Iceland

Overview

Introduction

Iceland's stark, pristine scenery has been shaped by fire and ice: More than 200 volcanoes and numerous glaciers form the country's landscape. It's a frozen land that's always letting off steam. Its U-shaped valleys, jagged lava fields, monstrous ice caps, hot springs and geysers have carved a rugged, bizarre landscape you won't see anywhere else on Earth. But you don't need the fortitude of a Viking to enjoy Iceland. In fact, you can experience many of its extremes in relative comfort.

Icelanders, like many islanders, are self-confident and reserved, but once you break the ice, so to speak, they are among the friendliest in the world. Of course, they, too, have their extremes. Although Sunday-Thursday nights in Reykjavik, the capital city, are usually quite sedate, the wee hours during the weekend (particularly Friday nights) can get downright raucous as stylishly dressed young people observe a rowdy party-on-the-streets ritual known as the runtur, or circuit.

Roughly 1 million tourists visit Iceland each year, far exceeding the country's total population of about 332,000. Visitors flock to this country to revel in Reykjavik's famed nightlife, but also to travel over lunar landscapes; wade in hot springs; trek across glaciers; comb miles and miles of secluded beaches; swim in geothermal pools; bathe in the mysterious Blue Lagoon; contemplate stunning waterfalls and geysers; gaze at the midnight sun; and experience winter days where the air's so fresh it feels as if it might snap.

Iceland's raw nature is sublime. It is like no place else on Earth.


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