celand’s capital Reykjavik is a modern city by all standards and easy to navigate.

celand’s capital Reykjavik is a modern city by all standards and easy to navigate.

Land of fire and ice

Another world is closer than you think. I do not mean Richard Branson’s flights to space next year; I am referring to Icelandair’s direct flights from Toronto to Reykjavik.

By CAROL PATTERSON

Special to the Advocate



Another world is closer than you think. I do not mean Richard Branson’s flights to space next year; I am referring to Icelandair’s direct flights from Toronto to Reykjavik.

In about five hours, less time than you can drive to Vancouver, you can be exploring the land of fire and ice. British Columbia is nice, but, unlike Iceland, it did not top National Geographic’s Best Destinations list for 2012.

Iceland has earned a reputation as the world’s hottest cool destination, and right now, it is on sale. With the currency devaluation of recent years, Iceland has gone from being Europe’s most expensive country to visit to a relative bargain.

Do not be put off by the Ice in Iceland’s name. Iceland apparently got its name from early explorers who did not want to share the verdant green hillsides with their enemies, so they labelled it icy. Greenland, by contrast, is not green, but icy. Truth in advertising was a problem even then!

Iceland is the smallest economy in the world with its own currency and fluctuating exchange rates. With more Icelanders living abroad than in the country, this is a nation where survival is earned. Early explorers ‘mined’ the beaches for driftwood to build houses and fences; current residents rely on natural resources and tourism to sustain them.

But don’t expect Iceland to be a backwater because life was hard and the main island is 40 km from the Arctic Circle. Warmed by the North Atlantic current, Iceland’s climate is closer to Vancouver’s than Winnipeg’s. As a bonus, Iceland has no mosquitoes.

Icelanders are extremely fashionable, as a stroll through Reykjavik’s bustling downtown will show. People don designer clothing and in combinations you never thought possible. One day, I saw someone who at first glace, appeared to wearing a shower curtain; it looked so good I was tempted to head to Bed and Bath for something similar!

Icelanders lead the way in more than fashion. They are also leaders in adopting sustainable energy methods.

Household trash is converted to methanol to fuel cars. Free plug-ins in downtown Reykjavik (called the smokeless city because there are no smokestacks) provides incentive for people to use electric cars. The volcanic activity under Iceland’s crust provides a steady supply of geothermal energy. As early as 1930, houses were heated with geothermal systems.

You will find it easy to travel around Iceland. Flights from North America arrive at Reykjavik’s international airport, Keflavik, about 45 minutes from the city centre, usually before dawn. Regular bus service whisks you into town, but the first glimpses of Iceland can be startling.

On my inaugural bus transfer, I was dismayed to see large, black lumps of lava littering the landscape and not much else.

Fortunately, that scenery is not typical of Iceland. Upon reaching the outskirts of Reykjavik, you see tidy, neat rows of houses dotting the streets. Icicle lights on the eaves and deck heaters on the patios indicate we Albertans have more in common with Iceland than you might think.

For adventure travellers, limit your time in the capital and explore the countryside. Touring Iceland is like walking through a National Geographic magazine and you will want to maximize your time outdoors.

Numerous tour companies provide adventure and sightseeing trips from Reykjavik, or you can rent a car and head out on your own. The charred remains of a Toyota with a Driver-Beware sign displayed near the airport may scare you, but Albertans can handle Iceland’s narrow roads, wayward sheep, and inclement weather.

For more ideas on places to explore, look for my suggestions on rural Iceland in the next few weeks.

If you decide to go to Iceland:

For flight schedules visit www.icelandair.ca.

