About Ireland 🇮🇪 Special in the English World

Ireland stands out in the English-speaking world

That’s right! Talking about the green island — well, green, white and orange, if we want to get technical. Ireland is one of the most recognizable and influential English-speaking countries out there. Here we’ll explore some of the reasons behind that bold statement. We’ll also take a quick look at the geography, culture, and other aspects of this modern Celtic nation. Let’s do it!

Read more: the Actual English World; Geography

Profile & Stuff — Geography of Ireland

One thing that can get confusing about Ireland is … well, what it is. There’s the island (and smaller isles) of Ireland, yes, which holds two different countries on it. One — the one we’re talking about — is the Republic of Ireland, or Poblacht na hÉireann if you want to get fancy (we’ll just call it Ireland for simplicity’s sake). The other is the United Kingdom, which lays claim on the island by way of Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland itself is a bit confusing, not necessarily a country, but maybe a special county, a semi-autonomous region, we don’t know for sure. 

Anyway, Ireland (the republic) is a bit easier to define. Unlike its Great British neighbors, Ireland is still in the EU. The rest of the UK sits just across the Irish Sea and the two entities have impacted each other for millennia now. Don’t check the watch on that one. 

Ireland’s capital is Dublin, which is also the biggest urban area. Even though about 40% of Ireland’s people live in this one region, there are still other major towns like Cork, Limerick, and Galway. Irish people themselves are pretty homogeneous, being in not too big of a place. Still, immigrant communities are present and well on the island, with many coming from other parts of Europe, the Middle East, East Asia, and Brazil of all places.

rock formation beside sea under white sky, cliffs of Moher on Irish coast
Cliffs of Moher – Henrique Craveiro

Historically, Ireland has been divided into provinces. Namely, they are Connacht, Leinster, Munster, and Ulster. Today they don’t serve much of any administrative purpose, although they do hold value in other ways. Locally, the country is divided into 31 entities; that’s 26 counties, 3 cities, and 2 city-and-counties.

The climate in Ireland is temperate and maritime with mostly mild, cool weather. It can get super rainy but isn’t super snowy. These were great conditions for vast forests, although most of those have been cut down. Most the landscape these days is hilly and pastoral with green fields. A majority of the land is set aside for agriculture. There’s a general central plain that culminates in more highland areas around the edges, especially in the west. Much of the coast is rocky with cliffs. Cliff diving, anyone?

Irish Identity

What’s the craic, lads? C’mon, give me your best Irish accent! We all know it when we hear it, and that’s due in part to the iconic culture of this place. Common social values in Ireland have to do with their unique sense of humor, storytelling, and folklore, an interest in politics and philosophy, admiration for wit, open expression, and the arts, as well as a pride for (and conflict with) the tricky history of the nation. Who really wants to bring up Protestant discrimination, foreign conquest and assimilation, or the several devastating famines? Not me, my friend. 

This sense of pride, though, is one of the very reasons so many Irish abroad are quick to claim their origins. Often, even those with distant Irish descendants are happy to claim where their ancestry. This could be due in part to Irish last names being pretty easily identifiable. 

A lot of them come from Gaelic origin, with names like O’Reilly, O’Hara, MacDonald, McAvoy, Murphy, Flanagan, Kennedy, etc. Oh, and the Normans had something to do with it (Kilpatrick, Kilkenny, Fitzpatrick, Fitzgerald), and the Welsh (Walsh). But hey, there’s a lot more to it. Some of the most iconic parts of Irish culture come from Gaelic roots, such as certain musical styles, dance, dress, and sports. I mean, hurling and Gaelic football are mostly an Ireland thing.

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Farming and small-town life are also significant aspects of Irish identity, given all those agricultural fields we mentioned earlier. Counties play a role in many people’s identities, shaping things like accent and team affiliations, among others. Dublin is a major cultural and arts center, tied in as one of Europe’s most important financial and technology hubs too. It’s also had a lot more English influence over the years as compared to rural Ireland, so Anglo-Irish ID is a bit stronger than elsewhere in the country. 

Irish Folklore

cute lady dressed in St. Patrick's Day outfit as a leprechaun, Irish folklore is known all over the English world
Respect the Lep – pxfuel

Irish folklore has also played a huge role in popular world folklore, especially in places like the U.S. and UK. Just think of how big Saint Patrick’s Day and shamrocks are outside of Ireland. Other major characters popularized (at least partially) by Irish storytellers include fairies, pixies, mermaids, the shapeshifting Pooka, the headless horseman, Dullahan, and most noteworthy of all, yes, leprechauns! Don’t know why I got all excited on that one.

Last one here, I wanted to mention Samhain (Saow-in). This traditional Celtic festival where turnips were used to scare away bad spirits would later evolve into today’s Halloween. Most of us use pumpkins instead of turnips now, but popular media have brought this spooky celebration all over the world. And it all stems back to pagan rituals. Imagine that.

