Contemporary architecture sits aside snow-capped mountains and icy seas.
Despite touching the Arctic Circle, the landscape of Iceland is greener than its name would suggest. But black sand beaches, active volcanoes, vast glaciers, boiling geysers and thundering waterfalls all add to its appeal. Throw in a rich mix of Norse cultural history and you have a fascinating destination just three hours away by plane.
With a population of just 376,000 in a country the size of Ireland and most of its energy captured from geothermal activity, Iceland must rate as one of the most pristine environments in the western world. Add to that an abundance of fresh fish, a growing number of internationally acclaimed chefs, some truly beautiful landscapes and chic hotels, and it is not surprising that Iceland has firmly put its school geography class image behind it.
We think the very best way to experience Iceland is with a private guide who can show you the many hidden surprises this magical country conjures up. One of the most exciting excursions on offer in Iceland, being driven in a Jeep through rivers, up the sides of volcanoes, and deep into the heart of the wild highlands is a must. Self-drive is also a pleasure in Iceland. Although the car ownership per head of population is very high, there are just two main roads which are largely empty.
Iceland is a great destination for a long weekend, which would quickly fill with sights, activities and adventures. During the long summer days, you could try fishing for sea trout or salmon, kayaking, horse riding and 4×4 adventures. For winter visits try snowmobiling on glaciers and exploring active volcanoes – all always with a comfortable hotel as your base offering excellent food.
An understanding of nature and the elements form two important parts of the Icelandic national psyche. This is a country in which they say that if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes and it will change. You have to understand that you do not visit Iceland for the weather. The weather may not be great but this in itself brings opportunities.
Our experts have created and curated these holiday ideas to get you started. Take the time to search through them and find something to spark ideas for a unique adventure.
It’s all here. Things to see and do, places to explore and moments to discover.
Trek amongst the frozen lava fields.
Search for foxes, Iceland’s only native mammal, in the Westfjords.
Explore the Viking sites and learn of the true tales of the early Viking settlers.
Puffin-watch at the remote farms of Husey and Skalanes, on foot or by horseback.
Spend a few hours at the pretty arty town of Seyoisfjordur on the east coast.
Explore the lake side forest of Lagarfljot.
Follow the wild coast by horse or up into the remote hills.
Walk the bird cliffs of Westfjords.
The Fimmvorouhals or Five Cairns Pass is one of the top twenty hiking trails in the world. Trek the 23km in spring or summer to view the blanket of wild Arctic flowers covering the valley.
Treat yourself to a traditional Icelandic woollen sweater at Mosfellsbaer.
Some of the wonderful places to stay that we frequently recommended.
Surrounded by mesmerising Icelandic wilderness, the 25 turf covered houses of Torfhus Retreat blend beautifully into their environment. Each of the traditional style houses has exclusive or shared use of a basalt hot tub – surrounded by great slabs of lava, these geothermal baths are both relaxing and rejuvenating. Interiors of the wooden retreat are cosy and welcoming with open plan layouts, underfloor heating and furnishings showcasing a sense of history and fun. Swords and shields adorn the walls of the viking inspired Langhaus where the lobby and dining room are lit by wagon wheel chandeliers and guests can relax on the fishing boat sofa.
The Radisson Blu 1919 Hotel, Reykjavik is a historic hotel housed in the former offices of Iceland’s first shipping company, Eimskipafelag Islands, constructed in 1919.
Hotel Ranga is a countryside hotel and the only four-star hotel in South Iceland. Ideally located about an hour from Reykjavik, it offers something special for its guests year-round. Situated on the banks of Iceland’s premier salmon river, Hotel Ranga provides picturesque surroundings, with views of Mt. Hekla volcano, several glaciers and the Westman Islands. Hotel Ranga offers 51 comfortable rooms and suites, using lots of woods and rich materials for a warm finish. The suites are furnished to reflect the seven continents around the world.
Alda Hotel can be found on the main shopping street, Laugavegur, in the peaceful heart of Reykjavik. With a stylish bar, comfortable rooms and welcoming staff, the Alda is a perfect choice for this charming city. Steppes Travel was lucky enough to stay here during a trip to Reykjavik, the location, the staff and even the breakfasts were wonderful, we loved it.
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