Why Iceland

Why visit Iceland?

It’s a big world, and your vacation days are limited. Why spend some of them in Iceland? Because it’s pretty close, it’s pretty small, and it’s pretty amazing. (Iceland Tourism People, feel free to steal that as your new slogan.)

It’s pretty close

How close is it? Well, from the east cost of the United States, the flight is shorter than flying to California.  Take a look at the graph below. It shows how many hours it takes to fly from New York to various destinations. (Actually, this is the average of the shortest scheduled flight times in both directions. Without doing that, we are cheating: In the United states, flights from west to east are generally shorter than from east to west, because of the earth’s jetstream.)

air travel time

From New York, flying to Reykjavik is a few minutes longer than flying to Seattle, and a few minutes shorter than flying to San Francisco. And, flying to London or Paris is an extra hour and a half or two hours, respectively. That extra flight time might be a welcome addition on an overnight flight where everyone is sleeping. But it will make a difference if the kids decide they can’t fall asleep on the plane.

It’s pretty small

How small is it? It’s about 310 miles across. It has about the same number of square miles of land as Kentucky. So, if you want to see much of the country in a week, you can. Note, though, that there aren’t any 70 mile per hour highways in Iceland. That 310 miles is going to take you about 8 hours to drive, not 4. (And in much of the winter, it’s not possible to get all the way to the east coast of the country at all.)

If we look at population, the numbers get even smaller. The population of Iceland recently surpassed 330,000. That’s about the size of … no state in the United States. Wyoming, the least populated state, has 584,000 people.

And those 330,000 people primarily live on the West side of the country, in and around Reykjavik:

iceland bubble population

© Mapbox © OpenStreetMap

Each white “bubble” represents a town with a population of 1,000 people or more. The bigger the circle, the bigger the population. Reykjavik is the big bubble, with a population of about 114,000 people. That’s over a third of the total for the whole country.

It’s pretty amazing

You can dogsled over a glacier any time of year.

You can go inside of a volcano.

You can snorkel between two continents.

You can see things you really can’t see anywhere else in the world:


Jokulsarlon” by Moyan Brenn is licensed under CC BY 2.0


Seljalandsfoss” by Jason Paris is licensed under CC BY 2.0

You can explore a modern European capital, which is small enough to navigate without much trouble, but big enough to make you feel like you’re in a major European city.

Reykavik Harpa concert hall (Iceland)” by David Phan is licensed under CC BY 2.0



Reykavik” by Philippa is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I should note that I’m not recommending you do all of the tours listed above. That would be great, but it would also be pricey …

What did we miss?

Why visit Iceland? was last modified: December 26th, 2015 by Eric