Iceland is a veritable mix of fascinating geological activity. Nicknamed the Land of Fire and Ice, the landscape is largely a plateau of lava fields, interspersed with the odd volcano, river or waterfall, all with the potent smell of sulphur lingering in the air. It’s also a country with two very disparate seasons. In the winter you’re lucky to get five hours of daylight, whereas in the summer there’s effectively 24 hours of sunshine, leading to the natural phenomenon of a midnight sun.

With a strong Nordic identity, this unique country is largely explorable via its coastline. Although the mostly uninhabited interior can be penetrated by guided tours during the summer months when, like a giant causeway, the snow and ice recedes to allow access to this mountainous and otherworldly region.


Given that the only flights to Iceland from the UK land in Keflavik, which is close by to Reykjavik, it’s more than likely that the world’s northernmost capital city will be on every traveller’s list of places to see. Reykjavik also doubles up as a base for further exploration, with tours of the Golden Circle (a 300km loop into central Iceland and back) and to the Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa running throughout the week.

Things to do: The Lutheran Hallgrímskirkja church resembles the basalt lava flows of Iceland’s landscape and is a focal point of the city. The Perlan is another landmark building, boasting a viewing deck where, on a clear day, you can see across the tops of Icelandic houses to the dramatic Mt Esja.

Going out: At times it may not seem like there’s much of a nighttime buzz, but don’t be fooled – Reykjavik-ians are known for turning up late to venues, with weekend nights out often not getting started until gone midnight. The vibrant Bakkus is a favourite among hipsters, while B5 boasts a great wine list.

Where to stay: Hip and trendy, and with a covetable location in downtown Reykjavik, the KEX hostel has base rates of £15 for a single bed in a 10-person dorm.


The main dwelling for those living in the north-west, Ísafjörður is home to a university as well as a bevy of sports and music festivals. The remote nature reserve of the Hornstrandir peninsula is also accessible by boat during the summer months.

Things to do: People often make the trek up solely to explore the Westfjords region. Being on the tip of the Arctic wilderness, the fjords could seem rather isolating if not for the teeming wildlife, from arctic foxes to whales.

Going out: Edinborg dishes up a selection of hearty meals during the day, but it’s also the place to head to in the evenings for a drink.

Where to stay: Gentle Space Guest Apartments provides living space for up to five people, with balcony views across the mountains from £115 per night.

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Taking the title of Iceland’s second capital, Akureyri sits nestled in the roof of the country, accessible via internal flights from Keflavik. As well as an important fishing region, the city is also an excellent base from which to explore nearby Lake Mývatnand and Jökulsárgljúfur National Park.

Things to do: The natives know that the only real way to seethe country is via Icelandic horse. A 15-minute drive away from the city is Polar Hesta where tours on horseback are available around the northern fjords. The colourful Arctic Botanical Gardens are also worth a meander round.

Going out: With a vibrant nightlife available, it’s unlikely you’ll get bored any time soon. Beer fanatics can head to the cosy Brugghúsbarinn brewery. Sjallinn is also worth a look at weekends, although it can get packed.

Where to stay: The Icelandair Hotel offers bright and cosy rooms for around £80 a night. For the same central location but almost half the price (around £43) consider Hotel Edda, which also operates as uni accommodation.

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Iceland’s Western outpost is the 10th most populous municipality, with some 4,500 residents spread across six villages. Those who make the journey over will be rewarded with sweeping landscapes and well-hidden waterfalls.

Things to do: As the second largest base for Allied soldiers in WWII, the Wartime Museum in Reyðarfjördur displays an exhibition on the war from an Icelandic viewpoint. The ferry service at Seydisfjordur is close by for onward travel to the European continent.

Going out: During summer, locals can be found lapping up the midnight sun as bands from Iceland descend on the region to perform at festivals such as Eistnaflug in Neskaupstaður. Winter is a bit more of a muted affair, but there’s a pub quiz at the local pub, Kaffihúsið, and DJ nights on Saturdays at Café Kósý in Reyðafjörður.

Where to stay: Eskifjordur offers some of the best accommodation options, with the waterfront corrugated iron Guesthouse Askja Iceland providing rooms from £45 a night. If you’re really brave, put your sleeping bags to good use and get closer to nature at Eskifjörður Camping Ground.

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Only a few hundred people live in this coastal town, which is the most southernmost point of Iceland. The population faces dangers from the nearby Mýrdalsjökull glacier, as well as the active Katla volcano. If caught in an eruption, head for the town’s church, which is believed to be the only building able to withstand the explosion.

Things to do: The Eyjafjallajökull volcano caused disruptions to flights across Europe when it erupted in 2010. The nearby visitor centre in Þorvaldseyri offers dramatic photos of the fallout. If vivid scenery is your thing, there’s a kaleidoscope of natural wonders, from the impressive Skogafoss waterfall to the rock formations on the Dyrholaey peninsula.

Going out: It’s fair to say that Vik isn’t the place for night time revelry – once you’ve drunk in the scenery, escape the drizzly weather with a drink back at the hotel.

Where to stay: Sitting between black beaches and thevolcano glacier of Mýrdalsjökull, the aptly named Volcano Hotel has rooms available from £90 per night. The Grand Guesthouse Garðakot has recently been renovated to function as modern accommodation. Expect to pay around £71 a night.

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Photos: Ragnar Th. Sigurdsson and Thinkstock

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