Iceland, also known as “The land of Fire and Ice,” is a country with extreme geographic makeup. While it has some of Europe’s most massive glaciers, it also has some of the most active volcanoes in the world. Iceland is aptly dubbed as the country of light and darkness. During summer, Iceland has nearly 24 hours of sunshine while during winter, it only has a few daylight hours. Although Iceland is relatively a young country, its traditions are quite old.
Iceland has a diverse landscape that changes with through each season. For instance, as you travel in the southwest, you will find moss-covered lava fields. When you drive around in the northwest, you will find soaring fjords. The harsh natural environment of Iceland is brought about by nature’s unrelenting forces. However, the country has become remarkably resilient as it faces extreme conditions. The inhabitants of Iceland have also learned to harness the country’s natural resources regardless of these conditions.
The traditions and customs of Iceland are based on its history of isolated existence as well as a mixed influence of paganism and Christian doctrine. Furthermore, Icelandic folktales are shaped by an arduous environment and the natural resources. These tales often include ghosts, mysticism, elves, and even trolls.
East Coast of Iceland
Iceland’s east coast boasts of its lush farmlands, extensive forests, and a series of small islands and fjords. The east coast is also home to many natural harbors, small seaside communities, and fishing villages, which border the coast. You will be amazed by the impressive chambers of magma, which are filled with colorful mineral deposits. During summer, the east coast becomes a hub for creative minds both from Iceland and abroad as several art and music festivals pop up.
Seyðisfjörður used to be a principal ferry port town in the past, with its vibrantly colored wooden houses constructed by merchants. Today, it is a popular destination for artists, with a number of the homes being transformed into stores selling arts and crafts. You can browse for souvenirs before enjoying live music at Blaa Kirkjan, also known as the Blue Church, during the summer months. Head up the hills and explore the stunning scenery which includes cascading waterfalls and a lake that freezes over. For adrenaline junkies, kayaking and mountain biking is on offer.
West Iceland represents almost all the natural wonders of the country, including majestic waterfalls, slumberous volcanoes, a variety of wildlife and plant life, lush valleys, glaciers, craters, and fjords. You can set off to impressive hiking trails around Hvalfjörður and Akranes or just marvel at the beauty of Iceland’s highest waterfall, Glymur and the majestic mountain, Akrafjall, which are less than an hour away from the country’s capital, Reykjavík.
The city of Snæfellsnes was given an Earth Check award for its beautiful nature as well as being a sustainable local area. Not so far from Snæfellsnes is Dalir, which is the home of some great explorers, including Eirík the Red and Leif the Lucky. They are a father and son Viking tandem who were the first to set foot in America.
Westfjords have unspoiled wilderness primarily due to the region’s isolated location. It is mostly uninhabited, which is one of the reasons why it is a must-see destination for hardcore explorers. The Látrabjarg bird cliff located on Westfjords’ west side hosts almost half of some bird species of the world. It is also Europe’s westernmost point. The Dynjandi is a spectacular set of waterfalls, which is about 100 meters in height. Throughout the Westfjords region, there are numerous natural hot springs, even in the most isolated parts. The locations of some of these springs won’t be found in a guidebook – they are guarded by locals or just discovered by visitors as they are exploring the area.
Westfjords’ cuisine and folklore speak a lot about the region’s healthy relationship with the ocean. There are also museums that focus on creatures and monsters from the sea and witchcraft and sorcery. The region is an authentic Icelandic wilderness, which is ideal for spotting and watching unique fauna, birds, and arctic fox in their natural habitats.
Reykjavík is known as the little capital of Iceland as its population is just 120,000. There are only a few skyscrapers in the city as compared to other capitals of other countries. Although smaller in size, Reykjavík features activities and events that keep it pulsing and alive. More often than not, it is sunny in this part of Iceland. As such, picnickers and sunbathers fill the Austurvöllur, the green square in front of the Parliament.
Stroll down the Laugavegur, which is the center of shopping and dining. When happy hours come, you can settle in the outdoor seating of bars, grab a drink and enjoy people-watching. Entertainers usually line the sidewalks of Reykjavík while performance artists take the stage to present their surprise acts. Playful street art and playful murals are found all throughout the 101, the downtown area of Reykjavík. There are several art galleries in the city, including the National Gallery and the Reykjavík Art Museum, which exhibits the works of prominent Icelandic artists. In addition, small independent galleries showcase the contemporary works of both international and local artists. Most of the museums in Reykjavík are committed to preserving the country’s history and culture. Reykjavík has been designated as a UNESCO City of Literature.