Given its sparse population, proximity to Earth’s magnetic poles and minimal light pollution, Iceland has quickly become one of the world’s most ideal destinations for observing the aurora borealis. If these reasons aren’t convincing enough, the image above should provide all the proof you need.
While Iceland’s population of 321,000 makes it the most sparsely populated country in Europe, the island nation makes up for it in its density of absolutely stunning landscapes. Lakes and glaciers comprise around 14% of the island’s surface, and geysers–including Geysir, the geyser for which all others are named–dot the rugged terrain and add an almost mystical volatility to the otherworldly atmosphere.
Despite the pristine pictures above, Iceland is not immune from environmental degradation: years of deforestation and overgrazing courtesy of imported fauna have taken their toll, and many farms are now being abandoned. Not all is lost, though. In efforts to reunite man with his maker, Icelanders have made good use of geothermal power, which allows them to acquire heat, electricity and water at little to no cost to them…or the environment.
If the stoic island above looks uninhabited, it’s because it most likely is. While Bjarnarey comprises one part of the Vestmann Islands, due to a horrendous 1973 volcano eruption, all denizens of the quaint township were forced to evacuate and move to Iceland’s mainland for several months.
The volcano has inspired legend for centuries, and for good reason. In 2011, the majestic Icelandic menace known as Grimsvotn volcano erupted and caused quite the ruckus for European fliers for the weeks to come, all the while reminding us how incredibly small we really are.