This Nordic country is located in the North Atlantic, just below the Arctic Circle. It’s volcanically and geologically active, and the least densely populated country in Europe. Warmed by the Gulf Stream winter temperatures in the southern lowlands still average 32° F (0° C) in winter. The summer, characterized by the ‘midnight sun’, has average temperatures of 50–55° F (10-13° C) in the warmer south. Warm clothes are recommended all year round, and as the water temperature can be just above freezing, expect dry suit diving as you navigate fissures in pristine water.
The capital, Reykjavík, is located in the south-west and is home to two-thirds of the country’s population. The city was awarded UNESCO City of Literature in 2011. You can walk amongst the brightly painted buildings, cycle out to the velvety Elliðaárdalur Valley, or try on a Viking costume at the Saga Museum. In the evening – assuming you’re not booked in for an early start – enjoy the vibrant nightlife and live music as the city’s residents celebrate the bright sky.
During the summer solstice you can even run a marathon under the ‘midnight sun.’ Maybe you'll just drink Icelandic beer, eat local produce in its diverse restaurants, and offer the runners moral support instead.
Iceland can be adventurous or relaxing – you can choose.
The summer months of May to September are the best time for whale watching, but they are present all year. If you’re fortunate enough to witness water crashing after a humpback whale breaches, the humbling experience will remind you that you’re a guest when diving in the oceans.
On a clear night in the darkness of winter, you can watch the aurora borealis – a light show without lasers or trickery, just electrically charged particles entering the earth’s atmosphere.
In Landmannalaugar you can explore ice caves, mountainous Mars-like landscapes, lava fields and a volcano.
After resting your tired feet in the geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon, head back to Reykjavík, sample some Hákarl – fermented shark – and enjoy a panoramic view of the city from the nature inspired Hallgrímskirkja church.
The extended daylight hours during the summer months make it easier to fit more into your schedule.
Iceland’s Keflavík International Airport is 30 miles (48km) southwest of Reykjavík, and is served by Europe and North America – although some carriers only fly from June to August.
Buses transfer to Reykjavík for $15, and are recommended over taxis ($110). Cars can be rented at the airport, but it is advised to pre-book.