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The Land of Fire & Ice

Iceland, A Country of Sharp Contrasts

By Jenna Kelley

“Rich with European history, the island is filled with unparalleled adventures, whimsical souvenirs and outlandish food that make it so unique.”

With its breathtaking landmarks, distinguished culture, and contrasting geography, Iceland is swooning those individuals with a touch of curiosity, who are infected by the travel bug. Besides it’s rich European history, the island is filled with whimsical souvenirs and outlandish food that make this place so unique.

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Not only is Iceland breaking ground for the individuals who visit, but also the island literally broke ground around twenty-five million years ago, as it is said to have formed by a volcanic eruption. There are multiple volcanoes in Iceland that you can visit and the Thrihnukagigur volcano is one natural landform that you would not want to miss. For the thrill seeker, like me, descend straight down into the inside this volcano to the great magma chamber for an absolutely breathtaking experience. (guidetoiceland.is)

The beginning years of Iceland fostered a large Viking population. Oddly enough, Medieval Iceland had a geography that was taken over with widespread farming. The traditional Icelandic farmhouses along the grassy plains make me feel as though I, too, had lived in Medieval Iceland. The architecture is simple, but quite enchanting to witness.

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Believe it or not, Iceland is not just a chunk of land with ice on it. That, actually, would be Greenland. On the other hand, Iceland can have a climate up to eighty-six degrees Fahrenheit. Its geography is toppling with tons of volcanoes, black sand and pebbled beaches, mountains, glaciers and waterfalls. With so many extreme variations within Iceland’s geography there is so much to choose from for the perfect outdoor adventure. From hiking to rafting to fishing and even skiing, surfing, jeep safaris and dogsledding, there is something for everyone. The Iceland Rovers tour was great and included 4×4 Jeep Tours that stop at extraordinary sights, including the magnificent Northern Lights. If you love a little bit of excitement and danger, this tour is must! (icelandrovers.is) As you are travelling on the edge, keep looking and you might stumble upon some of Iceland’s greatest landmarks.

Iceland, known for it’s impeccably breathtaking scenery and seeing the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights for the first time, is one of the most incredible sights as well as a very popular and well-known sightseeing adventures. Just imagine, floating in the water under the majestic colorful sky, simply priceless. Don’t miss a trip to Fludir where you can relax and float in the water while receiving an in-water massage in a natural water hot spring. A more active sightseeing expedition might be a trip to the gorgeous Thingvellir National Park to see the erupting geyser hot springs. As a more outdoorsy kind of gal, I loved the concept of being able to horseback ride along the rocky walls, campout in the middle of the fields, and even dive into the crystal clear waters. Also Iceland houses the Gullfoss waterfall, which resembles a “Golden Circle”. The natural beauty of this landscape looks almost unnatural because it is so flawless. These Icelandic locations reveal vivacious green stretches, sleek black and glistening waters, and legitimate glass bubbles that you can reserve to sleep inside the middle of a secret forest.

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The closely-knit population in this North Atlantic Island has carried a modernized and stylistic artistic culture with them throughout the years. It has peaked the interest of many nationally known entertainers as Iceland holds a biannual art festival, Reykjavík Arts festival, where they invite artists all over the world to attend and showcase performances. This festival is an opportunity for artists to connect and network while also being a catalyst for cultural development in Iceland. I’m extremely intrigued by the Reykjavík International Film Festival that is hosted annually for eleven days in September and October because Icelandic films are not just for the beauty of film, but they take you on a cinematic journey for change about societal injustices, such as ignorance and indifference. Today, Iceland carries talented authors who publish more books per capita than any other country. From medieval Vikings to illustrious authors, you can only guess why this country is known to have such extreme contrasts.

With all of this discussion about culture, I’m sure your stomachs are rumbling, but don’t fret. Iceland has got extraordinary meals for all of the foodies out there that enjoy the more, let’s say, extraordinary types of foods. Historically, the Vikings have greatly influenced the modern day people of Iceland. Iceland has emerged as one of Europe’s most dynamic gastronomic destinations where chefs create modern dishes with traditional ingredients, influenced by the philosophy of the New Nordic Cuisine showcasing fresh and local seasonal ingredients. Some of the richest fishing grounds in the North Atlantic can be found off the coast of Iceland, where cool and warm ocean currents meet to create the ideal conditions for fish stocks to thrive. They enjoy a lot of meats; including lamb, whale, and fish, considering grassy plains and bodies of water surround the island. They also feast on little round birds called puffin. Puffin meat is said to have a smoky, pastrami-like flavor. Straying away from meats, an alternative choice is the creamy Skyr, equivalent to our yogurt, but much healthier. In fact, Icelanders are known to be the healthiest in the world and are said to have extremely long life expectancies. They beat the U.S. by a landslide, but I’d like to think it is due to the clean air.

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The places to stay in Iceland are those like no other. They have places such as The Bubble (as mentioned above) and known as “the five million star hotel,” this transparent dome in South Iceland has become very popular and gives you a chance to spend a night in the middle of the forest in a cozy and warm dome. Probably nothing can help you to connect more with nature that one night in this transparent hotel. (buubble.com). Make sure to check out the ION Luxury Adventure Hotel, located near famous Thingvellir National Park, this hotel can boast with their amazing views of lava fields. It is a perfect spot for tracking Northern Lights, taking a break from challenging hiking or just enjoying beautiful nature around. The unique construction of the building combined with breathtaking landscapes indeed will leave you with unforgettable experience. (ioniceland.is). Also, The Viking Hotel, located not far away from Reykjavik and gives you a great opportunity to embrace the Viking culture. Everything from the decoration of the rooms to a restaurant is designed to resemble time, when Vikings were alive. (fjorukrain.is/en/hotel-viking/).

Iceland also holds one of the twenty-five wonders of the world, the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa. The Blue Lagoon’s water has a unique composition of silica, algae and minerals. The color blue comes from the silica and the way it reflects sunlight. However, and this might come as a surprise to you, the water is actually white. If you pour it into a cup, it will always have a milky white color. The sun simply makes it look blue! Spending time at this wonderful spa along with its spectacular sights was magical. (bluelagoon.com)

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Well, you always need a something memorable to take home and the souvenirs seem to recreate their natural beauty. Jewelry is made of volcanic rock and high quality woolen clothing, such as a traditional lopapeysa warm sweater to fuzzy blanket, all made from Icelandic wool. For the more rowdy crowd, take a taste of Brennivin, a hard liquor that is famous in Iceland and known as the “black death” so remember, friends, drink responsibly.

With so much to see and do, Iceland is the perfect place to visit. Along with fresh crisp air, fantastic sights to see, and adventurous activities to pursue, oh my! Iceland is a beautiful hot spot to visit with mouthwatering foods and an abundance of history. Just stepping foot on this island will be a lifetime experience you wouldn’t want to miss.