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23 Reasons Iceland Is The Best Country On The Planet

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.

Iceland 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.

Iceland

3. Because Icelandic children save Puffins.

Iceland

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.

Iceland

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.

Iceland

6. Because the most famous restaurant in the country is a small hot dog stand in downtown Reykjavik.

Iceland

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.

Iceland

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.

Iceland

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.

Iceland

10. Because it is so safe that the Icelandic police publicly apologized last year for killing someone for the first time in its history.

Iceland

11. Because Iceland is a volcanic island that is constantly growing.

Iceland volcanic ash images

12. Because the terrain of Iceland is so different and vast that it also has the largest desert in Europe.

Iceland

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.

Iceland

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.

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15. Because this is the only traffic you will run into.

Iceland

16. Because Iceland is the only place in the world where you can take an elevator directly into a volcano’s magma chamber.

Iceland

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).

Iceland

18.Because it is one of the best places to catch the Northern Lights.

Iceland

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.

Jon Gnarr

Plus, he dresses in drag to support the pride parade in Iceland:

Jon Gnarr

20. Because nearly all of the homes are heated by geothermal energy.

Iceland

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.

Iceland

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.

Iceland

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.

Iceland

(Recognize this place? You may have seen it in Interstellar).

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This tiny glob could be humans’ earliest known ancestor

Newly discovered fossilized remains may fill in the gaps in Earth’s evolutionary history.

Paleobiologists in search of the earliest records of life on Earth have discovered what they believe is the human race’s earliest known ancestor: a 540 million-year-old deuterostome about the size of a grain of rice called Saccorhytus coronarious that may have evolved into everything from sea urchins to land mammals and humans.

Continue reading This tiny glob could be humans’ earliest known ancestor

Push and pull: How the Milky Way flies

It may not feel like it, but our Milky Way galaxy is barrelling through the Universe at more than two million kilometres (1.24 million miles) per hour.

On Monday, astronomers said they had discovered a void in deep space that helps explain the direction in which we are headed, and our speed.

It turns out our galaxy is not only being pulled by galactic forces, but pushed as well, they wrote in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Continue reading Push and pull: How the Milky Way flies

Stellar axis aligns 99 blue spheres to stars in the antarctic sky (PHOTOS)

california-based artist lita albuquerque led an expedition to antarctica, near the south pole in the creation of her global installation ‘stellar axis’

a creative enterprise which became the first and largest ephemeral artwork created on the continent. albuquerque and a team of researchers and astronomers situated 99 fabricated blue spheres on the earth’s icy surface,

the placement of each corresponding to the location of one specific stars in the sky above.stellar axis aligns 99 blue spheres to stars in the antarctic sky designboomduring orbit, the displacement between the original positions of the stars and the vibrantly colored orbs drew an invisible spiral of our planet spinning in motion,

creating a terrestrial constellation at the earth’s pole. the dramatic photos documented by jean de pomereu are currently exhibiting for ‘vanishing ice’ at the whatcom museum, washington until march 2nd, 2014.

stellar axis aligns 99 blue spheres to stars in the antarctic sky designboom

stellar axis aligns 99 blue spheres to stars in the antarctic sky designboom
stellar axis aligns 99 blue spheres to stars in the antarctic sky designboom
stellar axis aligns 99 blue spheres to stars in the antarctic sky designboom

Meet the world’s most-travelled man!

  • Retired technician Donald Parrish Jr, 70, has visited 840 destinations
  • He finished visiting each of the world’s 196 countries three years ago
  • Mr Parrish’s first overseas trip was to Mexico in 1957 at the age of 13
  • He could become the first person to visit each of the world’s 875 countries, territories, autonomous regions, enclaves, geographically separated island groups, and major states and provinces

Christopher Columbus? Captain James Cook? Michael Palin?

When it comes to a list of the world’s greatest travellers, there are some pretty formidable candidates to choose from.

But a retired US technician has a legitimate claim to rival those legendary explorers.

Donald Parrish now regarded as the world’s most-travelled person, having visited almost every destination on Earth.

Don Parrish and North Korean Security Man Each Declare Victory in Hyangsan, North Korea in 2005

In fact, the 70-year-old has travelled so extensively that he is now closing in on the record of becoming the first person to visit all of the world’s 875 countries, territories, autonomous regions, enclaves, geographically separated island groups, and major states and provinces.

According to mosttraveledpeople.com, Mr Parrish has visited 840, with just 35 destinations remaining.

Mr Parrish is currently the number one most-ranked traveller out of more than 9,000 members on mosttraveledpeople.com

However, fellow traveller Robert Bonifas has managed to visit 839 – just one destination behind Mr Parrish.

No one in history has ever managed to visit each of the 875 destinations on the list.

Donald managed to complete the impressive feat of visiting each of the world’s 196 countries three years ago.

