If you don’t like hot weather or lazing on the beach, if you like the great outdoors and don’t come across anyone but sheep or horses, then Iceland is the place for you.
After only 4 hours direct flight time from Zurich, you will be parachuted into another almost lunar world where ice and fire meet to form an island.
Iceland is not just an island, it is an atmosphere that Jules Verne described very well in his “Journey to the centre of the earth”. Every valley you pass through will bring you its share of surprises.
You will go from a green, almost fluorescent plain lined with magnificent waterfalls to an ash-black desert where no life seems to exist.
During a lunch break, everything changes in winter and the black plain will become white, covered with a thin layer of snow that will disappear a few hours later.
It is said that in Iceland you experience all 4 seasons in one day, it is an experience that is lived many times over.
Good to know:
The 4X4 remains the best way to unlock the secrets of the island’s interior if you know how to use it.
Otherwise a guided programme with adapted vehicles will be the best choice. Ideally a 4×4 equipped with a camping cell will allow you to camp wherever you want, whenever you want.
Otherwise you will find accommodation in private homes or very well maintained campsites everywhere.
Among the main activities not to be missed are whale watching, hiking on glaciers, observing active Geysers, nature baths in warm rivers, descending into the heart of a volcano, boat trips on a glacial lagoon, snowmobile rides, horseback riding….
You will have understood that it will take you more than a week to discover this magnificent country.
When to leave ?
Iceland can be visited all year round. Activities such as snowmobiling, snowshoeing, specialised 4×4 raids, aurora borealis observations, dog sledding are mainly practised in winter from November to April.
For summer activities it should be noted that the highlands are open from the end of June to the end of September. Indeed many roads (tracks) are sometimes only open at the beginning of July.
Reykjavík is the natural starting point for any visit to Iceland, and not without reason. The capital is world famous for its culture, history and natural beauty on all fronts.
The city centre of Reykjavík is the nucleus of Iceland’s cultural and artistic scene.
During the day, coffee culture reigns supreme, with the lively buzz of conversation. When evening arrives, people begin to enjoy themselves in the city’s excellent restaurants, where typical dishes are served with delicious fresh lamb, seafood or wild game.
Reykjavík is both cosmopolitan and small, vibrant and sophisticated, young at heart yet steeped in history.
Many monuments, both new and old, are also worth seeing, including the recently built music and conference centre on the seafront, Harpa.
Fortunately, everything is nearby, including museums, galleries, theatres, cafes and swimming pools. As such, the city is perhaps best explored on foot or by bike.
The pulsating rhythm and energy through lively events keeps Reykjavík alive and exciting. People are often surprised and impressed by how much culture, art and activities thrive in the city.
Many day trips can also be made to the surrounding mountains, glaciers, volcanoes and hot springs.
We liked “Puffin and whale fishing” where the 3 activities are done during the same boat trip. To be done in calm weather to be sure to see whales.
Our favourite accommodation : the Ion Adventure Hotel
Less than an hour’s drive from the hustle and bustle of Reykjavík and set against the backdrop of majestic mountain lava fields, ION Adventure Hotel is an unforgettable experience. Whether you’re looking for a quiet and moving bath under the Northern Lights, a challenging hike through an ancient glacier or a day of fly fishing in many icy rivers – at ION Adventure Hotel, it’s just a wish. ION’s location near the Golden Circle Road makes it the ideal starting point for exploring Iceland’s rich heritage, robust flora and fauna and countless opportunities for extreme adventures.
From magnificent waterfalls to large glaciers, southern Iceland is full of nature. The Golden Circle route linking Þingvellir, Gullfoss and Geysir makes it a very popular destination, as these three places have been a must for any visitor to Iceland for centuries.
Further east along the shore you will find the Skógafoss waterfall, the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, the Vatnajökull glacier and many other natural wonders.
Excursions to the lagoon can be made on site and you can touch ice hundreds of thousands of years old surrounded by playful seals.
For lovers of hiking, the Landmannlaugar valley is an essential place to discover. However it is deserved, because the access to the “base camp” which provides a camping and a gite is accessible only to 4×4 vehicles as there are fords to cross.
Many walks are possible from the site which will take you to fantastic landscapes where you will find many acid lakes or volcanic fumaroles.
It is advisable to have a guide because in some places the stone is so hot that you could cook on it.
The South is rich in history and culture. Events are commemorated in many ways along the coast and several museums in the region celebrate Icelandic customs and heritage. With much of the country’s agricultural produce coming from the region, the south is also a beautiful testament to Icelandic restaurant culture.
There is so much to explore in eastern Iceland. Iceland’s largest rhyolite formations directly accessible from an inhabited area are those around Borgarfjörður Eystri, while impressive magma chambers filled with colourful mineral deposits can be visited from the inside. Impressive experience.
