Iceland: The Land of Giants

Mountain waterfall Photo credit: Douglas Landsborough

By Doug Landsborough

Editor Jennifer J. Lacelle

Date March 15, 2021

When Norse explorers first landed on the shores of Iceland, they believed that the island was home to mythical giants. From the soaring mountains to glaciers that can span the horizon, Iceland is nothing short of awe-inspiring. On this island nation, natural beauty is combined with a culture that values time spent with loved ones and appreciating everything life has to offer.

No matter what you are into, Iceland likely has an experience for you. If you are an adrenaline seeker or are seeking a relaxing, rejuvenating getaway, Iceland is a hidden gem of a destination that is only now starting to get the attention that it deserves.

The People of Iceland

As an island nation, Iceland has historically been focused on both their independence as a country and their togetherness as a people. This has led to a culture that values one another, one where your friends, family and neighbours are appreciated and can be relied upon. In this regard, equality is a fundamental aspect of Icelandic society; the country is seen as a forerunner for both LGBT and women’s equality and is consistently ranked as one of the best countries to live in for women.

Beyond that, the people of Iceland are very welcoming to tourists. Anyone travelling to the country often find smiles from strangers and a willingness to help out. Though the Icelandic language still exists, everyone in Iceland speaks English fluently.

What might take some visitors by surprise is how laid-back Icelandic towns are after working hours. Icelanders are incredibly hard-working people, as they have had to be to survive the harsh winters and the nature of being an island with limited natural resources, but this mindset leads to after-work hours being laid back, spent with family, enjoying what life has to offer.

Don’t let that discourage anyone looking for an active nightlife, though! Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland, is a popular destination for backpackers and boasts an incredible nightlife.

The Landscape of Iceland

For anyone who visits Iceland, it will take no time at all to realize why Vikings believed giants lived on the island. Glaciers, mountains, rivers, waterfalls, lava fields and volcanoes all make up the diverse landscape of Iceland.

If you decide to rent a car and drive around the Ring Road that is just over 1,300 kilometres long, you can see volcanic rocks, ancient ice fields, icebergs floating in crystal-clear water and awe-inspiring mountain peaks... all in just a few hours of driving. The various landscapes of Iceland are something from a fantasy novel.

Here are just a few things to keep in mind when traveling around Iceland:

  • Iceland exists on two continents, and you can scuba dive between North America and Europe. The Silfra Fissure is a beautiful, crystal-clear space that exists between two tectonic plates and swimming there is a must.


  • There are upwards of 10,000 waterfalls in Iceland. With massive glaciers in the center of the island receding over the centuries, combined with rain and snow, an incredible amount of water pours over the beautiful landscape of the country, making its way towards the ocean. Travellers should be sure to check out many of these stunning waterfalls, like Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss, two waterfalls on the South Coast of Iceland that both tower 60 metres in height.


  • Volcanoes have helped form the island and are still there to this day. While you will need to rent a Jeep and trek to the centre of the island if you want to see the awe-inspiring lava fields, the impact of the volcanic nature of the island is everywhere. Black sand beaches and lichen-covered fields of volcanic rock look like something from outer space, while hot springs and sulfur pits are incredible natural phenomena that can’t be missed. Take advantage of the natural heat made in the Blue Lagoon to treat yourself to mineral-filled hot springs that are as rejuvenating as they are good for your skin.


  • Because of the waterfalls and geothermal nature of the island, about 85% of Iceland’s energy use comes from renewable sources, with oil being imported almost exclusively for vehicles and fishing fleets.
Behind Seljalandsfoss Photo credit: Douglas Landsborough

There are few guarantees in life, but you can be assured that a visit to anywhere in Iceland outside of its capital will treat you to breathtaking views and scenery that will stay with you for a lifetime.

The Seasons of Iceland

Being so far north, Iceland has very unique seasons that you should keep in mind when planning any type of travel.

Spring in Iceland is a great time for anyone looking for adventure and runs from March to June. The snow of winter has melted and plants are beginning to bud again. Accommodations during spring are typically cheaper than during peak times like the summer, but experiences like hiking and whale watching are available with the thaw.

Summer spans June to September and is the peak travelling season in Iceland. For those used to a warmer climate, it’s important to note that temperatures in the summer usually range from 5C (40F) to 15C (58F). Everything is open during the summer, including the sun; a phenomena known as the Midnight Sun occurs during this season, meaning that some days during the summer experience 24 hours of sunlight.

Fall runs from September to December brings more rain, snow and unpredictability. While experiencing like dog sledding are available, many other cultural events start up again after tourist season.

Winter comes in full force in Iceland between December and March. Snow and frigid temperatures can show up suddenly and close off entire roads or sections of major routes like the Ring Road. That being said, those who love the idea of the Northern Lights and incredible sights like ice caves are in for a treat during Icelandic winters, even if the sun is only around for five hours some days.


A midnight beer with the midnight sun. Photo credit: Douglas Landsborough

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