For members to prove they have been somewhere, they must provide a series of documents including everything from visas to ticket stubs.

Born in the US in 1944, Mr Parrish’s first overseas trip was to Mexico in 1957 at the age of 13.

Donald poses with a Kurdish Man in Iraq in 2006. He managed to complete the impressive feat of visiting each of the world's 191 countries three years ago

Mr Parrish says that his interest in travel started with stamps.

By the age of eight he says he could recognise the national origin of any postage stamp and shortly after he began a half-century subscription to National Geographic magazine.

After training as a computer scientist at the University of Chicago in 1968, Mr Parrish began working in research and development at Bells Labs.

In 1971 he made his first circumnavigation of the world, a journey which took him six weeks.

He has since become a lifelong member of the Circumnavigators Club, and is also a member of the Travellers Century Club, which requires that members have visited 100 territories across the globe.

After travelling to 31 countries in 2007 and 29 countries in 2009, he finally visited the last of the world’s 191 countries in 2011 when he visited Mongolia.

Don stands at the Court of the Ashanti King in Kumasi, Ghana in 2007. He travels about six months a year, often alone but sometimes with one or two others to share the costs

During his life, Mr Parrish has spent a total of eight years outside of the US traveling or working. He has made 60 trips to Japan, spending a total of 22 months there.

Mr Parrish is retired from a job with Lucent Technologies and now travels at least half the year.

The journeys generate extraordinary itineraries, often at a considerable cost, with one trip requiring 73 flights.

Mr Parrish said that outside of North America and Europe, his favourite locations include Egypt, Easter Island, the Galapagos Islands, Uzbekistan, Ethiopia, Cuba, Bhutan and Japan.

He said: ‘While a junior at the University of Texas, I spent the summer working in a factory in Germany speaking only German – not a word of English.

‘Being a real foreigner was a profound experience, something very rare for native-born US citizens.’

Donald poses with Nine Virgins in Isfahan, Iran in 2006. During his life, Mr Parrish has discovered that he has spent a total of eight years outside of the US traveling or working

Mr Parrish says that five of his ancestors boarded the Mayflower in 1620 in search of the New World and a new life and that sense of adventure, something which he says he has inherited.

‘My ancestors include five on the Mayflower, a famous Mohawk Indian, and the owner in 1651 of the land that the World Trade Center was built on.’

He added: ‘What a joy to visit places you have read about. What an education to talk to people all over the world.

‘I have often visited hot spots with the Travellers Century Club – North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Kashmir, and Cuba.’

‘At one level, I’m running out of world,’ he has said.

He travels about six months a year, often alone but sometimes with one or two others to share the costs.

‘I travel in every imaginable way,’ he says, including chartering planes and ships to reach remote islands.

Donald Parrish poses with a Pakistani Soldier in Khyber Pass in 2006. Mr Parrish has visited 840 of the world's 875 recognised destinations

When he wanted to visit Somalia in 2010, his travel agent refused to help, fearing Parrish would be kidnapped.

He made the trip anyway and was able to find a contact there who helped him with security.

THE DESTINATIONS DONALD

  • Gaza Strip
  • South Orkney Islands
  • Guantanamo Bay Naval Base
  • Aves Island
  • British Indian Ocean Territory
  • Johnston Atoll
  • South Sandwich Islands
  • Trindade and Martim Vaz
  • Rockall
  • Nicobar Islands
  • Amsterdam Island
  • Peter I Island
  • St. Peter and St. Paul Rocks
  • Crozet Islands
  • Kerguelen Islands
  • Bouvet Island
  • Queen Maud Land (not to South Pole)
  • Phoenix Islands

PARRISH HAS LEFT TO VISIT

  • Desventuradas Islands
  • Heard and McDonald Islands
  • Central and Southern Line Islands
  • Pratas Island
  • Bounty Islands
  • Prince Edward Islands (Marion)
  • Scarborough Shoal (Reef)
  • Paracel Islands
  • Scott Island
  • Balleny Islands
  • Palmyra Atoll
  • Parece Vela (Okino Torishima)
  • Baker Island (and Howland Island)
  • Minami Torishima (Marcus Island)
  • Kingman Reef
  • Kure Island
  • Jarvis Island

When he visited a region called Puntland, his party travelled in two Ford Explorers with four guards carrying AK-47s.

‘It turned out to be an absolutely fantastic place to visit,’ he says.

‘It’s really quite interesting when you travel with your own armed guards. When you go to the hotel, people take notice of you.’

Revealing his top trip for great travel adventures, he added: ‘You have to be willing to suffer. If you value your own convenience, forget it.’

However, even with his many travels, he insists that he will never reach all the sites listed on mosttraveledpeople.com.

He says that two destination on his wish list, the Gaza Strip and Guantanamo Bay, will have to wait because of safety issues.

‘No one will ever finish that list,’ Parrish says. ‘It’s just too difficult.’

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