Travel

Wonderland in Iceland: Addictive, majestic beauty

Iceland's stunning views will keep you coming back for more

Iceland is a miracle of nature.

What you travel for hours to see in other scenic destinations such as Switzerland or Norway, you get to see as soon as you leave Iceland's Keflavik airport.

The second-largest island in Europe, Iceland has a population of only 333,000, of which two-thirds live in capital Reykjavik and its surrounding area.

Iceland's official language is Icelandic, but English is fluently spoken and understood.

Located at the tip of the Arctic Circle, Iceland is home to Europe's largest glacier, Vatnajokull. Glaciers cover approximately 11 per cent of Iceland.

It can get really cold sometimes, but the temperature in summer, with its almost 24 hours of daylight, hovers around 12 to 14 deg C.

After having been there, Iceland is hard to forget. Its landscapes are shaped by the forces of nature, and you will feel like you are on another planet altogether.

BLUE LAGOONS

It has spectacular nature parks, black sand beaches juxtaposed against celestial icebergs, moss-grown lava fields, cerulean blue lagoons snd the multitudes of hot springs. Iceland's nature remains hugely unspoiled as the island is scarcely populated.

There are many things to do too. You can ride a snowmobile through the mountains or make a descent into the more than 500 known lava caves. Some of the hot springs are located within these caves.

In contrast, you can explore the bright blue ice caves, which will leave you in awe.

If you prefer to be in water, you can dive or snorkel in the crystal-clear water between two tectonic plates - Iceland lies on the divergent boundary of the Eurasian plate and the North American plate.

For those with an interest in wildlife, Iceland presents them up close and at their most majestic.

Besides whales, seals and puffins, many visitors also fall in love with the Icelandic horses. They stole my heart with their fashionable hair-do, thick coats and friendly nature. You can ride them through the mountains, meadows and charming countryside.

With the multitude of amazing scenery, choosing must-sees proves almost impossible.

One highlight is Jokulsarlon, an area in the south. Here, visitors will see huge chunks of icebergs that were washed up on the black sand beaches when they leave the lagoon for the ocean.

The unique beauty of the place is that it is constantly changing. On any given day, you will see the icebergs in different forms and shapes.

Another iconic sight is Kirkjufell. Its distinctive peak, pyramid-shaped silhouette and stunning waterfalls by its side make it the most photographed mountain in Iceland. It provides for a fantastic image any time of the day, on any day of the year.

One of Iceland's biggest draw is the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis.

It is the island's privilege to have the chance to see the Northern Lights for about eight months from late August to end April.

Chasing the Northern Lights is an experience in itself. Due to the vast and rugged terrains of Iceland, it is best to go with an experienced guide to ensure your best chance of seeing this mind-boggling phenomenon.

As with all my trips around Iceland, I went with Arctic Shots, whose two guides are award-winning photographers.

These locals, who have been hunting the Northern Lights for years, can help you find the best spots for potential viewing.

I still remember that first tour I took with them - seeing the Northern Lights light up the whole sky that night was a sight to behold. It was a truly phenomenal experience.

Witnessing the miracle of nature at its most stunning costs you nothing, as they say - the best things in life are indeed free.

Simply put, Iceland, a land of unpronounceable names and superlative scenery, will leave visitors craving for more.

The addiction will keep you coming back. Iceland changed me and now I am addicted.

tnp@sph.com.sg

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