If someone added up every tourist’s wildest dream and designed a country, the result would be Iceland. Iceland is not only spectacularly beautiful, but it's also incredibly diverse, and nature at its most stunning is easily accessible to visitors. There are few places on the planet where you can walk behind a waterfall, climb onto a glacier, explore a lava cave, marvel at an erupting volcano (or at the blackened hills still steaming months afterward), sail among icebergs on a glacial lake, watch water erupting into the air from a geyser, and scuba-dive along the rift between two continental plates—all in one weekend. Not just that, but visitors can spend their evenings eating at the finest restaurants and partying in some of the world’s trendiest bars. If it’s not summer, you may even be lucky enough to observe some magical northern lights as you wander back to your hotel.
The only thing Icelandic nature does lack is trees. You will not get lost in a forest. (The advice in Iceland if you do manage this unlikely feat: “Stand up!”) It is widely believed that Iceland was once much more forested, but that the first settlers, mostly from Norway, didn’t understand that trees on Iceland would not grow back as quickly as demand required. Later, when building materials were scarce, driftwood coming from places as far away as Russia became extremely valuable, and laws were devised to govern a person’s right to claim driftwood based on where it washed ashore.
Today there are many reforestation efforts in Iceland, particularly in the east, but the landscape as a whole is still very bare. All the better to see those lovely undulating hills, many would argue. One might expect the land to seem barren as a result, but that would be forgetting the endless fields of green, green grass and the multifarious moss. It’s not just your average garden variety of moss—it’s moss in abundance, moss of dozens of species, moss that has grown across lava fields for centuries and centuries, so thick in places that you can’t be sure anymore if there are rocks underneath. It reminds you that the soil here is rich, the earth is warm beneath the snow, and the land itself seems vibrant and alive. The landscape takes on a different character, and it feels liberating to be able to see so far with so few obstructions. If you live in a wooded area, you may even feel a little claustrophobic at first when you return home.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.