IN FOCUS | EUROPE
From geothermal hot springs to
puffin-watching tours, Iceland is filled
with impressive natural wonders
BY TERRA JUDGE
THE FIRST THING ONE NOTICES when exiting Keflavik
International Airport just outside Reykjavik, Iceland,
is just how truly Icelandic everything appears. It is easy
to believe the rumors that J.R.R. Tolkien was inspired
by Iceland for his setting of “The Hobbit” — craggy
rocks poke out of neon-green moss, barely undulating fields extend in every direction and the expanse of
the sky rivals that of Montana. And, of course, there is
the sea — the backbone of Iceland’s industry, culture,
cuisine and tourism.
After the explosion of the Eyjafjallajokull Volcano
in 2010 and its resulting disruption of flights across
Europe, eyes turned to Iceland and people began to
notice its impressive natural wonders. Presently, no
sign remains of the ash, and enjoying Iceland’s nature
is as easy as ever.
In a country of approximately 300,000 people, about
60 percent live in Reykjavik, yet it still feels quaint and
uncrowded, reinforcing the feeling that the country has
changed little since the Vikings dominated its seas.
To experience the seas, send clients on a whale- or
puffin-watching trip with Elding Tours. Expert guides
instruct passengers on the abundant wildlife and are
able to answer almost any question about Icelandic
culture. Roundtrip hotel transportation is available,
and the boats provide binoculars as well as raincoats.
The Blue Lagoon features geothermal hot springs and spa treatments.
The Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Natura offers
rooms themed around Icelandic elements, from
water to volcanoes. The hotel recently underwent a
renovation and now offers a lovely spa with a heated
swimming pool and a Jacuzzi.
Poet-themed rooms are also available at the hotel,
which makes sense given the Icelandic people’s devotion to the written word and their own cultural history. The modern-day Icelandic language has changed
so little over the centuries that today’s Icelanders can
read ancient Viking texts, and they do so with gusto.
About a half-hour from Reykjavik is a steaming,
bright-blue oasis set in fields of black volcanic rocks:
Visitors should opt for a package includ-
ing transportation from Reykjavik hotels
via Flybus (an operation of Reykjavik
Excursions), a robe rental, slippers, a bright blue signa-
ture cocktail and volcanic mud masks.
To read about two great
cities in Switzerland,
visit Travel Age West.
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