Very soon there will be a new class of tourism. You’ll be picked up by the self-driving Uber and driven to the airport where the self-piloting airplane will fly you somewhere that allows you to hire a car from 2016 and have the pleasure of actually driving yourself. That ‘somewhere’ will be Iceland. A ring of smooth black asphalt runs around the entire coastline feeding a network of gravel arteries that run deep into the varied wilderness. Driverless cars are a solution to the hours lost to endless gridlock in badly planned city centres. In Iceland you can drive for half an hour without passing another car. It doesn’t need Googlecars. You might be headed towards somewhere in particular, but when you get there you just want to keep on going. The journey itself is the the destination. At least in summer. In winter I’d imagine even the shortest journey is terrifying. Especially if the car is driving itself.
That should give you some idea of whether you’ll love it or hate it. But if you need more convincing then read on. Just remember that I’m not a travel blogger so it’s more a stream of consciousness and some photographs.
5 FACTS ABOUT ICELAND
I’ll happily admit that I thought I knew about Iceland. I knew it was fairly small and I could probably get round it in a day or two maximum. That it was permanently under a layer of ice and snow. That it was flat, rocky and barren. That it had shit coffee. I was right about the coffee.
1. Iceland is Europe’s second largest island
It’s 25% bigger than Ireland. So you can forget about getting round it in a long weekend. All that space and only 320,000 people living there. Definitely enough room for the 1m+ foreign visitors that come here annually. For the moment.
2. Iceland is warmer than it should be
Given it’s latitude, Iceland is actually relatively mild. That doesn’t mean it’s warm - even in summer it barely reaches 15 degrees - but the Atlantic currents keep its average temperature well above that of the Scandinavian countries.
3. It has a total prison population of 147
And most of those are in low security or open prisons. 15% of them are foreign prisoners anyway. To put it into context - there's 45 prisoners per 100,000 people. In the UK it’s 148 per 100,000 and in the US it’s 737. There was very little graffiti. There was no litter. We didn’t see any homeless. It just felt…calm. People seemed happy. And you’re 70% less likely to be murdered than in the UK. I have no idea what that means, but it definitely sounds like a good thing.
4. Only 1% of Iceland is covered by trees
You really notice that there are hardly any trees. By comparison the UK is 12% forested plus Zayn Malik. Most of mainland Europe is around 37% forest. But that doesn’t mean Iceland isn’t green - there’s lots and lots of grass. I’ve never been to the prairies but I bet they look a lot like Iceland does in places.