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Iceland Holidays

Glaciers, geysers and grand scenery galore

Rising out of the rough, icy waters of the North Atlantic ocean at the maritime crossroads between Greenland, Norway and Scotland, just beneath the Arctic Circle, Iceland is a country quite literally bursting at the seams with natural splendour. From glistening glaciers and thundering waterfalls to snow-capped volcanoes and lunar-like lava fields, it’s no wonder it has been chosen as the backdrop to countless film and television hits, including Game of Thrones, Star Wars and James Bond.

It’s a place of extraordinary contrasts, both in terms of its diverse landscapes and its perpetually shifting character between seasons. Visit in the summer and you’ll experience the mesmerising (if somewhat disorientating) phenomenon of 24/7 daylight; in winter, gleaming white sheets of snow and ice and the hauntingly beautiful glow of the Northern Lights provide a welcome antidote to the near-constant darkness. No matter how long you spend in Iceland, you’ll almost certainly find yourself yearning to return to explore more of what this endlessly captivating country has to offer.

Reykjavik and the Golden Circle

Reykjavik, the world’s northernmost capital city, is far more than just a convenient starting point for a longer Icelandic adventure – it’s a very worthy destination in its own right. Between its cosy cafes, artisan bakeries, trendy craft beer bars and fascinating museums, it’s a remarkably vibrant and cosmopolitan city that lends itself perfectly to being explored on foot at a leisurely pace. It’s also home to an eclectic blend of architectural styles, from the stark, imposing Hallgrímskirkja church and the futuristic, sharp-angled Harpa concert hall to the array of brightly painted townhouses that provide a non-stop stream of photo opportunities. Keep an eye out for murals, too – Reykjavik has a thriving street art scene that gives many of its buildings a totally unique aesthetic. And of course, a trip to a geothermal spa is a must. The Blue Lagoon may be the most renowned, but there are many fabulous alternatives worth considering such as the Sky Lagoon (just 10 minutes from downtown Reykjavik) and the Hvammsvik Hot Springs (a 45-minute drive north). 

The Golden Circle, meanwhile, is an ideal way to get a taste of Icelandic nature within easy reach of the capital. This 300-kilometre loop takes in three major landmarks – Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall, and the Geysir Geothermal Area – and can be completed either as a day trip or with overnight stops, allowing you more time to fully appreciate the region’s awe-inspiring scenery. If you’re hiring a car, you might also be tempted to venture along the south coast to visit Skogafoss waterfall, Reynisfjara black sand beach and Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon, or north, to the spectacular Snaefellsnes Peninsula.

Akureyri and the wild, rugged north

Keen to venture off the beaten track? Consider flying straight into Akureyri, the gateway to North Iceland – a land of majestic fjords, vast canyons, shimmering lakes and rust-coloured geothermal fields blistered by mud pots and fumaroles piercing the Earth’s crust.

The small but happening town of Akureyri makes an excellent base for adventures further afield, including to the Diamond Circle, which encompasses five of the region’s most captivating sights, including Husavik (the whale watching capital of Iceland) and Myvatn (an area humming with volcanic activity). Several of Iceland’s finest geothermal spa complexes are found up north, too: the Forest Lagoon in Akureyri, GeoSea Geothermal Sea Baths in Husavik and the Myvatn Nature Baths. With an abundance of opportunities for hiking, snowmobiling, skiing, whale watching and Northern Lights hunting, Iceland’s far north is an outdoor adventure haven like no other.

Discover Iceland

Need to know

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Capital
Reykjavik
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Language
Icelandic
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Currency
Icelandic Króna
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Time zone
GMT
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Flight time
2hrs 50mins

* Average time from London Luton to Keflavik International

All regions in Iceland

Your Iceland questions, answered

It takes around three hours to fly from London to Reykjavik, and around three hours and 20 minutes to Akureyri. If you're coming from Manchester or Edinburgh, then the flights are slightly shorter as you're already a little further north to begin with. 
Any time is great – it just depends on what you’d most like to do while you’re in Iceland. Fancy hiking, or other outdoor activities? The summer months of June, July and August are a really good choice. There's 24/7 daylight and temperatures should be up at their highest, usually in the teens. It can be busy though, so you might prefer spring and autumn if you like to stay away from larger crowds. Iceland is really special in the winter too, with long twilights and plenty of snow-related activities. It's also generally not as cold as you'd think given its latitude, as the warming effect of the Gulf Stream means temperatures don't tend to dip too far below zero. If the Northern Lights are on your bucket list, aim for the period between mid-September and early April. October and March in particular are often considered the best months to visit for aurora hunting.

Although you could in theory drive around Iceland in a single day (if you didn't stop), you wouldn't have much time to take in the array of incredible sights along the way. In fact, you could quite easily spend a month exploring the island, and even then you wouldn't be able to cover it all. A ring road (also known as Route 1) circles the whole country and passes between the majority of its best-known attractions, which is really handy. A great way to sample the highlights is to take this single-lane highway in small sections, perhaps over the course of a week or so.

If you’re in Reykjavik, it’s only a short 50-minute trip to the Blue Lagoon, via the same stretch of the ring road as the International Airport. The Golden Circle route can also be done in a day from the capital. 

Three or four nights would be a good amount of time for a long weekend in Reykjavik, with a couple of excursions thrown in as well. For Akureyri and the north of Iceland, four or five nights would be better as the main sights in this region are more spread out and take longer to get to. You could easily spend a week (or longer) in Iceland, though, and you'd still have to be selective about what you'd include on your itinerary. There really is so much to see and do that you can't possibly cram it all into a single trip.
Traditional dishes include kjotsupa, a lamb soup, and plokkfiskur, a fish stew made of boiled cod or haddock with either mashed or scrambled potatoes. Dishes like fermented shark are not eaten as regularly as many believe. Hot dogs are also really popular here and, in Reykjavik, you’ll find everything from Mexican, Thai and Italian cuisine, lots of vegan and vegetarian options – and great street food
Yes. Icelandic might have been rated as one of the hardest languages to learn, but you won’t struggle to make yourself understood here, far from it. English is taught as a second language in schools, and almost every Icelander speaks it very fluently. Icelanders also tend to know several other languages too, including Danish, German, Spanish and French and welcome any opportunity to use these language skills.