Iceland is Europe’s most sparsely populated country. Over half of the population lives down in its southwestern corner, around Reykjavik, the small but cosmopolitan capital. Iceland straddles the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, on the edge of the Arctic Circle, and is one of the coldest countries in the world. The international airport at Keflavik is on the Reykjanes Peninsula, an area abounding with birdlife and whales are visible from the shore. Most accommodations operate from late May to early September. In winter, other than large hotels in Reykjavik, there’s not many places open.
Since Icelandic weather is very unpredictable you need to plan your holiday with this in mind. In summer, you can count on sunny days. In fact, the sun does not fully set during June, and though there’s no real midnight sun, nights are light from mid-May to early August across the country. In autumn and early summer, between September and January, the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights can be seen.
Don’t miss Geysir, which lesnds its name to other gushing hot springs, and try to visit the spectacular waterfalls at Gullfoss. On the west coast, are the towns of Borgarnes and Reykhold, you will see landscapes associated with the Icelandic sagas. The Snaefellsnes Peninsula has great hiking opportunities.But Iceland’s most dramatic scenery is in the northwest, where the West Fjords hide tiny fishing villages at the foot of table-top mountains protected from wild Arctic storms that inflict this exposed part of Iceland. From Akureyri you can visit the Arctic Circle at the island of Grimsey. just 75 km to the east of Reykjavik is tiny Minniborg, where your Iceland holiday can take a sporting twist with horseback riding, hiking and quad bike riding.
Iceland’s biggest attraction outside Reykjavik is Lake Myvatn, one hour away to the east of Akureyri. Ducks and other waterfowl nest in this lake, which is surrounded by evidence of volcanic activity, including long-dormant cinder cones and still-steaming lava fields. North of Myvatn is the small town of Husavik, the best place for summer whale-watching cruises, while just inland to the east you can hike along deep river gorges of the Jokulsargljufur National Park to the amazing waterfalls of Dettifoss. Aspiring hikers should head for the glacial lagoon, Jokulsarlon, where the Porsmork trail is regarded as one of the world’s best walking trails. In the south coast, take a ferry to the Vestmannaeyjar to see the world’s largest puffin colonies.