from the term used by Russians to name the Alaska Peninsula, from the Aleut and Yupik languages for “object to which the sea’s action is directed” or “great land“
Predominantly English (~ 83%). The next most-spoken language is Spanish (~ 3%), though there are many native languages that are official in the state: Inupiaq, Siberian Yupik, Central Alaskan Yup’ik, Alutiiq, Aleut, Dena’ina, Deng Xinag, Holikachuk, Koyukon, Upper Kuskokwim, Gwich’in, Lower Tanana, Upper Tanana, Tanacross, Hän, Ahtna, Eyak, Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian. All indigenous languages are spoken by small percentages of the population.
Northwestern United States, a partial exclave state separated from the contiguous U.S., in the general Pacific Northwest and Arctic regions. The largest U.S. state, it is mostly on the mainland with many islands, including the Aleutian Islands. It borders Canada to the east / northeast, has Arctic coastline to the north, and Pacific coastline, including the Bering Sea, to the south and west.
Part of the United States’ Arctic tundra, Boreal forests / taiga, Pacific Range mountains, Arctic Range mountains, Pacific Marine Forests, and Pacific Marine lowlands. Home to North America’s highest mountain, Denali (Mt. McKinley).
Mostly Inuktitut (~ 63%). The second most spoken language is the local variety of English (~ 31%). French and Inuinnaqtun are also official in the territory.
Capital & Largest City
Northern Canada, a federal territory in the general Arctic region. Has a lot of Arctic Ocean coastline along with islands in the Arctic Archipelago and throughout Hudson Bay, including Canada’s largest, Baffin Island. Location is split between the mainland section and its many large and small islands.
Part of Canada’s Arctic tundra, taiga shield, and Arctic Cordillera mountains. Home to some of the world’s largest islands.
Realm? What are we, crossing through the wardrobe of Narnia? It sounds a bit fancy, but Biogeographic (or Zoogeographic) Realms are a way that scientists have divided the world to connect its main biological and geographic features. The continents in all their glory can be a confusing and misrepresentative way to look at the world. We’ve discussed if Bio-Realms might be a better way to divide our planet before. Here, I want to go deeper into one realm in particular, including some of its main physical and cultural features. Don’t mind me, I just love geography–and biogeography, apparently.
The Nearctic Realm is a part of the wider “Arctic” Biogeographical Realm that stretches across much of the Northern Hemisphere. It’s Ne-arctic, as in “New,” because it’s in the New World. That is, the world that was unknown by Eurasians and Africans up until a recent point. That is, the Americas. Put together with the Palearctic (“Old World” Arctic), they can be called the Holarctic (or the whole Arctic!). The Nearctic happens to coincide with what most people think of when they picture “North America.” It includes everything in that continent starting from the Arctic — including Greenland — and goes down until we reach the tropics. In the Southwest, this cutoff is somewhere in the middle of Mexico, while in the Southeast, the cutoff is Central Florida.
Since we’re talking about the limitations of the realm, let’s look at the political geography. Only two countries take up the bulk of the Nearctic:
the United States
A good chunk of Mexico is in the Nearctic, though most of the country probably isn’t (it depends on definitions). Nearctic Mexico would be the deserts, shrublands, and temperate mountains in the north. The Kingdom of Denmark sneaks its way in by way of the massive constituent country, Greenland. France also has a piece by way of a tiny territory off the coast of Newfoundland called St. Pierre & Miquelon. Otherwise, that’s it!
Geography of the Nearctic
The Nearctic is known for having large, somewhat continuous biome types. Some major ones to remember are the Arctic tundra, Boreal forests / taiga, the Great Plains, the Nearctic (or North American) deserts, and the Eastern temperate forests. Much of those forests have been heavily urbanized or used for agriculture, but there are still some trees if you look. Oh, it’s not that bad.
The realm is home to tons of lakes, big and small, with the largest (Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, etc.) being in the Great Lakes region. There are also some seriously long rivers here too, with some notable mentions being the Missouri, the Mississippi, the Yukon, and the Rio Grande.
Major mountain systems include the famous Rockies, the Pacific Ranges (or Cordillera), the East and West Sierra Madres, and the Appalachians. They are all very extensive too. The Rockies stretch from the Southwest United States up into Northern Canada. The Pacific Ranges basically run up the entire Pacific Coast. Depending on definition, the Appalachians go from the hills of Mississippi to the rocky shores of Newfoundland. Another big one is the Arctic Cordillera, a set of rugged mountains that stretch from Northern Labrador and Quebec all the way up to Canada’s Arctic Archipelago.
