By: SUZY TURNER
HAVING RECENTLY been named the world’s most peaceful place, Iceland certainly has appeal.
The Economist Unit compiled an index based on 24 indicators of external and internal measures of peace. The lack of an army and the fact that the country has the lowest ratio of citizens in jail compared with the 140 countries surveyed, all boded well for the northern wonderland.
On first view, Iceland might appear to be on top of the world, when, in fact,
it is easily accessible from most airports, including our very own Faro. And, contrary to popular belief, the climate isn’t actually all that bad! Warmed by the Gulf Stream, the country has relatively mild winters, albeit windy, and summers are cool and damp… perfect escapism from the frequent overly hot summers here. In the country’s capital, Reykjavík, temperatures average between 13C in summer and minus 3C in winter.
The country covers an area of just 103,000 square kilometres, 11 per cent of which is covered by glaciers, including Vatnajökull, the largest in Europe. A hotspot of volcanic and geothermal activity, much of Iceland’s cheap
heating is provided by its natural hot water.
With a population of just 300,000, half of the country’s people live in Reykjavík while the rest reside in its neighbouring towns to the southwest. All live along the south coast though, mainly because the highland interior is uninhabitable.
The country has much to offer its visitors – especially for lovers of outstanding natural beauty – where there are countless glaciers and fjords to see as well as stunning waterfalls and bizarre lava landscapes. Iceland is a nature lover’s paradise with some of the world’s largest colonies of puffins and other seabirds, as well as the highest number of sightings for whale watchers. Something else you’re unlikely to see in many other locations is the glorious midnight sun throughout the summer and the impressive and awe-inspiring Northern Lights.
Festivals abound in this land of the Vikings, covering all kinds of subjects including the Vikings themselves, films and music, and there are always lots of interesting exhibitions covering all manner of subjects, volcanoes for instance.
There is a real café culture in Iceland, therefore cafés, bakeries and dimly-lit coffee houses abound for those who like nothing more than to sit and watch the world go by. For full-on meals, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from where you can sample the region’s delicacies including lobster, particularly good at Humarhúsið.
Traditional cooking at its best, including whale meat or salt cod, can be found at Þrír Frakkar. For a spectacular view, Perlan, which sits atop Reykjavík’s hot water tanks, is your best bet.
There is a vast choice of accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets in Iceland – visit the official website for further details, www.icetourist.is