For tours around Reykjavik check out Reykjavik Excursions www.re.is

To explore Iceland’s popular northern coast, try Fjallasyn at www.fjallasyn.is

Carol Patterson of Kalahari Management Inc. has been speaking and writing about nature tourism and emerging destinations for two decades. When she isn’t travelling for work, she is travelling for fun. More of Carol’s adventures can be found at www.kalahari-online.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Glen Carritt organized a United We Roll Canada convoy around May 2019 that travelled in 2019. An independent review said he breached council code of conduct rules multiple times. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Former Innisfail town councillor breached code of conduct many times, says review

Consultants say 29 of 36 alleged breaches by Glen Carritt had merit

Members of the Red Deer RCMP downtown patrol monitor for drug activity and property crimes. (Advocate file photo).
Two peace officers are training to join Red Deer’s downtown police patrol unit

This “integrated” unit will be the first in Alberta

Students and staff at Gateway Christian School wore pink Wednesday in support of Pink Shirt Day, a worldwide anti-bullying initiative that was started in 2007. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Public Schools)
Students, central Alberta community celebrate Pink Shirt Day

Mayor of Sylvan Lake Sean McIntyre supports anti-bullying cause

City of Red Deer has nearly doubled its active COVID-19 case count since Feb. 10 and has 75.6 per cent of the Central zone’s active cases. (File photo)
Another new high: Red Deer hits 574 active COVID-19 cases

Province reports 13 new COVID-19 deaths, 430 new cases

A homeless shelter was promised Red Deer to help the city deal with downtown issues. The city and province finally released a signed agreement on what the facility will offer, a year after a $7 million commitment was made for the project by the province. (Advocate file photo).
City and province take next step in bringing a 24/7 shelter to Red Deer

It will include a detox and counselling services

Meteor spotted over Edmonton, Alta., on Feb. 22, 2021 by several, who took to social media to share their surveillance camera captures. (@KixxAxe/Twitter)
VIDEO: Fireball meteor streaks across sky, spotted by early-morning risers in Alberta, B.C.

Videos of the quick streak of light flashing across the sky before 6:30 a.m. MST

Calgary Flames goaltender David Rittich (33) makes a save on Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Jimmy Vesey (26) as Flames' Christopher Tanev (8) and Joakim Nordstrom (20) defend during first-period NHL action in Toronto on Wednesday, February 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘Misunderstood’ Nylander ties game late, scores winner as Leafs beat Flames 2-1 in OT

‘Misunderstood’ Nylander ties game late, scores winner as Leafs beat Flames 2-1 in OT

Team Canada skip Kerri Einarson yells to her sweepers at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary, Alta., Friday, Feb. 19, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Young Quebec team in the hunt to join Einarson, Homan in Hearts’ championship round

Young Quebec team in the hunt to join Einarson, Homan in Hearts’ championship round

A crane is used to lift a vehicle following a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles. Woods suffered leg injuries in the one-car accident and was undergoing surgery, authorities and his manager said. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Golf without Woods? Battered leg brings it closer to reality

Golf without Woods? Battered leg brings it closer to reality

Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien looks towards the ice as his team takes on the Ottawa Senators during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. The Canadiens have fired head coach Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Montreal Canadiens fire head coach Claude Julien, associate coach Kirk Muller

Montreal Canadiens fire head coach Claude Julien, associate coach Kirk Muller

Canada midfielder Sophie Schmidt (13) attempts a shot on goal during the first half of a SheBelieves Cup women's soccer match against Argentina, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Phelan M. Ebenhack
Canadian women exit SheBelieves Cup on losing note, blanked 2-0 by Brazil

Canadian women exit SheBelieves Cup on losing note, blanked 2-0 by Brazil

Supporters pray outside court in Stony Plain, Alta., on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, as a trial date was set for Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church. He is charged with holding Sunday services in violation of Alberta's COVID-19 rules and with breaking conditions of his bail release. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Trial date for jailed Alberta pastor charged with breaking COVID-19 health orders

Trial date for jailed Alberta pastor charged with breaking COVID-19 health orders

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney shakes hands with Jason Nixon, government house leader and environment minister, after Nixon is sworn into office in Edmonton on April 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta eyes recall legislation, focuses on COVID-19 aid in spring sitting

Alberta eyes recall legislation, focuses on COVID-19 aid in spring sitting

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie attends a a news conference in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, February 28, 2019. The CFL faces more challenges in its 2021 return than it did last year when it was forced to cancel its season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
CFL will have to appease more levels of government to get 2021 protocols approved

CFL will have to appease more levels of government to get 2021 protocols approved

Most Read