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Thundering volcanoes, explosive geysers, fizzing hot springs, bubbling mud pools — Iceland’s landscape knows how to hold your attention. This is the Land of Ice and Fire, after all, full of vast glaciers, snow-covered sea cliffs, and subarctic lagoons where the icebergs that float by are bigger than the whales. It’s a place where Planet Earth shows off some of its most spectacular tricks. Here, you can witness sights from the Northern Lights to the midnight sun, see colonies of nesting puffins, or walk on beaches of red and black sand. Should you find yourself yearning for human company amid all this natural wonder and wilderness, look no further than the tiny towns and fishing villages that hug Iceland’s coastline, or the warm welcome of its ever-trendy capital, Reykjavík.
Keflavík International Airport (KEF) is in the southwest of Iceland, some 20 miles from Reykjavík; the drive takes under an hour, and there’s a bus service between the two. You can get to the country on the car ferry from Denmark, which also stops in the Faroe Islands. Car hire is readily available and driving is the most popular way to tour the island, enabling you to explore its many hidden treasures, especially inland. There is public transport in the form of a bus network that operates around the island, and which is best approached with a timetable in hand and a willingness to plan ahead. A number of single-runway airports and landing strips offer alternative means of crossing the island and can sometimes be the only way to visit remote areas in the depths of winter.
Summer is when Iceland’s interior is at its most accessible. The months of June to August get the warmest weather and the long days that allow you to make the most of your trip. It’s a time of numerous summer events and festivals including the Secret Solstice in June and the Culture Night in August. But there’s plenty to see and marvel at, whatever season you come. The country’s plateaus, forests, and farmland take on vibrant colours in autumn, and visiting in October and November can be a great way to experience the wilderness at its wildest. Winters are dark and cold, but they’re also the time when Icelandic hospitality is at its warmest – not to mention the best opportunity to see the aurora borealis.
This isolated and largely uninhabited region in the northwest corner of the country rewards travelers who venture off the beaten path. See Arctic foxes in their natural habitat at the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, or nesting birds covering the cliffs at Látrabjarg. Or take in the spectacular 100-metre-high Dynjandi waterfall.
This tiny hamlet on the east side of the island might not draw your eye, but it’s worth a visit for the extraordinary mountains of multicoloured rhyolite surrounding it. With scenery like this, it’s no wonder the place has fostered a vibrant artistic community, and the hiking is endlessly rewarding.
If you’re in Reykjavik on a weekend, make sure to check out this indoor flea market near the Old Harbour. Its stalls and inventory are a perfect reflection of this quirky city. You’ll find everything from sweets and secondhand books to vintage clothing.