ICELAND IS definitely seeing a boom. Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement as Iceland is seriously hot stuff at the moment!
In spite of ash clouds, financial crises and some very windy weather, this weird, wild and wonderful destination remains at the top of so many traveller’s wish lists. Of all the international visitors to Iceland the Brits hold the number two spot in the top five, just behind the Americans, and it’s unlikely that our enthusiasm for this strangely beautiful, volcanic island is going to end anytime soon.
So, what’s the big deal? Well, first of all, unlike many destinations, Iceland manages to appeal to absolutely everyone. It is an exciting, quirky, adventurous and thrilling destination with bags of freaky, raw, natural appeal, so much so that few people can’t help but be captivated by this. Also, for what is really quite an exotic destination, Iceland is just so accessible from the UK; with direct flights from Icelandair, easyJet, WOW and British Airways, plus departures from London, Manchester and Glasgow, it’s never been easier.
For those looking for a short break, Reykjavik, the country’s capital, is still the most popular destination during winter and summer. With easy airport transfers, lots of day excursions and activities with hotel pick-up and drop-off and a great collection of bars and restaurants right on the doorstep, Reykjavik certainly ticks lots of boxes – especially for those who would like an adventurous holiday, but aren’t necessarily that adventurous.
However, Akureyri, the main city in the north, is also an excellent base for guided day trips and, being less well known than Reykjavik, has the benefit of greater availability during peak periods. The city is accessible by a short 45- minute domestic flight from Reykjavik and offers more of a small-town atmosphere, which will appeal to those wanting to escape the crowds.
Akureyri also provides the opportunity for day excursions to Lake Myvatn and its geothermal bathing pools, the delightful fishing village of Siglufjordur, whale watching from Husavik, Northern Lights hunting, and Bjordbodin – a Beer Spa where visitors can bathe in huge vats of beer for…health benefits!
This being said, I would recommend spending less time in the city and explore Iceland’s crazy landscape independently with a hire car. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a 4×4 vehicle to drive Iceland’s main highways (off-roading with a hire car is strictly forbidden anyway) and the freedom of a hire car opens up so many other destinations which otherwise would be impossible to reach. A car also provides much greater choice and flexibility should hotel accommodation in popular destinations prove challenging.
Record numbers of visitors have led to very limited availability during peak season periods, so now is a good time to travel outside peak periods, during spring and autumn, when availability and prices are better, and excursions and activities are still available. For those who only want to travel during peak season the advice should be – BOOK EARLY!
Should you really only want to travel during summer it is a good idea to have a holiday tailored to include some of the lesser known, but equally breathtaking destinations. A particularly good choice is Iceland’s Westfjords, home to some of the country’s most stunning scenery and yet also the least visited region. Its location, away from Iceland’s popular and accessible ‘Ring Road’ (the circular road which circumvents the main body of Iceland), means it takes a little bit more effort to reach, but for those that do the rewards are huge. Those looking for raw, natural Iceland will find it here in abundance. A visit to the cliffs at Latrabjarg, the westernmost part, is a must as it is home to millions of birds, not least the comical puffins which visitors will find strolling along the grassland at the top, practically posing for photographs.
Finally, prepare to be flexible, open to alternatives, and any holiday to Iceland is sure to be the holiday of a lifetime.
For further inspiration, take a look at our tours to Iceland here.