Elves are thought to make their home in Iceland’s wilderness. Stories are common in Iceland about the "hidden folk" – or "Huldufolk," – that make their home in uninhabited regions of the country. A 2007 survey conducted by the University of Iceland found that 62 percent of survey participants believed in the possibility that elves do exist. So many road construction projects have faced delays due to interference by elf advocates that an official statement has been issued to respond to such concerns. It declares that construction is postponed in order to give elves living in the location time to relocate.
Okay, I admit it… Iceland was not on my list of top ten places to visit. As a traveler in my “seasoned” years, I wondered if Iceland was an appropriate destination for someone my age and not exactly the most adventurous or outdoorsy person around. But, I decided to give Iceland a chance, and I’m tremendously glad I did. Turns out, Iceland is one of the most spectacular places I have ever visited and a great destination for seniors.
There’s so much to love about Iceland it is hard to know where to begin. It is home to many amazing natural wonders all within relatively short distances of each other. If you are a physically active person, there are walking, hiking, and biking paths to enjoy all around the island. You can traverse a glacier, explore ice caves, ride Icelandic horses, and be as adventurous as you desire. If you are physically limited, you can still experience the magic of Iceland. In fact, many of the island’s most spectacular sights can be enjoyed from the seat of a car or bus or within a short walk from visitor parking areas.
Unusual food that’s delicious and healthy. Most Iceland menus include plenty of fresh caught fish and other natural ingredients. Beef and dairy products come from grass-fed cows. Sheep feed on wild berries and moss, which makes lamb dishes especially tasty. Fresh vegetables are grown locally in organic greenhouses. A huge variety of cheeses are produced in Iceland – including Skyr, a yogurt-like cheese that Icelanders have made for centuries. Puffin is considered a real delicacy in Iceland, but some people find it difficult to even imagine eating such a cute little seabird.
Surprisingly comfortable temperatures. Even though Iceland sits just below the Arctic Circle, the climate is much milder than you might expect… especially in winter. The Icelandic winter sees temperatures close to those found in New York or Amsterdam. In fact, temperatures do not vary dramatically between seasons in Iceland. Icelandic weather can be quite unpredictable though, and the weather can change very quickly.
Lots of time to spend outdoors. For about three months each year, the sun sets for only a short time in Iceland and the sky remains bright for the majority of the day and night. It is possible to enjoy outdoor activities, visit attractions, take a drive, or enjoy scenery almost around the clock. Thankfully, most hotels have room darkening window shades to make sleeping a little easier.
* Just one "seasoned" (older) traveler's observations. Not to be considered a review or endorsement by Seasoned Times.
Natural hot water springs with therapeutic benefits. Iceland features many geothermal hot springs rich in minerals. For centuries, people have flocked to geothermal hot springs for the reported health benefits and muscle-relaxing properties of their healing waters. Most people enjoy relaxing in a natural hot spring, and some find it can help reduce pain, decrease stress, promote sleep, boost blood circulation, and relieve certain skin conditions. Always check with your doctor to be sure it is safe for you to spend time in a hot spring.
The natives are friendly. A 2013 report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) determined that Iceland has the friendliest and most welcoming people in the world when it comes to dealing with tourists. Most speak English very well, many without much of an accent. Icelanders are proud of their country. They are dedicated to preserving the island's natural beauty and resources, and most enjoy sharing their home with visitors.
The best place on earth to see the Northern Lights. Spectators fortunate enough to view the aurora borealis, or northern lights, while in Iceland witness a phenomenon like no other as luminous swirls of color play against the dark sky. It can be difficult to predict when or where in Iceland offers the greatest chance to see the Northern Lights. A few things have to align just right. There must be activity on the sun causing solar winds that affect Earth’s magnetic field, the sky has to be clear, and you need to be in the right place at the right time to view the magic. If you are hoping to see the Northern Lights while in Iceland, the best spots for catching the show are usually rural locations in dark areas.
A global leader in harnessing renewable energy. In Iceland, the majority of the country’s energy is produced by geothermal and hydro power. Clean, renewable energy resources are used for heating, generating electricity, and supporting health and well-being. In addition, the country has an almost limitless and inexpensive supply of natural hot water.
Even if you spend just a few days in Iceland, you can have a surprisingly full, enjoyable vacation and collect memories you will cherish. You can watch steam rising from the earth and geysers shooting water high into the air. You can visit volcanoes, black lava beaches, waterfalls with rainbows, and hot springs, as well as discover unique landscapes that look like they belong on another planet.