Iceland

 

Revised June 3, 2015

The only view most Americans get of Iceland is from 35,000 feet as they look out the airplane window on their flight to the continent. From that height, you can see snow and rock. For those who look closer, it is a country of fire and ice that will provide a unique European experience.

You arrive in Iceland at the Reykjavik airport, which Iceland Airlines uses as home base. The city of Rekjavik is unique, getting its heat and energy from the geothermal activity that also fuels the volcanoes of the country. After dark, the streets of central Reykjavik welcome tourists and locals alike to a nightlife that ramps up as the evening passes; in the morning people are back to work in the offices and factories or on the boats that drive the economic engine of the country.

Though its heritage is very European, most visitors to Iceland make the journey to explore its frigid beauty and to meet the people of this amazing nation. One of the most popular trips through Iceland leaves Rekjavik to visit the its beautiful national park, Thingvillir. It continues on to Althing, the place where the Icelandic parliament began meeting in 930. From there you continue to the great Geysir,where there are with its intense geothermal activity including the world's most active geyser. The next stop is at Gullfoss Waterfall, where the mighty Hvita River drops almost 100 feet creating Europe's most powerful waterfalls. A trip across this spectacular landscape helps you understand the forces that Icelander confront and harness to create the energy that drives its economy. To get current information on volcanic activity that may affect your visit to Iceland, go to the agency that monitors seismic activity, which currently (as of June 2015) believes the recent eruption has ended.

The Aurora Borealis pulls many visitors to the country, especially in the spring and fall when the magnetic field creates the brilliant greens and reds that light the northern sky. If you arrive in the summer, the long hours of daylight make it difficult to experience the psychedelic light show that nature nature paints across the horizon. To plan a trip to Iceland to see the Northern Lights, use internet resources to learn where we are in the solar cycle that generate the activity in the sky. To decide if you should bundle up for a night looking up at the sky, track the forecast that is reported by NOAA, the US weather monitoring agency.

Iceland remains on my list of places in Europe that I want to visit, because I admire the culture and appreciate the tenacity that Icelanders bring to life. Their small economy was devastated by the global crash of 2008 but they are getting back on their feet. As we have become cynical and isolated, they have managed to stay connected with each other. I am intrigued by their efforts to harness geothermal power to produce hydrogen power and by the well organized workforce that supports one of the most egalitarian economies in the world.

There are stories of how the rugged environment and long winter nights have wreaked havoc on the Icelandic psyche but Iceland is a well educated, literate county with social values that respect human dignity.

Iceland has one of the best broadband networks in the world and a well developed tourist infrastructure. Rooms can be found for under $100 in guest houses throughout the country; for the traveler wanting more luxury, there are 4-star hotels that have hosted international conferences as well.

For more information about passport and travel restrictions and requirements, go to Iceland's Directorate of Immigration website.