This article was originally published on 24/7Mirror
It's safe to say that Iceland is one of the most enchanting countries on the globe. It's famous for the awe-inspiring landscape and natural phenomena, sure, but what about the lesser-known elements of this picture-perfect island? Let's take a look at some of the reasons why Iceland is truly unlike any other place on the planet. Prepare for your jaw to literally drop!
Iceland Wins Gender Equality
A remarkable event in history came about on 24 October 1975. This was the day when a reported 90% of Icelandic women downed tools and demonstrated in a bid to win equal rights to men. Rather than going on with life, as usual, childcare, housework, or going into the office, etc., women nationwide rallied the cry for equality. As a result, banks, schools, shops, and other businesses had to close for the day, and men took the load.
In response, Iceland’s parliament passed a law guaranteeing equal rights for men and women the following year. But, given gender inequality is still alive and kicking, imagine if all women worldwide did this in 2021 and what the outcome might be.
Here’s a totally mesmerizing image of clouds at high altitudes. You only get to see skies like this when temperatures are low enough. Nevertheless, there’s no doubting their mythical, almost hallucinogenic qualities. Formed when water vapors enter the stratosphere when it’s cold, in Iceland, these stunning clouds are called “glitsky,” roughly translated in English as “glitter sky.” However, according to NASA, the downside is that these colorful beauties actually help destroy the ozone layer. But, we'll try not to dwell on that too much!
We can’t help but notice that these breathtaking clouds bear an uncanny resemblance to the tie-dye t-shirts traditionally worn with flares popularized in the 1960s and 70s. In all in, these Icelandic wonders totally rock!
Iceland's Postal Service Goes Above and Beyond
Along with its dramatic landscape, Iceland has a population density of just three people per square kilometer. Maybe that’s why the sender of this letter felt hopeful, confident even, that their message would arrive safely through the letterbox of this Icelandic/Danish family’s horse farm. We like to think that this charmingly, hand-drawn map complete with helpful pointers, helped the local postperson find the location without too much difficulty. The lake was even drawn in blue!
We especially love that the sender has not only drawn a treasure map for the postal worker but that they’ve thanked them in advance with a polite Icelandic “takk fyrir”!
Follow the Multi-Colored Road
Yes, there’s the famous Yellow Brick Road, but, arguably even better, there’s this cool rainbow brick road in the town of Seyðisfjörður in eastern Iceland. It’s a perfect example of Iceland's LGBTQIA friendliness. The country celebrates Pride with pride, with this small town holding its own festival since 2014. In addition, the Icelandic capital Reykjavik goes all out by painting a different street each year in the colors of the rainbow to celebrate Reykjavik Pride.
Lit by sparkly fairy lights hanging across the path, we love that rather than taking people to see the “Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” this rainbow path leads all the way to the church.
For anyone doubting the stories of just how awe-inspiring and breathtaking the Icelandic landscape really is, this photo says it all. It’s a landscape that only dreams are made of. First, the eye is drawn to the turquoise river running through a luminous green landscape that eventually takes you to the majestic Red Hills. Known in Icelandic as the Rauðhólar, the hills are a short drive from Reykjavik and are an astounding 5,200-years-old.
These maroon molten lava ancient hills are photographed here, showing small patches of snow. They have somewhat of a mythical quality to them and are just another reason why Iceland is unlike any other country.
This astonishing volcanic basalt rock formation looks so like an elephant dipping its trunk into the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean; it’s hard to believe it’s not manufactured. Located 7.4 kilometers off the south coast of Iceland, the so-called Elephant Rock is found on the Westman Islands archipelago. It's just one of many amazing rock formations in the area. The rock even looks like it has the wrinkly skin of an elephant!
Iceland is full of wonders, and this rock is believed to have emerged after Mount Eldfell erupted. Tourists can jump on a boat trip across the Atlantic waves and see the Elephant Rock for themselves!
This image is of the sea meeting the black sand beach beside a yellow river running by the side of some luminous green landscape. In short, it's a remarkable sight. The crashing waves of the Atlantic Sea hit the black volcanic shoreline, along which runs a yellow river. The yellow is a rare sight, making the aerial shot more akin to an abstract painting than a real-life landscape. Again, this is yet another example of Iceland’s phenomenal attraction.
We can imagine this astonishing kind of landscape being perfect for a TV or film location. It looks like it’s from another world and not the polluted planet we inhabit today.
