Searching for a wildlife-filled spring getaway? Whether you want to admire exotic orchids, listen out for birdsong or spot a blue whale in the wild, Europe has something to offer. James Lowen, author of 52 European Wildlife Weekends, discusses the highlights.Read more...
Iceland - The author’s take
Overwhelming beauty can be found in every Icelandic landscape © Andrew Mayovskyy, Shutterstock
After so many years of continuous travel to Iceland, I am still amazed by this marvellous country – its incredibly raw nature, its mysterious ancient culture and the overwhelming beauty in every landscape.
This is a land where horses grow long hair on their backs and where the liquorice aisle is the longest one in the shops.
Travelling to Iceland is much less about sightseeing than it is feeling things you’ve never felt before – what it’s like to be the only person on earth or the startling emotion of being outnumbered by a million puffins. Iceland’s gargantuan nature stirs the soul or it can shake you in your boots. That plume of mist on the horizon could be steam from a hot spring, the salty breath of a spouting whale, the early wisps of a week-long fog, or the conquering cloud of a massive volcano.
Today, literally millions of tourists are coming to Iceland each year, eager to experience that same strange sense of wonder. They come for the rumbling waterfalls, to soak in heavenly hot springs and to witness the last great glaciers of Europe. They discover the strange shapes of the bright-green mountains, the colours of the daunting sky and the shimmering fjords, and the joy of sunbeams after a hard-hitting rain. This is a land where horses grow long hair on their backs and where the liquorice aisle is the longest one in the shops. It is a place where everyone calls each other by their first name, where all the churches have tiny gold stars painted on their ceilings, and where postal addresses haven’t changed in 1,000 years. What’s not to love?
The need to protect nature from the onslaught of nature lovers has never been greater. The numbers of visitors who now come to Iceland is truly unprecedented. Most come with righteous intentions and tread lightly, but the poor choices of a few can have long-lasting effects. As a unique destination in our world, Iceland deserves the upmost respect, both culturally and environmentally.
I hope that you enjoy Iceland as much as I do – may yours be a wonderful trip and may the sun and northern lights shine brightly for you.
Before I fell in love with Iceland, I fell in love with a map of Iceland. I remember staring at Iceland’s crazy coastline and trying to read all those impossible place names. I made my first trip right out of college – the fog never lifted once and yet I thought it the greatest country on earth. I went back six months later just to see the snow and have kept going back at least once a year ever since.
Every fjord and mountain holds a world full of secrets.
And yet, no matter how many times I visit Iceland, it always feels new and different. Though I have been travelling to Iceland for two decades now, this rare island country in the far north Atlantic continues to surprise me with its shifting landscapes and dynamic culture.
Researching and writing for Bradt has enabled me to delve more deeply into the country, its culture and history. Over time I learned that Iceland is a huge place, much larger than I could ever have imagined or experienced in a single trip. Every fjord and mountain holds a world full of secrets and these are the stories I set out to share. Surely, the most challenging aspect of writing Bradt's Iceland is rediscovering over and over again that no place in Iceland is too small and that, like the weather, the country will always be changing.
Erupting volcanoes, economic ups and downs, tidal waves of tourists, and a growing global interest in Iceland have all brought interesting developments, even if they are mere hiccups in the thousand-year-old melodrama of Icelandic history. This newest edition of my book is the culmination of ten years of collaborative research, comprising the updates of so many key friends and contributors in Iceland and my own recent journeys, when, once again, I fell in love with the country.