There are a couple of biomes that stand out from the rest of the realm. The Pacific Northwest is home to the biggest — or longest — temperate rainforest in the world. On the other end, Appalachia is home to pockets of temperate rain and cloud forests. A large section of the Gulf Coast, especially around Louisiana, is home to vast wetlands and swamps called bayous.
Another distinct area is Greenland’s Arctic desert (that’s right, they can be cold). That biome is a dry, snowy wilderness covered in snow year-round. Since we’re in the “Ne-Arctic,” the weather is just about everything but tropical. As we saw, it ranges from moist forests to dry prairies and arid deserts. Mediterranean climate is common in the matorraland chaparralshrublands of the West. Parts of the southeastern Nearctic aren’t quite tropical, but do have a humid subtropical climate. The main ecoregions include subtropical forests, temperate mixed and conifer forests, boreal forests, temperate and subtropical grasslands and plains, tundra, Mediterranean wood and shrublands, deserts, and even mangroves off the coast of Northwestern Mexico.
Ecology of the Nearctic
The Nearctic is home to many plants and animals. Some of the common big fauna are antelope (pronghorns), bison, wolves, foxes, bobcats, lynx, cougars (or mountain lions), deer, bighorn sheep, moose, bears, and musk oxen. There are also tons of rodents like rabbits, gophers, and squirrels, as well as beavers and porcupines. Armadillos, peccaries, and opossums came from further south. There are lots of bovids (cows) and horses too, but those were mostly introduced later. Camels, horses, and even a kind of cheetah were native to this region but endemic species have all died out.
Alligators are common in some parts, as are many other reptiles, amphibians, and everything else. Major birds are crows, cardinals, turkeys, and hummingbirds, as well as many owls, hawks, eagles, ducks, geese, condors, and pelicans. Different berries and flowers, as well as specialized desert, tundra, and temperate zone plants are also found here. See this article for some interesting flora in North America.
Let’s Get Some Culture … of the Nearctic
As I mentioned before, one of the cool things about Bio-Realms is how they kind of coincide with human cultural interactions too. The dominating cultures in this realm tend to be this “Neo-Anglo” culture of the North American variety (it’s quite different from Neo-Anglo culture in the Caribbean, for example), and a Latin American culture, also of the North American variety. Neo-Anglo culture is strongest throughout, especially in much of the U.S. and Canada. Still, Latino culture is strong in the Southwest of the region. This is mostly in Mexico (duh!), but also in bordering U.S. states and several urban areas throughout the realm.
“Neo-Franco” culture is strong in some areas like Canada, especially in Quebec province. It also has some influence in parts of Louisiana or St. Pierre & Miquelon, of course. Besides being a part of the same three countries, these areas are heavily influential in each other’s history and contemporary identities. They receive many immigrants amongst one another and share languages, slang, music, and cuisine across borders.
Indigenous cultures are also still around, though much subtler than in the Neotropical Realm. Their cultures are more visible in the Western United States and Mexico or rural Canada. This is also true of the Arctic where the many Inuit peoples have a distinct culture and identity. Match that with Greenland where there’s this funky mix of Inuit and Danish cultural cues.
We’ve come to the end of the Nearctic Realm, but there’s so much more to explore. What other cultural ties do the people of this realm share? Are there any other cool animals, plants, or geographic features you can think of in this realm? Had you heard about the Nearctic before? Tell us in the comments!
Follow if you enjoyed the article and feel free to read more posts. Thanks as always for stopping by. Sending you good vibrations. Peace!
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when Rupert’s Land and the North-Western Territory were joined, they became the North-West Territories, describes their geographic location in Canada
Predominantly English (~ 78%). Dogrib or Tłı̨chǫ is the most prevalent indigenous language (~ 4%). Other official languages are: Chipewyan, Cree, French, Gwich’in, Inuinnaqtun, Inuktitut, Inuvialuktun, North Slavey, and South Slavey. Mostly spoken by small portions of the population.
Capital & Largest City
Northwestern Canada, a federal territory in the general Arctic region. Mostly located on the mainland with some territory on large islands in the Arctic Archipelago. Has coastline on the Arctic Ocean.