Viking Sword Road
When you think of Iceland, aside from its eye-wateringly remarkable landscape, you also have to think of the Vikings. They settled in the country in the 9th century. As a result, many Icelanders today are direct descendants of the sword-carrying Norwegians. This aerial shot of this so-called “Sword Road” demonstrates where nature meets the modern man on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, north of Reykjavik. It’s definitely not the road to nowhere; instead, it leads to many off-the-beaten-track natural sights.
This includes the Gerðuberg Cliffs and Ytri Tunga Beach, home to a beautiful seal colony. All in all, this photo is the perfect nod to Iceland’s fascinating Nordic Viking heritage.
Iceland's Brimming With Rainbows
We already gave you the rainbow brick road, as seen earlier. The previous rainbow path was based in the town of Seyðisfjörður in eastern Iceland. But, if anyone needed it, here's further evidence that this glorious country happily embraces diversity and acceptance and isn’t shy about showing it. We’ve got rainbow steps, a long and winding rainbow road, and rainbow crosswalks. Not only that, but the last shot of the rainbow across this stunning waterfall says it all.
While we don’t think the rainbow came out especially for the annual Pride day, we do think it’s perhaps the natural world’s way of showing us there are all kinds of beauty in diversity, right?
Alerts for Northern Lights
Seeing the Icelandic Northern Lights is on many a bucket list. Aside from what we assume as the usual hotel room amenities, this particular establishment has gone all out. They have even gone as far as to install phones that have a button that guests can press if they want a hotel staff member to wake them up if the Northern Lights are going to be making an appearance. How wonderful!
Here we’re big fans of sleep, but even we wouldn’t mind being woken up in the early hours to see the incredible and vivid Northern Lights. All in all, we think this alert is marvelous!
You Are Here at Your Own Risk
If ever there was a killjoy warning sign, it has to be this one. It literally sucks all the joy out of checking out the Geysir hot spring area in southwestern Iceland. It’s the country’s most-visited geyser area and home to exploding hot geysers, boiling mud pits, and water spouting out of the ground as high as 100 feet in the air! It’s a fantastic and magical sight to behold.
Seriously though, it’s no surprise this sign reminds tourists not to do anything er..dumb. All joking aside, it seems to have worked, with accidents at this Golden Circle attraction going down in recent years.
Iceland Doesn't Tolerate Stupidity
Yeah, we get it; the whole throwing coins into water and fountains are supposed to bring good luck, health and make all our wishes come true. It’s an age-old tradition, isn’t it? But seriously, why would anyone actually want to throw money into hot water springs? Here’s a photo of a great sign, helpfully telling visitors not to throw coins into the natural springs. After all, doing this pollutes and litters the environment.
The beauty here is that the sign suggests a random act of kindness instead - namely, by making someone else’s wish come true by giving your spare change to someone who really needs it.
Painted 3D Pedestrian Crossings To Slow Traffic
Aside from agreeing that this is a super-ingenious idea, we’re also wondering if it had the desired effect or not? Did this 3D-painted pedestrian crossing really slow the town’s traffic down, or did it simply act as a major distraction and cause one too many emergency stops? This optical illusion of floating zebra stripes in the small fishing town of Ísafjörður popped up in 2017 in a bid to slow motorists down.
Pedestrians don't miss out on all the fun either. Walking across the stripes has the effect of making a person feel like they’re literally walking on air. Pretty cool, right?
Snow Shovelling Is a Thing of the Past
We love this Icelandic Winter hack. We know that most Icelandic homes are heated with geothermal water; the same water is also used to heat car parks and sidewalks too to keep them snow-free. Gone are the days where Icelanders had to painstakingly shovel snow to unblock their properties, all without relying on their national grid. Instead, natural resources are used to keep the snow at bay. Imagine if your home country did this!
It’s a great example of how Iceland’s natural hot water isn’t just a tourist attraction. But, it's also used to keep this incredible country energy-efficient and its residents warm and toasty - win-win!
The Arctic Fox, Iceland’s Only Native Land Mammal
Another great reason to visit Iceland and why it’s a country like no other is its only native mammal: the Arctic Fox. We think they have a fairy tale quality about them. Also known as a Snow Fox, Polar Fox, or White Fox, this beautiful creature’s fur changes color to reflect the season. So while you may think these beauties are always white, depending on the time of year, you’ll also see blue, brown, and grey versions.
The Arctic Fox likes to hunt and feast on voles, seals, mice, lemmings, and young birds and survives the harshest of Icelandic winters without the need for hibernation. Impressive, right?
