• Reykjavik – a Place of Extremes

    by  • July 20, 2015 • City Breaks, Nature, Reykjavik

    Iceland is Recognised as the World’s Most Peaceful Nation.

    I recently stumbled upon an interesting online article, talking about the 20 most extreme places to visit. Destinations of particular note were Ecuador’s Mount Chimborazo, claiming the title of ‘nearest to space’, whilst the scariest destination was awarded to Mexico’s Island of the Dolls. The rainiest place was Mawsynram in India, whilst the wettest was Victoria Falls, straddling the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia. The hottest destination is claimed to be Dallol in Ethiopia, the coldest meanwhile is Oymyakon in Russia and the driest: the Atacama Desert in Chile. The happiest? Switzerland. The healthiest? Okinawa in Japan.

    Interestingly, Iceland features twice in the poll, ranked firstly top of the list for the world’s darkest destination. Due to its geographical position as the world’s northernmost capital, Reykjavik records the shortest hours of daylight during its half-year-long winter season. Indeed on the shortest day, the Icelandic capital only recorded daylight of just over four hours! Of course, travel to Iceland outside of summer and you’ll perhaps be lucky enough to witness to awesome majesty of the Aurora Borealis, however if you want to enjoy the many charms of Reykjavik against a backdrop of natural daylight, it’s best to visit over the summer months, where you’ll be rewarded with amazing and memorable midnight sunset displays.

    Iceland’s other claim to fame? It tops the poll as the world’s most peaceful nation according to a study carried out by the Institute for Economics and Peace. Indeed, the 2015 Global Peace Index considered the country most peaceful in terms of military, society and internal conflicts. So much for Switzerland always being considered the neutral ones! Perhaps Iceland’s status as the world’s most peaceful nation is aided somewhat by its stunning natural landscapes and abundance of calming and therapeutic geothermal pools.

    Blue Lagoon

    One of Iceland’s most visited attractions, the Blue Lagoon is situated a 40-minute drive outside Reykjavik (close to the airport) and is arguably the most famous of the country’s geothermal pools. Set against a stunningly rugged lava landscape, the expansive, warm and mineral-rich waters are renowned for their therapeutic effects, particularly on the skin. Little wonder therefore that it’s considered an essential addition on any Reykjavik city break.

    Literally translated as ‘Hot Spring Valley’ meanwhile, Laugardalur sits on the eastern fringes of Reykjavik and, as the largest geothermal pool, was formerly the city’s main source of heated water. Today, it is one of the city’s most popular natural attractions and attracts both locals and tourists alike, looking to experience the relaxing and therapeutic effects of the geothermal waters. The Laugardalur Valley is also a major sporting and recreational site.

    strokkur

    If you’ve time to leave the city, a popular day excursion from Reykjavik is a tour of the Golden Circle, encompassing some of central and southern Iceland’s most iconic and memorable sights. Covering around 300km, the route includes the stunning geological Thingvellir National Park, described as a ‘national shrine to all Icelanders’ for its natural beauty; the ever-amazing Gulfoss ‘Golden Falls’ Waterfall; and the impressive Strokkur geyser in the Haukadular Valley, shooting water some 30 metres skyward every five to ten minutes.

    Summer or winter, Reykjavik and the Icelandic landscapes beyond have so much to offer. You won’t be disappointed.

    About

    With a French grandmother, childhood holidays on the continent and a degree in French and Spanish, a love of languages and travel has always been in my blood. Fresh from university with an unfettered enthusiasm to show off my linguistic ability and first-hand knowledge of the world beyond the UK, I entered the travel industry and, 16 years on, I’m still there! With several years spent in the luxury sector planning escorted holidays across Europe for the American market, followed by an even longer tenure designing short breaks with a difference in the must-see cities of Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Amsterdam, Madrid, Prague, Florence, Brussels, Venice, Salzburg, Milan, Krakow and Berlin (to name but a few), it’s fair to say that Europe is my passion! Today my travels have taken me far beyond the boundaries of Europe with so many destinations still to discover, yet the continent abounds in such a wealth of treasures – historical and architectural, cultural and musical, gastronomic, artistic and linguistic – that its appeal, for me, will be eternal.