Iceland, an island that occupies the most western part of Europe, is possibly the great unknown of all the EU countries. With an area of over 100,000 km2 -larger than Portugal or Ireland to get an idea- and a place that has started to make its mark in the world of football; it classified in the recent European and World Championships after getting great results in both. Its bearded players were considered champions of this sport, which they alternated with their habitual professions of barbers, dentists, etc. Iceland’s policies also hit the headlines after the financial crisis of 2008, which resulted in the prosecution of the Prime Minister and the default of all three of the country’s major commercial banks. A very different case from other latitudes. But if Iceland really stands out for something, a country with 350,000 inhabitants, which is less than Palma, it’s for its atypical society that makes it the sixth most developed country in the world, and the first on the Global Peace Index for its non-existent crime scene.
A few years ago, Iceland also became a unique tourist destination, offering a very different territory from the Mediterranean we all know and love. And right now, in summer, is the best time to discover it. Iceland is an island on the edge of the world and on the edge of habitable land. But at the same time, Iceland is a tourist destination that is becoming increasingly more appreciated by travellers. A trip through a destination that combines an incredible history with sublime and spectacular nature – a compendium of travel experiences. This indescribable sensation is a mixture of solitude and harmony, of passion, speed and calm.
Iceland is the complete opposite of a destination for passive tourists. It is all about exploring and discovering, where we are alone but where we need to rely on others. A magical island to connect with space and enjoy pure air. Iceland is dotted with dozens of volcanoes, some of which disrupt the air traffic over of half of Europe; fissures that run from East to West; immense glaciers; lake; islands that emerge out of nowhere in the middle of the ocean; bays and deep fjords. Landscapes that take our breath away and remain in our memories for the rest of our lives.
As soon as you touch down in the Reykjanes Peninsula you are already in a traveller’s paradise. Lighthouses such as the one at Gardur, fissures, lava fields, geothermal hot spots, blue lagoons and shipwreck sites, like the one at Grindavik for example, will transport you to another planet. And this is just the prelude to what Iceland has in store.
Its volcanic past is very present. This is how the island of Surtsey was created in 1963, the youngest territory in the land. 130 of Iceland’s 200 volcanoes remain very active and when they erupt they are usually fearsome. In fact, the entire Snæfellsnes Peninsula is another destination you simply can’t miss. Towns like Olafsvik, Arnarstapi or Stylkkishólmur, with cliffs, craters, fjords, inconceivable mountains, lost paths and farms dotted around majestic virgin territory. It is one of the most spectacular regions in the whole of Iceland.
Most visitors to Iceland come in search of the great glaciers, the Vatnajökull, the Hofsjökull, the Langjökull and the Mýrdalsjökull. These fresh water reserves feed water flows and lakes such as the Thingvallavatn (Þingvallavatn). The Silfra fissure marks the division between the United States and Europe, where you can dive in the most crystalline, purest waters on the planet.
The Icelandic waterfalls are examples of some of the most important natural monuments in the country. The most famous and unmissable, as it forms part of the Golden Circle tourist route, is the Gullfoss.
Another of its top tourist attractions is the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa (Bláa Lónið), located opposite the towers of the geothermal station, one of the plants that supply Iceland with cheap, ecological energy. In this paradisiacal setting people come to enjoy the thermal waters in summer and winter, in extraordinary surroundings, (it’s not the only one of its kind but certainly the most well-known and expensive).
The water and ice merge in two magical spots in Iceland. Both are located not so far away in the southern part of the country and display the full wonder of Iceland. The Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, created in the 20th century by the fusion of the glacier ice from Vatnajökull. Nearby are the Skaftefell ice caves, with naturally sculpted caves, which change and reform themselves according to the season.
Another must-visit in the area is Vik i Myrdal, a small remote seafront village between Landmannalaugar and Jokulsarlon. Next to the village are the Reynisfjall cliffs that end in sharp islets, the columns or needle of Reynisdrangar. There is another spectacular black sand beach at Reynisfjara and the Dyrhólaey sea arch, a plateau anchored between marshes and dramatic scenery straight out of a romantic novel.
The geysers, or sprouting hot springs (from geysir, an Icelandic word meaning ‘the gusher”), are another form of the constant battle creaking underneath Iceland. The most famous is the Strokkurexpele with water and steam every 14 minutes in Haukadalur Park, and which forms part of the Golden Circle route.
The Northern Lights (aurora borealis) are another phenomenon you can admire in Iceland. These natural curtains of coloured lights and charged particles are one of the country’s truly magical experiences. To see them you need to visit from October to March. In summer, despite the good weather, and precisely because of it, the Northern Lights are not visible.
Although there are no direct flights from the Balearic Islands, it is easy to find combinations via Germany, the United Kingdom or Madrid.