Iceland

Even after seeing most European countries, Iceland remains my favorite destination on the old continent. The island-nation is the most exotic spot in Europe: don't think sunny beaches and bikini-clad girls, but stunning scenery and natural wonders everywhere you look.

There's so much cool stuff in Iceland that it's hard to do it justice in a couple of words: volcanoes and volcanic landscapes, spectacular waterfalls and lakes, geysers (the word itself comes from Iceland's Geysir town), black sand beaches, glaciers, geothermal baths, steam vents, fjords - Iceland has it all.

Renting a car is a must to enjoy everything the country has to offer (we used Atak). Start in the capital of Reykjavik and drive along Route 1 which circles the entire island (1,339 km).

Admire natural wonders and stop in scenic little towns along the way to relax and enjoy the excellent cuisine: meringue cakes are delicious, and lamb and fish are excellent (more adventurous types might also try the challenging Hakarl). The locally-produced licorice chocolate was delicious as well.

Don't believe the cliches: the climate is not bad, with an average of 10-14 C degrees in Reykjavik during Summer (when you'll enjoy the midnight sun - daylight all day long and almost no darkness at night). Traffic is almost nonexistent around the country, as the entire population is only 320,000, with roughly two-thirds located in the greater Reykjavik area.

Drive around the Western Fjords, don't miss Akureyri - the country's second largest city and the spectacular Myvatn volcanic area in the north, and take a glacier tour on Vatnajokull - Europe's largest icecap (also check out the Jokulsarlon Iceberg Lagoon). Getting attacked by aggressive arctic tern birds on a deserted beach was slightly surreal.

Many other attractions await closer to Reykjavik: the spectacular Thingvellir park, historically significant site of the world's oldest Parliament, established in 930 (in the park you can also check out continental drift in action, and take a walk along the rift between the North American and European Plates); the impressive Gulfoss waterfall, the Kerid volcano crater and the small town of Geysir with its, you guessed, geysers are also close by.

Reykjavik is a nice and relaxing capital city. Don't miss Laugavegur, the main shopping street, or the gleaming Sun Voyager sculpture. Go to a choir concert at the Hallgrimskirkja church (Iceland is full of sci-fi looking churches) and discover the country's history at the Settlement Exhibition.

Finally, a visit to the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is almost mandatory - you'll be hard-pressed to find a better way to relax in Europe.

Additional info:
- country entry on Wikipedia
- country profile on Wikivoyage

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Iceland

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