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Akureyri in North Iceland – photo by

The countdown is on: 46 days until my long-delayed vacation to Iceland. And 46 more days of fielding the question “Why Iceland?”

It’s become a popular destination — my flight sold out though I’m travelling in shoulder season — but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the frequency of the question. After all, most Canadians are smart enough to vacation in warmer climates, not colder ones. What’s next, Antarctica? (Answer: maybe someday.)

The simple explanation is that, as usual, when I came back from my last major trip I instantly started planning the next one. And immediately after Egypt two friends and one boss showed me photos of their recent Icelandic vacations. So the short version of this list is:

1. It’s OH MY GOD SO BEAUTIFUL and unlike any other place on earth.

But who writes a blog list with one item on it? So here’s other reasons why Iceland is cool. (Keep in mind I haven’t actually been there yet but I’ve read my Lonely Planet and the Iceland Wikipedia entry so I’m totally an expert.)

2. Iceland is literally cool. Have you heard that truism about Greenland being icy and Iceland being green? It’s only true-ish. The average high temperature in Reykjavik in July — the warmest month — is 14C (57F). So when others are sweltering in the heat of Vancouver’s 18C average high in September, I will be cooling off in Iceland’s 9C.

3. On the other hand, Iceland is green in another sense. Renewable sources — geothermal and hydropower — provide all of their electricity. All that geothermal activity means pretty geysers and volcanoes that disrupt Egyptian vacations, too. (Word nerd tip: we borrowed geyser from the Icelandic geysir.)

4. They (mostly, kind of) believe in elves. Roads have been rerouted so as not to disturb them, and there’s even an Elf School where students can learn about the country’s hidden peoples (I hope to take the class and get the promised certificate in … elvery?)

5. If you ignore pesky issues like a colossal banking collapse and almost always having an unstable coalition government, they have some cool politics. Arguably the world’s oldest parliamentary democracy, Iceland also boasts the first directly elected female head of state and first openly gay head of state. Plus the Pirate Party is represented in their parliament.

6. Iceland has no standing army and the Global Peace Index calls them the most peaceful nation on earth. So clearly they’re ripe for a Canadian invasion. (46 more days!)

7. Icelandic parents must name their children according to a state-approved list, so everyone in the country is called Bjork. (It’s possible only the first part of that sentence is true.)

8. Iceland is consistently ranked among the top three countries in the world for women to live in. However, being a single woman might not be as fun since the datable men are probably your cousins.

9. They have the highest number of bookstores per capita in the world. Granted only 57 people live in Iceland so that means one bookstore. (Kidding. The population is 320,000 and I have no idea how many bookstores but Wikipedia says it’s the most.)

10. I can’t believe I got to 10 without mentioning Vikings. They’re (mostly, ancestrally speaking) Vikings. Vikings are cool.

If that’s not enough for you, let’s go back to #1 and check out some gorgeous Icelandic scenery in Bon Iver’s Holocene video: