Travel Inspiration

Iceland vs. Norway: A Northern Hemisphere Knock Out

Iceland vs. Norway: A Northern Hemisphere Knock Out

With goosebump-inducing scenery, rocky Viking history and colourful cultures, Iceland and Norway share many similarities, but they are very different places when you dive in and take a closer look. With contrasting natural wonders, food, and cultural traditions, these Arctic adventure hubs are fighting for top spot. With volcanoes vs. fjords, fermented shark vs. sautéed reindeer and beer tölts vs. midsummer celebrations, there are certainly some weird and wonderful traditions and sights to think about when deciding where to head on your next icy escapade. There is so much more to both of these Nordic nations than just their stunning scenes, making the battle of Iceland vs. Norway a close one. This northern hemisphere knock out is an exciting one…


  1. Landscape
  2. Culture
  3. Food
  4. Unmissable Experiences



At first glance, the sheer scale and beauty of the landscapes found in both countries makes the battle of Iceland vs. Norway seemingly impossible. In Iceland, volcanic activity has shaped the country’s landscape and created many of the attractions that draw tourists from across the globe – black-sand beaches, endless lava fields, bubbling mud pits and swimmable hot springs are on most people’s check list of things to see when in the ‘Land of Ice and Fire’. Watch Geysir the geyser erupt in a stream of white water in southwest Iceland, or visit the mind-blowingly beautiful Goðafoss waterfall in the island’s north which has been nicknamed the ‘Waterfall of the Gods’. It is just that spectacular.

Norway, the land of fjords, isn’t short of natural spectacles, either. During the last Ice Age, glaciers carved into Norway’s landscape, leaving vast valleys and fjords in their wake. Hike up to Pulpit Rock for that edge-of-the-world feeling while looking over Lysefjord; explore the country’s longest and deepest fjord, Sognefjord, which stretches a whopping 204 kilometers inland from the coast north of Bergen; and explore the innumerable trails and viewpoints that smatter the mountainsides.

Earth’s power has been well and truly demonstrated in both countries, leaving volcanic scars and water-filled marks in its wake. The question of Iceland vs. Norway is not an easy one when it comes to landscapes, so this round is undeniably a tie.

Waterfall in Icealnd



The contest of Iceland vs. Norway isn’t purely based on stunning scenery and geographic phenomena; the culture that runs through these countries’ veins is some of the most exciting and unusual in Europe. Iceland’s beer, tölt, has become known around the world for its role in one of the wackiest traditions. Hop on an Icelandic short-legged pony with a beer in hand and see how much of the golden liquid is still in your stein at the end of the race. Head to Husavik in the north of the island for a taste of a traditional Icelandic fishing village, or venture into the cultural heart of Reykjavik to explore the many art galleries, architectural landmarks and museums. You may even stumble across the Icelandic Phallological Museum, at which point you might want to cover the youngsters’ eyes.

Norway also has its fair share of cultural delights. Midsummer is a huge celebration for the Nordic nation, complete with summer parties, flower crowns and maypole dancing. With the snow gone and the weather warm, Norwegians have to find other ways to keep their ski legs going until winter hits again. Roller skiing is the ultimate adrenaline adventure sport for the summer months in Norway and Hovden is the perfect place to have a go. Don some knee pads and a helmet and wiz around the track in true Arctic summer sport style.

With such a variety of cool and quirky cultural traits and traditions, it is difficult to decide who wins this one. The score is 2-2.

Roller skiing in Norway



With ocean-fringed borders and chilly climates, food in Iceland and Norway is wholesome and hearty, with some funky traditional twists mixed in as well. Norway has a burgeoning dining scene, so hunt down some first-rate seafood in Oslo, whether at a quaint local eatery or at one of the city’s many Michelin recognised restaurants. While exploring the winding cobbled streets of Tønsberg or Bergen, grab a taste of pølse (hotdog in a potato pancake with red and yellow sauce) or a typical Norwegian waffle topped with brown cheese - a national delicacy. If you want to really push your pallet and impress the locals, head to a restaurant for a taste of carpaccio reindeer topped with cheese, pickled onions and crispy bread for the ultimate traditional treat.

Iceland is also known for its weird and wonderful dishes, including fermented shark and sheep head. Head into the Reykjavik for a sip of Icelandic beer or, if you’re really brave, a shot of Iceland’s most distinctive spirit - Brennivin (or ‘black death’ as it is known by cautious locals). Spend the evening sitting in a buzzy bar, munching on fresh smoked salmon on freshly-baked rye bread, and try the world-famous Icelandic yoghurt, skyr, which is packed with nutrients to help with bone strength in the winter when the sun doesn’t reach the Nordic horizon.

The winner of this round of Iceland vs. Norway depends on whether you fancy a taste of traditional dishes, or something that will really tempt your tastebuds. Norway comes up trumps with its many Michelin-starred restaurants, while Iceland’s weird and wonderful culinary traditions are too good to miss. Yet again, this round is a tie, taking it to 3-3.

Drying fish in Iceland


Unmissable Experiences

Extraordinary natural wonders and unmissable experiences fill every corner of Iceland’s otherworldly landscape. While exploring the Golden Circle in Iceland’s south, live out every geography afficionado’s dream by donning a helmet and descending 400ft towards the centre of the Earth inside Þríhnúkagígur’s dormant magma chamber. After venturing back into the daylight, take a dip in the world-renowned Blue Lagoon where you can submerse yourself in its milky blue waters and cover your face with hydrating silica, while sipping on a refreshingly cool drink from the pool bar.

Norway is also brimming with bucket-list experiences. Explore the fjords by boat and head out to Hardangerfjord whose sheer scale will leave you feeling like a human ant. Keep your eyes peeled for fuzzy seal heads bobbing in the waves and white-beaked dolphins playing in your boat’s wake.

Although Norway’s is utterly breathtaking, Iceland’s rather unusual adrenaline-inducing pursuits give it the edge in this round, taking the score to 4-3 to Iceland in the close contest of Iceland vs. Norway. Iceland just pipped Norway to the post in this northern hemisphere knock out but with both countries boasting stunning scenery, crazy culture and bucket-list worthy experiences, it’s no wonder this contest was so tight.

Norway Fjords


Written by Immy Kelly