Iceland Features A Female Worker On Road Work Signs
Who needs gender stereotyping when you have Icelanders leading the way in challenging preconceived ideas concerning male-female roles. We love this sign indicating roadworks in Reykjavik, with a woman worker digging the road. It may be a small thing, but it’s a beautiful way for a country to demonstrate that equality actually means something and that perception really does matter. Yes, of course, this could be a guy with a ponytail…
But it’s not. Women dig roads too. This sign is just one small reason why Iceland has closed 89.2% of its gender gap, hitting the top spot for the 12th year running.
What Glacier Rivers Look Like Above Iceland
Is it an abstract painting of a mythical forest? Or is it an image of something underneath a microscope? Nope. It’s actually an aerial example of what an Icelandic glacier river looks like. It’s yet another reason why this country garners such a knockout appeal for visitors. You can only really see these from pretty high above. We love the intricate and patterned appearance of white flames or tree branches - they're quite a sight to behold!
Why not do the 'Snow Panda' challenge and show your friends this image and see who guesses what this actually is? The odds are correct answers will be at the lower end!
Iceland Has a Pledge for Tourists
Clearly, the Icelanders are pretty direct about managing the expectations of tourists unfamiliar with the country’s astonishingly dramatic terrain. Who knows whether all eight of these rules have actually been broken by thoughtless visitors? Or is it simply the case that the Icelandic authorities felt the need to create this sign because they’re anticipating the stupid things people do?
Our personal favorite is rule three for all those Insta fans prepared to die for their cause. We’re also hoping there are some Icelandic port-a-toilets to help with rule seven!
The Old Norse Tradition Where Trees Are Planted on Graves
Further evidence Iceland is home to many enchanting sites, even in the unlikeliest places, is here, at Hólavallagarður Cemetery in Reykjavik. This tree-lined graveyard is fascinating and kind of eerie in equal measure. The cemetery has been around since the 1930s and replaces a Viking burial ground. Everywhere you walk, including underfoot, is steeped in history. The Iceland of today has few trees outside the capital, so Hólavallagarður Cemetery is a beautiful and peaceful place.
Our research tells us you’ll find willow, spruce, poplar, rowan, and birch trees, as well as lichen, moss, and mushrooms in this beautiful natural habitat - often cited as Reykjavik’s “largest and oldest museum.”
Icelanders Have a Great Sense of Humor
Here is a photo that made us crack a smile. Whoever set up this security camera wants the world to know that despite the apparent need for scrutiny, they still have a sense of humor. The sign really does take the sting out of being surveilled, right?! However, since we saw this image, the downside is that we’ve had this famous 'The Police' hit buzzing around our heads all day!
Although it’s fair to say the song and, therefore, the sign also has a bit of a creepy quality to it, given its sinister Big Brother-style undertones. All that aside, it gave us a much-needed laugh!
Iceland's Wholesome Teddy Bear Quest
Cute and cuddly soft toys always bring a warm glow to our hearts. This adorable toy rabbit staring out of this Icelandic window exemplifies how some Icelanders embraced the newly established trend of putting different teddy bears in windows during the Covid lockdowns. While not unique to Iceland, Reykjavik residents did this to make their daily walks with their children more like a fun game of spot the teddy. How cute is that?!
Countries across the globe, including the UK, US, and New Zealand, embraced the trend, and we think that this lovely idea is one lockdown tradition we can certainly continue to bear - pardon the pun!
What a House
Anyone keen to blend in with their natural environment and/or hide from passers-by would be a suitable tenant for this cute Hobbit-style Icelandic house. Covered in turf and moss, this kind of property is actually part of Iceland’s Viking heritage. The turf may act as terrific camouflage, but eye-catching turf houses like this also kept their inhabitants nice and cozy during the harsh winters, right up to the late 1800s.
This is a rare sight in modern-day Iceland. However, we are happy to see that visitors to this remarkable country can still experience and imagine life inside these nature-architecture hybrids.
Man Vs. Snow
We’re hoping that whoever was holed up in this apartment had a well-stocked fridge full of goodies and a drinks cabinet to see them through the dark, snow-filled Icelandic winter days and nights. We’re also wondering if, by any chance, the people responsible for adding the geothermal outdoor heated water pipes, as seen in picture #13, were on a day off when this snowfall landed outside this poor resident’s apartment block?
Still, we think being snowed in like this provides the perfect excuse not to go out or to go to work, right? Imagine sending this image to your suspicious boss!
This Isn't a Greyscale Picture
Here’s a fine example of what the harsh Icelandic climate can look like, even when taken in color! This shot of a black sand beach, coupled with volcanic rock sheltering the cove, gives this particular image a truly monochromatic feel. Add to that the cloudy and flat grey skies and the seas found around Iceland’s rugged coastline, and you have yourselves a pretty bleak and dramatic landscape. As such, you would be forgiven for thinking that this was a greyscale photo!
