Which place is a better vacation and why: Iceland or Ireland?
- by Casper Lockwood
- Aug, 1 2023
Unravel the Natural Wonders: Iceland's Dazzling Landscapes
Have you ever dreamt of walking through the land of ice and fire? It's not just a catchy tourist board slogan; Iceland really is it! My son Asher's eyes sparkled the first time he set foot on the glacier during our trip. The dramatic contrasts of red-hot volcanoes and shimmering glaciers make this country a top destination for nature lovers. With sites like the geo-thermal blue lagoon, the imposing Gullfoss falls, and the famous black sand beaches at Reynisfjara, Iceland sways you off your feet and enthralls you with her beauty.
Iceland's dichotomy lies in the quiet tranquility of beautiful fjords in the Westfjords, and the raw fury of Strokkur, an active geyser that erupts every 5 to 10 minutes. If there's a place where you can contemplate the power of nature while sitting safely on the sidelines, it's here. Iceland reminds you of the paradoxes that exist in each of us, and that's an experience worth having.
Chasing the Elusive Northern Lights
The dance of the aurora borealis, or northern lights, is something that deserves to be on everyone's bucket list. There's an indescribable sense of wonder seeing the sky explode into a kaleidoscope of green, blue, and red, swirling and shifting like a cosmic paintbrush. I recall bundling Merritt into jackets and mittens as we camped out on a cold night, waiting for the lights to set up their dance floor. His squeal of delight when they finally appeared is a moment that's etched in my memory forever.
The thrill of the chase, the wait, and the cold are all part of the experience. The northern lights are elusive, and nothing guarantees their appearance, but that’s exactly what makes sighting them even more special. And with long, clear nights during winter, Iceland significantly increases your chances.
Retracing Celts' Steps: Ireland's Captivating History
The moment you step on the Emerald Isle, you’ll be blown away by its rich, transformative history. Ol' Ireland carries the weight of her past with the bright spirit of a storyteller. Everywhere you look, there are remnants of the old world, from ancient castles to captivating myths. One such place that had us spellbound was the Rock of Cashel. Sitting atop a green hillock, the centuries-old building complex narrates a rich story of power, spirituality, and betrayal. It was like stepping into a different era, an experience that amused and educated Asher and Merritt alike.
Amidst the bustling city life of Dublin, Ireland offers a glance into her significant past. This blend of modernity and ancient tales provides a unique vacation experience that seeps into your soul and stays with you long after you've left.
Embracing the Irish ‘Craic’
‘Craic’ is an Irish term for fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation. Aptly so, because that's what you'll remember most about Ireland. Be it their world-renowned pubs, the famous St. Patrick's Day festival, or just the friendly chat with locals, Ireland offers a palette of experiences that leave you smiling from ear to ear. I remember the time when I found myself singing a jolly Irish folk song in a local pub, having the time of my life with friendly locals and other tourists. It's an experience you don't just watch; you are the experience!
Irish culture has a certain charm, a certain appeal that brings people together. When you're in Ireland, you're not just a tourist; you're part of the community, enjoying the ‘craic’ like everybody else.
Nature and Nuances: Iceland’s Unmatched Vistas
Iceland's remarkable landscapes range from black sand beaches to snow-capped mountains. And that's just the start! If you are a fan of wildlife, you can get close to some incredible marine creatures during a whale-watching tour. Not to mention, the puffin spotting which my children found particularly delightful. Driving along the Ring Road, the sight of wild horses against the dramatic backdrop of green fields and blue skies is enough to leave you speech-wrenching. As we drove past lava fields, waterfalls, and glaciers, the landscape changed as quickly as flipping pages in a book.
On one such adventure, we decided to hike up the Eyjafjallajökull volcano. Despite the difficulty pronouncing its name, I assure you this trip is worth every grunt and gasp. The view from the top is something Asher and I will cherish forever. It was like standing on the edge of the world, a world crafted by fire and ice!
Cobblestone Paths to Breathtaking Cliffs: Ireland’s Endless Charm
On the other hand, if you're looking to marvel at rugged cliffs and lush countryside, Ireland is your dream destination. From the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher to the Giant’s Causeway, Ireland's landscapes are a testament to the power and beauty of nature. Ireland’s scenic drives along the Wild Atlantic Way or the Causeway Coastal Route are simply a must-do for any who love the open road.
As we were mesmerized by the sprawling views from the cliffs, it was the winding journey through the verdant countryside that led us to understand why Ireland is fondly called the Emerald Isle. The patchwork of green fields, hedgerows, and bustling towns offer a charming contrast to Iceland’s raw and rugged scenery.
Finding Your Way: Getting around Iceland and Ireland
Navigating both countries is straightforward and offers its own fun. Driving the 800-mile Ring Road that encircles Iceland is one of my fondest travel memories. It's a road trip of a lifetime, passing by some of the country’s most stunning landscapes. Remember to keep an eye out for small detours that offer personalized discoveries of hidden waterfalls or secret hot springs.
Getting around Ireland has a charm of its own with its narrow country lanes, centuries-old bridges, and picturesque towns. The Wild Atlantic Way, a 1,500-mile drive along the western coastline, offers the perfect blend of stunning sea views, historic sites, and captivating culture.
Settling the Score: Choosing Between Iceland and Ireland
The question isn't if you should visit Iceland or Ireland, but when you should visit each. Both destinations offer experiences that transcend the ordinary and tug at the heartstrings of adventurers, culture-lovers, and nature-enthusiasts alike. If raw, untamed natural beauty and opportunities for unique exploration take the top spot on your list, Iceland might be your perfect getaway. If you're after rich culture, enchanting history, and an immersive communal experience, Ireland may be calling out to you.
Choices, choices! My advice? Pack your bags, hit the road, and discover for yourself which enchanting land grabs hold of your heart and refuses to let go! I know for one, both Iceland and Ireland hold special corners in mine.