Holiday in Iceland
Iceland, (Icelandic: Ísland) is a mountainous island nation in the north Atlantic Ocean, located between Europe and North America. Though not part of the continental mainland, the country is considered European. The name of the country - Iceland - may not be that appropriate: although 10% of Iceland is covered by glaciers, it has a surprisingly mild climate and countless geothermal hot-spots. The native spelling ("Ísland") is appropriate in English as well.
Southwest Iceland - Home of the capital, Reykjavík and the majority of the island's population.
West Fjords - Sparsely populated, rugged geography.
North Iceland - Dramatic lava fields, turbulent waterfalls.
Interior - Glaciated mountains.
Cities and Towns
Reykjavík - The capital of Iceland and the only city. (pop. 119 900 (Greater Reykjavík area: 200 878)).
Hofn (Höfn) in Hornafjordur.
Seyðisfjörður - beautiful fiord, and Iceland's only international ferry port.
Húsavík - One of the world's most reliable whale watching sites.
Akureyri - Capital of the North.
Ísafjörður - biggest town of the West fiords of Iceland.
It's a shame most visitors don't stray far from the capital as some of the most memorable sights in Iceland are further afield. There are many excursions offered by tour companies, readily available from any of the main centres such as Reykjavík and Akureyri. They will fly you around and take you out to the glaciers and to the big volcanoes for a reasonable price. However, the cheapest option is to drive around with a rented car since none of these sites have entry fees.
Þingvellir National Park (pronounced "THING-vet-lihr") - National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage site. 30 to 50 km (20 - 30 mi) east of Reykjavík. Interesting for a number of reasons: Not only is it the original site of the longest running parliament in the world (the name literally means 'parliamentary fields'), it's also where the North-American and European continental shelf plates are being torn apart.
Vatnajökull National Park - Iceland's newest national park was founded on June 7th, 2008 and includes the former Skaftafell and Jokulsargljufur National Parks. Vatnajökull National Park is Europe's largest national park at 12,000 km2, covering about 12 percent of the surface of Iceland. The park is home to Iceland's highest mountain, Hvannadalshnúkur, largest glacier, Vatnajökull, and Europe's largest waterfall in terms of volume discharge, Dettifoss.
Snæfellsjökull National Park - Located on the tip of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in southern Iceland, this park is home to the ice-covered volcanic crater that was the setting for Jules Verne's book Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Blue Lagoon - (Icelandic: Bláa Lónið) Famous outdoor pool and health centre. The spa is in Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula, south-western Iceland. It is situated approximately 13 km (8 mi) from the Keflavík International Airport and 39 km (24 mi) from Reykjavík. This geothermal spa in the middle of a lava field with its milky blue water is quite surreal. Admission does not include towel rental, which was €4.
Mývatn - A lake region near Akureyri in the North of Iceland, Mývatn has an unearthly appearance owing to special types of volcanic craters throughout the lake. There are plenty of activities in this area: Smajfall (desert where sulphuric steam comes out of the ground) and Dimmuborgir (aka The Black City aka The Gates of Hell).
Gullfoss - The Golden Falls. On the edge of the inhospitable. Interior of Iceland about 60 miles east of Reykjavík, the river Hvítá plunges down a double cascade to create what many people believe is the most beautiful waterfall in Iceland.
Geysir - Geothermal hot spot located 10km west of Gullfoss. Geysir itself (from which the English word "geyser" derives) is no longer active, but fortunately Strokkur next door goes off every five to ten minutes.
Kerið - Volcanic crater lake in Southwest Iceland.
Jökulsárlón (The Jökulsár Lagoon) - The majestic glacial lagoon in southeast Iceland and is located near Höfn on Route 1. Breiðamerkurjökull glacier retreated very quickly from 1920 to 1965 leaving this breathtaking lagoon, which is up to 190 m deep. Ice breaks off from the glacier keeping the lagoon stocked with icebergs all year round. The James Bond film Die Another Day was filmed here in 2002.
