Iceland remains the most peaceful country in the world, a position it has held since 2008 – Global Peace Index
According to the Global Peace Index, Iceland is the most peaceful country in the world… 12 years running. Followed by New Zealand, Austria, Portugal and Denmark. Other countries like Bhutan have risen impressively over the past 12 years (now enjoying a top 20 spot – rising 43 places). I don’t consider it a coincidence that Bhutan is now on many people’s radar for their next exotic holiday following this news. I also don’t consider it a coincidence that Iceland has enjoyed a boom in luxury & family travel in the past few years since being crowned the most peaceful country in the world.
This honour is calculated using a variety of metrics that include; low levels of crime, high levels of equality (in all ways), low corruption, trust in police, low level of violent conflict in and out of the country and a cornucopia of other aspects that is an entire article in itself.
In a word, Iceland is, well, peaceful!
It would seem that peacefulness, safety, environmental initiatives and of course incredible landscapes go hand in hand with improvements in travel & tourism. Therefore, during these uncertain times I wanted to offer a flurry of positivity in regard to luxury and family travel. I would like to elaborate on 5 key reasons to prove that Iceland is not just peaceful, but also clean, safe and (hopefully) worthy of travel.
Iceland [has] a landscape that hasn’t changed for millions of years with mountains and dangerously active volcanoes spread through the land. This, in turn, leads to a sparsely populated country that is also one of the richest and most highly developed in the world – World Population Review
1. Sparsely populated and highly developed
They hit the nail on the head there. Iceland is almost the size of England (103,000 Sq kms) and yet only has a population of around 350,000 people. Tourism numbers, despite being healthy, are still pottering around 2 million per year. Compare that to the 20 million that squeeze into Venice each year and the comparison is stark.
This means if you get out of the city quickly you can spend your entire time travelling to some of the most spectacular sights in the country with few other people around. A mere 5 hours east of Reykjavik and all that you are left with are sporadic farms, tiny villages and oh yeah, mighty glaciers and volcanoes to explore. Btw, I’m describing the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Vatnajökull National Park.
It’s an all too often occurrence in this area that I take my small group of travellers onto a distant glacier and exclaim after reaching our highest point on the ice, “hmmm, I don’t think anyone has ever been here before. This is a unique moment for us!”. Of course the fact that the glaciers are constantly moving and melting helps make this quote more realistic but still.
Both men and women […] feel safe walking alone at night than people in less peaceful countries. There is also a greater level of trust in police in more peaceful societies – Global Peace Index
2. Safe at all times of the day (and night)
I’m originally from Glasgow, Scotland. An incredible place that I encourage everyone to visit at least once in their life. I love my hometown dearly and for the most part it’s very safe. But do I honestly feel safe walking home alone in the streets at night, or after a particularly lively football match, no chance.
In Iceland I do.
As do all the tourists I see wandering in a daze, gazing up at the midnight sun in summer time, 3am be damned. This is also especially important when you are bringing your valuable cameras along with you while hunting for the northern lights in isolated and unpatrolled areas of the country.
Iceland has a tiny crime rate with some recent years reporting zero murders. Also, following a 20 year initiative to curb underage drink and drug taking Iceland now holds the title of the lowest level of underage drinking in Europe. Little over 5% of youths admit to drinking. Considering this was around 45% in the 80s it’s a seriously impressive stat.
Reassuringly expensive – Stella Artois
3. Reassuringly expensive
I debated including this point. But this is a luxury travel blog after all so I’m running the gauntlet. The slogan ‘reassuringly expensive’ is in relation to Stella Artois beer. Unconnected to Iceland, but a nice segue to give you a lighthearted explanation of why Iceland is so expensive.
Let me provide you with a few statements that I’ve heard over the years. The only difference is mentality:
Traveller A: Iceland is expensive, I only spent 5 days there.
Traveller B: Iceland has well maintained roads, hospitals and tourist routes. You can enjoy an action packed 5 days and see so much that you will wish you stayed longer.
Traveller A: The food is expensive, I had to eat supermarket food in my Airbnb.
Traveller B: The restaurant food is of the highest quality and locally sourced, even in the most remote parts of the country. Each bite was worth every penny.
Traveller A: Guided tours are expensive so I tried to drive myself and use a map. I even joined a big bus tour to cut costs.
Traveller B: The guides consider this a career and are highly qualified, adding an extra level of immersion to each spot. It felt like travelling with a family member half the time.
You can see what I’m getting at? The price, at least when it comes to Iceland should be somewhat reassuring. Tourism in Iceland is taken very seriously by the government and locals alike, who are all too keen to share their passion with you.
I pledge to make Kranavatn (tap water) my drink of choice. I will drink from reusable bottles, and responsibly dispose of all my waste – Inspired By Iceland
4. Environmental impact and clean water
Iceland generates almost all its electricity from renewable energy. You may have heard this. What you may have heard less is that all of its drinkable water comes unfiltered, or rather, untouched by humans.
The lifecycle of Kranavatn (translates to Tap Water) goes along these lines: Snow falls thousands of years in the past. It compacts down into glacier ice. Remains frozen for hundreds of years and slowly moves towards sea level. The ice then melts and seeps into volcanic rock underground. Decades later the water emerges from porous rock completely filtered and 100% clean. Then it is redirected into your tap or continues its journey out to sea.
No human interaction. At all. Oh and it tastes pretty good too.
You might be wondering why this relates to travel in Iceland. Well, when you consider that every village and every town from east to west has access to its own locally sourced food, renewable energy supply (geothermal and hydro) and clean water you can see why I consider every new place you travel to worthwhile. Even if it’s only stopping for coffee on the way to the next spot. Just don’t expect McDonalds or Starbucks to appear around the corner any time soon.
The volcanic zones of the property hold […] fauna that has survived the ice age […] and prosper in the inhospitable environment of subglacial lakes that may replicate conditions on early Earth and the icy satellites of Jupiter and Saturn – UNESCO
5. UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Some 15% of Iceland holds the status of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are also numerous nature reserves, national parks and UNESCO Geoparks that are heavily protected from the invasion of human development and degradation. For tourism this status is important. It would be far too easy to capitalise on popular spots by adding a few dozen shops, hotels and paved roads with barriers right along the edges of the spectacular sites. Anyone who has been to the pyramids in Egypt will know what I’m referring to.
Instead, Iceland protects these areas and refuses to build anything that is not pivotal to safety. Yes, you might have to wait a little while to buy some snacks and you might need to also utilise a local guide to help you find the hidden gems due to the lack of car friendly roads.
But my goodness will it be worth it when you’re standing at the edge of crystal clear waterfall pouring off the side of a melting glacier that is flowing from the top on an active volcano and there be no one there but your guide and your shadow to keep you company.
Sounds worth it to me.
So if travel is still on the cards for you this year. Iceland is here waiting.
Ryan Connolly is Co-Founder of Hidden Iceland. Hidden Iceland specialises in private trips, taking you to some of the hidden gems of Iceland with a passionate and experienced guide.