Iceland’s ethereal landscape is just as other-worldly as one would expect from a volcanic outcropping in the north Atlantic Ocean. And the feeling of this small island nation’s remoteness is palpable. The road from the airport is dotted with small, picturesque cottages that hug the rocky coastline. Black, porous volcanic rock spills into the churning ocean followed by bright green tufts of moss, illuminated against the steel-hued sky. Wherever you arrived from, it doesn’t look like this.
The Vikings, who arrived from Scandinavia around 860 A.D., surely thought the same. They forged a life of independence, innovation, and ruggedness; qualities that were required of people living on the frontier, in relative isolation. Over time, this has transformed into a unique culture marked by a love of nature, as well as art and culture.
Today, Iceland is still geographically unique, but much more accessible. It’s only a five-hour flight from New York or Boston, making it an easy one-week getaway. Reykjavik plays host to music festivals, acclaimed restaurants serving locavore cuisine, and art galleries. All that combined with classic and modern Scandinavian architecture; it’s known throughout Europe as the northern nightlife capital.
Outside the city lies an entire other world of adventure. Geysirs, glaciers, black sand beaches, fairies and geothermal pools – Classic Journeys 6-day, 5-night Iceland tour touches on all of this, and more. A visit to the mostly-uninhabited Westman Islands brings you face-to-face with the world’s largest breeding colony of Atlantic Puffins. On-island, uncover a modern-day archaeological site at Heimaey, where a volcano erupted in 1973, earning it the nickname “Pompeii of the North.” Visit Mt. Hekla, which has the distinction of being Iceland’s most active volcano. Grab your camera, because you’ll be walking through bubbling geothermal streams and lava fields surrounded technicolor mountains. As if that weren’t enough, go to Þingvellir National Park, which houses a deep tectonic rift that bisects the park. In true Icelandic fashion, this is where settlers chose to build what is now the world’s oldest parliament, which dates back to 930 A.D.
Wrap up your week with a visit to traditional fishing villages, sampling the best of the Atlantic’s bounty on offer. Classic Journeys actually knows a Viking Priestess, who will cook you lunch in her home, show you her temple and explain the history and current tradition of Viking paganism in Iceland
If you’re looking for the right blend of cultural immersion and natural stimulation, Iceland is the perfect destination. Visiting this island nation will take you from the tops of glaciers to the depths of geothermal pools, with immersions into Viking history and culture along the way; leaving no stone – or volcanic rock – unturned. The best part is that such an enchanting escape exists just a few hours flight away.