During the summer months, East Iceland becomes a creative centre for artists and young people from all over Iceland and abroad, as a variety of music and art festivals have emerged and have been growing steadily in recent years.
Hiking and horse riding opportunities are also plentiful, including in extensive but well mapped uninhabited areas.
Seyðisfjörður is the port of entry for the Smyril Line ferry from Europe. It is home to a vibrant art scene emerging in the context of a 19th century village. Indeed, the East has a rich artistic history, as the region’s landscape is truly rich in colour. One of Iceland’s most beloved artists, the painter Jóhannes Sveinsson Kjarval, grew up in the town of Borgarfjörður eystri, where he created some of his most memorable works and where a museum now commemorates his life.
Northern Iceland is truly a land of contrasts with its long valleys and peninsulas, mountains, lava fields and smooth hills cut by rivers. As one approaches the Arctic Circle in northern latitudes, the midnight sun is invariably inspiring.
Many towns in the North are devoted to marine life. The whale museum in Húsavík and the seal centre in Hvammstangi are two options for visitors. Nearby, in the northern part of the Vatnajökull National Park, is the impressive Ásbyrgi Canyon and the Dettifoss Waterfall, the most powerful waterfall in Europe. The nearby Lake Mývatn and its surrounding wetlands are teeming with an exceptional variety of waterfowl and rock formations.
The north is home to Iceland’s second largest urban area, Akureyri, located in Iceland’s longest fjord, Eyjafjörður. Akureyri is rich in culture and history, with a charming town centre full of late 19th century wooden houses. In summer, golfers can enjoy the midnight sun at the Arctic Open. Northern Iceland is also home to many historic coastal towns.
THE DIAMOND CIRCLE can be described as a magnificent 250 km circuit in north-eastern Iceland, which includes some of the most amazing sites and supernatural landscapes.
These 5 key destinations include the historic and picturesque Goðafoss, the supernatural blue and green landscapes of the natural paradise of Lake Mývatn, the uncontrollable white energy of Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe, the wonderful crescent-shaped Ásbyrgi Canyon and Húsavík the whale watching capital of Iceland with its deep blue seas.
Isolation has made this region a relatively unspoilt wilderness. Largely uninhabited, the fjords of Western Iceland are frequently singled out by travel guides as a destination of excellence and are a must for any motivated explorer.
Hornstrandir is situated in the northwest corner of the Westfjords, an uninhabited peninsula and nature reserve that is a haven for arctic foxes and a variety of birds. The Látrabjarg Bird Cliff on the western side of the Westfjords, which in addition to being home to almost half of the world’s population of certain bird species, is also the westernmost point in Europe. The spectacular Dynjandi, a series of waterfalls with a cumulative height of 100 metres, is another must-see.
Tradition and heritage play an important role in the culture of the region. The strong relationship with the ocean is evident in the regional cuisine and folklore is as alive in the Westfjords as anywhere else in Iceland, with museums dedicated to witchcraft, monsters and other sea creatures.
The west is one of the most geologically diverse regions. Its natural wonders are an almost exhaustive sample of everything Iceland has to offer, from dormant volcanoes and majestic waterfalls to an endless variety of flora and fauna.
It is a world where culture, nature and history complement each other, creating a unique experience. This vast area consists of fjords, valleys, craters, glaciers and volcanoes. Extensive hiking trails can be found around Akranes and Hvalfjörður, with Akrafjall Mountain and Iceland’s highest waterfall Glymur less than an hour from Reykjavík. Visit the property of the medieval writer Snorri Sturluson in Reykholt and discover the artificial geothermal bath in which he often had to let his mind wander. Or discover the impressive Viking poet Egill Skalla-Grímsson.
Discover the beautiful scenery and wildlife of Snæfellsjökull National Park, Iceland’s only national park that reaches to the sea, where the mystical glacier volcano Snæfellsjökull has inspired artists and poets through the centuries, being one of the seven largest energy centres on Earth. Snæfellsjökull is the setting for Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
From Snæfellsnes you can cross to Dalir, the birthplace of the great explorers: Eirík the Red and his son, Leif the Lucky, the first European to set foot in America.
THE REYKJANES PENINSULA
The Reykjanes Peninsula is full of natural wonders, in addition to the famous Blue Lagoon and a range of lighthouses.
It has several high-temperature geothermal zones, three of which have been exploited to produce electricity. In the exhibition on geothermal energy in the Hellisheiði lava fields, visitors can learn not only about geothermal energy, but also about the fascinating local geological history.
The spectacular and rugged landscape includes volcanic craters, caves, lava fields, geothermal waters and hot springs, in addition to a variety of restaurants, museums, churches and lighthouses.
Here the junction between the European and American tectonic plates of the earth’s crust is more visible and understandable than anywhere else. It is therefore not surprising that the peninsula is now designated as the Reykjanes Geopark, which in addition to being a landscape to be admired and studied, is also a veritable hotbed of recreational activities.