Whilst it shares some characteristics of its Scandinavian neighbours, there’s no denying that Iceland is a singular place. There aren’t many places in the world where you could see a geyser erupt and hike on a glacier in the same day, spend your evening in one of the hippest cities in the world and go home at midnight in bright daylight. Here are a few other uniquely Icelandic experiences…
Swim in a volcano
Iceland is packed with beautiful and memorable places to swim, but this has got to be one of the most unusual. The Askja volcanic crater is set in a lunar landscape where the American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin trained before their 1969 moon mission. Within than the Viti crater, a smaller explosion crater filled with milky-blue geothermally-heated water.
Ride a Viking’s horse
Icelandic horses are directly descended from a controlled group brought over by Viking settlers; in AD982 the Althing (Parliament) passed a law forbidding the future import of any foreign horses so the breed has evolved exclusively in the conditions and climate of Iceland. Icelandic horses are famous for their strength, their small size, their intelligence and their unusual gaits. Most horses only have four gaits (walk, trot, canter and gallop) but Icelandic horses have a fifth ‘tölt' which occurs between trot and canter and makes for a smooth ride as the horse always has one foot on the ground and changes at an equal beat.
Walk (or dive) between the earth’s tectonic plates
Þingvellir in Iceland is one of only two places in the world where you can see two of the earth’s tectonic plates – in this case the North American and Eurasian plates - meet above the earth’s surface. These plates are moving apart by roughly 2 cm per year and you can dive between in the Silfra rift in Lake Þingvallavatn.
Have lunch in a Shark Museum (well, if you know the right people)
Iceland has a number of unusual museums (Herring Era, Viking, the Glacier water library at Hofn and the least said about the Reyjavik Phallalogical Museum, the better) but one of our favourites is the House of Shark Jörundur museum, on the tiny island of Hrísey, which records the history of the island and shark fishing. The museum does not usually serve food, but if you know the right people, you might be able to swing a lunch of fresh fish and potatoes, apple pie and cream surrounded by the portraits, stuffed sea birds, fishermen’s clothing, harpoons and other artefacts of the museum!
Meet some of the most awesome people in the world (per capita)
Every time we visit Iceland, we’re struck by the hospitality and charm of Icelandic people but Iceland’s relatively small population boasts some amazing achievements per capita including
- The most literate nation on earth (99.9% literacy)
- The most beautiful women in the world, per capita (4 Miss Worlds out of 320,000 people),
- The best handball team in the world (they were the first small country to win an Olympic medal in a team sport)
- Most prolific film production (Iceland produces ten times more than USA)
- They have the most Nobel laureates