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This Nordic island a little outside the Arctic Circle is the most sparsely populated country in Europe. Two-thirds of the people in Iceland live near Reykjavik in the Southwest region of the country. Polish immigrants compose a growing portion of the population, about 3%. Some believe that elves live here too, and there are museums devoted to them. There is no standing army, and a lightly armed Coast Guard. The progressive nature of Iceland today is also reflected in gender equality.

Terrain in Iceland is varied, and includes volcanoes and glaciers. Some of the most impressive sights to see are in the Southwest, like the home of ancient outdoor parliamentary meetings at ├×ingvellirÔÇÄ, one of the earliest known geysers at Geysir, or the 32-meter-high falls at Gullfoss. The area they’re in is known as the Golden Circle. Reykjavik features varied architecture, intriguing public art, and shopping on streets like Laugavegur. The Sn├ªfellsnes peninsula features sleepy fishing villages and the Sn├ªfellsj├Âkull volcano. Getting into the interior and East of the country takes some doing, and likely a rugged vehicle, but rewards like the Vatnaj├Âkull await the intrpid.

Crowberry, blueberry, rhubarb, Iceland moss, wild mushrooms, wild thyme, lovage, angelica, and dried seaweed are local plants which play a significant role in the diet. The cold climate reduces the need for pesticides in growing vegetables, and cucumber, rutabaga, cabbage, and tomatoes are grown and consumed in Iceland. Barley has been grown in the past 100 years or so, and r├║gbrau├░ is a dense dark and sweet rye bread. Skyr is high-quality Icelandic yogurt, and trout, salmon, and waterfowl are popular foods. Dishes like smoked lamb or puffin are often accompanied by b├®chamel or mushroom sauce, boiled potatoes and peas, pickled beetroot or red cabbage, and jam.

The logistics of procuring food in Iceland are a bit formidable, and alternatives to pizza, traditional meat-heavy options, or bacon-wrapped hot dogs at rest stops and gas stations are hard to come by. The good news is that what lacks in quantity of healthy options is made up for in quality. You can get gluten-free, raw, and locally-sourced Icelandic, European or Western-style meals, or organic coffee and baked goods made with love. This is truest in the capital, where excellent seafood and other options abound, but most towns and cities will have one restaurant or shop with natural and organic foods. It pays to do your research when places for food can be three hours apart!