We think that the Atlantic Ocean and Greenland, and Norwegian seas still present a certain desolate beauty to this cold and wintery Icelandic scene. Who needs the Caribbean when you have this?
You Can Stand on North American and European Tectonic Plates Simultaneously
Each time we think, “surely there can’t be even more amazing things to see and learn about Iceland,” something comes and surprises us! So here, we found out that Iceland really does stand on two tectonic plates: Eurasian and North American. These two tectonic plates are very slowly drifting apart, and visitors can see this from above sea level. Earthquakes happen along cracks or fault lines where these tectonic plates meet.
The best place to see these is actually outdoors at the Þingvellir National Park. However, we still think that this image above shows how Iceland tells tourists the story in a fun way!
Sheep Take Shelter
We love this photo of dozens of poor cold sheep sheltering from the intense Icelandic weather in this tunnel. It must have been a bad storm to drive them to hide in this tunnel until it blows over. We think these sheep must be pretty smart since they know they need to stick to the sides to stay safe, as cars drive through! Maybe there’s a cute warning sign at the tunnel entrance? We certainly hope so!
We’re hoping there are enough tunnels in Iceland to keep all the country’s 800,000 sheep warm. However, we think the country's sheep must be pretty strong to withstand the long Icelandic winters - so hopefully, they'll be okay!
Iceland's Blue Lagoon
This image just has us full of holiday envy. Can you imagine submerging yourself in one of Iceland’s many geothermal hot spring pools, as the cold air makes your skin tingle until you’re right under the water? Lucky Reykjavik residents and visitors have 17 pools to choose from. This image is of Iceland’s most popular pool, the Blue Lagoon, whose waters are a gorgeous 38-39°C (110-102°F), offering the perfect way to relax and unwind.
These mineral and algae-rich waters may be man-made, but it didn’t stop National Geographic from naming this Blue Lagoon as one of the Top 25 Wonders of the World in 2012.
Heart-Shaped Stop Lights
This is so adorable. We just love this heart-shaped traffic light in the town of Akureyri. At first, we thought that maybe it was an Icelandic way of celebrating Valentine’s Day. But no, these heart-warming lights sprang up in the town after the Icelandic financial crash of 2008. The town needed to feel the love and remember to stay positive, so these lights were put in to help, and the #heartsofakureyri was born.
It’s a beautiful way of reminding us of what’s really important. Elsewhere in Akureyri, heart-shaped forget-me-not flowers are used to decorate signs, cars, and windows. It's safe to say a new custom was born!
A Beautiful Snow Storm
Now, this is what you’d call a blanket of snow! This is what Reykjavik looked like after a snowstorm. This image captures the country’s capital under a perfect-looking coating of snow. Do you see that eye-catching Snow Queen-style building in the foreground? This is actually a church and Iceland’s second tallest building after the Smáratorg Office Tower. Hallgrimskirkja Church is 240 feet high and visible from most parts of the capital city.
It’s another example of how even when you take a color shot in Iceland, the majority comes out in black and white, just like the scene we saw in #24.
This Sign Keeps It Real
Not everyone is a fan of wall quotes and sayings, but we’ll make an exception for this one painted on the wall of this Icelandic cafe. Bucking the trend for promoting all things healthy and nutritious, this cafe proudly embraces the philosophy of famous chef, author, and TV star, Anthony Bourdain instead. He certainly lived life to the full and had a natural curiosity for traveling the world, tasting excellent food wherever he happened to pitch up.
We think it leaves cafe visitors in no doubt that not only is life too short to deny yourself tasty treats, but going through these cafe doors, they'll be in for a delight!
Iceland's New Minister Of Health
Compare Óttarr Proppé to your own country’s health minister. This guy is really rocking it in those pink lurex pants. More Iggy Pop than a politician, we’re sure he knows how to party! He’s clearly a versatile kind of guy with what looks like a super-low BMI. Unfortunately, his political life was relatively short-lived, and he left politics in 2017. His actual day job is musician and author - who evidently loves the limelight!
What we’d really like to know, however, is whether he knows his fly is open and does he even care? Any idea what song he’s belting out on stage here?
People Drawn to Lava
Icelanders are hardcore. Not just because some of the winter months only get five hours of daylight a day, but because they think nothing of standing close to volcanic lava! Maybe they’re just warming their hands or making toast? Who knows why anyone thinks that chasing lava like this is a good idea. But it sure looks fun! Here, we’re a bit risk-averse when it comes to molten lava. Does anyone else agree?
