This striking island in the North Atlantic Ocean has become increasingly popular in recent years – and it’s not hard to see why. Whether visiting to catch a glimpse of the awe-inspiring northern lights or to experience the camera-worthy landscapes, there’s nowhere quite like Iceland.
There’s a whole host of natural wonders to be uncovered here, from its ancient volcanoes to its thermal lagoons. While this makes a perfect destination for lovers of adventure and the great outdoors, there’s also a distinct calm to this island. Indulge in lavish spa treatments, enjoy the region’s unique dining experiences or immerse yourself in the iconic Blue Lagoon – many people have fallen in love with Iceland’s quieter side.
Of course, those in search of something livelier needn’t be discouraged. Instead, enjoy a destination that lends itself perfectly to hiking, summer cycling and extreme sports. Afterwards, you can really let your hair down with Viking-style feasts and some of the best nightlife in Europe.
The bustling Reykjavik is Iceland’s beating heart. A vibrant modern city with a rich cultural edge, there is plenty to keep you occupied. The fashion is undeniably cool and there are many cafés and bars where you can sit and happily spend hours people watching. For foodies, Reykjavik is restaurant heaven. Fresh ingredients and unusual flavours will open up a whole new taste palette. Fish is popular for obvious reasons, but they also have a number of traditional lamb stews and soups. If nightlife is your bag then you will not be disappointed. There are numerous music festivals and live music venues as well as late night DJ sets in bars.
On the northern tip of the Reykjanes peninsula is Gardur, a historic fishing village that has become a popular destination for wildlife enthusiasts. Dolphins, seals and whales are often seen here, as well as a variety of sea birds. Boat trips are a great way to see the coast from a different angle, while back on shore there is a pretty sandy beach. There are still a number of good fishing restaurants where you can sample the catch of the day, and two striking lighthouses add to the cool Icelandic drama.
An hour north of Reykjavik is Borgarnes, a coastal town situated in the heart of some of Iceland’s most stunning scenery. Simply take a drive around the coast and explore the fjords, before visiting the Hafnarfjall mountain, which looms on the skyline. It is part of an extinguished volcano that dates back millions of years. Museums in the town will explain more about the region’s history and there are tours available, which will take you up part of the mountain and into the most beautiful surrounding areas. Borgarnes is rich with wildlife, perfect for whale watching and bird lovers.
While this part of the island stretches just over 200km, a visit to Southwestern Iceland offers a glimpse into the country’s authentic way of life. The original parliament was founded here over a thousand years ago, as well as being home to a number of ancient churches.
The West Fjords
This part of the island is least visited but it is easily one of the most beautiful spots in Iceland. Icy waters and dramatic fjords make for stunning visuals, while majestic mountains tower ahead.
Embrace its nightlife
Iceland certainly knows how to have a good time. In summer, the island’s 24-hour sunlight provides the perfect excuse for parties, and you’ll never find yourself too far away from a humming bar or lively nightclub. Reykjavik, in particular, has a vibrant music scene, with many clubs showcasing every genre imaginable. In the winter time, crowds shelter themselves from the cold in edgy cocktail bars and cosy hideaways.
Snaefellsjokull National Park
Situated on the western peninsular is the Snaefellsjokull National Park. Home to the Snaefellsjokull glacier, lava fields and a craggy coastline, this area is geographically rich, and makes a perfect day out for people who love adventure. Bird watching and whale watching trips are all available and there are numerous hiking trails or guided walks to help you explore the more remote parts of the park. The lava fields are home to some of the country’s most unusual and beautiful plants, while the rocky coves and black sand beaches provide scenery that is unlike anything you will have ever seen.
The Blue Lagoon
Holidays to Iceland aren't complete without a visit to the Blue Lagoon: Iceland's most famous tourist draw. Mineral-rich geothermal water at 37 degrees offers the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate. The scenery is other worldly and the facilities are luxurious. Get a massage in the water or enjoy a treatment in the spa, before swimming (yep) to the bar for an Icelandic beer. There are also tours available, where experienced guides will add some detail to the area’s geography. A short drive from Reykjavik, the lagoon is easy to get to. Hire a car, take a taxi or head out with one of the many scheduled tours on offer. And leave your swimming goggles and underwater cameras at the hotel, because the water is a beautiful cloudy white.
