Iceland – More Than Just An Island


Geologically, Iceland is a hot spot caused by a mantle plume on the mid-Atlantic ridge. It’s an island of 30 active volcanoes, bubbling geothermal pools, geysers (an Icelandic word), lakes, waterfalls and rivers full of the plumpest salmon and trout on earth. Much of it is barren basalt rock, glacier or ice cap, and only 23 per cent supports any kind of growth. It’s populated by the descendants of Vikings who colonised it in the 9th century – and who still live by the principles of self-reliance and hard work, and by the sense of community of their forebears.

Icelanders invented government by representation, with the Althing (parliament) of Thingvellir in 930, and after the vicissitudes of the Black Death and colonial strife under Denmark, and despite an occupation by the World War II Allies, including the USA until 2006, reasserted their commitment to equal rights on all fronts with exuberance. The first thing every visitor appreciates is Icelanders’ sense of fun – especially becomes a 24-hour party town for young and old, and the rest of the country keeps pace, and at Christmas, when everyone celebrates the Northern Lights.


The earth’s crust is very thin in Iceland. Every house gets its central heating direct from the geothermal cauldron below, and you soon get accustomed to the sulphurous smell when filling a bath. Nowhere does interactive vulcanology better than Iceland, because daily routines have been intertwined with the dominant geological behaviour of the glaciers, icefields, peaks, hot springs, lava deserts, and alternately boiling and frozen river systems.

Physically, Iceland is as strange as the moon, whose surface it was chosen to represent before the moon landings – but its quality of life is considered the best in the world, and that’s because of its people.

When to visit


June to August – but Reykjavik and the coastal regions are kept ice-free by the Gulf stream, and winter sports make Iceland a year-round destination. Come for the major festivals of June, or for Pjothatith in August, a national day of dancing, eating and singing.

How to reach

By air, from Europe and the USA to Keflavik, for Reykjavik.


  • The Kverkfjoll ice caves and Hverfell Crater, near deep blue Myvatn Lake in the northeast, are home to more species of breeding duck than anywhere else in Europe.
  • The emerald green Thingvellir glacial valley – is impossibly beautiful, and the home of democracy.
  • Gullfoss, the 32 m (105 ft) golden waterfall’ – in the sunshine the torrential spray creates a series of rainbows.
  • Bathing in the huge, milky-blue spa of the Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik; the silver towers of the local geothermal plant, rolling clouds of steam and a massage under a hot waterfall are a metaphor for Iceland’s weird but Alarmingly pleasant attractiveness.

You should know

The Arctic Open is a golf tournament played under the midnight sun.


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