Parts of Canada’s taiga (mostly plains and shield forests), Taiga Cordillera mountains, and Arctic tundra. Major lakes include Great Slave Lake (deepest in North America) and Great Bear Lake (largest lake fully within Canada).
The middle of Canada is spelled with a big “M.” Manitoba is a province of wildlands and some wild weather swings. This nice place is where residents of the world have decided to live and to visit. Scratching its recent Covid-19 troubles, this province is a fascinating one with some interesting features. Read on to see nine reasons why the Keystone Province can be considered unique. But first, some geography and stuff.
MANITOBA: Quick Geography (& Stuff)
Canada’s most centrally-located province is found in the middle interior of the country. One of the so-called Prairie provinces, it is the only one that isn’t landlocked and the one with the most humid climate. Its coastline comes in the northeast on Hudson Bay and it borders the United States to the south.
Back to the climate, Manitoba is mostly continental in the south and subarctic in the north. Major habitats include scattered highland regions, especially east around the Canadian Shield. Most of Manitoba, though, has flat or open landscapes, including prairies and boreal forests that turn into taiga and tundra in the north.
There are also many wetlands like the Hudson Plains and too many lakes to mention. The biggest are Lake Manitoba, Lake Winnipegosis, and Lake Winnipeg, among the largest lakes in the world. The vast majority of Manitobans live in the south which is where the capital, Winnipeg, is located.
Otherwise, the name comes from Cree and Ojibwe languages meaning “straits of Manitou” or the Great Spirit, referring to a place on Lake Winnipeg. The name could also be influenced by Assiniboine for “lake of the prairie.”
So why is Manitoba so special? …
1. Because of Winnipeg
The entryway into all that makes Manitoba stand out has to be in its capital and biggest city. The ground zero of what makes Winnipeg unique is at the Forks, the general meeting point of two rivers where big markets, nice parks, a riverwalk, and boating can be experienced.
Also around Downtown are cultural centers like the Winnipeg Art Gallery and Canadian Museum of Human Rights. That last one mixes some incredibly fun architecture with a breakdown of human rights movements from throughout history. Cruising happily down the urban rivers and parks can take visitors to FortWhyte Alive, an environmental and recreational center with all kinds of interactive outdoor activities.
Another great natural space is Assiniboine Park which covers everything from forest to a beautiful pavilion to a great zoo with tons of polar bears. Important events occur throughout the year too like Folklorama (folk festival) and the Festival du Voyageur (heritage/winter celebration).
2. Because of Churchill (& Polar Bears!)
If you’ve ever watched Animal Planet and seen that Canadian town where polar bears roam the streets, Churchill was probably the place. The city occasionally gets wild polar bears waltzing through it, but there are other attractions to be found. Kayaking on the river and beluga whale outings are especially popular.
There’s the major Prince of Wales Fort to be explored and the town is near to Wapusk National Park. Wapusk is a part of the tundra where visitors can spot wildlife, especially around Polar Bear Alley. There are also wrecked boats and the amazing Northern Lights that add an awesome appeal over the white winter landscape.
Like in other parts of Canada, Manitoba’s history is well preserved. This shows in Lower Fort Garry, an old fur trading post by the Hudson’s Bay Company that allows visitors to get a taste of frontier life.
Near to that is the Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre. Here, birdwatching and environmental immersion meet in a cool-looking center out on the marshes. Out in the town of Steinbach is a Mennonite Heritage Village dedicated to preserving and teaching about the lifestyle of these rustic settlers.
4. Because of its Random Attractions
Being in North America’s Midwest, Manitoba is bound to have some random attractions. Random doesn’t have to mean bad though, since one of these is the International Peace Garden. This wonderful garden is shared with North Dakota in the U.S. and is a really cool gesture of friendship between the two nations.
There’s also the big Centre of Canada sign which signals to the longitudinal center of the whole country. Who else can claim that? Portage La Prairie is a curious little town that boasts the World’s Biggest Coca-Cola Can, plus a neat waterpark on an island called Splash Island. Random.
5. Because of Lake Winnipeg
I don’t want to dump on the other lakes, but Lake Winnipeg seems to be the most popular. Besides all the other great stuff one can do on a massive lake (e.g. fishing, boating, you name it), there are also some popular beaches to see. Most noteworthy are Albert Beach and the famous Grand Beach which hosts a fun Sand Castle Tournament.
Castles made of sand can lead you to Hecla Island, a full-blown island in the lake with beaches and a relaxing coastal resort. There’s also Hecla-Grindstone Provincial Park with its lovely coast and lighthouse to explore.
