Iceland's natural wonders
Most visitors only spend a few days in Iceland, rather a fortnight, due to the costs and relatively small size of the country. Iceland makes for an ideal long weekend destination. It is also a popular stop-off point for anyone flying to/from New York/USA, with special stop-over deals available.
The following offer great deals for UK holiday makers heading to Iceland for longer than a weekend break:
- G Adventures: five small group tours lasting 5-14 days are available for Iceland - options include trekking, Family Adventure and Arctic Highlights
- Intrepid Travel: an 8-day “Iceland Discovery” group tour is available which visits Reykjavik, Hvolsvollur, Kirkjubaejarklaustur, Hofn, Egilsstadir, Myvatn, Hrutafjordur and Snaefellsnes. Two family group holidays are also on offer, as are “Northern Lights” trips.
- Nordic Visitor: self drive tours, short breaks, Northern Lights, guided tours, day tours, honeymoons and Stag weekends - all sorts of Iceland holiday options are on offer here
- ebookers.com: create your own holiday: good for flight plus hotel offers
All international flights arrive at Iceland’s Keflavik Airport (near Reykjavik, about 40 minutes drive away).
easyJet offer direct flights to Iceland from London Gatwick, London Luton, Bristol, Manchester, Edinburgh and Belfast airports.
Icelandair operate flights to Iceland from London Gatwick, London Heathrow, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow airports.
As there are not that many flight options to Iceland from the UK it is probably best just to check the above airline websites yourself to find the best flight offer.
[Note: For internal flights within Iceland such as between Reykjavik and Akureyri, use Air Iceland. Internal flights run from the small Reykjavik Airport, which is only 2km from the city centre. Remember, flights from/to the UK don’t use this airport - they use the larger Keflavik Airport].
Flights to Iceland
- Reykjavík is the capital and the only large city in Iceland. In fact, around half the population lives here. Reykjavik is a compact city, which means walking around the city to see its attractions is easy. If you like museums, there are several interesting ones to choose from, including the National Museum of Iceland, the National Gallery of Iceland, the Reykjavik Art Museum, the Reykjavik Maritime Museum, and the Saga Museum, which displays key moments in Icelandic history and is situated in the iconic Perlan building (which offers fantastic views of the city from its 4th floor viewing deck and also contains an exclusive restaurant). Another good spot for panoramic city views is Hallgrímskirkja’s (Church of Hallgrímur) tower. Visiting Reykjavik is perhaps more about what you can do outdoors - due to Iceland’s amazing and unusual natural beauty. So don’t forget to visit some geothermal swimming pools in the city, and join other tourists on popular and convenient day tours to go whale-watching or visit the Golden Circle Route (visiting Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall and Geyser hot springs – see below for more details on these Wonders of Nature). [For more info, see the Reykjavik Tourist Board website].
- The Blue Lagoon: Essential to any visit to Iceland is a trip to the Blue Lagoon - an outdoor steaming pool of turquoise water which you can soak in and enjoy the benefits of its “healing” minerals. As it is located near the International airport (about 20 minutes from the airport and 45 minutes from Reykjavik city centre), a good idea is to visit it straight after arriving or on your way back to the airport. Conveniently, the airport buses stop en-route.
- Geysers: The most prolific geyser in Iceland is the Great Geyser in the Haukadalur Valley. This geyser has been known to shoot boiling water sixty metres into the air. It however does not erupt on a constant basis. Nearby is another geyser by the name of Strokkur. This one erupts much more frequently and you will usually get a satisfying experience when visiting it. Approximately every five minutes, boiling water is thrust out of the ground about twenty metres into the air.
- Gullfoss: Gullfoss translates as “Golden Falls” in English. It is a waterfall that is situated in a canyon of the Hvítá River in the south west of Iceland. The waterfall is made up of staircases that see approximately 140 m³/s of water rushing over a thirty two meter crevice. In the summertime the mountains surrounding the falls provide many lovely green locations for picnicking and viewing the rainbow that generally lingers over them.
- National Parks and Glaciers: Iceland is home to many National Parks that have been designated as areas for recreation and to preserve the natural beauties that lie within. The Vatnajökull National Park is where you will find the Vatnajökull Glacier. This glacier is the largest in Europe and covers more than eight percent of Iceland, concealing volcanoes and glacial lakes. Though Vatnajökull is the biggest, there are also many other glaciers to explore in Iceland. The largest of these are Hofsjökull, Langjökull, Mýrdalsjökull, Drangajökull, Eyjafjallajökull, Tungnafellsjökull, Þórisjökull, Eiríksjökull, Þrándarjökull and Tindfjallajökull. Other National Parks include Jokulsargjufur, Snaefellsjokull, Skaftafell and Thingvellir.
>> Skaftafell National Park: famous for its stunning peaks and glaciers as well as its large and varied collection of flora and fauna. The world’s largest icecap outside of the Poles can also be found here.
>> Thingvellir (also written Þingvellir or Pingvillir) is one of the country’s most interesting historic sites. Thingvellir is where the country’s first ever parliament was based for more than three centuries after its first meeting in 930 AD. Lake Thingvallavtn, Iceland’s largest lake, can also be found here and is a great spot for fishing, while the Thingvellir National Park is an ideal place for hiking.
- Lake Mývatn Conservation Area: given protected status in 1974, this area is famed for its awe-inspiring natural beauty and broad selection of geographical and geological attractions. Top sights include the lava fields, volcanic craters, simmering mud flats and of course, the magnificent ‘Waterfall of the Gods’, one of the most powerful waterfalls in Europe.
- Akureyri is Iceland’s “second city” (with a population of just 20,000!), based in the northern reaches of Iceland. Akureyri is one of the warmest places in Iceland and is well known for its cultural scene including folk dancing and superb entertainment. After Reykjavik, this may be the best bet for a base with some nightlife that allows you to also explore nearby nature. Day-trips to Lake Myvatn are popular from here. Akureyri is a pleasant place to chill out and explore the “real” Iceland after leaving behind most tourists in Reykjavik. Cheap and scenic flights are available to Akureyri from Reykjavik’s small city airport (not the International Airport).
- Whale Watching, Rafting & Outdoor Adventures: Due to Iceland’s location between the cold Atlantic sea and the warmer Atlantic Ocean, plankton thrives in the waters. This along with the long summer days attracts all different species of whales as well as dolphins and porpoises. As a result, whale watching is a popular attraction in Iceland. Many of the companies operating whale watching cruises also offer deep sea fishing. Similarly Iceland’s glaciers create great swirling and powerful rivers that are a perfect location for river rafting. The most popular rivers to raft on are the Hvítá, Markarfljóti and Hólmsá rivers. You will find yourself swirling in below freezing waters passing gigantic glaciers and remarkable volcanic structures in a heart stopping adventure of a lifetime. The ice and cold up the levels of extremity and make what was originally exciting now totally exhilarating. This opens the door for a plethora of other outdoor activities too. These include caving, canoeing, horse riding, hiking, ice-climbing, snorkelling, diving and glacial hiking.
- The population of Iceland is only around 320,000 people!
- The capital city is Reykjavik.
- The local currency is the Icelandic Krona.
USEFUL Iceland Travel WEBSITES:
- Wikitravel: Iceland Travel Guide
- Rough Guides: Travel Guide Iceland
- Lonely Planet: Iceland Travel Guide
- WorldAtlas: Map of Iceland
- Met Office: Iceland Weather