Why Iceland Won 2016: 6 Reasons to Visit Europe’s Far Away Nation

Everywhere you turned this year it seemed like you couldn’t escape someone talking about Iceland. If you’re familiar with the travel industry then this remote island nation was even harder to avoid in conversation. It seemed like everyone and their mom had booked a trip to Iceland and if you’re like me, it left you wondering, “why?’

What’s so great about Iceland that it dominated the travel industry in 2016 and is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down?

Let’s take a look at the facts:

1. Iceland has incredible national pride

You wouldn’t think that the land of fire and ice would necessarily be big on professional soccer but you’d be wrong — at least as of 2016. It’s safe to say that the entire world was left astounded at Iceland’s performance during the 2016 Euro Cup. England’s devastating and unexpected loss to this remote island nation made the perfect underdog story, one fit for the movies. Iceland would eventually lose to France but you’d never know it from watching the hero’s welcome the team received once they returned home. Watch the video and just try not to get goosebumps.

2. There isn’t a safer country in the world

Photo credit: boltron- via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC

Photo credit: boltron

Your mom won’t think twice about wishing you well on your trip to Iceland.  How could she when Iceland’s been voted the safest country in the world six years in a row? The 2016 Global Peace Index (GPI) is determined by considering 23 different factors that assign a country’s peace ranking from 1 to 5 with 1 being the best. Iceland scored a near-perfect 1.192 with Denmark a close second. To put this into perspective the United States ranked #103 on the list this year so put that in your peace pipe and smoke it.

3. There’s no better place to view the Northern Lights

Thanks to Iceland’s northern geography and sparse population, it’s the ideal destination to take in this dramatic and breathtaking natural light show. Everyone should see the Northern Lights at least once in their life and Iceland makes it very easy to do so! Case and point: on Wednesday, September 28th the aurora borealis began doing what it does best when Reykjavik’s city council decided to shut the street lights off in multiple sections of the city for one hour, to give people in and around the capital city a clearer view of the natural wonder in action.

4. Flights to Iceland made cheap and convenient

Photo credit: UweBKK (α 77 on ) via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: UweBKK (α 77 on )

Iceland certainly makes it easy for you to pay it a visit. Whether you’re en route from somewhere else in Europe or visiting from North America, Iceland’s very own WOW Air is making it extremely affordable to add Iceland to your itinerary. Based in Reykjavik, Iceland, WOW Air will begin flying four times a week between Toronto, Canada and Reykjavik, as well as from Montreal to the city for as little as $99 one way. Similar flights will be introduced between cities like London, Paris and Barcelona in the new year.

5. You can drive around the whole country in one day

Iceland’s size makes it perfect for ambitious travellers with limited vacation time. Take on the country’s famous Ring Road and see bubbling geysers, steaming natural hot springs, wild horses, gigantic waterfalls and rugged, rolling hills and mountains. Although it’s possible to drive the entire route in under a day, you’ll definitely want to stagger it out over a week to assure you don’t miss a single thing.

6. You can go to Elf School

Photo credit: Shadowgate via VisualHunt / CC BY

Photo credit: Shadowgate

For Icelanders, elves are more than just the beautiful creatures who help Frodo on his quest to destroy the one ring. The belief in elves or huldufólk (hidden folk in English) is engrained in Iceland’s culture that roads and construction projects are often altered or stopped altogether so as not to disturb these creatures. Many families even have small wooden alfhol (elf houses) in their gardens to keep these creatures feeling welcomed and happy. Want to learn more? Get all your questions answered at the Elf School in Reykjavik where you can learn all about the mystical creatures — including over 10 types of elves, gnomes, trolls and even fairies — from locals who claim to have had personal contact with the hidden folk.