by Billy Idle
When it comes to scenery, snow, glaciers and geysers, there aren’t many destinations to compare with Iceland. Throw in mountains, whales, incredible waterfalls and locals who are warm, friendly and welcoming to a fault and you are well on your way to pinpointing one of the coolest destinations on the map.
Since the financial crisis in the first decade of the century tourism has become an increasingly important part of the Icelandic economy. Tourist numbers have been rising steadily since the 1990s. But now that the secret is out of the bag, Iceland is fast becoming one of the places to see.
But with a typically understated Scandinavian efficiency, Iceland has surrendered none of its natural charm to the demands of those growing numbers of visitors. There is still a whole wilderness of unexplored majesty waiting to be discovered. The tourist numbers may have risen, but Iceland remains a splendidly unspoiled territory.
The tourist entrepreneurship that has taken off on the back of Iceland’s understated fashionableness has tended to operate in sympathy with the natural environment. Whale watching and cross country skiing, reindeer and husky safaris and camping out under the amazing atmospheric canopy provided by the Northern Lights are all part and parcel of a tourist industry that is incredibly sensitive to the delicate environmental and ecological balance that makes the island so unique. The activities listed here are no more than – appropriately enough – the tip of the iceberg. Click here for more information if any of these activities particularly whets your appetite, or indeed if you would like to explore further what Europe’s westernmost outpost has to offer.
You will also be able to pony trek, swim in natural hot water springs and pools, enjoy ice trekking, volcano watching and marvel at the spectacular birth of icebergs. The Jökulsárlón (glacial river lagoon) on the edge of the edge of the Vatnajökull National Park is just one of a host of natural wonders that regularly leaves visitors marvelling at the natural beauty that Iceland is blessed with. The dynamic and constantly changing terrain offers a truly humbling lesson as to the delicate natural balance our world maintains.
In terms of the practicalities, fights to Reykjavik are available from a range of UK airports, accommodation is universally of an extremely high quality – it’s just how they do things in Scandinavia – and almost everyone speaks English. It means that any unforeseen contingencies can be easily dealt with.
Most holiday makers visit Iceland during the summer months but the spectacular winter scenery – and all the snow that goes with it – is perhaps the most romantic time to visit. There is a growing trend for wedding parties to capture that special moment amidst what is an undeniably memorable and unutterably photogenic landscape.
That rugged terrain inevitably appeals more to the active, sports-minded tourist and there is a developing adventure element to the attractions on offer. It is all part and parcel of a setting that is splendidly geared up for those who like to leave the hustle and bustle of urban life behind and really immerse themselves in the great outdoors. In Iceland, perhaps more than anywhere else, the outdoors really is that good.