Whether you choose the summer or winter for your holiday in Iceland, you’ll still want to make the most of the shopping opportunities on the island. Reykjavik’s main streets are jam-packed with high street shops and designer stores selling everything you might need, and plenty you don’t, particularly if you’re looking to brave Iceland’s colder seasons. Keep space in your suitcase for handmade woolly hats, scarves and jumpers as well as the latest in ski fashion.
Sightseeing in Iceland
Of all the sights in Iceland, the northern lights are the most popular. This is a spectacle that can normally only be witnessed in the winter months, usually from September through to March. With a bit of luck, you’ll be treated to a spectacular light show across the sky – best remember to take your camera with you!
Additionally, a trip to Iceland’s glaciers makes for a memorable stop on the itinerary. Whether you choose to walk across them, climb up them or just gaze down at the glacier pools, nothing quite compares to these natural ice sculptures. The most popular are Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Jökulfirðir Glacier Fjord, for which plenty of excellent day trips are available.
When deciding when to visit Iceland there’s one decision that will inform your month: whales or Northern Lights
Summer’s considered the best time to visit Iceland thanks to extended daylight hours and mild temperatures. Most of the country sits to the south of the Arctic Circle, but the northern regions experience a true midnight sun during the months of June and July. This is also the prime season for whale watching, so if you’re planning on boarding a boat to spot some of these beauties, summer’s the time to go.
The Northern Lights are possibly the biggest draw for visitors to Iceland, providing a truly magical display if you’re very lucky. They light up the sky between September and April each year. The best times to see them are September, October, February and March, particularly around the dates of the solar equinoxes.
The dark days of winter can be a bit more challenging, with some roads closed during this time due to snow and ice. Temperatures may plummet to -30°C during December through February, with wind chill amplifying this effect.
Iceland’s diverse cultural calendar makes any time of year a good time to visit. Most of the music festivals take place in the summer, however. There’s the Secret Solstice Festival around the 21st of June each year, with big-name international headliners. For smaller local and independent bands, the Iceland Airwaves Festival brings thousands of music fans to Reyjkavik each November. Around the 19th or 20th of August, Reykjavik hosts a Culture Night featuring dance performances, concerts and pop-up boutiques throughout the city.
For a more traditional cultural event, don’t miss the Seaman’s Day on the first weekend in June. This celebrates everything pertaining to the local fishing industry, and boats remain in the harbour during the weekend so that sailors get a chance to participate. Visitors can enjoy swimming contests, rowing games, and herring feasts galore. And for those who want to taste the local cuisine, the Food and Fun Festival each March draws chefs from far and wide to create tempting new menus.
Cuisine in Iceland
If you’re searching for the opportunity to eat like a Viking, you’ve come to the right place. Iceland is renowned for its hearty helpings, with plenty of local dishes served up in its many eateries.
Due to its coastal location, fish is particularly popular. Saltfiskur is a fish that has been salted, dried and baked and is a favourite on many Icelandic menus. Additionally, Harofiskur is dried-out fish that you traditionally eat with butter – perhaps not to everyone’s tastes. If you’d prefer something more familiar, you can try one of Iceland’s famous hotdogs. Although the meal doesn’t originate from the island, they normally prove particularly popular!
Those with a sweet tooth might like to try Skyr, a dessert that is both high in protein and low in fat. Although it is technically a cheese, it looks and tastes like yoghurt and can often be found in cafes as well as food stores, served up with fruit or mixed into smoothies.
Restaurants in Iceland
Nordic cuisine is increasing in popularity, and you’ll find a great many restaurants serving up traditional Icelandic dishes. Reykjavik has become a hub for world-renowned chefs, making it a top spot for gastronomy.
Visit Reykjavik's harbour and you’ll be greeted with stylish restaurants and bars as well as stunning surroundings. Eateries are chic and modern, serving up fresh seafood dishes, salads and even live music. Alternatively, head to one of the city’s cool cafes for a hearty brunch – there are an endless amount of places to catch your eye.
From its impressive fjords and volcanic landscapes to its enticing nightlife, Iceland should be next on your to-travel list. Enjoy the remarkable northern lights, kick back and relax in a spa or sample Nordic cuisine – you’ll leave with plenty of excellent experiences under your belt.
Booking holidays to Iceland with easyJet holidays is the ideal way to enjoy your next getaway without the hassle, plus you’ll even save on your trip when you book your flight and hotel together.