6. Because of the Icelandic Communities
So Canada is home to all sorts of ethnic communities, and adding to that unique list would be the Icelandic ones. Going back to Hecla, the town is home to a big Icelandic community.
A large area around Lake Winnipeg was actually known as New Iceland to settlers. They established the largest Icelandic community outside of Iceland in Manitoba! That’s why there are several heritage festivals like Íslendingadagurinn (try that one fast) to commemorate. The town of Gimli is also a major center with a Heritage Museum, plus some beaches of its own.
Whiteshell Provincial Park is one of several unique nature parks in Manitoba. With sweeping rivers and woods, the park is special for having several strangely shaped lakes, especially at West Hawk Lake. This one was created by a meteor impact and has some very interesting views around it.
Not far is the Pinawa Dam Provincial Heritage Centre, centered around the Pinawa Dam. Imagine that. It’s an old dam with a really distinct design that has basically turned into these eerie ruins. Still, it’s a popular place for people to hike, hang out at the parks, or cruise under its watery arches.
8. Because of Parks like Riding Mountain
Riding Mountain just sounds fun, doesn’t it? Like the Matterhorn. Well, this national park has lots of nature to take in and enjoy, including a chance to witness the park’s bison and other wildlife. Scenic views and vast wetlands are also a feature at Spruce Woods Provincial Park, but with a twist. This park is home to a series of large sand dunes to climb in the midst of wild prairies.
From the southern plains to the eastern highlands, the Canadian Shield boasts impressive parks like Atikaki and Nopiming. These places mix rocky forests with beautiful lake shores, great for watching sunsets and Auroras under the wild sky.
9. Because of its Culture
Reading above, you could see how Manitoba’s settlers have shaped the face of the province. This of course stems from its First Nations and later Métis people (mostly of mixed Indigenous and French background) that played a big role in distinguishing it as a province.
From Icelanders to Mennonites to French and British fur traders, the rustic outdoors heritage of the settlers still shines in its modern lifestyle. Nature shapes a big part of Manitoba’s identity with wildlife being a core part of many attractions. Winters are brutal but people don’t shy away from a bit of lakeshore fun on those beaches.
Conserving nature and history is a big deal here in a place where it’s hard to say that polar bears don’t matter. I mean, they’re walking right there! But really, an attention to what makes all of human- and animal-kind special joined with a boldness to design and redesign itself all make Manitoba … well, it’s just a piece of what makes Manitoba a special place.
First off, thank you for coming. If you enjoyed this, please read about other unique places on Earth’s Face. Tell us what you like about Manitoba! Feel free to contact me with personal comments or for collaboration at email@example.com. Stop by again, and take care out there travelers!
Going down south … in Iceland, that is. This will be the last Earth’s Face post about Iceland, and what a great note to finish on! This region is truly special within this country and in the world. Want to share what you like about the Southern Region or about Iceland, in general? Share it with us below! I’m all about sharing knowledge and enthusiasm for geography, haha. You can read about Iceland’s other regions in the Geography section. But back to the question:
What makes the Southern Region so special? Well, you’ll just have to read on.
Suðurland: Quick Geography
The trend continues in Iceland. Just like all the other regions, we can tell exactly what part of the country this one is in by its name, Suðurland in Icelandic. Located in the south, it’s actually pretty close to Reykjavík as well, though its capital is at Selfoss. It’s got some interesting geography features too. Even though it’s in the south, several of Iceland’s ice caps and glaciers are actually located here due to altitude.
The nation’s biggest lake, Þórisvatn (Thorisvaten) is here, and the region sits right along a rift valley between the North American and European continental plates. That creates some interesting scenery throughout. Besides that, you also get a group of volcanic islands off the coast called Vestmannaeyjar. Intriguing. Now let’s see those features!
1. Selfoss – town
Since Selfoss is the capital town, that’s naturally where the intro to the region begins. Besides being the biggest town in southern Iceland, it’s also got some interesting cultural features. They have a Bobby Fischer Center dedicated to chess if you’re into that, and there’s a special summer event called Summer in Selfoss. It’s basically this outdoor festival to enjoy the summer which, in the Southern Region, is one of the “hottest” in Iceland.
