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5 Reasons to Visit Iceland this Year

Breathtaking sights, innovative cuisine and affordable flights are just a few selling points. 

U.S. News & World Report

5 Reasons to Visit Iceland this Year

Stop and Stare

With geothermal pools, striking glaciers and dramatic waterfalls, Iceland is full of inspiring scenes. But it's boundary-pushing cuisine and unique cultural traditions are equally enticing reasons to plan a trip.(Getty Images)

Iceland has become the place to go, mostly because you can't round a corner without stumbling upon an awe-inspiring landscape or a natural wonder. A few years ago, Iceland was just a hidden, under-the-radar gem known only by locals and intrepid visitors. But these days, more and more tourists are flocking to Iceland's stunning geothermal spas, dramatic fjords and majestic glaciers to catch a glimpse of the country's breathtaking landscapes. Offering more than just cascading waterfalls, the northern lights and dreamy landscapes, Iceland offers plenty for visitors to uncover – from mouthwatering cuisine to genuine hospitality. Here are five enticements to plan a trip this year.

The Breathtaking Natural Wonders

The best way to embrace the natural beauty Iceland has to offer is to drive along Route 1 (or Ring Road), the 830-mile highway that circles the entire country. One can't-miss place is the Snæfellsnes glacier in western Iceland. This scenic hike offers jaw-dropping views of neighboring fjords. And for an unspoiled view of the aurora borealis, visit Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Afterward, uncover the island's famed Seljalandsfoss waterfall, where you'll be bet met with stunning views of the sunset, or trek over 15 miles over the mountains of Thorsmork National Park and watch the horizon and vast landscape consisting of alpine lakes, lush forests and rolling hills unfold in front of you. 

The Healing Hot Springs

Iceland is speckled with hot springs. Since you won't be able to visit every single hot spring the country has to offer in one trip, hit the highlights. Start by visiting the iconic Blue Lagoon, which stays at 96 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, and is located right outside Reykjavik, Iceland's capital city. Another well-known area is Geysir Hot Springs, which is located in Haukadulr, at the southern tip of Iceland, and is known for erupting water columns that can reach up to 150 feet into the air. And Snorralaug, which is located in the western region of Reykholt, is home to one of the oldest springs in Iceland, dating back to the 12th century. Meanwhile, a little lesser-known hot spring, Hveragerdi, is made up of two springs, the Blue Hot Springs and Riverside Hot Springs, and is located in southern Iceland.

The Fresh Nordic Cuisine

The cuisine in Iceland is primarily Nordic, but you'll also find Asian- and European-influenced dishes, too. If you're not sure what to eat, start with seafood. The island boasts an incredible bounty of seafood, from organic cod to lobsters, salmon and more. Start with dishes like plokkfishkur (fish mashed with potatoes), fresh scallop fish stew with bold seasonings or seared salmon with fresh berry jam. Iceland is also known for its grass-fed meats, such as beef and lamb. And you can't visit Reykjavik without stopping at the most popular eatery in town, the hot dog stand. Here, you'll enjoy an all lamb hot dog topped with mustard, crunchy onions and remoulade. And if you're feeling daring, try the fermented shark with a shot of Black Death (a popular Icelandic drink made with the spirit Brennivín) to wash it down.

The Welcoming Locals

Icelandic locals are known for their wit and genuine hospitality. Proud and passionate about their culture, many residents enjoy locals sharing stories and myths they've heard from their families. Also, if you happen to be visiting around Christmastime, make sure to embark on one country's many elf-time strolls and themed festivities. Icelandic residents are also resilient and daring, and are known for being up for late-night drinks, long hikes in the mountains and thrilling activities, such as ATV rides and ski jumps. For a taste of true Icelandic tradition, visit the Frystiklefinn (or The Freezer), which is a professional theater and hostel in the quaint town of Rif in West Iceland. If you can, catch the one-person show, Hetja, at the theater. Featuring the incredibly talented Kári Viðarsson, the show tells the story of one of the local legends of Rif, and is packed with plenty of Icelandic humor.

The Convenience Factor

The flight from Washington, D.C., New York City and Boston airports to Reykjavik take less than five hours, and most routes are nonstop. Plus, Icelandair offers plenty of direct, year-round flights to Reykjavik from major hubs across the country, including Seattle, Denver, Orlando, Florida and Vancouver, British Columbia. Another benefit of flying Icelandair is that the carrier offers short or longer stopovers in Iceland, allowing you to explore the country while in transit to another destination. Plus, the airline helps connect visitors with local tour groups and hotels in the country, making the trip-planning process easy and stress-free.

                                                                              

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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