We wonder if this image is of Mount Fagradalsfjall, Iceland’s longest volcanic eruption in 50 years. It began in March 2021 and is still going on at the time of writing.
Volcanic Eruptions Are Beautiful to Watch
No list of Icelandic wonders is complete with at least a couple of images of the country’s dramatic volcanos. We’re guessing that this image portrays the six-month-or-so-long volcanic eruption at Mount Fagradalsfjall that we mentioned in picture #32. It’s an awe-inspiring sight that just adds to Iceland’s many natural wonders. These volcano watchers evidently feel no fear as they sit and stare at the molten lava flowing so close by.
Just a 45-minute drive from Reykjavik, this natural, if somewhat scary wonder, was clearly a draw to tourists and residents alike. It was the first eruption in that area for 800 years, which only added to the intrigue.
The Last McDonald's Meal Ever Sold in Iceland
The ubiquitous burger chain is pretty much everywhere, with McDonald's open in around 120 countries around the globe. Not Iceland, however. The fast-food chain was there until 2009 when, as a result of the financial crash in 2008, Mcdonald's closed up their three shops and got out of town. So whoever was responsible for this display has to have a sense of humor; we especially love that the sign encourages visitors to take a selfie next to the last burger!
We especially love that the display case housing the burger and chips is sat on a twee green lace table mat, just like the one granny made you last Christmas.
Icelandic Currency Has Its National Marine Species Printed on Them
While other countries may have heads of state, members of the royal family, or famous countrywomen and men on their coins, Iceland goes all out and does something a little bit different. We love that this country pays tribute to its aquatic heritage. Here, we can see the beautiful imprints of fish and shellfish on its coins. After scratching our heads a little, we think we’ve finally identified them all….
There’s a cod on the 1 Krona coin, four capelins on the 10 Krona, a crab on the 50 Krona coin, and a lumpfish on the 100 Krona coin. Did you guess correctly?
This Creepy Looking Church
OK, so here’s a photo with a creepy horror culty kind of feel to it, with its gunmetal grey sky and paved path bathed in gold light that leads to the church door. It’s the kind of church you’d imagine seeing in the latest scary Netflix movie. To be honest, we don’t really want to stare at this one too long in case it gives us nightmares or our imagination goes into overdrive.
Most of all, though, we’re wondering what’s behind that big bolted white door and what might happen if we open it. Thunder and lightning, perhaps? Does anyone have any ideas?
Oldest Church In Iceland
There's definitely a 'Lord of the Rings' vibe going on here, except this isn’t a photo of the New Zealand location used to film the movie blockbuster series. Instead, you’re looking at another example of an Icelandic turf building. This time it’s a turf church standing alone in the Icelandic wilderness. This 17th century Grafarkirkja Turf Church is the oldest church in Iceland and the only one with a circular turf wall.
Located in northern Iceland, at Gröf in Höfðaströnd, there’s a certain majesty to its location and another fine reason why a road trip to Iceland has to be added to your bucket list
Iceland's Sheep Population Is More Than Double Its Human Population
Yes, it’s absolutely true. There are around 800,000 sheep in this beautiful land and only over 300,000 Icelandic citizens. The most up-to-date figures tell us that about 369,880 people live in Iceland, so that’s roughly 2.16 sheep per person! This image shows us how the sheep are pretty much free to roam around the Icelandic countryside, and in this shot, well, it looks like they virtually own the road, right?
However, when comparing Iceland's sheep-to-human ratio with other countries, it doesn’t seem that much. For example, China has 16,589,819 sheep, and with 1.4 billion citizens, that’s around 8.4 sheep each!
The Rooftop Of An Icelandic Restaurant Being Watered
Staying with the grass roof theme that we saw in pictures #22 and #37, here’s a modern-day take on the turf roofs of old. Here’s someone who takes their job super-seriously. She’s so dedicated to keeping the green alive on top of this downtown Reykjavik restaurant that she’s giving it a good watering. Although to be fair, the edges do look a little sun-scorched. We just hope that the soles on her shoes have good grips!
We don’t want to think about what might happen to this hardworking woman otherwise! Also, what happens when the grass grows tall? Is that what all those sheep are for?!
A Cute House Built Into A Hill
Last but definitely not least is this fabulous-looking corrugated iron-fronted house built into the Icelandic hills. Located just an hour’s drive from Reykjavik. No one really knows who made these caves or how old they are, but here they are in the midst of Iceland’s unspoiled countryside. The good news is that you can actually visit the Laugarvatnshellir Caves and take a tour around them to find out how people once lived.
At least houses like this are a great way to stay warm, and they really don’t need a lot of decorating on the outside, or indeed much window cleaning either!