Iceland Travel Guide


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Iceland

 

Iceland is an island east of Greenland, located in the North Atlantic Ocean close to the Arctic Circle. It is an area with extremely rugged terrain due to volcanic activity, and over 10% of the island is comprised of glaciers and snow. The scenery is spectacular, with the active volcanoes, lakes, rivers, hot springs and mountains. The inhabitants occupy only a small percentage of the island along the coast. The majority of the population lives in or close to Reykjavik.

 

The population is comprised of mainly a mix of Celtic and Norse peoples, with a small number of inhabitants from other countries. The main language is Icelandic, with English, other Nordic languages and German also spoken. The dominant religion is Lutheran.

 

During the 9 th century Norse people settled in Iceland . The rulers set up ‘ Althing’ a republican constitution which is the oldest parliament in the world. Iceland was independent until it entered into a treaty with the Norwegian rulers in approx. 1260. Iceland also became affiliated with Denmark but this broke down during the WWII when the Germans occupied Denmark . The British occupied Iceland for a short time and then the U.S. took over responsibility for Iceland ’s defense. Iceland became an independent republic in 1944 and joined NATO in 1949.

 

Reykjavik has a lively arts community and a busy nightlife. This is a good base from which to explore other areas of the island, such as Thingvelir – which is the site of the world’s oldest parliament; Gulfoss – which has the largest waterfall in Europe ; and Geysir – which as its name suggests gave the geyser its name.

 

For nature lovers Iceland is a wonderland. During summer, you can explore the island by bus or guided tours, hiking, or as the Vikings did - on an Icelandic horse. For the hardy, it is a good place for camping and there are youth hostels for backpackers.

 

During the summer months Iceland is a great place for sailing and whale watching, with frequent sightings of species such as killer whales, humpback whales and dolphins. Bicycling is popular and rentals are available in Reykjavik and other places. In early summer there are guided tours available for bird watchers where species such as skuas, puffins, Arctic terns and razorbills can be viewed. Fishing for salmon and trout is a big draw, as is sea angling, and in winter ice fishing is a popular sport. There are white water river rafting trips on spectacular glacial rivers through rugged terrain, with levels to suit beginners through advanced. Glacier tours are available and it is advisable only to venture out with experts who will make sure you get to the location safely where you can then go exploring with snowmobiles.

 

Horseback riding is popular, especially riding the wonderful Icelandic horses which are pure-bred descendants of the horses the Vikings brought with them hundreds of years ago. Hiking is a popular way to see the country and hiking tours are arranged during summer and even during the winter months. For golfers who love being close to nature, Iceland has dozens of golf courses, many with very scenic views. In summer it is also possible to play golf 24 hours a day due to the midnight sun!

 

For a change of pace, there are a wide variety of museums and galleries in Iceland , and particularly in Reykjavik . There is a jazz festival in Reykjavik in late summer and another music festival in the autumn. For relaxation, Iceland has many outdoor swimming pools naturally heated with thermal hot springs to temperatures in excess of 80 F, and there are locations which also offer Jacuzzi, saunas and solariums

 

Skiing is available during winter in some parts of the country. There are resorts to cater to both downhill and cross-country skiers. Summer skiing is also available close to the glaciers.

 

 

European Health Insurance Card

 

Visitors with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) are entitled to free emergency medical care, but this should never be used in place of comprehensive travel insurance.  For example, the EHIC does not cover travel problems such as lost or stolen luggage or property, cancellation and curtailment, and expensive matters like personal liability, legal costs, ongoing or non-urgent medical care, air ambulance and medical repatriation.

 



 

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We strongly advise a visit to the FCO website for updated travel information and general travel advice before you book and pay for any travel.