Iceland is a place of surreal beauty.
The incredible landscape of the island is staggering. Most of the country is an uninhabited moonscape of craters, bright green moss, towering glaciers, volcanoes, hot springs, and fields of lava rock.
It is so other-worldly that it is often the backdrop in sci-fi films. Iceland was the inspiration for Tolkien’s stories and is sometimes even used as practice for moon-landings.
Plus, the people are really, really nice — and I should know since I’m from there.
Here are just a few reasons why Iceland is the most wonderful country on Earth.
1. Because in the mid-1970s Iceland built a geothermal power plant, and accidentally created one of the most visited places in the world: the Blue Lagoon.
Spillover water from the geothermal power plant created pools in the surrounding lava fields, and when people began to swim in those waters they found that it would heal skin ailments, so they opened it to the public.
2. Because “The Journey To The Center Of The Earth” begins in Iceland. It might be a fictional Jules Verne novel, but you can go to the actual place — it’s called Snæfellsjökull.
3. Because Icelandic children save Puffins.
Every August, millions of newborn puffins leave the cliffs of the Westman Island to fly over the north Atlantic. But many will get distracted by the lights of the town of Heimaey and wind up on the streets, so people of the town will scoop them up and take them to the seashore to put them back on the right track. Over the years, it has become a special activity for children.
4. Because Icelanders believe in “hidden people” that live underneath rocks.
It is said that the often-harsh landscape of Iceland inspired the stories of hidden people. While this may seem like a strange belief, it is actually used most often to halt new construction developments, which helps to conserve the natural landscape of the country (seriously!).
5. Because there are thousands of waterfalls throughout the country. Iceland is home to the most powerful waterfall and the largest waterfall complex in Europe.
6. Because the most famous restaurant in the country is a small hot dog stand in downtown Reykjavik.
Hot dogs from Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur are basically the national dish of Iceland — not fermented shark.
7. Because it is the land of the midnight sun.
To celebrate the summer’s midnight sun, Iceland holds a music festival in Reykjavik called Secret Solstice. The sun doesn’t set during the three day festival.
8. Because downtown Reykjavik looks like a wonderland of different candy-colored houses.
9. Because Iceland is ranked as one of “the happiest places on earth,” by the World Happiness Report. It is also ranked as the world’s friendliest country.
10. Because it is so safe that the Icelandic police publicly apologized last year for killing someone for the first time in its history.
11. Because Iceland is a volcanic island that is constantly growing.
12. Because the terrain of Iceland is so different and vast that it also has the largest desert in Europe.
13. Because they still speak Icelandic, which is a language that has been largely unchanged for over a thousand years. In fact, Icelanders today can still read the ancient Sagas.
14. Because it is called the best country in the world for women. For six years in a row, Iceland has been rated as the country with the world’s smallest gender gap.
15. Because this is the only traffic you will run into.
16. Because Iceland is the only place in the world where you can take an elevator directly into a volcano’s magma chamber.
17. Because Iceland has never had a military, or entered into a conflict (expect for a brief conflict that was literally called the “Cod War,” and yes it was about fish).
18.Because it is one of the best places to catch the Northern Lights.
19. Because comedian Jon Gnarr ran for Mayor of Reykjavik, the capital city, on a joke campaign called the “Best Party” — and actually won. One of his promises was to put a polar bear in the local zoo.
Plus, he dresses in drag to support the pride parade in Iceland:
20. Because nearly all of the homes are heated by geothermal energy.
21. Because Iceland has a higher percentage of writers in its population than any other country in the world. Icelanders also published the most books per capita. In 2011, Reykjavik became a UNESCO City of Literature.
22. Because Icelanders understand that their country is dark and cold for a lot of the year, so they have outdoor geothermal heated pools open all year round, regardless of the weather.
The custom of bathing in hot springs dates back to the Vikings, but today you can find heated outdoor pools scattered all throughout the cities. Icelanders basically treat the outdoor pools like bars — a place where people meet and gossip after work.
23. Because the landscape of Iceland is so lunar-like that both Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong practiced for the moon landing there.
(Recognize this place? You may have seen it in Interstellar).