Iceland: So Cool It's Hot

The worldwide economic crisis hit Iceland particularly hard in 2008, with the national unit of currency, the krona, taking a major beating. However, the island nation's recent economic woes put this normally pricey destination on the hot-travel-deals radar.

Now is a great time to take advantage of better currency exchange rates with a trip to the land of fire and ice.

Iceland Fast Facts

  • Population: 300,000, over half settled in the capital city of Reykjavik.
  • Geography: Iceland is roughly the size of Ohio.
  • Currency: The krona (plural: kronur).
  • Language: Icelandic (formerly Old Norse) remains essentially unchanged from its Viking ancestry during their settlement here in the ninth century; most citizens also speak English.
  • Geology: Glaciers cover over 10% of the country, and its over two dozen active volcanoes keep things interesting, earning Iceland the nickname "The land of fire and ice."
  • Health: Icelanders are among the healthiest people on earth, with one of longest life expectancies worldwide.
  • Flora and Fauna: The arctic fox is Iceland's only native mammal; its hallmark birch trees are also native to the island; other wild inhabitants and plants were imported from the European mainland. (Travelers will likely appreciate Iceland's lack of mosquitoes).

Blue Lagoon Spa

Iceland's active volcanoes, mountains, geysers and alpine lakes make it an ideal and thrilling destination for outdoorsy travelers. Visitors familiar with the geologic wonders of Yellowstone National Park will be in hot-water heaven here: there are four national parks and other protected areas where massive glaciers meet volatile hot springs with spectacular results. Guided Jeep tours are a popular, safe way to get an up-close and personal look at the massive glaciers, and whale watching along the coastline is another must-do while visiting.

Travelers of all types will also savor a visit to one of Iceland's many outdoor hot springs and pools, popular gathering places year-round. A stop at the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is a must for many visitors.

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