A COUNTRY OF EXTREME CONTRASTS
Iceland is a country of extreme contrasts. Widely known as "The Land of Fire and Ice", it is home to both some of the largest glaciers in Europe, and some of the most active volcanoes in the world. Iceland is also the land of light and darkness, where long summer days with near 24-hours of sunlight are offset by short winter days.
Iceland is the youngest landmass in Europe, forged in eruptions 18 million years ago. It is also where the continent's first parliament was formed in 930 AD. Þingvellir, the site of said parliament, is a designated UNESCO world heritage site; as much fort it geological history as for its political history. Commonly said to be located at the juncture between the North American and Eurasian continental plates,
From the moss covered lava fields in the southwest, through the barren highlands in the centre, to the soaring fjords in the northwest, a drive around Iceland will attest to the great diversity of landscape, which changes with every turn in the road, and of course with every changing season, each with its own charm.
Shaped by the unrelenting forces of nature, Iceland's harsh natural environment has bred a resilient nation that has learned to exist under extreme conditions, and harness the natural resources for its own prosperity.
The cornerstone of Icelandic culture is the Icelandic language, which has spawned a literary tradition that dates back to the ancient Icelandic Sagas. Violent tales of blood feuds, traditions, family, and character.
A strong literary tradition still thrives in modern Iceland. Icelandic authors publish more books per capita than in any other country in the world. Iceland also prides itself of a prospering music scene, a burgeoning film industry, and Icelandic design, that is coming of age.
Destinations in Iceland
The Westman Islands, or Vestmannaeyjar as they are called in Icelandic, have a beautiful and varied landscape, unique flora and are an excellent site for sailing, hunting and birdwatching. Off the south coast of Iceland, Vestmannaeyjar is an archipelago that consists of four small islands and eleven large ones, of which Heimaey is the only one inhabited.
For centuries, the interior of Iceland was virtually inaccessible, for years at a time playing host only to outlaws in hiding. Via the mountain roads Kjölur and Sprengisandur, the untouched wilderness of Iceland's mountainous centre is now open to the general public—for cautious exploration by foot or 4x4 vehicles—in the summer months.
Þingvellir is the national shrine of Iceland. It is a key location in Icelandic history as the oldest existing parliament in the world first assembled there in 930 AD. Þingvellir has for this reason been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Besides being a location of historical significance, Þingvellir is also protected as a national park due to its unique geology and natural features.
Vatnajökull National Park, established in 2008, encompasses not only all of Vatnajökull glacier but also extensive surrounding areas, including Skaftafell in the southwest, and Jökulsárgljúfur in the north. The park covers 13% of Iceland, making it one of the largest national parks in Europe.