This land of saga’s and skaldic poetry is also home to trolls, elves, gnomes and other hidden people, who the Icelandic folk take very seriously, building their roads around their suspected dwellings. Norse mythology runs strong in this old Viking outpost, and it is easy to see why. There is something magical about this island, its stunning and stark landscapes, the long winter nights with the northern lights dancing around the skies like colourful phantoms, the intense loneliness only interspersed by tiny fishing communities, the grumbling of the earth as it tears itself open and spews molten hot lava into a cold misty morning, the crashing sea onto the craggy shoreline, and the myriad of waterfalls that come gushing out of rocky outcrops.
Iceland is primordial beauty, a place to dream and sit by a fireside and tell tall tales about trolls, or for long hikes at the end of which you wonder if you really did see that elf dance in the misty swirls of a waterfall. But it is also a modern nation, with exciting new literature and music which has an appeal far beyond its northern shores, with some stunning architecture and with a sophisticated population who all share a love for nature and their beautiful country.
During the summer Iceland never reaches full darkness giving you plenty of time to visit the sights. And in winter the night never quite leaves its shores, a perfect period in which to witness Aurora Borealis. And if you feel cold, just hop into one of the geothermal springs outside Reykjavik it is sure to warm you up.
Highlights from Iceland
- Reykjavik, Iceland’s small capital is one part traditional, one part modern, don’t forget to visit Hallgrímskirkja and the Culture House Museum
- Soak your cold and weary bones in the blue lagoon at Grindavík
- Visit Jökulsárlón Lagoon in the south-east of the country, a stunning glacial lake
- Gape at Detifoss Waterfall in Vatnajökull National Park in the north-east, Iceland’s largest
- Take a ferry to Vestmannaeyjar Archipelago and watch the wildlife or participate in Iceland’s biggest outdoor festival held in August
- Watch Gullfoss Waterfall play its magic
- Go underground in the spectacular Skaftafell Ice Cave
- Traipse around Myrdalsjökull Glacier Park with its iconic Maelifell Volcano
- Watch the northern lights anywhere outside the towns and cities
- Ride a horse through spectacular Landmannalaugar
Hints and Tips for Iceland
- The summer offers the most agreeable time to visit with long days and reasonable temperatures, but for the northern lights winters are the time to go.
- Iceland is an expensive place to visit, good ways to keep your costs down are to buy your food in supermarkets, camp if you have the right gear or try using a hospitality service.
- Instead of eating whales, you might want to watch them, there are plenty of opportunities to do so, and it is better for both.
- If you visit in winter, bring plenty of warm clothes, as it is freezing!!