When it comes to “hot” and “trending” destinations, in recent years Iceland has been right up there near the top of all the lists.
What used to be one of the most expensive countries to visit in Europe suddenly became much more affordable after a financial collapse in 2008. And, while financial crisis is never something to be joyful about, tourists have certainly benefitted from the affects of Iceland's struggles. While the country still isn't “cheap” by any standards, it's now much more affordable for the average person to visit.
I planned my first visit to Iceland in early 2012, when Iceland was slowly getting back on its feet but before it became an “it” destination. I remember people asking me why the hell I wanted to go to Iceland (and in winter, no less). But as soon as I came home and showed them photos, they got it.
Iceland is wild and raw; it truly is the Land of Fire and Ice, where Mother Nature reigns supreme.
And it's also one of the most magical places on earth.
Don't believe me? I think these photos should prove it:
Jokulsarlon, the glacier lagoon where huge chunks of blue ice calve off Vatnajokull (Iceland's largest glacier) and eventually float out to sea.
Sometimes, it just looks like the moon.
In the winter months, sunsets can last for an hour, painting everything the light touches orange and pink.
Sunrises can be equally as colorful, like this one at the famous Blue Lagoon.
There are tiny fishing villages that look like something directly off a postcard. This is Arnarstapi on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
There are hidden waterfalls.
And waterfalls that flow out through the porous rock of lava fields.
And other waterfalls that you can walk behind, like Seljalandsfoss.
There are also ice caves in the glaciers, like this big blue beauty beneath Vatnajokull.
Are you convinced that Iceland is magical yet?
A rainbow stretching over the thick green moss that covers a lava field.
You'll find signs of volcanoes everywhere, like this colorful crater.
The beaches are mostly black, but that's not sand you see – it's volcanic ash. (And yes, that's bits of glacier on this beach near Jokulsarlon, too.)
The colors are all at once muted and neon.
Could you ask for a better sunset than the sun slowly dipping behind the Gerðuberg basalt columns?
In Iceland, you find glaciers on top of active volcanoes, covered in a thin layer of black ash.
You'll also find geysers! Strokkur, pictured here, erupts every 6-7 minutes, 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.
You can also snorkel the clear blue water of Silfra, the rift caused by the separation of two of earth's tectonic plates. EPIC.
Again, those postcard views…
The beaches here aren't for sunbathing. They're where Mother Nature shows her true power. On Djúpalónssandur Beach, you'll find the remains of more than one shipwreck.
Along the coast, you can find beautiful sea arches like Gatklettur.
You'll also find these basalt columns everywhere – they're formed when hot lava meets the sea and cools.
No matter where you are, you can count on rounding a corner and coming face to face with a view like this.
Another of Iceland's famous waterfalls. This is Gullfoss, part of the famous Golden Circle.
Even the capital city of Reykjavik looks magical, especially under a dusting of fresh snow.
So, are you convinced? Do you understand why everyone who's visited Iceland has gone so crazy over it?
Iceland is definitely magical, and it has certainly cast its spell on me. Even after two trips there, I know I'm not done.
I'll be back.
For further reading:
And if you're planning an adventurous trip around Iceland, be sure to invest in a good travel insurance policy! That way everything from lost luggage to a bad accident is covered – because you just never know! I recommend World Nomads for basic (and really affordable) travel insurance.
Who's ready to book a trip to Iceland?