Iceland – The unique land of contrasts
Just over a couple of hours’ flight from the UK, Iceland is the perfect place to appreciate an environment both spectacular and peaceful. The country is renowned for its otherworldly beauty and stark contrasts of nature and displays nature’s power in all its glory, boasting stunning waterfalls and tranquil lakes, lava fields, beautiful mountains, massive glaciers, bubbling mud pools, and the largest hot spring area in the world. Iceland has some of the purest air in the world which makes it superb for photography and is a nature lover’s paradise, with its unusual geological formations such as giant basalt columns and huge land rifts, due to tectonic plate activity. Iceland is a paradise for photographers, ornithologists, botanists, geologists and lovers of literature and nature. Iceland also has a rich cultural heritage and the capital Reykjavik is vibrant but relaxed with cosy cafes, fine museums and galleries, pools and world-class restaurants.
Group members become captivated by the tranquility and beauty of the Icelandic landscape. For many, it has a magnetic pull and people return again and again to experience the unique and magical atmosphere of the country.
Some interesting facts about Iceland:
- Iceland is the second largest island in Europe, Britain being first.
- Iceland has a mere population of just over 300,000 inhabitants, and 60% of the population live in the capital, Reykjavik.
- Iceland has:
- Europe’s largest waterfall: Dettifoss. At 100m wide and with a drop of 45m and fall of 193 cubic metres per second, this is a truly breathtaking force of nature.
- Europe’s largest glacier: Vatnajokull. If you added all of Europe’s glaciers together, the size still would not match the mighty Vatnajokull glacier. The phenomenon of a “glacial blast” is unique to Iceland, when volcanoes erupted beneath 1,100 metres of ice causing massive flooding. At its height, the waters equalled that of the Congo river.
- The world’s largest hot spring area: Deildartunguhver, with Geysir being the original name given by Iceland to their most famous hot spring. There are over 2,000 hot spring zones in the country.
- Many Icelanders still believe in Trolls, Elves and other mythical creatures. It is also the land of Sagas, Eddas, Poets and Writers, with a nation’s whole history laid down to be read.
- Iceland sits astride the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the whole island being pulled apart.
- Iceland is a microcosm of a world being made. It is the youngest country on earth in geological terms. Everyday there is a new discovery to be made. Nowhere else in the world can we witness such a display of creativity – not only in nature but also amongst the Icelandic people.
- Iceland has landed the No. 1 spot on the World Economic Forum’s list of countries closest to achieving gender equality.
- Iceland has more women in Parliament than any other country (nearly 48 percent), and was the first nation on the planet to democratically elect a female head of state (Vigdis Finnbogadottir, in 1980).
- Iceland is the most peaceful country in the world and is the only NATO country without a professional, full-time standing army.
As if this was not enough, the island is visited by huge flocks of birds arriving from Northern Europe to nest and feed and so is a paradise for ornithologists. Its native birds of prey are spectacular, with a huge variety of sea birds to be seen, including the endearing puffin.
Iceland also has many varieties of wild flowers, which always surprises visitors. There are also over 400 varieties of lichen growing in some of the purest air found in the world, as Iceland is not situated in the path of Europe’s pollution and has hardly any factories since most articles are imported.