During the festival, they make elaborate decorations on houses and gardens, and they have a big outdoor gathering/party called a fete. Definitely after the pandemic, you can try to get out there. One of the main features around Selfoss though is its nature. Selfoss is on the Ölfusá River, great for witnessing open space and hilly scenery. Don’t confuse the name with Selfoss, a magnificent waterfall way off in northern Iceland. It’s kind of far but, off topic, really a special sight to see.
2. Landmannalaugar – mountains
One incredible mountainous region is Landmannalaugar. This place is a vast natural area stocked with lava fields and vividly colored hills. There are reds and yellows and swirling oranges. Add the smoke that constantly seeps out of the rocks and it looks like a winding mountain range on fire. Still relatively safe for exploring, there are huts available for camping out in the heights and even horseback tours.
3. Þórsmörk – canyons & waterfalls
Down the road, Þórsmörk (or Thors-moerk, maybe) is a beautiful highlands area, actually named after the god, Thor. That makes enough sense since inside these mountains is a big canyon that looks like Thor smashed his hammer right into the earth! The landscape is beautifully scenic with a snakey river that runs down the bottom of the green cliffsides. Another cool feature here is the Stakkholtsgjá (Stak-holts-gyah) area. It’s a specific part of the canyon that is especially pretty with green cliffs, caves, and more of those spectacular views we’re used to seeing in Iceland.
In the region around Þórsmörk are some iconic waterfalls. Iceland is known for its many beautiful falls, but the Southern Region may take the cake on that topic. Two particular falls that deserve mention in these parts are Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss, the latter of which flows in a rolling green setting. There is access in a cave behind the falls to watch the water flow down from within. Truly breathtaking, I’m telling you.
4. Þingvellir – rift valleys & history
Yet another pretty geological site is Þingvellir (Thing-vel-lir). This is basically a large natural area of rivers, canyons, and thermal sites wrapped all around a continental rift valley. The sight of rivers flowing down into the rift is enough to make you love this place. Tacking onto its natural beauty, it’s also significant to Icelandic history.
The famed Alþingi (Al-thing-y) was one of the first, if not the first, parliament systems in all of Europe. The area of Þingvellir is the place where the parliament used to meet up for hundreds of years before more recently moving to Reykjavík. The history and the scenery together pack a punch to make this place especially unique inside of Iceland.
5. Gullfoss & Geysir – waterfalls & geysers
We couldn’t talk about the Southern Region without bringing up Gullfoss. These are some of the most powerful and impressive waterfalls in the whole country, ripping over hills and falling into a canyon where they seem to disappear.
I also have to mention the Great Geysir. This is one of the biggest geysers in the world and is the reason why we call them geysers today, though with a slight spell change. It was reportedly the first geyser to be witnessed by Europeans and probably anyone else. Otherwise, it’s just amazing to watch. Another important geyser is Strokkur, just to give you some options. These are a perfect alternative if you’re in Europe and can’t make it all the way out to Yellowstone.
6. Vestmannaeyjar – islands & volcanoes
Yet another unique place is the Vestmannaeyjar (Vest-man-nay-yar). These are a group of islands off the coast of the Southern Region known for their consistent volcanic activity. Fear not, these islands are truly breathtaking and offer up some great views of the volcanic hills surrounding their towns and coasts. Small compared to the main island, they still offer up some majestic views juxtaposing the wild sea and rugged land up against each other. They’re not far at all and a close hop from the “mainland.”
7. Culture (Last Thoughts)
Oh, Southern Region. If I were Icelandic, I’d be surely proud of you. Being in the south and with all its valleys and thermal activity, it’s a bit warmer than other parts of the country. That makes it so that people get a little more outdoor time, allowing people to be more active. Vestmannaeyjar is the only offshore island group with any significant population. That makes the lifestyle and culture here unique from the rest of Iceland.
Being reasonably close to the capital, yet still centrally located, this region is a major stopover for travelers and visitors passing through the island. A significant place for the history of Iceland, it’s the site of the first known geysers and one of the first parliaments in Europe. All that aside, Iceland is a waterfall chaser’s dream, and the Southern Region is arguably the best place to see these magnificent forces of nature.
**We did it! Iceland is in the bag. But this isn’t all that makes these regions special. Share what you think is special or just plain cool about Iceland. Know a video or photo that makes these places look awesome? Share a link with us! Keep growing your mind and take care of each other! Peace.
