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VOLCANO TOURISM HAS MADE ICELAND A HOT DESTINATION

VOLCANO TOURISM HAS MADE ICELAND A HOT DESTINATION

Before the volcano eruption, Iceland was one of those European countries that many overlooked. No one really knew much about this island located off the east coast of Greenland and northwest of the United Kingdom. But now because of its volcano, whose name no one can pronounce except an Icelander (Eyjafjallajökull), this small island is world renowned.

Forget the ash clouds that have closed down international travel and the spewing lava, Iceland is blessed with natural beauty. I have received an email from a colleague who operates a tour company in Iceland called Iceland Encounter and he says, “fortunately no one has been hurt, and elsewhere in Iceland life goes on as usual. Would be fun to show you guys the eruption! Even if it’s stopped by then, it would be fun to travel by snowmobile to view the new craters and lava.”

Two weeks before the volcano erupted, my crew and I were wrapping-up our filming of The Travel Guy Iceland Episode as well as the filming of a new cooking show with celebrity chef Massimo Capra. I was filming in the US when I heard the news break and all I could think about was, “Man, we were there, it’s too bad our filming could not start a few weeks later, we would have a heck of a hot show.”

As small as the island is, it has 22 active volcanoes. But that’s not all. Iceland is also known as the land of 10,000 waterfalls. These waterfalls are created from the Glacier runoffs, fall from dramatic heights and amaze onlookers as they watch in awe. The few that I visited were very spectacular. Two that stand out are Gullfoss (meaning Golden Falls) and Skogafoss that is fed by the glacier around the erupting Eyjafjallajökull Volcano.

As you drive along the South coast you will see amazing mountains and Glaciers and so many open fields where Viking horses run wild. These horses are curious and very friendly. If you pull over and step outside of the car, they will actually come to you looking for food. Having some bread handy is a good idea; they’ll eat from your hand, stick around and follow you for more.

The main city in Iceland is Reykjavik. About two-thirds of Iceland’s population lives here. Reykjavik is where everything happens. If you’re looking to explore the restaurant scene, interact with the locals and even go clubbing, this is the place. On Friday and Saturday nights, nothing really begins until 12 midnight (and even that is early) and continues through the wee hours of the morning.

A unique structure that can be seen when entering the downtown core of Reykjavik is the Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral; it stands taller than all other cathedrals in Iceland. It is shaped to resemble a geyser spewing into the air. At the front of the cathedral is a statue of explorer, Leif Ericson. He was the first European explorer to set foot on North American soil 500 years before Christopher Columbus. This statue was a gift from the USA.

If a food experience is what you are after, then visit a restaurant/lounge called Orange located at the edge of the club district in Reyjkavik. The owner and executive chef “Thor” creates a number of gastronomic masterpieces with a flare for presentation. Picture yourself at your table and all of a sudden a few large Orange helium filled balloons float to your table with a delectable desert or sampler plate, as each person helps themselves to the food and gives a gentle push to the balloon and it glides to the next person. Not only is the food a work of art, but half the enjoyment is the surprised look on everyone’s face as the balloons float their way from person to person.

Just a short drive out of the city is The Blue Lagoon Spa, one of the world’s premier spas locations. Picture a natural pool fed by underground geothermal water rich in minerals. The water originates 2000 meters beneath the ground and as it climbs to the surface it captures the earth’s minerals, resulting in this unique natural source that is known for its healing power. The water has a high level of the mineral silica (which is fantastic for cleansing the skin). Many people claim that they have been cured of ailments and joint pains after they have sat in this mineral rich water. Once in the water you’ll begin loving the tingly, cleansing feeling that engulfs your body.

Iceland was created through volcanic activity and driving around the Blue Lagoon area one will see the lava rock formations that are centuries old. They are very dramatic and great for photographing.

The simplest way to get to Iceland is by flying Iceland Air. They have scheduled direct flights departing from Toronto from May to September. Other than the direct flight, there are various hubs (like Heathrow in London, England as well as various airports in Ireland) that have connecting flights to Iceland. The new buzz in Iceland in Volcano Tourism. Locals are using the eruption to draw more tourists and it’s working. The island is simply magnificent, the volcano just adds to its already stellar attractions and welcoming people. Given Iceland’s position on the globe, the summer months deliver 24 hours of sunlight. Getting to sleep may be somewhat difficult for visitors. No matter what the time of year, Iceland puts out its welcome mat.

Frank Greco is a world traveler, producer and host of a television travel show called The Travel Guy broadcasting in more than 100 countries through The Travel Channel International and other networks. Contact Frank at: frank@thetravelguy.tv.