Irish = Catholic?

After Gaelic culture, few things have influenced Irish identity and development like Catholicism. We know there’s a whole lot of controversy here, but what can I say? This Christian denomination is so crucial that it has basically been used as a major distinguisher between who is an “Irish national” and who is an “Irish Brit,” or just “Brit.” Irish from the republic are nominally a lot more Catholic, while those in Northern Ireland are a lot more Protestant. It could seem like a trivial difference, but centuries of squabbling and prejudice have really driven the fork deep between the two sides. 

Even though it’s been a major issue, on and off, many Northern Irish still consider themselves as simply “Irish.” There’s steady talk of Irish unification too. I don’t know enough about it to voice an opinion, and I’m sure not everyone is open to that happening. Still, it shows how there is some mutual respect and cooperation between the two sides of the island. 

The color green is often associated with the country on an international level. Despite conveniently being the color of clovers, it also is associated with the Catholic Church within Ireland (orange is associated with the Protestants). 

Speaking the Gaelic

Irish Gaelic or Gaelige is a co-official language with English. It used to be the main language of the people up to about a hundred or so years ago. At different points in history, Ireland was under the control of Great Britain or England. The most recent time during the Industrial Revolution saw a rise in literacy and other factors that grew the English-speaking population substantially, kind of merking those poor Gaelic speakers. Well, not the speakers themselves, but you get it.

Nowadays, Gaelic has struggled to keep up since many don’t really see a need to learn it. Most fluent speakers happen to be older or from rural areas where Gaelic culture is still strong. Cities or areas that have significant amounts of Gaelic speakers are called Gaeltacht, I’ve gathered. Since it’s not really spoken outside of Ireland, and only spoken by a small percentage within its own country, you can understand why it’s a hard one to sell, especially to the youngsters. 

Still, the language is mandatory in schools and most people know at least as much Gaelic as I know Spanish from my high school classes. There’s also a sense of revival for Gaelic in some communities, much like there is for lots of endangered languages around the globe. Despite not being fluently spoken by many, the language itself serves a sense of Celtic-rooted identity. 

Many words, idioms, and expressions have made their way into the local variety of English. The Irish accent, influenced by Gaelic tongues, Norman and Anglo-Saxon dialects, English, and the several other Gaelic and Brythonic languages nearby have all shaped each other and meshed to influence the local version of English we all recognize today. Cool stuff. 

To hear some people speaking in Gaelic and with Irish accents, watch and listen below!

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Further Reading

Why is the Southern Region special? 7 Cool Reasons – 🇮🇸 Iceland

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.

The Southern Region (Suðurland) on a map highlighted in red
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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.

A river valley in the Landmannalaugar highlands area, Iceland's Southern Region
Landmannalaugar – by Joshua Sortino

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.

Canyon in Iceland's Þórsmörk (Thorsmork) region
Þórsmörk – by Robby McCullough

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.

Special waterfall, Seljalandsfoss, partially covered in ice, Southern Region
Seljalandsfoss – by Robert Bye

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.

Part of Þingvellir (Thingvellir) area, rift valley in Southern Region, Iceland
Þingvellir rift valley – by Harshil Gudka

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.

Misty waters at Gullfoss, powerful waterfall in Southern Region
Gullfoss falls – by Theodor Vasile

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.

Gushing waters at sunrise, the Great Geysir in Iceland
the Great Geysir – by David Köhler

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.

View of a town and some islands from the red rocks of a volcano, on the islands of Vestmannaeyjar, the Southern Region
Vestmannaeyjar – By Hansueli Krapf (User:Simisa)

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.

What makes Iceland unique? Part 4 – Eastern Region

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?

Iceland's Eastern Region or Austurland, in red on the map
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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.

4. Jökulsárlón & Höfn – Glacial Lakes & Landscapes

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.

What makes Iceland unique? Part 3 – Northeastern & Northwestern Regions

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?

Location of Northeastern Region (Norðurland eystra) on the map
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Location of Northwestern Region (Norðurland vestra) on the map
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Quick Geography: Norðurland Vestra & Norðurland Eystra

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!

Fjord and harbor with a scenic mountainous landscape around the town of Akureyri, capital of the Northeastern Region, Iceland
Public Domain

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.

Panoramic view east across Skagafjörður valley, from Vatnsskarð pass, Northwestern Region
Skagafjörður valley – By Debivort

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.

Culture

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!

What Makes Iceland Unique? Part 2 – Western Region, Westfjords

Welcome back to another post about Iceland! We’re going to continue our curious quest to learn what makes different parts of the world stand out from all the rest. Moving on within the nation of Iceland, this post explores how unique the Western Region and Westfjords are. This isn’t really a travel list, more a letter of admiration for these two incredible places. You can read Part 1 about Iceland here. Check the links to discover more, or feel free to research some of these places for yourself. But read this first!

