On each trip to Iceland, we are always struck by how often other travelers are -- or intend to be -- repeat visitors. Many come year after year, never exhausting Iceland's endless variations of magnificent scenery and adventure. Returning travelers immediately recognize the crisp, invigorating polar air, and what W. H. Auden called "the most magical light of anywhere on earth."
Iceland's astonishing beauty often has an austere, primitive, or surreal cast that arouses reverence, wonderment, mystery, and awe. Lasting impressions could include a lone tuft of wildflowers amid a bleak desert moonscape or a fantastical promenade of icebergs calved into a lake from a magisterial glacier.
The Icelandic people -- freedom-loving, egalitarian, self-reliant, and worldly -- are equally exceptional. They established a parliamentary democracy over a millennium ago, and today write, publish, purchase, and read more books per capita than any people on earth. Reykjavík, their capital, has become one of the world's most fashionable urban hot spots. In November 2007, the U.N. named Iceland the world's best country to live in, based on life expectancy, education levels, medical care, income, and other criteria.