Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Did You Know … ?
- The word geyser comes from one of Iceland’s own, named Geysir.
- Eldhraun is a rugged lava field where the Apollo 11 crewmen trained for their moon walks.
- Iceland’s parliament, founded in 930, is the world’s oldest national assembly.
- The first European child born in North America, Snorri Thorfinnsson (1003), was a son of Icelanders.
- People are listed by their first names in Icelandic telephone directories.
Of glaciers and geysers
The most venturesome travelers love Iceland. But other personality types come, too, often on cruise ships or with tour groups, and they also rate Iceland highly. After all, it is a modern European nation with plenty for visitors who have no interest in whitewater rafting or snowmobiling over glaciers. Besides, the Gulf Stream keeps the weather milder than the country’s name suggests. The people are friendly and generally fluent in English.
Iceland is about half way between North America and the European continent, and New York is as close to Iceland as to Los Angeles. But Iceland is much more exotic.
The island — about the size of Kentucky — can’t be topped for this combination of characteristics: Glaciers cover one-ninth of the land; numerous volcanoes (15 still active) have produced a famously otherworldly landscape; the country is a hot spot for geothermal activity, and it is far enough north for the Northern Lights in winter and the midnight sun in summer.
When the Vikings settled here in the ninth century, they brought their steeds, ancestors to the Icelandic horse.
Active travelers may hike on the glaciers and lava, head to the uninhabited interior in a four-wheel-drive vehicle (although off-road driving is forbidden for ecological reasons), take to the sea in a kayak or tackle the terrain on a bicycle.
The horses are said to be gentle enough for any rider, and golfers have more than 50 golf courses and the chance to play through the night in summer. Visitors of all inclinations soak in the geothermally heated outdoor swimming pools, which are open year-round. (The same hot water also provides the ultimate in clean energy.)
Other natural attractions have broad appeal, too, including whales, birds (this is puffin country) and geysers. Also, elves, some would have us believe.
Reykjavik provides culture that befits a European capital, plenty of shopping and enough creative chefs to entice fussy foodies.
The country is noted for fresh seafood and lamb, but the really venturesome have choices like rotten shark which is cured by being buried. That is washed down with the desensitizing Black Death schnapps.
Things to do for Venturers
- Get in some vigorous walking. Mountain hiking trails fan out from almost every community.
- Go whitewater rafting on swirling glacial waters; guides can suggest options for varying levels of expertise.
- Take in the pub scene in the capital, Reykjavik.
- Take a safari from Hofn in the southeast to the glaciers that form the Vatnajokull cap; there are other popular glaciers good for exploration, as well. Regardless of destination, go on an organized tour with experienced operators and guides because of the risks from hidden cracks in the ice sheets.
- See Iceland from the seat of a bicycle.
- Hold your nose and try the rotten shark, but don’t forget the Black Death schnapps. Alternatives are boiled sheep’s head or ram’s testicles pickled in whey.
Things to do for Centrics
- Ride on Iceland’s fabled horses. Do some whale watching.
- For eating experiences you cannot replicate at home, try these Icelandic specialties: hangikjot (smoked lamb eaten in sandwiches); skyr, a high-protein yogurt-like substance, and puffin or hardfiskur (protein-filled dried fish strips).
- Play golf at midnight under summer’s midnight sun.
- Swim in a geothermally heated outdoor pool in the winter even if the snow is flying.
- Go fishing in the open sea.
- Attend a Viking feast in the town of Hafnarfjordur. While there, join an elf-spotting tour, as well.
Things to do for Authentics
- Take a cruise that includes stops in Iceland.
- Soak in the natural springs for which the island nation is so famous.
- Shop for the Icelandic lopapeysa, a knitted wool sweater with designs at the top and on the sleeves.
- Join excursions for the chance to see the popular puffin and ptarmigan.
- Enjoy the foods Iceland is noted for: fresh seafood, local lamb and locally grown vegetables.
- Take in a museum or two. Unique options include a museum of the herring industry in Siglufjordur, museum of small objects near Akureyri, a museum to Icelandic emigrants in Hofsos and, last but not least, a phallological museum in Husavik.
For more information, consult Visit Iceland at www.visiticeland.com and select a language if necessary.