Iceland is straight out of a fairy tale book. Its harsh landscapes and dazzling fjords, volcanoes, coastlines, and Northern Lights draw people from far and wide. Together with New Zealand, Iceland is one of the last two larger landscapes to be discovered and populated by humanity.

Today, Iceland is an outdoor paradise that everyone ought to see and experience. But it's also important to go at the right time of year for the right activity. There's little point in going in the long daylight summers if you want to see the Northern Lights or in the winter if you want to explore the hinterland of the island.

THETRAVEL VIDEO OF THE DAY

Background And History Of Iceland

  • Capital And Largest City: Reykjavík
  • Population: 370,000
  • Currency: Icelandic króna
  • Independence: 1944 (From Denmark)
  • Land Area: 102,775 km2 or 39,682 sq miles (About The Size Of Kentucky Or Tennessee)

Iceland has one of the youngest histories dating back to the Norwegian Viking settlement over a thousand years ago. The largest city is Reykjavik and it is home to around two-thirds of the population so once you get out and start exploring the island, there isn't all that much by way of larger towns. Iceland is dominated by its central plateau which is full of lava and sand fields, glaciers, and mountains (it even has one of the world's most active volcanoes underneath the glacier). The main highway makes a circuit around the island.

Related: These Incredible Foods Are Worth Traveling to Iceland For

  • Fun Fact: The Only Native Land Mammal To Iceland Was The Arctic Fox That Walked Over The Icesheets Of The Ice Age

Settlement is believed to have first begun in 874 AD. Thereafter it spent much of its history under Norwegian and Danish control. It was always a very harsh climate to live in and the population was very vulnerable to shifting weather and severe famines, for much of its history the population couldn't grow above 40,000 or so people. During World War Two it was invaded by the British to deny it to the Germans and then by the Americans to free up British troops.

Iceland is a land of glaciers together with many of the world's most active volcanoes. Around 30 volcanoes have erupted in recent history. This all makes Iceland the true land of Ice and Fire (but they don't have any ice zombies or dragons)!

The Arctic Circle

There are multiple definitions of what the Arctic Circle is, if you use the definition that it is the southernmost point in which the center of the midnight sun is visible on the June solstice and the northernmost where the center of the noon sun is just visible on the December solstice, then the Arctic Circle is 66°33′48.7″. In that case, the vast bulk of Iceland is south of the Arctic Circle with the Circle just barely clipping the northernmost part of the island. If the definition is the 10° celsius temperature in July, then most of the country is within the zone.

  • Trivia: The English Word "Geyser" Is From The Geyser Called "Geysir" In Iceland
  • Fun Fact: Iceland Claims To Have The Oldest And Longest Running Parliament On Earth

Today Iceland is a very wealthy country and is not part of the European Union, although it has many strong agreements and treaties with them.

When To Go And How To Tour

If you are planning to explore this wonderland then be sure to visit in the summer. The days will be long and the weather will be the warmest, the winters are long, bitter, and dark. While it is possible to get organized tours on this island (and there are plenty of them), perhaps the most common is self-driving tours. It is very easy to drive around the island by yourself, and the cost of hiring guides here is considerable. In the last 20 years, the number of tourists flocking to this island has exploded and now around 2 million tourists visit it annually.

Related: Never Heard Of Akureyri? It's Iceland's Hidden Gem

Top Attractions

Some of the top tourist attractions in Iceland include:

  • Reynisfjara Beach: Famous For Its Black Sand And Rugged Basalt Columns
  • Jokulsarlon Lagoon: An Unforgettable Glacial Lagoon
  • Vatnajokull Ice Caves: Ice Caves Deep In The Vatnajokull Glacier
  • Blue Lagoon: Geothermal Wonderland With Thermal Water
  • Gullfoss: Europe's Largest Waterfalls
  • Laugavegur: Boasts Iceland's Longest Hiking Trail Measuring 49 Miles
  • Thingvellir National Park: Historically Important To The Island And The Site Of The Old Parliament
  • Askja: A Huge Caldera - You Need 11-14 Hours To Complete This Trip
  • Geysers At Haukadalur: Full Of Geysers, Hot Springs, And Bubbling Mud Pools

The main attraction for Iceland is ecotourism, so come and drive around this wilderness wonderland and behold the dramatic landscapes. Just come in the summer (unless you want to see the Northern Lights).

Next: A Travel Guide To Iceland: 10 Things To Know While Planning Your Trip