This island in the North Atlantic Ocean was first inhabited by Nordic and Celtic people in the 9th century CE. It is not well known that it harbours magic caves, writes Bhagawati.

Iceland has a population of just over 330,000 and an area of 103,000 km2 (40,000 sq miles), making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe.

According to the ancient manuscript Landnámabók, the settlement of Iceland began in 874 CE when Norwegian Viking chieftain Ingólfr Arnarson became the first permanent settler on the island, making his home where Reykjavik now stands. It is thought that Irish monks had temporarily inhabited the island some years prior to this. The Icelanders still basically speak the language of the Vikings.

The island shows a multitude of exciting icy landscapes, including towering icy cliffs, crevasses, snow-covered plains, glacier lagoons and natural glacier caves which are the most stunning sights to behold. There is an important difference between a glacier cave and an ice cave: the latter is simply a natural cave with some amount of ice in it all year round. It does not need to be completely made out of ice. But a cave that is completely formed within a block of ice, such as a glacier, is a glacier cave. Those generally have that stunning blue colour of the ice that is the result of the ice containing almost no air bubbles, allowing it to absorb all the visible light except blue and hence is so beautiful to look at. The ice is roughly around 1200 years old.

Map Iceland
Cave 2
Image Einar Runar Sigurdsson
Image Einar Runar Sigurdsson
Cave 6
Cave 9
Cave 2
Cave 9
Cave 1
Image Mikael Buck

Although the name Iceland evokes images of snow, ice and freezing temperatures, the mountainous island has actually a mild climate and only 10% of it is covered by glaciers. Because of its latitude and the warming effect of the Atlantic Gulf Stream, even winters are quite mild. Summers are pleasant but temperatures are rarely higher than 20°C.

Because of its proximity to the Arctic Circle the amount of daylight varies according to the season. In winter there’s almost 20 hours of darkness, yet in summer it doesn’t even get fully dark before the sun comes back up again.

Something for your bucket list?

BhagawatiBhagawati is a regular contributor
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