Landmannalaugar - A region of outstanding natural beauty reachable by bus (or 4x4) from Reykjavík. Situated in the Interior, it gives a taste of the uninhabited highlands at Iceland’s core.
Hafnarfjörður - City of elves and an annual Viking festival.
Skagafjordur The home of the icelandic horse, Glacial river rafting, Old turfhouse / Folk museum Glaumbær and Historical Nature Park Island Drangey.
Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands) - Pompei of the North, volcanic island, great birdlife, largest puffin colony of Europe. The new island of Surtsey.
Iceland is a stunningly beautiful place if you enjoy strange and desolate landscapes. Because it is so close to the Arctic Circle, the amount of daylight varies dramatically by season. The sun sets briefly each night in June, but it doesn't get fully dark before it comes back up again. In the March and September equinoxes, days and nights are of about equal length, as elsewhere in the world. If you go in December, it's almost 20 hours of gloom and darkness. Summer is definitely the best time to go, and even then the tourist traffic is still mild. The midnight sun is a beautiful sight and one definitely not to be missed. It is easy to lose track of time when the sun is still high in the sky at 11PM. Early or late winter, however, can be surprisingly good times to visit. In late January, daylight is from about 10AM to 5PM, prices are lower than in the high season, and the snow-blanketed landscape is eerily beautiful. (Some sites are, however, inaccessible in the winter).
Despite its name, Iceland has surprisingly mild winters for a country at that latitude owing to the warming effect of the Atlantic Gulf Stream. Iceland enjoys a maritime temperate climate and the winters are often compared with those of New England (though the winds in winter can be bitter). However the rapidly changing weather has given rise to the local saying: 'If you don't like the weather, wait fifteen minutes!' It's the kind of place where it's not unusual to get rained on and sunburnt at the same time - some Icelandic people also believe that if the winter is hard and long then the summer will be good and warm. The summers are usually colder and windier than elsewhere at the same latitude (the effect of the ocean again) and 20 to 25°C is considered quite warm.
The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa and the most famous sight in Iceland.
A bus from the Main Bus Station in Reykjavík takes 40 minutes and includes admission to the Blue Lagoon. They have a fantastic system in place at the Blue Lagoon. When you pay your entry you can rent swimsuits and towels. You are given a bracelet with chip technology that you use to operate the lockers in the changing rooms, and also records the amount of anything you wish to buy while you are there - lunch, drink, souvenir, disposable camera - and when you turn in the bracelet as you leave you then pay for the day's fun. You could easily spend an entire afternoon, or this makes a great stop on the way to or from the airport.
For an out of the way drive rent a car and travel along the southern part of the ring road to the town of Vík with its magnificent black sand beaches, rock outcroppings, glaciers, and lava fields.
South-central Iceland, easily accessible by car or tour from Reykjavík, has a number of sights;
The Gullfoss waterfall is quite spectacular.
Geysir, the namesake of all geysers, and its neighbour Strokkur which erupts every five minutes or so.
Þingvellir National Park, a beautiful landscape of water-cut lava fields, which is historically important as the site of Iceland's parliament from 930 AD.
The rest of Iceland also has amazing sights;
Vatnajökull glacier is in Southeast Iceland and is Europe's largest glacier.
Jökulsárlón, the largest glacier lake in Iceland, is located off Route 1 and part of Vatnajökull glacier.
Near Dyrholaey, there are several places that have horses for rent at a very reasonable price.
In the colder months, one may frequently get stunning views of the Aurora Borealis, a.k.a. Northern Lights anywhere away from city lights.
Husavík is home to the Icelandic Phallological Museum.
The Iceland Saga Trail Association is an association for those involved in history- and saga-related tourism in Iceland. The members offer museums, exhibitions, heritage sites, festivals and the sites of certain sagas.
Vacation Rentals Iceland