Iceland Vacations

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Sightseeing Tours & Attractions | Great Places to Stay in Iceland

Iceland is an island in the North Atlantic. It is home to a progressive and peaceful nation that has formed a modern society where freedom and equality are held in high regard. Iceland continuously ranks near the top for measurements of quality of life, gender equality, and democracy, and is one of the highest ranked countries in the world for health care, education and internet availability.

Iceland is a country of extreme geological contrasts. Widely known as “The Land of Fire and Ice”, Iceland is home to some of the largest glaciers in Europe, and some of the world’s most active volcanoes. Iceland is also the land of light and darkness. Long summer days with near 24-hours of sunshine are offset by short winter days with only a few hours of daylight.

The cornerstone of Icelandic culture is the Icelandic language, which has spawned a literary tradition that dates back to the ancient Icelandic Sagas. These are tales of violent blood feuds, traditions, family, and character. A strong literary tradition still thrives in modern Iceland. Icelandic authors publish more books per capita than any other country in the world. Iceland also boasts a prospering music scene, a burgeoning film industry, and Icelandic design is coming of age.

REYKJAVIK
The buzzing capital of Iceland is Reykjavik (literally “Smoky Bay”). The small inlet where the city has risen was first named in 874 AD by Iceland’s first settler, Ingólfur Arnarson. He cast his high-seat pillars overboard for the pagan gods to wash ashore at the place where they wished him to make his home. He found his pillars in Reykjavík, and arrived at the name after seeing steam arising from geothermal springs in the area. Reykjavík and the surrounding area is home to about 222.500 people, and more than half the population lives in the capital region. The city is located on the south west coast of Iceland.

KEFLAVIK
Situated on the Reykjanes peninsula, Keflavik is recognized for its inimitable relaxation atmosphere, beautiful views and promising entertainments. It has the charm and spirit of a small seaside town and many entertaining and cultural events for visitors. There are even a few galleries showing and selling locally produced goods and works by Icelandic artists. Keflavik is also famous for the fact that in the 1970s it was called the "city of musicians" or "beatel-city". And also now musicians from all over the world gather in Keflavik. It is famous for drifting icebergs, ice caves, beautiful geysers. In summer, you can take the excursions for a bunch of killer whales, humpback whales and dolphins, as well as visit the festival of lights. In this city, you discover Iceland on the new side, with its riddles and fairy tales, with trolls and elves.

PEOPLE
Icelanders are mostly descended from Nordic settlers. Due to the relative geological and cultural isolation of past centuries, remnants of Iceland’s history abound. Iceland uses the old system of patronymics once common throughout Scandinavia. Children are surnamed with their father’s first name followed by a suffix “son” or “dóttir,” (son/daughter of). The majority of the population thus has relatively similar last names. Due to high standards in health care and a healthy diet, Iceland maintains one of the highest life expectancies in the world.

LANGUAGE
Icelandic is the national language directly derived from the Old Norse language spoken throughout much of Northern Europe. Iceland’s relative isolation has protected the original grammatical and vocabulary structure. As a consequence, speakers of Icelandic can still read ancient Norse manuscripts. Although modern, Icelandic has undergone changes of pronunciation and, of course, of vocabulary. English is spoken by the majority of the population, as English is a mandatory school subject from the age of ten.

RELIGION
Ninety per cent of the population belongs to the Lutheran Church; about one per cent is Roman Catholic. Although the first settlers were originally Pagan, Iceland converted to Christianity in 1000 AD through a parliamentary decision. Some remnants of paganism remain, mostly through symbolism and ceremonies.

CULTURE
Icelanders are largely descended from Nordic and Celtic settlers and still share a strong bond with Scandinavia today. Family is of ultimate importance and traditional family gatherings are a way of life. Children are a priority and Iceland boasts a higher birth rate than any country in the European Union. Pure products and a healthy natural environment have blessed Icelanders with one of the longest life expectancies in the world.As a whole, Icelanders are creative and self-reliant. The level of education in the country is high, and interest in arts and culture is widespread. Like anyone else, Icelanders like to have fun. They work hard and play hard and love sharing their country with visitors. It’s no exaggeration: if you’ve been to Iceland once, you always have friends in Iceland.

GEOGRAPHY
Iceland is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, located near the Arctic Circle, between Greenland and Norway. An island of 103.000 km2 (40,000 square miles), it is about the same size as Hungary and Portugal, or Kentucky or Virginia. Iceland is the second largest island in Europe, following Great Britain, and the 18th largest island in the world. The coastline is 4,970 km, and Iceland maintains a 200 nautical-miles exclusive economic zone. It takes approximately five hours to fly from New York to Reykjavík, and three hours from London. Iceland is the westernmost country in Europe.

Iceland is one of the youngest landmasses on the planet, and consequently home to some of the world’s most active volcanoes. The island owns its existence to a large volcanic hotspot created by a fissure in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the Eurasian and American tectonic plates meet.

CLIMATE
Although Reykjavik is the world’s Northern most capital, Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream, resulting in a surprisingly mild, coastal climate. The weather is also affected by the East Greenland polar current curving south-eastwards round the north and east coasts. The average summer temperature in Reykjavik is 10.6°C/51°F in July, with average highs of 24.3°C/76°F. The warmest months are from June to September when visitors can witness the midnight sun. Alternately, Iceland’s coldest months are November to January, when average winter temperature in Reykjavik are similar to New York City’s, about 0°C/32°F in January (average highs are 9.9°C/50°C). Most descriptive of Iceland, however, are the interchangeable weather patterns. The weather can be very unpredictable and often changes in an instant. Due to its extreme geographical location, sun and rain at the same time can be quite common.

Sightseeing Tours & Attractions | Great Places to Stay in Iceland

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Best Season:June, July, August, September
Popular Location: Reykjavik, Keflavik

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