The Northern Lights are a natural spectacle, they aren’t something we can turn on and off upon desire.
Since there’s no way to definitively predict their appearance, we believe that seeing the lights should not make or break your holiday, but rather be an added bonus to the overall trip. If you do happen to see them, it’s safe to say they’re pretty much out of this world. From their simple silver wisps to giant waves of green and purple, it’s hard to believe that nature can create something so spectacular.
You can join a coach or boat tour to chase the lights, but it's much more comfortable to simply hop into your camper, (having checked the Northern Light forecast beforehand) and spend the night searching the vast skies. That way, when it gets cold, you can simply nip inside for some shelter and warmth!
Reason 4: It’s ok to dip into hot water
Iceland sits right on top of the border between two tectonic plates, making it a literal hotbed of geothermal activity. There are natural hot springs in every part of the country, and Icelanders have capitalized on this since the first settlers arrived over a thousand years ago.
The same geothermal energy that gives us these natural hot tubs also heat many of the fantastic outdoor swimming pools that are a major feature of Icelandic life. When driving around Iceland in your campervan, be sure to stop off and check out the local pool of whatever town you find yourself in.
Some have taken the pool idea a step further by creating luxurious geothermal spas, such as the southwest’s Blue Lagoon and the baths at Myvatn, in the north.
Reason 5: Far from the madding crowd
If solitude and peace and quiet is your thing, then Iceland is the place for you. Iceland’s population density is incredibly low, with the majority of the nation’s approximately 350,000 inhabitants living together in the capital area. You can literally drive for hours and not see another human soul, especially in places like the Westfjords, one of Europe’s last true wildernesses.
If you really want to unplug from the rat race for a while, book your campervan and head for the serene Icelandic countryside. Just remember to stock up on fuel and provisions first!
Reason 6: Go chasing waterfalls
You’ve probably heard that there are a lot of glaciers in Iceland. But did you know that the meltwater that flows through glacial rivers towards the ocean invariably encounters huge cliffs and canyons along the way, producing some of the most spectacular waterfalls known to man?!
You may recognize some Icelandic waterfalls from pop culture, as film, TV and music video directors seem to have a thing for these natural wonders (and who can blame them?). While there are far too many waterfalls to list here, we think some of the very best can be found along the Southern Coast.
Our favorite is Seljalandsfoss, a waterfall that you can actually walk behind. (Tip: bring a jacket, you’re bound to get a bit wet!)
Reason 7: A taste of nature
Iceland has had a complicated relationship with its native whale population. Thankfully, these days the focus has shifted from hunting them to spectators taking in their natural beauty without the intent of harm.
Visitors have the chance to spot up to twenty-four whale species around Iceland. Although whale watching guides run tours year-round, we think summer is arguably the best time to go. Conveniently, many tours operate from the capital of Reykjavík, as the nearby Faxaflói bay seems to be a hotspot of whale activity.
Summer is also an opportunity to see the country’s huge puffin population. As many as ten million puffins make Iceland their home between June and September, to breed and give birth. The Westman Islands is probably the best place to get eyes on these fascinating creatures. Tourists should note that here they are even offered as a dish, as they’re considered a delicacy in this part of Iceland!
Reason 8: Easy Stopovers
If you’re traveling between North America and Europe, it’s easy and advantageous to arrange a stopover in Iceland along the way, especially because flights between these continents can be long and arduous.
It only makes sense to break the journey up and spend a few days exploring the most beautiful country in the world on the way. Check out Icelandair to see if they are offering cheap flights to Iceland with stopovers that fit your travel itinerary.
Reason 9: Freedom! (with caveats)
Like many other countries, Iceland has had its fair share of Covid-related issues. Thankfully, the authorities did a pretty good job of keeping the virus under control here, all without having to implement the severe restrictions that were necessary in other nations.
Sure, the lockdown caused the country’s tourism sector to suffer, but Icelanders are resilient and because of that the industry is thriving once again. The situation is always changing, but at the current time of writing, traveling here is a fairly simple process. There’s some pre-registration and testing that needs to take place depending on where you’re coming from, but that’s easy to arrange.
There are still likely to be some travel restrictions in Iceland for the foreseeable future, but hopefully these won’t prevent you from enjoying your Icelandic adventure to the fullest.
Reason 10: Word of mouth
There’s no such thing as bad press, right? As terrible as the financial crash in 2008 and the volcanic eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 were, they did a remarkable job of putting Iceland in the spotlight of the world’s media. It’s no coincidence that Iceland’s tourism boom began shortly after these events.
Famous Icelandic music stars such as Björk and Sigur Rós have also indirectly promoted Iceland’s image on a global scale. In fact, a love of Icelandic music has led to thousands of visitors flocking to Iceland each year, eager to check out the famous Airwaves festival.
The success of the Icelandic male and female football teams has also got people talking about the country. Whether the topic is sports, entertainment, nature or more, we hope that this positive word of mouth effect continues to inspire people to come to Iceland. On our side, we will always do our part to make them feel most welcomed!
What makes Iceland so special?
That's a very good question! Even though there are countless responses, we have narrowed down what makes Iceland so special with these three things:
- Geological activity. Iceland is one of the most geologically active places in the world. There aren’t many places where you can witness the incredible natural phenomena that are so abundant here.
- Location. Conveniently situated halfway between Europe and North America, Iceland is the perfect stop off point for people traveling between these two continents.
- Culture. Icelandic culture is truly unique. This is partly due to its isolation from the rest of Europe. The more time you spend here, the more you realize how intriguing daily life is on this remote island.
No matter if you visit Iceland for one of these reasons or for them all, these are just a few points of inspiration to get you out here. Since there’s so much to see, it’s a good idea to do your research and plan an itinerary in accordance with how long you intend on staying.
Don’t try to do too much with little time; Iceland is a lot bigger than you might think! However, we do recommend leaving some space for spontaneous day trips that will undoubtedly grab your attention whilst you are here. One thing’s for certain- you’ll be planning your second Icelandic adventure even before your first one comes to an end!