Hornstrandir area, a protruding rock formation on the coast, a unique place in Iceland's Westfjords Region
Hornstrandir – By Steenaire

Okay. What does make the Western Region and the Westfjords so special?

Vesturland

Quick Geography

As far as place-names go in Iceland, this one is about as simple as it gets. The Western Region is named so for being in the west. It sits just north of the Capital Region, with its capital at Borgarnes. It has coastlines, highlands, mountains, and glaciers like all the other regions do. The climate doesn’t differ much either. Okay, moving on.

the Höfrungur AK 91, a shored boat in Akranes, Western Region of Iceland
shored boat in Akranes – by Luke Hodde

Features & Places

Even though Borgarnes is the capital, the biggest town in the region is Akranes. Akranes is a coastal city with several interesting features like a lighthouse that looks spectacular underneath the sunset or aurora lights. There’s this ship from the 1950s called Höfrungur AK 91 that was just left on the shore and turned into a tourist attraction. There’s a sandy beach too, although the water’s a little chilly for diving.

It’s not the biggest, but Borgarnes is still worth the visit. The saving feature of this town is the majestic landscape surrounding it. There are winding peninsulas and harbors with snowy mountains in the backdrop. Like with most of the country, the elevation rises the further inland you go. With this, you can see an impressively tall waterfall called Glymur high above the surrounding canyons and tumbling birds.

Glymur, iconic waterfalls in the Western Region of Iceland
section of Glymur falls – by Alexander Milo

A mention of landscapes couldn’t go without Snæfellsnes. It’s a natural region on a peninsula that happens to be one of the most photographed and iconic parts of Iceland. There are these unbelievable rock formations covered in green pastures alongside roaring white waterfalls. The whole thing is like a fantasy setting. The coast is just as impressive with twisty stones and rugged shores alongside many uniquely shaped rocks. There are natural bridges, arches, and tunnels carved out by the constantly beating waves.

rock formations and a volcano in the background, part of Snæfellsnes area in Iceland's Western Region
Snæfellsnes region – by Martin Brechtl

In this same area is Snæfellsjökull, a big volcano that overlooks beaches and shorelines. It’s a pretty sight considering the glacier sitting on top of it, and even more amazing when the whole area is covered in snow during the winter. Inland you can see even taller mountains and larger glaciers. Isn’t that awesome?!

Vestfirðir

Quick Geography

The Westfjords are named so for being in the northwest of the country (naturally) and being full of fjords. It’s actually the part of Iceland furthest to the west and is the closest to Greenland. Its capital is a town deep inside a fjord called Ísafjörður. Now let’s see what you’ve got.

Dynjandi waterfall, a unique feature of Iceland's Westfjords
Dynjandi Falls – By Diego Delso

Features & Places

Now, the Westfjords or West Fjords — really you can write it either way — is a very pretty area similar somewhat to the Western Region. What makes it stand alone are its complex systems of fjords (imagine that!), cliffs, and very very twisty roads. These kinds of roads are famous and highly memorable for those that have driven them. The winding roads take you past some pretty amazing sights, including the mighty Dynjandi Falls. These suckers cascade over cliffs around the bend of some big road curves. Because of the rugged landscape, summer in these parts becomes really beautiful. As the snow melts, it creates all sorts of streams and waterfalls that run down into the ocean. One of the more interesting places to see this is in Ísafjörður, where the green and the streams really stand out around the edges of the town’s harbor.

Capital town and pretty scenery of the Westfjords region, Isafjordur (Ísafjörður), calm harbor in the summer time
town of Ísafjörður – By Sturlast~iswiki

The highest cliffs on the North Atlantic can be found at Látrabjarg. This place is a refuge for many sea birds like puffins that you can watch and get close to. The feeling of standing over the sea and watching birds fly under you must be an incredible sensation. The region is also full of green meadows that cover the hills and misty clouds that shift in between cliffs and mountains. The best showcasing of this unique beauty is found in Hornstrandir, an area with protruding mountains and cliffs like rhino horns that jut out over the sea. The setting is spectacular!

some high cliffs at Látrabjarg, Westfjords Region
Cliffs at Látrabjarg – by Einar H. Reynis

Culture (AKA Last Thoughts)

It’s easy to imagine why these regions are some of the most photographed and celebrated parts of Iceland. Just look up Iceland on Google Images and you’re bound to see a few locations from these iconic places. It goes to show from their almost unbelievable landscapes pressing right against the sea, their iconic winding roads, seaside volcanoes, and tall grassy cliffs. The Western Region and the Westfjords are definitely important for tourism, being not too far from Reykjavík. Still, they are remote enough to preserve the old customs and lifestyles while being open to welcome in newcomers. Go and check it out!

**Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed learning more about these unique regions of Iceland. I appreciate that you like to learn about the world and have a passion for exploring! Please share with us anything you’d like to add about these regions. What was the most interesting place on this list? Would you ever visit these regions? As always, take care of yourself. And go explore your world 😉

Weren’t the British the colonizers of the U.S.A.? – Colonization of the USA

This is a great question! After all, Americans mostly speak English. We’ve all heard about the original 13 colonies and how the British came to set up shop in the new continent. But the story goes a little deeper than that. Let’s look at some of the powers that had their hands in the American pie.

To start, there were a bunch of failed colonies along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts by the English, Spanish, and French early on (include Scandinavian Vikings if we really want to go back). The Portuguese and the Basques were also frequent visitors along the Atlantic in the 1500s and before, though they didn’t stop to settle.

The English/British

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  • the first to establish permanent colonies in the U.S. (not the continent, though)
  • had two main original settlements that grew and expanded out of New England and Chesapeake Bay
  • at first, were mostly groups like the Puritans seeking more religious freedom, or poor servants and farmers mostly from England
  • some colonies got lots of Irish-Scots settlers and expanded west into Native American territory, others got many more diverse settlers
  • we all know about the Atlantic slave trade

The main thing to think about with the British is that their culture, language, and society were the most influential early on in American history which is why the states maintained the English language and other cultural influences from the British after so long.

The Spanish

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  • established some of the first settlements still inhabited in the U.S., including the oldest at St. Augustine, FL
  • owned huge expanses of land in North America, including a portion of the Deep South and the whole western half of the current United States (mostly Luisiana or Alta California), even some areas of Canada, not to mention some territories like Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands
  • they either lost or gave up a lot of this land to England or the U.S. over the centuries
  • states Oregon, Montana, Nevada, California, New Mexico, Colorado, and Florida names all come from Spanish words, literature, or colonies

Spain had a pretty big cultural impact on the Gulf Coast and the American Southwest. Many place names (Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Antonio, Santa Fe, etc.), lots of architecture, and cultural events come from Spanish and Mexican traditions.

The French

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  • had lots of colonies spread out through the central U.S. and east Canada
  • had lots of fights against England and confusing conflicts and alliances with Native Americans, they later gave up most their land to the English or Americans

France also had a big impact on place names (New Orleans, Des Moines, St. Louis, Eau Claire, Vermont) and cultural events, such as Mardi Gras and Cajun culture in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.

The Dutch

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Flag of Netherlands
  • set up colonies mostly in present-day New York and New Jersey
  • the British took over their main city, New Amsterdam, and changed it to New York, but Dutch culture stuck around in those rural areas for centuries after

The Dutch paved the initial way for America’s biggest and most iconic city. Some of its boroughs and surrounding towns are even named in honor of the Dutch (Brooklyn or Breuckelen, Staten Island or Staaten Eylandt, Harlem or Haarlem).

The Swedes

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  • made a small colony that only lasted 17 years before being sucked into New Netherland
  • the Bronx (after Bronck’s River) is named after a Swedish captain

Sweden’s colony was short-lived, but they introduced the first log cabins and some of the oldest churches to the future nation.

Also, let’s not forget Russia who colonized Alaska. The U.S. later purchased it, though, and most of the Russians left.

As you can see, there were a lot more European powers that settled the U.S. other than the English. Despite the obvious impact of the British here in the States, we also had a few other countries reaching in for a chance to colonize the future U.S.A.

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P.S. I know that the Native Americans were already on the continent, and the colonial powers took these lands away from them. This includes First Nations in Alaska and Polynesians in Hawaii, among others. This answer is just to focus on the aspect of European colonial and cultural influence in the U.S., not to focus on the destructive aspect of their settlement in the region.

Kenai Peninsula's Historic Russian Churches - Northwest Travel Magazine
Russian Church in Alaska: from here
Old Swedes Church - First State National Historical Park (U.S. National  Park Service)
Old Swedes Church, Delaware: from here
A Stroll Along State Street in Albany, New York —
Dutch architecture, New York: from here
Home Architecture 101: French Colonial
French colonial architecture, Louisiana: from here
Historic Architecture in California
Spanish architecture in California: from here
New England Architecture | Guide to House Styles in New England
English colonial architecture, New England: from here

Check out these resources and other articles here on CultSurf!

Colonial History of the United States: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colonial_history_of_the_United_States#Russian_colonies

First Arrivals of Europeans to Settle the U.S.: http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/amerbegin/settlement/text1/text1read.htm

Origins of New York City Borough Names: https://www.amny.com/news/nyc-boroughs-names-1-32096222/