Everyone is talking about Iceland, and what a hot destination it is becoming. So my friend Andrea decided to go there to find out why.
“This place is gorgeous!!! Photos don’t do it justice,” said Andrea when she arrived in Arnarstapi, a small fishing village located on Iceland’s Snæfellsáss Peninsula.
Arnarstapi is in West Iceland, about a 2-1/2 hour drive from Reykjavik. Basalt columns, cliffs, caves and ravines surround the pier. From there you can see two incredible volcanoes, Snæfellsáss glacier and Mt. Stapafell. It is said that these two volcanoes produce incredible energy – somewhat other worldly. You may recognize Arnarstapi if you saw Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. The last stop on the route the protagonists take before they climb the mountain and enter the interior of the earth through a tunnel in the crater was filmed here.
As you have seen by now, Icelandic names are difficult for those of us who are unfamiliar with the language. The words look strange, and therefore are difficult to remember, so don’t be put off. You’ll begin to recognize them as you read more about the country. Besides, if a trip to Iceland is in your future, reading about it gives you a chance to become more familiar with the names and develop a frame of reference.
Iceland is a volcanic island about the size of Virginia. It has over one hundred volcanoes, 30 to 40 of which are active. It reached national prominence when, in 2010, Eyjafyallajökull volcano erupted. That’s when the huge ash clouds interrupted air traffic to Europe. Since then, Iceland’s popularity has been increasing. As a result more cruise itineraries now start or end in Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital and largest city. Tour companies offer Northern Lights tours during winter months. And, if you are flying across the Atlantic on Icelandair, you can take advantage of their free “Stopover Pass.” This pass encourages folks to spend a day or more to discover the beauty of Iceland. With a population of only 332,000, Iceland has been hosting one million tourists annually. This number is sure to increase with the growing popularity of the island.
A Year-Round Destination
Iceland isn’t as cold as you might think. The Gulf Stream swirls along the western and southern coasts and works to moderate Iceland’s climate. Although it is a year-round destination, it is far more popular in summer. The warmest month is July with an average temperature of 52 degrees Fahrenheit. January is the coldest, with an average of 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
This isn’t Andrea’s first foray into Iceland. In February, she experienced winter during a self-guided road trip around the island. She went snowmobiling on a glacier, and visited historical, quaint villages off the beaten path. It was authentic and very affordable.
Summer and Early Fall Experience
It is now September, and in contrast with winter, a completely different experience for Andrea. “We went on a Superjeep tour through the lava fields, highlands and Hekla Volcano. It was so interesting driving through these diverse landscapes and four seasons in less than one hour!”
Andrea and her group experienced Iceland’s majestic beauty everywhere they traveled. Just a 40 minute drive from Reykjavik, they found lava tubes and caves. Volcanic eruptions formed these caves and tunnels about 5200 years ago and they are a big tourist attraction.
As they explored the lava cave with a guide, they learned how the mineral content of the molten lava determines its color. The guide explained the inner workings of a volcano so vividly that they could sense the forces of nature at work.
Even if you are in Iceland for only a short stopover in Reykjavik, you can enjoy the city and its wonderful restaurants. You’ll find the locally sourced organic ingredients delightful, and you can try Iceland’s traditional seafood at Messinn. Fresh fish is the menu of the day, pan fried in Icelandic butter. Your fish, along with potatoes and salad, comes in a copper pan direct from the kitchen.
- Traveling in Iceland is easy. English is widely spoken. People are extremely friendly and warm with a great sense of humor.
- No need to exchange money. Most merchants accept credit cards and debit cards with no minimum transaction amount.
- Visit Bryggjan Brugghus in the old harbor of Reykjavik. They offer Icelandic beers and tours of the facility. The history of beer in Iceland is very interesting; it was banned until 1989.
- For a once in a lifetime experience, descend into a volcano and walk on the floor of the interior. This is the only place in the world one can experience this!
For more information about traveling in Iceland, email George at Hager’s Journeys.