Only fully independent from Denmark since 1944, the proud republic has a strong national identity which is reflected in its rich and poetic history.
Regular volcanic eruptions have hewn dramatic landscapes across Iceland’s islands, and the natural scenery is unparalleled around the world.
This forbidding and mostly barren land was first settled by the hardy Norse and their legacy is intertwined with nearly all Icelandic life.
Although the coastal edges of Iceland have been claimed for towns and villages, the centre remains uninhabitable, and its spectacular alien vistas remain a strong draw for artists and tourists alike.
The influence of the island’s underlying molten magma is never far from sight, with hot springs, geysers and boiling mud pools all to be explored. The volcanic heat is directly contrasted by Iceland’s snowy climate, though northerly temperatures are tempered by warm air from the Atlantic’s Gulf Stream, meaning that it is never uncomfortably cold.
One of the biggest natural draws for visitors is the spectacular Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. Often visible between October to March, nature’s famous light show spreads a dazzling cape of colour across the night sky. The aurora is caused by particles colliding high in the Earth’s atmosphere, but all thoughts of science are quickly forgotten when you first set eyes on the real thing.
Icelanders have harnessed the power of the volcanoes in many innovative ways, from heating to cooking. One of the best ways visitors can experience this is by taking a dip in one of the many naturally heated outdoor pools scattered around the island.
Iceland’s geography is reflected in its people – quiet and brooding by day, they have a fiery, excitable heart hidden just below the surface, ready to erupt at any moment. Norse legends permeate Icelandic culture, particularly the Íslendingasögur, or Sagas of Icelanders, which tell of early inhabitants of the island with stories featuring adventure, murder and even ogres. This sense of the magical has never truly left Iceland, and many of its inhabitants will still insist they believe in the existence of mythical creatures such as elves.
The country’s capital Reykjavík is where modernity meets the past; known as the nightlife capital of the north, due to its wide range of pubs and bars which often stay open well into the next day, the city is a melting pot of artistic culture. Recently Iceland has spawned internationally successful musicians such as Björk and Sigur Rós, and a thriving music scene means there is certainly more to come.
Iceland is a unique and exciting country, with vibrant nightlife and magical landscapes which have waited thousands of years for you to explore.
Iceland’s mildish climate can rapidly degenerate into heavy rain, biting wind or fog; May, June and July are the driest months of the year. In the north and east, the weather is better. Blizzards and fierce sandstorms occur in the interior deserts and on the coastal sand deltas. Mid-June to August is high season.