There are places in the world whose natural magnificence remains stubbornly beyond the descriptive capabilities of language as we know it. Iceland is one such place. An alien land of cooling lava, retreating glaciers, shifting tectonic plates and mythological elves, there are things here that can be experienced nowhere else on Earth; things for which a picture and a few paragraphs might as well be a dot or two on A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. That’s bad news for homebodies, affirmation for French Art-History majors, and an open invitation for adventure travelers everywhere, who have been making the trek northward in ever-increasing droves over the past quarter-century. What do they know that you don’t? Well, if lava tubes, ice caves, multi-colored mountains and surreal cliffside back-country ski slopes sound like your idea of a good time, prepare to whet your appetite for adventure on one of the most exciting outdoor destinations the trusty Northern Hemisphere has to offer.
Let’s start big - as in “almost 11,500 km2 of glacial coverage” big. As you may have deduced from its name, Iceland has no shortage of, well, ice, giving rise to tons of cool adventure opportunities like climbing crevasses along the largest icecap in Europe and trekking to the base of a massive ”falling glacier”. Its maximum elevation is nothing to scoff at (a respectable 2,110 m set by Hvannadalshnúkur), and there are towering peaks aplenty from the popular ski slopes of Mt. Hlíðarfjall to the beautiful eastern massifs of Borgarfjördur Eystri. Come to think of it, just about all of Iceland’s landscapes possess the uncanny ability to dwarf a spectator’s sense of personal significance. If you want to experience this firsthand, just perch yourself atop the Hornbjarg cliffs in the Westfjords and take a good long look around. We’ve been told there’s no better cure for the occasional bout of egotism.
Spatial grandeur, however, is not the only thing that accounts for this country’s adventurous appeal. There are activities here, like scuba diving the ultra-clear waters of a continental rift or descending into the voluminous cavity of an empty magma chamber, that simply cannot be experienced outside of Iceland. They don’t exist anywhere else. And where you find more traditional adventures, things like white water rafting, volcano hiking, or even rock climbing, they are accompanied by a kind of wild and beautiful scenery unique to this part of the world. Just ask anyone who’s done them if Fjaðrárgljúfur is just another canyon, or Laugavegur is just another 4-day trek. So what do you say? Has your curiosity been sufficiently piqued? Then pack up the hiking bag, don your toastiest socks and start making moves to the most sparsely populated country in Europe. With all that wide open space, we’re pretty sure you’ll find plenty of adventure to go around.