When our teen-aged daughter announced one day that she’d like to visit Iceland, I was a bit surprised. Most kids would like to visit Disneyland or maybe Hawaii, but Iceland was her choice. I had also yearned to see this unique country, perched just below the Arctic Circle, where the sun disappears for long stretches in the winter, but where it never goes away in early summer. Getting there is easy, as Icelandic Air flies from roughly half a dozen airports in the United States directly to the capital city of Reykjavik.
Outside of the capital city one can hike on the glacial moors, where scarcely any trees grow (the island was largely deforested by man centuries ago), see dramatic volcanic mountains, visit incredible waterfalls, and witness the explosive geysers that litter the landscape. Populated by Viking explorers from Norway in the late 800s, Iceland is home to one of the world’s oldest legislative assemblies. In fact, it may be the oldest continually governing democracy on the planet. Like in ancient Athens, for centuries the citizens of Iceland gathered at an open-air assembly to decide on laws, judicial matters, and governing issues. The place where they gathered is called the Althing and you can hike to the area that is on the shore of a massive rift lake, fronted by dramatic cliffs.
One of our favorite parts of Iceland was the hot springs. The most popular hot spring may be a massive outdoor facility called The Blue Lagoon. It is so-called because of the naturally turquoise water owing to the white mud under the water that people daub on their face and skin. It is supposedly good for all skin conditions.
The beauty of Iceland is in the countryside, but Reykjavik, which is home to two-thirds of Iceland’s 350,000 citizens, is a fun town to walk around. The food naturally relies heavily on fish—and the cod, haddock, and salmon are all delicious. But we found the domestic lamb was also particularly good. As we visited in late June, the sunlight never disappeared for the few days we were there. It could be disorienting at times, but we made sure to close our curtains each evening when we went to sleep. On our next visit I want to visit in December, the time of perpetual dark—if nothing else to see the contrast in how people live and interact during this time.