Iceland is absolutely a blessed country. There is so much beauty and so much that makes it stand out. This is Part 4 on what makes Iceland unique. You can read the other parts here to learn about Iceland’s other regions. In this post, we’ll look at what makes the Eastern Region special in this Nordic nation. Follow any of the links I’ve shared to learn more, and I always recommend looking up some of these places for yourself. Google Images is pretty inspiring on its own!
Okay then. What’s so special about Iceland’s Eastern Region?
Austurland: Quick Geography
There’s no hiding where this region is located on the map. The Eastern Region is in the east with its capital at Egilsstaðir (Egilsstadir). Its name in Icelandic is Austurland, which means the same as its English name. It’s got a pretty rugged coastline with lots of fjords. Its capital is also the biggest town in the east of Iceland. Like all the other regions, it’s got a mostly mountainous terrain with Alpine and polar climates, though the coast is generally warmer and more populous. Iceland’s highest peak and deepest lake are also in this region. Now that we know where it is …
1. Seyðisfjörður – Arts & Nature
First place that deserves a mention in the Eastern Region is the town of Seyðisfjörður. What is that? I know, it looks impossible to read. It can also be spelled “Seydisfjoerdur” if that helps. This place is pretty unique as far as towns go, considering what’s in and around it. The town itself has a vibrant art scene with lots of artistic style being integrated into it. Some entire streets are brightly painted and lined with colorful wooden buildings. Probably the most iconic of those is the Seyðisfjörður Church at the heart of it all.
Speaking more on the arts, this town has the only two cinemas in east Iceland, good to know in case you’re in the area. The town sits along fjords and has mountainous scenery, including the Skálanes Nature & Heritage Center and the nearby Gufufoss waterfall and puffin nesting grounds. History also runs deep here, where the Vestdalseyri ruins of an old settlement can be found. Apparently, these are the ruins from where they transported the town’s Church.
Seyðisfjörður happens to be the only place in Iceland where ferry transport between the island and continental Europe is possible. Also, don’t forget the nearby Tvísöngur sculptures. They are these radical concrete domes where singers can create musical sensations based on traditional Icelandic music. Very cool.
2. Egilsstaðir – Nature & Hot Springs
Remembering that it’s the capital, Egilsstaðir is also a major hub in the middle of the Eastern Region. Besides having a nifty Heritage Museum, the town is especially special for what surrounds it. Not far are the rocky waterfalls, Hengifoss and Fardagafoss.
Also not far is the Hallormsstaðaskógur (Hallorms-stadas-kogur — trying to help out). This guy is important as a national forest for being the biggest forest standing in Iceland. That’s a big deal because this country used to be covered in forests before it was settled and they were mostly mowed down. It’s a homage to the ancient and natural characteristics of Iceland as a whole. If that wasn’t enough, nearby you can find the Vök Baths. These are a set of natural hot baths built inside of a lake. I know, those people are so privileged!
3. Vatnajökull National Park – Volcanoes & Waterfalls
In the post about Northeastern Region, I told you a little about this huge national park called Vatnajökull. In the Eastern Region side of the park is the great Öræfajökull (Orefa-yoekull), a looming volcano that forms part of the highest peak in the nation. Next door is the amazingly pretty Skaftafell region filled with green hills and towering mountaintops. One of the most famous places here is Svartifoss, a waterfall that drops into a gorge formed out of cool hexagonal-shaped rocks. It’s a phenomenal sight and something really worth a handclap.
Another popular feature of this region is its glacier lakes. Two notable ones are Jökulsárlón and Fjallsárlón, the former being the deepest lake in Iceland. They are very popular places for visitors and an amazing stop to watch innumerous icebergs float around in the deep blue waters. These lakes stream off of the mountains and glaciers high up in Skaftafell.
One great place to get a sense of the amazing scenery is this town called Höfn. It’s right there on the coast and offers views of the surrounding mountains, including the almighty volcano. One last mountain to appreciate here is called Vestrahorn. It’s very close driving from Höfn and is well worth a look. It’s a popular place for photographs, telling from its rugged “horn-like” shape and location near the coast. There are lots of interesting viewpoints from which to see the mountain like stony shores, rugged hills, and even some dunes. This whole southern section of the Eastern Region really is just breathtaking.
5. Culture (Last Thoughts)
The Eastern Region is a unique cultural outpost inside of Iceland. On one end, you have some major towns with their own arts-enthusiast identities. Because of its location and ferry service, it has some stronger historic and current connections with Scandinavia. Still rural and full of scenic thermal landscapes like the rest of Iceland, this place has its own twist on Icelandic identity with a strong link between traditional identity and modern expression, knotted together by a proud heritage. Its unique landforms and features also give it its own fearsome identity on the east edge of the nation. That’s it for the Eastern Region. Stay tuned for the article about the South.
