As a destination that begs to be explored, Iceland has so much to offer. From the wildlife to local cuisine, traditional fashions, and natural wonders, here’s why a trip to “The Land of Fire and Ice” is at the top of our travel lists.
1. Go whale watching
With more than 20 species of whales living in the surrounding waters, Iceland is widely considered to be one of Europe’s best places for spotting some wild cetaceans. While the best time of year to head out on a watch is during the summer (between April and September), it’s possible to catch a glimpse of these majestic mammals year-round. Some of the species you’re likely to spot during a day on the water include Orcas, minke whales, humpback whales and harbor porpoises.
2. Try the hot dogs
Or more specifically, those from Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. This restaurant in Reykjavik has been serving up their world-famous franks since 1937 and has fed everyone from late-night partygoers to celebrities like Bill Clinton and Anthony Bourdain. So what is it about these hot dogs that makes them so particularly delicious? It could be the signature combination of toppings (ask for eina með öllu,“one with everything,” and the dog slinger at the window will load it up with ketchup, sweet mustard, remoulade, crispy fried onions and raw white onions). Or maybe it’s the lamb and pork-based recipe. Whatever the reason, they’re more than worth the trip.
3. Explore the waterfalls
Iceland’s abundance of plunging cascades has a lot to do with the island’s geology. The country straddles the divergent boundary between the North American and Eurasian plates, making the country a hotspot for tectonic activity. This means that over the years, the shifting plates have created a spectacular landscape that’s filled with the kinds of cliffs and crevasses that are conducive to the beautiful waterfalls Iceland is known for. Some of our favorites? Seljalandsfoss, Dettifoss, and Gulfoss.
4. Treat yourself to a sweater
You know the ones we’re talking about—they’re big, fuzzy and have those eye-catching Fair Isle-esque patterns around the shoulders. What makes these woolen yoke sweaters, known as lopapeysa amongst Icelanders, so unique isn’t their design or decoration? It’s the type of wool they’re made from. A true Icelandic sweater is crafted with 100% native sheep fleece, which is known in the wool world as being some of the most resistant to cold and damp conditions. So not surprisingly, the finished product enjoys similar characteristics and can keep wearers warm even when wet.
5. Experience the northern lights
Look up into the sky on a Nordic winter night, and it’s not uncommon to see ribbons of green, turquoise, pink, and purple dancing across the sky. The northern lights, or Aurora Borealis, are a phenomenon that has been enchanting onlookers for centuries. With its high, almost arctic latitude, Iceland offers prime aurora-viewing conditions for those who visit between September and mid-April—when the days are shorter and nights at their darkest. While laying eyes on this sought-after sight is unfortunately never guaranteed, we think that’s what makes catching a glimpse extra special.