Why you don’t need to travel to Iceland (And 8 incredible destinations you could visit instead!)
Iceland has quickly propelled itself to the top of most people’s places to be list. It’s the theme-du-jour for most travel agencies, blogs and travel groups, and everywhere you turn airlines are offering cheap flights and package deals enticing adventurous travelers to take a dip in the blue lagoon and explore Reykjavik. Check any travel group or blog right now and you’ll see hundreds of reasons why they think you should travel to Iceland.
This far-north nordic island receives its fair share of media coverage, from cheap flight deals to excellent government and incredible scenery – what’s not to love? However, thanks to a sudden burst of overwhelming popularity, this icy nation is becoming overloaded with tourists. This article from the Telegraph even claims it’s becoming a bit of a modern-day Disneyland, thanks to a massive popularity boost in travel to Iceland.
Yes – Iceland is certainly an enchanting fairy-tale land full of crystal caves and wondrous natural attractions. However, if time, distance or budget doesn’t allow – fear not! You do not need to travel to Iceland when there are so many irresistible alternatives on this planet for you to check out.
1. Mountains Ahoy in Nepal
Want Snowy, Towering Peaks? Try instead: Annapurna Range, Nepal.
Iceland is a scenic wonderland studded with pristine mountain ranges, but there are plenty of other options when it comes to breathtaking mountain ranges. Nepal offers some of the most incredible – and tallest – mountains in the world, including the famous Mount Everest, as well as a fascinating culture, overwhelmingly friendly hospitality and plenty of awesome tourism opportunities.
When it comes to Nepal, the spectacular Annapurna Range is the place to be. While the Everest Base Camp is more famous, it is also considerably more crowded. By making trails to the beautiful lake-side city of Pokhara, you can make your way for a trek lasting as many as 20 days, or as little as 2, with views to rival those of the nearby Everest and without the heaving gaggle of fellow-trekkers to contend with.
If trekking the ranges is a bit out of reach, you can also take a pretty awesome bicycle day trip into these spectacular ranges, just check out Urban Adventures’ ‘Pokhara by Bike’
2. The Northern Lights in Alaska
Dream of Watching the Northern Lights? Try instead: Alaska
Sure, you could take a one-in-a-lifetime road trip to the Iclandic northern lights (in fact, here’s a pretty cool Icelandic road trip itinerary by @AlexCornell). But if Iceland’s not on your winter travel plans, why not try Alaska? A first-rate rival when it comes to witnessing the amazing lights, the Aurora Express is a magical rail service that will take up up through the Alaskan tundra, through snow-hedged forest and up to some of the best Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) viewing spots in North America.
Take your time and stopover for a dip at the steaming Chena Hotsprings while you’re at it, and enjoy an exhilirating dogsled ride through the snowy slopes. Haven’t convinved you yet? Let the wanderlust take hold and check out this excellent NYT travelogue from Ethan Todras-Whitehill who took the Aorora Express.
3. Active Volcanoes in Japan
Excited by Active Volcanoes? Try instead: Kyushu, Japan.
The volcanoes of Iceland are nothing short of exhilarating, the perfect destination for adventure-seekers. But believe it or not, Iceland is not the only port of call for intrepid volcanic journeys. In fact, Japan is home to one of the largest calderas in the word – Mount Aso, In Aso Kuju National park. Hiding out on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, Mount Aso offers stunning vistas over a other-worldely pitted landscape of twisted rock and geothermic displays. Curious? Mac from Halfway Anywhere went climbing Mount Aso, check out his account here..
4. Impressive Croatian Waterfalls
Want to Splash in Photo-Worthy Waterfalls? Try instead: Plitvice, Croatia
Each day holiday-makers and selfie-taker flock to the Skafatell National Park in Iceland for the magnificant waterfalls. But you don’t have to travel too far Southeast from Iceland to discover Plitvice National Park in Croatia. Amidst the oldest national park in Southern Europe, you’ll find tremendous waterfalls and famous lakes here, as well as impressive ancient architecture and the nearby attractions of the Dalmation coast. For more info on this European wonderland, check out Yulia’s excellent article over at MissTourist , or ‘Tips for Visiting Plitvice Lakes in Croatia” by Kirsten from the Blonde Abroad, for all the information, tips and tricks you need.
5. Glacier Gazing in Kashmir
Impressed by Mesmerizing Glaciers and Eye-Catching Ice Caves? Try instead: Kashmir, India
The word ‘Iceland’ incites visions of bewitching ice formations and abundant glaciers. India, not usually so much. So it may come as some surprise to learn that northern India features some of the most astonishing glaciers and ice caves in the world. Measuring in at an impressive 62 kilometres in length, the Baltoro Glacier in Karakoram, Kashmir, is one of the longest alpine glaciers on earth and a great alternative to the tourist-laden glacier sites of Iceland (and India is astonishingly more budget-friendly to boot). Another of the most incredible treks in Kashmir takes 5 days, and trekkers visit a holy ice cave. Legend says this is the cave where Shiva explained the secret of life and the universe to Parvati – you can learn more about this incredible experience, named the ‘Amarnath Yatra’ over on SandeepaChetan’s Travel Blog.
6. Incredible Ukranian Caves
Into Exploring Extravagant Caves? Try instead: Crimea, Ukraine
Even the most exhuberant cave-lovers may not have considered the Ukraine as an alternative, however many speleologists (those who study and explore caves) think of Crimea’s Marble cave as one of the most beautiful caves on the planet. Ukraine is an undiscovered gem of a country yet to be drowned in tourism, and it’s a great opportunity to get off the beaten track and explore the caves that have inspired fairytales. Many operators offer tours and treks in the region, Try Ukraine offer listings of some of these treks here if you’re not sure where to start.
7. Puffin Watching in Scotland
Up for a spot of puffin spotting? Try instead: Northern Scotland
The large puffin colonies in Iceland are a massive attraction to many birdwatchers and non-avian enthusiasts alike. But did you know that you can check out these brightly-beaked characters in Northern Scotland? Puffin’s are lovingly referred to as ‘Clowns of the sea’ A great place to start is in picturesque Tobermory in Scotland’s Isle of Mull. A cute, quaint and colourful fishing village where Puffins return to breed in April. Much of the year Puffins are out at sea, so make sure to head over during April and July for the best chances of spotting these fascinating sea birds. For advice on the Isle of Mull (and exploring Scotland in general) take a visit to the Traveling Savage blog
8. Stunning Volcanic Lakes in New Zealand & Turkey
Spellbound by Bright Blue Geothermic Lakes? Try instead: Whitianga, New Zealand & Pamukkale, Turkey
But – let’s face it, Iceland is pretty amazing and I can completely understand why it’s so popular! But, if travel to Iceland is off the menu, at least there’s a whole host of other awesome options. Have I missed any out? Let me know in the comments!