All eyes are Iceland lately for a couple of great reasons. It's the country with the most active volcanoes in Europe, and the eruption taking place on the Reykjanes peninsula is an historic one. The peninsula hasn't had an eruption since the 13th century, and the last one erupted for about 30 years between 1210 and 1240. The 2021 eruption is coming from deep within the earth's mantle, about nine miles below the earth's surface, a source so deep it hasn't produced magma in the region for thousands of years. People have been hiking to the site to carefully marvel at the slow flow and even toast marshmallows on the hot rocks!
Iceland is also one of the few European countries currently open for American travelers. Iceland has done so well controlling the virus it's allowing all vaccinated travelers to arrive without testing or quarantine. Everyone knows it's a fantastic place to view the Northern Lights, relax in the Blue Lagoon, discover hidden waterfalls, take in Reykjavik's arts and culture, history, and cuisine - and now grill some lunch on an active lava flow apparently. Here are six fun facts maybe you didn't know about Iceland!
Article excerpt below by Marika Cain was published for Virtuoso.com on June 15, 2015.
If you haven't been to Iceland, you're in for a few surprises. Yes, it’s cold (but not that cold between May and September, when average temperatures are in the 50s and 60s). Yes, it’s small (but not that small – about the size of England). There’s so much more, however, to this excellent little volcanic country.
1. It’s easy to get there.
Really, really easy. From North America, nearly as many direct flights serve Iceland as Sweden and Denmark combined. And with straight shots from Seattle (seven hours), New York and Boston (five and a half hours), and more on Icelandair, it’s supremely reachable.
2. Iceland is balanced on a fault.
The country straddles the Mid-Atlantic Ridge – the meeting point of the mammoth North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. This position is responsible for the island’s prolific volcanic activity (around 130 volcanic mountains dot the surface). The traveler’s takeaway? Sweeping hills, vast moss-covered lava fields, black-sand beaches, dramatic waterfalls, and, yes, active volcanoes.
3. The Blue Lagoon is man-made.
That ultimate Icelandic photo op is not happenstance, but runoff from the Svartsengi geothermal power plant. Leave the hazmat suit at home, though: Pure freshwater burbles up from 2,000 feet beneath the earth’s surface, completely replenishing the lagoon every 40 hours. The silica- and mineral-rich water – and the mud it creates – is reportedly great for complexions.
4. Every day is Talk Like a Viking Day.
Icelanders still speak the same Old Norse language their Viking ancestors spoke.
5. Reykjavík has a great fashion scene.
Icelandic music is legendary, and rightfully so, but beyond Björk and Sigur Rós exports, a thriving fashion, art, and design community flourishes in walkable downtown Reykjavík.
6. Those are horses, not ponies.
Want to offend an Icelander? Call the Icelandic horse a pony. It’s considered an insult to these petite, surefooted species – direct descendants of the stock Vikings brought to the island in the ninth and tenth centuries. Among their legendary traits: pure breeding and five distinct gaits, including the four-beat tölt, unique to these horses.
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