**Thank you for coming by and taking the time to read this post! You are an awesome world citizen and I think it’s amazing you’re so interested in all the small corners of our planet. Keep learning and enjoy yourself! Peace.
If you haven’t noticed yet, Iceland has a lot that makes it a unique country in and of itself. Making our way around the island, this post will dwell a bit on the two northern regions. Being so far up there, these are the two parts of the country that reach closest to the Arctic. Here you can read parts one and two of Iceland. It’s a little colder and more remote so far north. But what is it that makes the Northwestern and Northeastern Regions so unique? Let’s start by getting acquainted with this part of Iceland, shall we?
The names of both of these regions describe exactly where they stand on the map, and that goes for both in Icelandic and English. So, we at least know where they are. Common for subarctic countries, they also have some big fjords (though not quite like the Westfjords).
The capital of Northwestern is Sauðárkrókur (Saudarkrokur), and Akureyri for Northeastern. Both of these regions have pretty extensive coastlines and mountains, though there are some full-blown ice sheets down in the south of them. The northernmost points in both the island and the country of Iceland are in the Northeastern Region, where there are a few isles that reach above the Arctic Circle. Now on to the uniqueness!
Features & Places
1. The Capitals
Since we already mentioned them, let’s just start with the capital towns. I know the names might be a little confusing, so I’ll just refer to them here as S-Town and A-Town. Both of these northern regions look to be quite rural and country, even for Iceland standards. Still, this gives these towns even more of a cozy feel within the country.
Not only are these towns surrounded by scenic landscapes like sweeping harbors and snowcapped peaks. Especially with A-Town, there are a couple of other places to see like the Into the Arctic center, Iceland’s Motorcycle Museum for those who like motor grease, and a quiet Botanical Garden for those who like to sit in nature.
2. Northwestern: The Countryside
Of course, there is plenty to see outside of the capitals. In the Northwestern Region, Blönduós and Skagafjörður (Skagafjordur) come to mind out of the many idyllic countrysides here. In the area, there are even more scenes of majestic nature and landscapes stooped with watery valleys. A very cool feature of both these regions is that you can find many of those traditional sod-roof Nordic houses covered in grasses. When the ice has melted away, these homes and cabins are a pretty sight to see.
3. Special Lakes
If you like lakes, this is your place! 😀 Well, there are some interesting bodies of water out here. In Northwestern is a big one called Lake Hóp. Something really cool about it is that there are parts that seem to be shallow where groups of people can ride across the water on horseback!
If that doesn’t spark your interest, then check out this other place called Askja. Now, Askja itself is an active volcano or a series of calderas, really. Besides the feeling of being way out in the central highlands of a country that’s already pretty isolated, there are also a couple of big crater lakes, including the very large Lake Askja herself. Big beautiful bodies of water surrounded by snow-powdered hills and steamy calderas has to make a case for Northeastern Region being a special one.
3. Dettifoss & Vatnajökull
Particularly in Northeastern, you can find a few second-placers of Europe. Two of these would be Dettifoss (considered the second-most powerful waterfall) and the Vatnajökull (second largest glacier). With that said, they are definitely in first place inside of Iceland’s watery borders.
By writing this, you can probably picture for yourself the powerful, roaring waters and vast sheets of rugged ice and frozen caves. The glacier itself does stretch across a few different regions, but the larger part of Vatnajökull National Park is in Northeastern which is exactly where Dettifoss Falls are located. Okay, done with that.
I noticed doing research that these places seemed to be even more rustic and rural than the other regions of Iceland. It looks like there’s a stronger horse and farm life culture out here, and that’s great for giving some separation from the rest of the country. This area was traditionally (and still is) the least contacted for being so far up top. This has allowed the region to preserve certain aspects of rural and traditional Icelandic life that have fallen away in other parts.
There are still lots of amazing places to see and explore, and I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface. Ride a horse on a lake, catch the 2nd-most powerful waterfall in Europe, and reach the Arctic. All can be done in the wonderful Northeastern and Northwestern regions of beautiful Iceland!
**Thanks again for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed learning more about these regions of Iceland with me. I appreciate your thirst for knowledge and interest in other worlds. Please take care of yourselves and have happy travels!