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As the old saying goes, Greenland is covered in ice, but Iceland is actually very nice. The island, which is located in the Northern Atlantic ocean, has become a serious hot spot, and for good reason: From the seemingly endless amount of excursions and the stunning sights to the incredibly warm and kind people, Iceland is a must-see destination that deserves a top spot on your bucket list. Did I mention that it’s the third happiest country in the world?
According to the Iceland Review, the country is expected to receive upward of 2 million visitors this year. Iceland’s appeal has made it the number one destination for both luxury and budget international travel, as there is seriously something for everyone. Here are seven reasons why you should book a ticket to Iceland, stat—especially considering it is Northern Lights season.
It’s easy to get to
The boom in tourism has resulted in more affordable flights to Iceland, which is the closest destination in Europe. A direct flight from New York's JFK to Keflavik airport (25 minutes outside of Reykjavik) takes less than six hours and starts at around $300. Plus, more airlines, most notably being WOW Air, are expanding to offer direct connectivity between Reykjavik and the west coast. This means you can plan a three-day trip without wasting too much of your time in the air. What’s more, there has also been an influx in resorts as a result of tourism. So, whether you are looking for a designed-focused hotel or a charming travel lodge, there’s a host of places to choose from.
It’s a great place to travel alone as woman
Not only is it known as one of the friendliest countries in the world, but Iceland is commonly referred to as a feminist country because it has some of the most progressive laws in the world related to women’s rights. Women’s equality is protected by law, and equal pay for equal work is mandatory. The nation even has its own “ministry of gender equality” to enforce these policies. You’ll feel safe, welcomed, and comfortable to explore the country on your own.
It’s the best place to see The Northern Lights
The Northern Lights are nothing short of magical, and from September to mid-April, Iceland is one of the best places in the world to see the sky painted bright. The farther north you go, the more likely you’ll be to see them (hence “Northern” lights), but if you stick around the island for a week, chances are you’ll see them at least once—if not more.
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There’s an endless amount of things to do
With only 334,250 people on 39,315 square miles of land, this leaves a lot of room for outdoor activity. Glacier hiking in Skaftafell, horseback riding in Snaefellsness, snorkeling in Thingvellir National Park, whale watching in Husavik, iceberg cruising in Fjallsarlon… the list goes on and on and on. My advice? Book a trendy tour that includes them all. Or, if you are feeling more adventurous, rent a car and drive as much of the outer ring of the country as you can, stopping for whichever excursions appeal to you most. The drive itself is stunning—complete with waterfalls, black sand beaches, and an unbeatable coastline—so there is literally no chance that you could ever get bored.
It’s home to The Blue Lagoon
When it comes to tourist attractions, it’s rare that something lives up to the hype. The Blue Lagoon, though, is a definite exception. Fed by seawater from thousands of feet below the ground, the water collects silica, algae, and other minerals from the lava bed on its way up, which is what turns the pool into that gorgeous turquoise color you see on everyone’s Instagram. Soaking in this mineral-infused H2O can help exfoliate and heal your skin, and there are even big tubs of silica masks that you can rub allover your body to ensure you’ll be glowing from head to toe when you board your flight back home.
Your skin will never look better
On that note, there has been increasing interest in Iceland’s skin care market. And while Korean beauty products may still be the topic of conversation, expect to see more and more products from Iceland popping up in department stores. The island is rich with minerals from its volcanoes (you can actually exfoliate with volcanic ash straight from the ground of the glaciers), and brands like Hannes Dottir, BioEffect, and Skyn Iceland have capitalized on these incredible natural resources.
You’ll be inspired by the street style
Reykjavik may not be a fashion capital in the same way that Paris, New York, and Milan are, but Iceland’s capital city is quickly becoming a hot spot of style. The Reykjavik Fashion Festival happens twice a year—once for the spring collections and once for the fall—where it introduces up-and-coming designers who are eager to redefine local style. If you’re thinking of only wool sweaters and fur coats, think again. For some great shopping and street style inspo, check out Laugavegur, which Vogue calls "Iceland’s Single Coolest Street."