by Bill Vanderford

Imagine a remote island inhabited by 300,000 friendly people who speak an ancient language that few in the world even try to understand. This is truly a land of constant fire and ice, where your house can be destroyed by earthquakes, a massive wind burst can blow you down, the smell of sulfur from the water faucet signals the invisible fire flowing not far below your feet, the northern lights can change the sky into the largest light show in the world and hot springs and glaciers abound throughout the fog-shrouded lava fields. It’s a spooky, barren landscape in which anything might lurk and tales of the “hidden people”, who are said to make their homes in this wilderness, are a huge part of Icelandic lore.

Despite these perceived and real horrors, Icelanders enjoy an unlimited supply of the purest water in the world that flows from every stream, river and waterfall, they have free geothermal heating throughout the country and almost everyone is happy. Therefore, sitting on a crack in the Earth’s crust that pushed through the surface to form an island some 8 million years ago with constantly flowing molten rocks within reach of the surface and glaciers throughout the island has made Iceland a unique and wonderful home to these descendants of war mongering Vikings!

Oddities like believing in elves and trolls, or electing a comedian to be mayor of the capital city, Reykjavik after a financial disaster and being proud of their volcano that managed to break down the European air traffic for a long period makes Icelanders very different. Unlike the rest of the world, who would run when a volcano erupts, the Icelanders look for long sticks to roast hot dogs over the lava flows!

Iceland is not simply a diverse and beautiful place to visit anymore. The cultural life has come alive with festivals celebrating everything imaginable and they boast great native cuisine and a multitude of fantastic local beers. Most of the men and women on this island are tall and very handsome, but the women have Celtic DNA and the men show DNA from the original Nordic tribes of the Vikings who began landing here in the late 9th century.

Because of the nearby Gulf Stream that brings warm waters all the way from Florida, all types of fish and shellfish are plentiful for seafood. Also, in different seasons, thousands of geese, ducks, sea birds and upland game birds like rock ptarmigan make Iceland a bird hunter’s paradise. Nevertheless, one only has to look around anywhere on the island and see thousands of sheep, which are the main food source.

The most fascinating animals I encountered during my visit were the hundreds of beautiful and friendly Icelandic horses. They are a unique breed of rather small, but quite thick, horses that came over with the early settlers from Norway more than 1100 years ago. These gorgeous creatures are the descendants of an ancient breed that is now extinct beyond the shores of Iceland.

It would take several books to describe all that is possible to see and experience in Iceland, so to make a visit to this remote area of the North Atlantic enjoyable, you need local help. I got extremely lucky and found the right people, which made my trip magical! All you have to do is contact Harpa and Stefan of Iceland Outfitters, and they can take care of your every need. Stefan can arrange everything for those who want to partake of the fabulous Atlantic Salmon, Trout or Arctic Char fishing as well as exciting duck, goose or bird hunting. Harpa can arrange interesting tours for the ladies, couples or families, find them the best geothermal spas, direct anyone to the best shopping venues or anything else they might desire in Iceland. Contact her at:

A common misconception about Iceland is that it’s a hard place to reach...not so! Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, is a five-hour direct flight from Boston, Washington, DC and New York on Icelandair. The airline has direct flights from Iceland to seven major airports in North America including Seattle, Orlando, Toronto, Minneapolis and Denver. Flights are normally less expensive than you might imagine, and Icelandair allows passengers to stop in Iceland at no extra cost en route to over 18 cities in Europe and Scandinavia including London, Paris, Madrid, Milan and Copenhagen.

The unique geological beauty of Iceland is akin to looking in a kaleidoscope that changes multiple times with every mile traveled. Icelanders are a friendly and physically beautiful people who all speak English as a second language, include tips in all purchases and offer free Wi-Fi throughout the country. They have the Northern Lights, Icelandic horses, millions of sheep, fantastic seafood and great hunting, fishing and touring. So, if you haven’t added this magnificent place to your “Bucket List”’s high time that you do!

Bill Vanderford has won numerous awards for his writing and photography, and has been inducted into the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame as a Legendary Guide

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For more photos by Mr. Vanderford, please click here - PHOTOS

Article published in February edition of Lakeside.

Best regards, Harpa Hlín