In the recent blockbuster, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” the title character, played by Ben Stiller, changes his timecard-punching life forever when he travels to hunt down a mysterious freelance photographer. It’s no coincidence that his adventure quickly lands him in none other than Iceland, where the otherworldly landscapes and volcanic activity set the backdrop for an experience that changes Walter forever.
Although it was little known to tourists until 2008, Iceland is home to some of our planet’s most fascinating, untouched geological phenomena and wildlife. Active volcanoes, ice fjords and breathtaking landscapes make this island one of wonder and extremes, which has earned Iceland the nickname “land of ice and fire.” Iceland brushes the Arctic Circle, but its mild climate resembles that of Paris or London, and its small population of just 320,000 offers warm hospitality and a hearty cultural experience. Summer days here are mild and almost endless, and long winter nights set the stage for spectacular displays of Aurora Borealis.
While it’s doubtful that most people traveling in Iceland will find themselves speeding away from an erupting volcano or skateboarding down miles of pristine canyon like Walter Mitty, there’s more than enough to do in Iceland to keep the heart racing. Hikers can trek across ice fjords, lava flows and under waterfalls, then relax in healing geothermal springs at the day’s end. There’s no end to the abundance of wildlife here, on land, sea and air. For true adventure seekers, traveling off the beaten path to some of Iceland’s lesser known locations – and shorter winter days – is a must.
The Blue Lagoon: a Wonder of the Modern World
The small fishing village of Grindavík is three short miles away from the Blue Lagoon, arguably the most fascinating man-made geological phenomena in the world. A hotbed of volcanic activity, Grindavík and the surrounding landscape are peppered with fissures, geysers and vents which carry mineral water and lava from deep below the earth. A geothermal power station harnesses the energy from this superheated mineral water as electricity, then pours the slightly cooled water into a brilliant turquoise lagoon, which is perfect for therapeutic bathing. The infamous Blue Lagoon may be man-made, but the silica, sulphur and other minerals in the water are a concoction that could only be mixed by nature. The geothermal water is known to have restorative and medicinal properties, especially for skin ailments. Nestled in a pristine Arctic landscape, this geological phenomenon-powered luxury spa is the only one of its kind in the world.
Húsavík and Grímsey Island
Here in Iceland’s northern tip, ice fjords, tundra wildlife and dramatic waterfalls dominate the landscape. Húsavík, a small fishing village in the north, offers hidden gems for explorers in its unique architecture and cultural exhibits, and the wildlife is diverse and abundant. Hikers crossing Húsavík’s tundras and ice sheets will find incredible bird life, colorful hamlets and breathtaking waterfalls. North of Húsavík, Grímsey Island is Iceland’s northernmost populated territory, and a hub for Arctic wildlife activity. The island’s coasts are some of the best in the world for whale watching, and its tundras are home to huge populations of Arctic birds. With a population of less than 100, this tiny island community is known for being a bastion of chess-playing.
Land of Light and Dark: Wintertime & Aurora Borealis
Although Iceland’s long summers with perpetual daylight are the most popular time for tourism, there are certain spectacles that can only be seen during the winter and early spring. Those who venture to Iceland during darker months, when daylight lasts just a few dusky hours, have the opportunity to see Aurora Borealis light up the sky in rare Arctic displays of supernatural neon colors.
Adventure is Calling
There is nothing commonplace about Iceland, a place of diversity and untouched beauty unlike anywhere else. From its fiery geological wonders to its prolific wildlife, Iceland is truly a destination for adventure seekers and soul searchers. For those who are ready to explore life beyond the ordinary, exploring Iceland by ship is a great way to experience all the wonders. A visit here is more than a vacation; it’s a reboot on life.
Encounter unrivaled natural diversity, from volcanic landscapes to lava fields, ice sheets, gushing hot springs and cascading waterfalls on our Iceland Circumnavigation Voyage.