Iceland is considered to be part of Europe even though it is located far out in the Atlantic Ocean equidistant between mainland Europe and North America. Iceland is located above the geographic area known as the Mid Atlantic Range and this makes it a hotspot for volcanic activity.
Despite the fact that there have been 30 or so eruptions over the last couple of centuries, Iceland is perfectly safe to visit and you may even get the chance to see active lava from a reassuring distance. The cooled lava has made some crazy shapes including land that American astronauts actually practised their moonwalking on. There is also a strange shape known as ‘Troll’s Cathedral’.
The geothermal properties of the island are used for creating energy as well as being channelled into areas known as ‘hot pots’ where the locals relax in warm waters.
Iceland’s capital Reykjavik is the most northerly European capital. Being so far north there is almost year-round sunshine though the temperatures get down to freezing in January. The midnight sun is always a source of amazement to first time visitors while people come from all over the world to Iceland to see one of nature’s wonders, the Northern Lights, otherwise known as Aurora Borealis.
About 150,000 people live in Reykjavik, half of the total population of Iceland. The residents of Iceland are the descendants of Nordic people and Norwegian Vikings. They are for the most part an attractive bunch with a fun loving spirit. Just as their ancestors did, the economy of modern day Iceland has been mostly based on fishing. There have been many attempts to diversify this and while the Icelandic banking system was dealt a heavy blow during the financial crisis the island still relies heavily on tourism for its revenue. Up until the global recession Iceland had one of the highest standards of living in the world.
The Icelandic language is in essence an old Norse language which has been thoroughly modernised, even though the habit of adding the father’s surname to the son’s Christian name still exists. This is intriguing when it causes members of the same family to have different surnames – most perplexing for foreigners.
With such a small population Iceland is pleasantly uninhabited. You can have a peaceful holiday here and get to some beautiful spots in the country without being distrubed by other people.
Much of Iceland is made up of rugged terrain including Mountains and glaciers. The highest peak is Hvannadalshnjukur which is more than two thousand one hundred meters high and Iceland has the largest glacier in Europe, Vatnajokull. Iceland self drive vacations, walking and hiking are very rewarding in Iceland, whether you want to see the country’s famous waterfalls or the shores of its beaches. Bird watching is world renowned here as you can see huge colonies of puffins and some spectacular seabirds. Whale watching is also a very popular past-time with a high success rate for sightings.