A Few Reasons Why Everyone is Obsessed With Iceland

By next year, it is estimated that more Americans will choose to vacation in Iceland than the total population of Iceland. That’s a lot of people and Americans aren’t the only ones making the trek to this small island in the North Atlantic. People from around the world are fascinated by this other-worldly destination, partly fueled by curiosity and partly motivated by those spectacular images we all have seen on the Interwebs. But what is it exactly about Iceland that seems to have captured our collective imaginations? As one who has most definitely been bitten by the Iceland bug, I thought I’d share a few reasons why I keep going back to visit this beautiful country, reasons that I believe also fuel the global tourism demand for anything and everything Icelandic and why we’re all obsessed with Iceland.

Keflavik International Airport Rekjavik Iceland


Long gone are the days of Iceland being a remote rock in the ocean. Today more and more airlines are offering flights to Iceland thanks to the incredible demand, which was originally fueled by how easy it is to reach. If you live anywhere on the East Coast of the United States, Iceland is a short and easy hop. From DC, it’s around five-hours and from Boston it’s an even shorter trip. It takes me less time to fly to Keflavik airport than LAX and the results are infinitely more interesting. Naturally, Iceland is also easily reached from Europe, especially the UK which has also been increasing flight frequency to and from the island just to keep up with demand. From a price point of view, new airlines have popped up making this short flight also an inexpensive one. I had the opportunity to fly WOW Airlines a few months ago, a budget airline that has famously advertised its $99 each way fares. Based in Iceland, it has largely achieved its goal of bringing inexpensive travel to Iceland to the masses. My own flight experience was great. Sure, there were add-ons but even with those, the overall cost of the trip was unbeatable. Add to that a comfortable, and short, flight and I couldn’t have been more pleased. Yes, there’s no doubt in my mind that one of the key reasons why Iceland is “blowing up” from a tourism point of view is due to how easy it is to reach and now, how inexpensive it is to visit.


Easy to navigate

Once you reach Iceland, it’s also a very manageable place to navigate as a tourist. Many first time visitors decide to stay in the capital city of Reykjavik and hop on a few day trips as time allows. That’s how I spent my first trip there and while good, there’s nothing like renting a car and getting out on your own. Iceland is easy to handle by car because there’s essentially just one main road, the Ring Road, with many smaller subsidiary roads dotted around the country. If you stay on the Ring Road you’ll be able to visit most of those amazing sites we have all seen online and the Ring Road is almost always manageable with any kind of car. If you plan on going off-road or trying to access some of the more remote areas, then a 4WD or similar will be necessary. I love the freedom that only renting a car can provide and in Iceland, that freedom is well worth the cost. Plus you save time, money and angst by driving yourself. If you don’t rent a car on your first trip, then be sure to do it on subsequent trips as you tackle other areas of the country.


Quirky and fun

Iceland is not your typical place and the residents are not your average people – and I love that. Thanks perhaps to their relative isolation for more than 1,000 years, or maybe it’s just the result of living on a small island in the middle of the ocean, but the Icelandic are fun, smart, engaging, friendly and just downright quirky. A belief in elves is common, politicians are so accessible you can pose for photos on the President’s doorstep and everyone seems to know each other. It’s the tourism version of “Cheers” and being there it’s hard not to feel like a warmly welcomed visitor. Plus Iceland is just a fun place to visit. Fuzzy horses, amazing natural landscapes and great people, what’s not to love?

Skogafoss Waterfall Iceland

Unreal natural experiences

Speaking of those outdoor landscapes, that’s what drives everyone to visit and with good reason. While small (Iceland is about the same size as Ohio) it seems like there’s something gorgeous and amazing hidden around every bend of the road. That’s why over the course of three-trips I still have only seen about half of the country, and that was rushed. There’s an overwhelming amount of waterfalls, valleys, coastal retreats and more that months could be spent exploring them all; an amazing feat if you stop to think about it. I think we all have a certain level of skepticism whenever we see stunning photos online or in calendars and books. I personally think they’re over edited, but in Iceland there’s no need for photo editing – it really is that gorgeous. Whether you stay close to Reykjavik and explore the Golden Circle or venture further afield to places like the Westman Icelands, the Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon or the so-called center of the Earth, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, you won’t be disappointed. And I haven’t even mentioned the Northern Lights, another key draw for thousands of people every year.

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Iceland

It has “IT”

I have found that it is almost always impossible for me to explain why I love certain cities and countries, I just do. Iceland is the same. I could go through a whole litany of things to do and see in this small, island country but even those don’t really address the passion I, and most others, have for it. There is something classically indefinable about Iceland, a certain je ne sais quoi, as the French would say, that simply latches on and refuses to let go. Like most destinations, it is most likely the unique alchemy created when you combine all of its great features together, a seething cauldron of tourism love. Whatever it is, this feeling is not at all common and I know from experience that when it does happen, it should be cherished. I travel a lot and while I enjoy most places I visit, very few elicit the siren call to return that Iceland does. I can’t explain it, but maybe I shouldn’t be able to. It shouldn’t be, and isn’t, an intellectual condition, it’s a visceral, very emotional one.

For these, and so many other reasons Iceland takes hold of traveler’s souls and never lets go. After one visit a return becomes all-consuming. I’ve seen this countless times with friends and family, Iceland just does something to you. Although I can’t explain this fierce love in precise detail, I’m smart enough to know to just go with the flow, which is why it always seems like I’m planning another trip because there is no doubt that I too am obsessed with Iceland.

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

10 thoughts on “A Few Reasons Why Everyone is Obsessed With Iceland”

    1. I have travelled from Australia to Iceland twice and I would happily go back again. I think it is an amazing country. There are so many magnificent and different sights to see. I love it.

  1. We had a three day layover Aug 2014 and did not plan well. What I picked as the hotel nearest the airport turned out to be a hostel and the trips we planned and paid for did not pick up at said Airport Hotel. We did go to the Blue Lagoon and enjoyed a great day and my husband went into the city for a few hours. We are ready to give it another try with better planning and hope to do it in Feb 2017. I better get on it.

  2. I must say, the glaciers in Iceland seem simply fascinating! I was lucky enough to do a helicopter flight and glacier landing on some of New Zealand’s most incredible glaciers. Judging by these pictures, maybe Iceland should be my next stop!

  3. Christopher Bond

    A great article that captures the essence of why I love the island and talk about it daily. There is just something different about it, to the point you feel more than relaxed, you feel at ease while there. I’ve tried to explain this to people who have not visited and always receive funny looks. However, for those of us who have been there, we all get it! The culture, the people, the landscape, the food–I could go on and on. I am a professor and bring students for a long stopover every time en route to Europe.

  4. I have visited much of Alaska which is also a place of mystical views. But I shall never visit Iceland because of what’s on the tourist’s menu – puffin, some kind of whale, and the Icelandic horse. This is not a place I would recommend vegetarians to spend their money.

  5. We went to Iceland in 2016, and I loved it for all of the reasons you mentioned, plus some. We did the Ring Road and stayed in several BNBs and the stories from the owners of each were wonderful, and funny. People always ask “Why Iceland?”, and I just say, you have to experience it to understand…

  6. shalini rajiv

    iceland really beckons me now. I always look out to visit those places where the natives are friendly, welcoming and not hostile like some of the places i’ve been to and experienced sadly. And from the reviews i’m convinced that the icelanders are indeed lovely, warm people. I am most definitely planning to go there.

  7. I just got back from Iceland and feel the call to go back and vividly dream of exploring the island. Your description of siren is absolutely correct.

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