Iceland, the land of fire and ice. Of glaciers and volcanoes, geysers and lava fields, of change and of contrast.
The foundations of this amazing country were laid from the 9th century A.D. by fearless Viking warriors. After wreaking havoc on the European coasts, they started settling on this beautiful land with its inhospitable landscape. Today, Iceland is considered one of the world’s most advanced societies and one of the most progressive in terms of LGBT rights.
Same-sex sexual activity was decriminalized in 1940. In 2009, Iceland got the world’s first openly-gay head of state. The next year, marriage was redefined as being between two individuals, removing references to gender. Same sex couples had already enjoyed equal opportunity in adoption and IVF from 2006.
Life for LGBT individuals in Iceland really is remarkable. In 2015, an LGBT network polled gay men from over 100 countries and used their responses to create a GHI (Gay Happiness Index). Iceland came in at number one.
The LGBT scene in Iceland is largely limited to its capital Reykjavik. This is more a result of how sparsely populated the country is than an urban-rural disparity in acceptance of LGBTs. There are no specifically gay neighborhoods because the inclusive nature of Icelandic society leaves no need for it. Gay bars and clubs have a pleasant mix of gay and straight patrons, as do straight establishments.
There are several annual events and festivals that celebrate gay life and culture. Most prominent is the Reykjavik Gay Pride Festival which is usually held in the second week of August. The Rainbow Reykjavik Festival is a month-long event that starts at the end of January. The Winter Pride Festival is shorter, running for three days in the middle of February.
Iceland is a nature-lover’s wonderland. Its combination of wide open terrain of almost every sort, wild animals in their native environment and magical displays of nature’s might and beauty that are beyond compare. Perhaps most famous are the Northern Lights, but the hot springs situated amidst glacial ice, towering ice-cold waterfalls, massive volcanoes and rushing rapids add to an eclectic tapestry of exciting experiences.
Remnants of Iceland’s proud Viking past abound. Some structures, over a thousand years old, are worth exploring for a glimpse into the country’s exciting history of daring and adventure.
If man-made architecture enthralls you, the world-famous Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Center is a must-see. Called HARPA, it houses the Iceland Opera and Iceland Symphony as well as design boutiques and gourmet restaurants. A view of the futuristic structure silhouetted against the evening sky and its lights reflected in the facing pool are a sight to behold.
Iceland is one of the world’s premier vacation destinations, and the country’s love for all people make it an even more attractive one.