Best time to visit
Early June to the end of August, when the country defrosts
- Aurora borealis
- Enjoy Reykjaviks’s famously uninhibited nightlife
- Swimming in the piping hot waters of the geothermal field at Nesjavellir
- Snapping a photo of the iceberg-filled Jökulsárlón lagoon
- Checking out Vatnajökull – Europe’s biggest icecap
- Cooing over thousands of puffin chicks on Heimaey island
- Dogsledding on the icecaps at Mýrdalsjökull
- Running naked in the snow
Harŏfiskur (haddock), which is cleaned and dried in the open air until dehydrated and brittle. For something sweet try pönnukökur (Icelandic pancakes)
Kaffi (coffee), Icelandic beer or the traditional Icelandic brew brennivin, a sort of schnapps made from potatoes and flavoured with caraway.
At weekends the whole of Reykjavik joins in the great Icelandic pub-crawl, which goes on till dawn. It’s forbidden for parents to bestow non-Icelandic or foreign-sounding names on their children.
Once you’ve seen some of the lava fields and eerie natural formations that characterise much of the Icelandic landscape, it will probably come as no surprise that Icelanders believe their country is populated by hidden races of wee people: gnomes, elves, trolls, fairies, dwarves, mountain spirits angels and hidden people.
Located on a bay, presided over by mighty mount Esja, Iceland’s sprawling capital city stands in stark contrast to the quiet fishing villages and minute hamlets found in this remarkable island nation. It is extremely progressive, yet proudly traditional; exceedingly remote, yet surprisingly cosmopolitan; inextricably tied to its natural landscape, yet embracing of modern technology. The tiny city centre is characterised by an eclectic mix of brightly painted houses, elegant shops, stylish bars, and highbrow museums. A slew of restaurants serves up a delicious range of culinary delights as well as an array of exotic treats such as pickled ram’s testicles and putrefied shark meat! Whether you plan on spending your vacation gallery-hopping while listening to Bjork on repeat, scuba diving between tectonic plates, or relaxing in the myriad geothermal pools, Reykjavik is the ultimate destination for pleasure seekers and adventure junkies alike.
Vík í Mýrdal
Resting at the base of the magnificent Mýrdalsjökull glacier the remote village of Vik, also known as Vík í Mýrdal rests on Iceland’s exquisite southern coast. The village of Vík í Mýrdal is a popular stopover for intrepid travellers keen to see all the stunning attractions this remote region has to offer. The closest village to the majestic Katla volcano and Myrdalsjokull glacier, Vík í Mýrdal is also known for its black pebble beaches and intriguing rock formations. Visitors can swim in Seljavallalaug, the oldest hot spring pool in Iceland; visit the Reynisfjall mountain, famous for its many bird species; or head to the coast to view the iconic Reynisdrangar – black basalt columns sculpted by the sea and located close to the village.
Husavik has become known as Iceland’s main whale watching destination, due to the various species of whales that frequently enter the bay. Visit the Húsavík Whale Museum to find out more about these gentle giants of the deep, the history of whaling, and the impact that man has had on these creatures. The town lies on the edge of the Arctic Ocean’s chilly waters and is framed by ice-capped mountains. The Culture House (Safnahusid) is a local cultural museum, nautical museum and an art gallery that displays interesting historical artefacts, while the Exploration Museum is dedicated to explorers throughout history.
Located in West Iceland, the picturesque town of Borgarnes serves as the gateway to the world-renowned Snaefellsnes National Park. This little town boasts an authentic atmosphere, rich history, and spectacular scenery. Visitors can explore the old quarter, which is filled with heritage buildings; visit Borgarfjörður Museum, one of Iceland’s best, and stroll through the beautiful Skallagrimsgaraur Public Park. Nature lovers should not miss the chance to hike in the Einkunnir Country Park or climb the nearby Hafnarfjall Mountain. Other highlights include taking a swim in an indoor or outdoor geothermal pool or soaking up the spectacular views of the rugged peninsula, as well as views of the Snaefellsjokull and Eiríksjokull glaciers on a clear day.
Set on a scenic peninsula in southeast Iceland, the town of Hofn, meaning ‘harbour’, serves as the capital of the region. It provides an excellent stopover for visitors travelling around Iceland’s ring road. This picturesque Icelandic fishing town is conveniently situated close to the mighty Vatnajokull, the largest glacier in Europe. The town is surrounded by vast majestic landscapes featuring volcanic beaches, glacial rivers, and remote offshore islands. Visitors can look forward to a wide selection of activities including enjoying the annual lobster festival, visiting the town’s museums to learn about the surrounding area’s geographical history, and visiting the Gamlabuo, the ‘Old Shop’, one of the oldest buildings in Hofn. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Vatnajökull National Park, the largest national park in Europe.
Set in northern Iceland and one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country, Mývatn is a eutrophic lake in a geothermal valley. Here, boiling mud pots and hissing fumaroles are surrounded by magnificent mountains of sulphur-streaked rock contrasted with snow and ice. The valley hides a collection of caves containing surreal rock formations and is dotted with sweeping wetlands teeming with plant and birdlife. The Mývatn Nature Baths is a bathing lagoon that contains around 3.5 million litres of water with a temperature of between 3 – 40 °C. Places not to be missed include Hverfjall, Leirhnjúkur, Dimmuborgir, Höfdir, Grjótagjá, Skútustadagígar, Lofthellir, Krafla and the hot springs east of Námskardur.
Siglufjordur is situated on the northern coast of the island of Iceland. Positioned within a narrow fjord of the same name, Siglufjordur is an attractive place with interesting cultural sights on offer in addition to its great natural beauty. Don’t miss the Herring Era Museum, the country’s largest maritime-themed museum, which spans three buildings and focuses on the boom in the fishing industry in the 1940s and 50s, or the Folk Music Museum, where you can view traditional instruments and even listen to recordings from the museum’s extensive archives. As well as exploring the fjord of Siglufjordur, outdoor lovers can enjoy hiking trails in the region – and this area of Iceland is known for its Northern Lights viewing opportunities (September to March), as well as the chance to experience midnight sun (June and July).
Stretching from the fishing village of Borgarfjorour Eystri in the north, to Berufjorour in the south, Eastfjords is a long 120-kilometre stretch of coastline on the eastern coast of Iceland. Home to incredibly beautiful scenery, glittering lakes, charming fishing villages, gorgeous waterfalls and lush forests; the stunning area is inhabited by some of Iceland’s best-known wildlife and is known for having the sunniest weather in the country. Visitors can enjoy the remote landscapes, spot herds of wild reindeer and soak up the tranquil atmosphere. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the remote villages dotting the coast, relaxing at a quaint and colourful local cafe and exploring the numerous deep fjords that are carved into the coast namely: Borgarfjorour, Seyoisfjorour, and Faskruosfjorour.
No matter how much you hear about the awe-inspiring natural phenomena on this island on the edge of the Arctic circle, nothing can prepare you for the jaw-dropping spectacle that is Iceland. Dubbed “the Land of Fire and Ice”, this small island nation is characterised by contrasts and contradictions. It is a place where steaming geysers burst forth from icy glaciers, where molten hot lava spews out of icy snow-capped peaks, where the astonishing aurora borealis blaze across the night sky and where continuously dark winters are offset by summer’s magnificent midnight sun. With the exception of Reykjavik, the country’s population centres are small, with diminutive towns, fishing villages, farms and minute hamlets clustered along the coastal fringes. The interior, meanwhile, remains totally uninhabited. What the Icelanders lack in numbers, they certainly make up for in warmth, quirkiness, and boundless creativity. Add to this, one of the highest standards of living on earth and you have, quite simply, one of the world’s most intriguing destinations.
The Snaefellsnes Peninsula lies on the west coast of Iceland. Often referred to as ‘Iceland in miniature’, this beautiful region offers glaciers, fjords, hot springs, volcanoes and lava fields to admire – and is generally less crowded than the country’s famed Golden Circle tour itinerary. Key stops include the imposing Gerduberg Cliffs; Ytri Tunga Seal Beach, which is best visited in summer; the lovely waterfall of Bjarnarfoss and the photogenic Budakirkja Black Church, a wooden structure from the 19th century. The extreme western section of the peninsula, meanwhile, is occupied by the Snaefellsjokull National Park, which contains the glacier of the same name, as well as the interesting Djupalonssandur Black Beach and Saxholar Crater. Active travellers will relish the Arnarstapi to Hellnar Hike, which winds through lava fields with spectacular rock formations and sea caves.
Golden Circle Iceland
The Golden Circle is a popular 300-kilometre circuit in southwest Iceland that takes in three main attractions: Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall and the Geysir Geothermal Field. First stop is Thingvellir National Park, located just under an hour’s drive from Reykjavik, the capital. The park is famed for its exceptional geology: it sits directly over the original splitting point of the North American and Eurasian continents, and you can clearly see the rift valley that was formed by the shifting of the tectonic plates. The Silfra Fissure, in the park’s Thingvallavatn Lake, offers the chance to go diving or snorkelling between the continents in water that displays exquisite shades of blue. The Geysir Geothermal Field at Haukadalur is home to bubbling hot springs, fumaroles and two geysers, one of which is extremely active, shooting spouts of steaming water as high as 40 metres into the air every 5 to 10 minutes. The Gullfoss Waterfall is a place of superb scenic beauty, where you will be amazed by the sheer force and volume of the water that cascades over a 36-metre high drop.
North Iceland’s mythical beauty lures countless artists and photographers to capture the jaw-dropping beauty of this paradoxical paradise. Undoubtedly within the ‘Land of Ice and Fire’, the region intertwines bubbling hot springs, steaming lava fields, belching mud pots and gurgling geysers with glistening glaciers, snowcapped peaks and thousands of plunging waterfalls. At the heart of this dreamlike setting is the town of Akureyri, an attractive urban hub filled with hotels, restaurants, and bars, serving as the perfect launch point to explore the idyllic fishing villages and the exquisite natural surroundings. Marvel at the blue-green waters of serene Lake Mývatn, browse through Iceland’s largest maritime museum at The Herring Era Museum and view the magnificent torrent of the Dettifoss waterfall, reputed to be the second most powerful waterfall in Europe.
Thingvellir National Park