From time to time, a particular destination rises above the rest to become a hotspot for travelers around the globe. In recent years, Iceland has captured that coveted position. And for good reason. Here’s why this small-but-mighty Nordic island nation is a must-see destination for travel advisors to book for their clients now and into 2023.
1. The natural wonders are spectacular – and they’re everywhere.
This visually stunning Land of Fire and Ice was formed by glaciers and volcanos over millions of years. Visitors can see and explore vast areas of untouched wilderness, including massive glaciers and wandering icebergs, steaming geysers, active volcanoes, fiery lava fields, sculpted mountains, healing hot springs, black sand beaches, and dramatic waterfalls. Some areas are accessible only by boat while others can be hiked. Intriguing animals also inspire and delight visitors, from the quirky orange-beaked puffins to the most majestic whales.
Suanne Adair, ECCS, LCS, DS, PRTE, owner of Adair to Travel, LLC, described one of her peak, other-worldly experiences when visiting Iceland: “I was exiting an ice cave on top of a glacier, and thinking I was on the moon -- the wind was blowing and the sky was grey, and it was marvelous to see, but you would have had to have been there to appreciate it! It was in January, which goes to show that you can go to Iceland even when it is freezing!”
2. It’s one of the best places in the world to see the magical Northern Lights.
Who isn’t captivated by the idea of seeing Mother Nature’s light show of the aurora borealis? Adair remembered: “I’ll never forget the first night I was there [in Iceland] and was awakened at 2 a.m. by people in the street exclaiming loudly about something … I opened my room curtains, and the Northern Lights were dancing right outside my window! I quickly put on my clothes and ran outside to enjoy them with the rest of the guests!”
Jean Paugh CTC, ECC, CSS, travel specialist and president of All About You Travel Unlimited, also appreciates the appeal of Iceland’s famous natural attractions: “The most popular winter activities are those searching for the Northern Lights (October to March) and the ice caves. Some of the best ice caves are in the Southeastern area. And the Northern Lights you can see from most regions -- just get out of the city and take in the dancing sky!”
3. Iceland’s geothermal hot springs heal and rejuvenate.
Soaking in the healing, geothermal hot springs while gazing at the captivating beauty of the landscape is a regular ritual for Icelanders – and it’s one that they’re happy to share with visitors. The famous Blue Lagoon maintains a temperature of 98-102 degrees year-round and offers spectacular views of snow-covered lava rocks in every direction. No wonder this is one of the most popular spots for soaking. It also happens to be located close by the main Keflavik International Airport. Just remember that there are other mineral-rich, healing waters all around the island.
4. It’s small but impressively diverse.
“Iceland is a bucket-list destination for many travelers because of its uniqueness and diversity of climate, culture, and geography. There's no other place quite like it in the U.S. or Europe, and travelers are intrigued by the combination of glaciers, volcanoes, lava fields, geysers, hot springs, and the cosmopolitan city of Reykjavik in one destination,” said Roberta deGrandis, CIS, MCC, CTA, and owner of Let's Go Travel, LLC.
Another take on the diversification of Iceland has to do with the types of people who visit. Paugh explained: “It’s a destination I can send any client to, open to all ages, from adventure to pampering. There’s something for everyone. For my adventurous clients, I can send them off with GPS coordinates and a car, and they are on their way. If they want to go hiking, there are lots of ice fields, glaciers, and waterfalls to hike to, or possibly a volcano. Or you can take a snowmobile tour out to the glaciers. A lot of the ice fields and glaciers are an easy day trip from Reykjavik. The geothermal waters are healing to both mind and body. Many of these offer spa services to go with your time spent at their location. You will find most of these in the North and West areas of Iceland. And you definitely want to take in some wildlife and go in search of the puffins and whale watching.”
Iceland is also known for its social diversity, particularly in being a frontrunner for gender equality, something that is especially important to many travelers during these politically charged times that we live in.
5. Reykjavik doesn’t disappoint.
Amidst all of the wilderness adventures of Iceland sits the cool, colorful, and cutting-edge cosmopolitan city of Reykjavik. Among its attractions are art galleries, museums, all types of dining (including fresh Nordic cuisine), a lively nightlife, concerts, sightseeing, shopping, and even more parks and soaking pools. Perhaps best of all, it is easy to navigate as a walkable city.
6. This island nation is a safe haven in a challenging world.
Iceland was named the most peaceful country in the world by The Global Peace Safety Index, and it has held that position since 2008. The study tracks factors like crime rate, political conflict, levels of militarization, natural disasters, and health risks. The people are also friendly and welcoming with open arms to visitors.
7. Iceland is easy to get to, only five hours direct from New York airports.
Once you set foot in Iceland, it feels like you’ve traveled to a place far and away. But it’s a surprisingly short journey for Americans and Europeans. In fact, direct flights from New York airports only take about five hours. And the time difference is just four hours from Eastern Standard Time.
Seeing Iceland by sea and by land
One more tip about booking Iceland, courtesy of Adair: “I send clients to Reykjavik and then have them go ‘out and back’ to explore each area. That is the way I explored it for nine days. However, in July [exactly at the time that this article is being published], I’m escorting a group that will be doing a circumnavigation of Iceland for 10 days, so that would be another way to explore it easily without spending time on a tour bus each day.”
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