More tourists are visiting Iceland every year, and they all say the same thing: ‘it will change your life.’ The Land of Fire and Ice is celebrated for its striking landscapes and rousing wonders, while the people are famed for their creativity and progressive innovation.
So, whether you plan to explore every corner of this enchanting island, want to bask beneath the glorious Northern Lights, or just fancy a dip in the geothermic Blue Lagoon, here is why visiting Iceland will change your life (for the better).
Most Icelanders refuse to rule out the existence of fantastical creatures, typically elves or trolls.1 A few days in Iceland is enough to understand why. After all, when Iceland’s settlers first arrived in the 9th century, they were confronted by lava spewing from mountains, steaming water jets erupting from the grounds, massive gorges as wide as great lakes, and thousands of thundering waterfalls.
No wonder they thought it was the land of the giants.
Just from Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, one can see mountains, coast, ocean, cliffs, tundra, and shrubland. But the real adventure begins once you leave the city and head out into the wilderness. There is a feeling of true exploration when visiting Iceland. It’s well-maintained rural countryside and small population (~340,0002) mean you will often be the only car on the road for miles around. So, rounding a corner to suddenly be confronted by a huge waterfall, impressive glacier, looming volcano, or wild pony will continually fill you with awe; as though you’re the first person to set foot in this magical place.
With a wonderful surprise around every bend, a landscape to make your heart race, and nature at its most wild, you will forget any concerns that normally nag you back home. It’s impossible to worry about money while a humpback whale is breaching the water near the fishing village of Húsavík. Being passed up for promotion will feel insignificant when you’re standing between the American and European tectonic plates at Ϸingvellir (Ϸ is pronounced th). And all of your problems will melt away the first time you feel the roaring spray of the Goðafoss. After all, these are the waterfalls where early settlers cast their Viking gods into the water to symbolically embrace Christianity3; we recommend you cast your own worries into the water along with Odin and Thor.
Iceland is one of the most egalitarian countries on Earth,4 where women are encouraged to stand up for themselves, men to be respectful, pay is equal, and partners support one another’s freedom and dreams.
This partly stems from Iceland’s small population. People have to work together and rely on each other to survive and to thrive, especially in the winter when the cold comes in and there is only 4 hours of sunlight per day.
This creates a friendly, family-like community. Reykjavik feels more like a small town than a capital city, with friends and neighbours passing each other in the street and stopping to say hello. It gives the whole country a more welcoming feel and makes you want to be part of it.
When we see exquisite things, we want to create. Sometimes we want to write or photograph or paint, so we can share our experiences with others. Sometimes we discover something within us that helps us create something brand new, like a story or piece of music. Either way, Iceland is full of exquisite, unique wonders to stimulate your imagination.
It should come as no surprise that Icelanders are more creative than the average person across the globes. As an example of an Icelandic person’s humbleness, they largely deny this. Well, sorry, Icelanders, but it has been proven scientifically.5 Despite Iceland’s small population, it has over 7,000 creative companies. And an incredible 1 in 10 people have published a book.
Curiously, while we tourists are inspired by the Northern Lights and glaciers the size of Wales, the locals are used to Iceland’s natural beauty. Instead, their creativity instead stems from their communal living and drive to support one another. When someone says they want to be a musician or an artist, there is no judgement; no “but how will you earn a living?” Only support!
Iceland is one of the eco-friendliest countries on the planet.6 This is partly because it is economical to do so; Iceland has so much geothermal activity from its hundreds of active volcanoes that it would be foolish not to develop technology to take advantage. But this is true for much of the world over: areas with sunshine should take advantage of solar panels; windy countries can install wind turbines; coastal countries, wave turbines; etc.
Whatever your view on the environment, the benefits of green living are immediately evident after visiting Iceland. The air is clean, roads are clear of congestion, water is safe to drink, and renewable energy means electricity and gas are cheap. The best benefit of all is the effect this has on human beings. Icelandic people are among the happiest in the world, so it should inspire you to strive for a similar lifestyle.7
Take a tour beneath glaciers, hike to the peaks of mountains and volcanoes, explore caves and ravines by land or by water, board a fishing boat to view whales, or ride horses across chilly moors. The beauty of keeping fit in Iceland is that you don’t realise you’re exercising, because you’re so lost in the wonderful sights around you.
It’s a far cry better than going to the local gym, and it will inspire you to take up new hobbies and keep fit upon your return home.
But Iceland has another little trick to inspire your own good health. After the global economic crisis in 2008, McDonald’s closed down in Iceland. It hasn’t returned as health-conscious locals want to try and keep fast food franchises out.8 In terms of diet, Iceland is the second healthiest in the world (after Italy).9 Visiting Iceland and eating the local food will inspire you to eat and cook differently when you return home.
After visiting Iceland, it will always be with you. The sights, sounds, and experiences are so otherworldly that you will never forget them. You will find yourself frequently remembering your journey years later and it will forever inspire you on to your next adventure.