Floating on your stomach in near-freezing water is normally an experience one has only after being murdered by the Mafia. But in the right circumstances, it can be enjoyable. When you’re alive, for instance, and looking through crystal clear glacial water at the Silfra Fissure.
Iceland welcomed its first permanent resident in the 9th century, when Ingólfur Arnarson landed on the shores of Reykjavík. Today, most physical traces of early Viking culture have vanished, so it was a big deal when, in 2001, a longhouse was discovered in the center of the capital. After careful excavation, it’s been opened to visitors as the the 871±2 Settlement Exhibition.
With their bright orange beaks and white-feathered faces, puffins are far and away Iceland’s favorite bird. Ten million of the little guys make their home here, and though they generally colonize cliffs or off-shore islands, there are opportunities to spot them even in Reykjavík. It was to this end that we hopped on a boat departing the city harbor.
Geologically speaking, Iceland is one of the Earth’s newborns. The island didn’t even exist until after the age of dinosaurs had passed, and it was the last European territory to be settled. Iceland continues to grow, still firmly in its adolescence, but its short history has been a volatile one. Whether they’ve been dealing with abusive Danes, glaciers, the plague or volcanic ash, Icelanders have had it rough. Here’s a rundown of the biggest events in the country’s history.