Holiday in Iceland among fire and ice

May 11th-19th, 2002

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Iceland travel map | Iceland tour information | Iceland photos | Contacts and Copyright | In Italiano

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ICELAND TRAVEL MAP

Suggested travel itinerary in Iceland

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ICELAND TRAVEL GUIDE AND TRAVEL TIPS

This travel report about Iceland illustrates a tour through the most interesting areas of the country, including some places not affected by mass tourism such as the region of fjords (Isafjordur) and the Westmann Islands. Since Air Iceland connects Reykjavik city airport, which is located within easy walking distance from the city center, with the most important cities in Iceland, instead of renting a car, as usual for those visiting this country in autonomy, I chose a guest-house in a convenient location near the airport and I used the plane almost every day to go to the various areas of interest, returning to Reykjavik in the evening. These day tours from Reykjavik, which may include air transport, are particularly convenient for single travellers who can not share the cost for renting a car.

WHAT TO DO AND WHAT TO SEE IN ICELAND?

Iceland is an island of very recent formation located in the North Atlantic, created by the turbulent action of undersea volcanoes along the Mid-Atlantic ridge that separates European and North American plates. With an area just slightly larger than Scotland or South Carolina, but with a population of only 322,000 (at 2013), Iceland looks like as largely uninhabited country, covered for 10% by glaciers and showing a subarctic climate due to its position quite close to the Arctic Circle. Consisting almost entirely of volcanic rocks of various types, dotted with calderas, geysers, hot and sulphurous springs, Iceland is an ideal destination for travellers interested in extreme landscapes and outdoor holidays in close contact with nature. Depending on the season, tourists can admire beautiful and unusual scenery, watch the northern lights, make excursions to spot whales and other cetaceans, participate in trekking of varying length or difficulty, or simply wander around in a car among the various attractions.



WHAT ARE THE MAIN ATTRACTIONS IN ICELAND?

Iceland is a real gem with lots of places that are worth a visit. Summarized below you will find a list of the most important Iceland tourist attractions, that should not be missed from any itinerary:

  • Golden Circle Tour: in the immediate vicinity of Reykjavik, there are a number of wonderful attractions that can be visited in one day (with a day tour from Reykjavik) enjoying one of the many tourist buses that run the Golden Circle route daily. A tour of the Golden Circle, feasible even for those who have very limited spare time in Iceland, allows to visit the geothermal area of Geyser, interesting for the presence of geysers that erupt at various time intervals, producing columns of water and steam dozens of meters high, before heading to the Thingvellir National Park, the site of the ancient parliament and the place where you can put a foot on the European continent and the other one in North America. Gullfoss waterfalls is another spot usually in the Golden Circle itinerary, while some operators add a visit to the greenhouses powered by geothermal energy, to the Kerid crater and to Öxarárfoss waterfalls.

  • Vatnajokull glacier and the icebergs in Jokulsarlon lagoon: known as the fourth ice mass in the world (after Antarctica, Greenland and Nordaustlandet / Svalbard), the Vatnajokull glacier offers a scenic landscape dominated by large glaciers flowing from the central plateau down into the valleys below, before breaking into large icebergs inside Jokulsarlon lagoon, a place made famous by the scenes of one of the 007 movies. Vatnajokull is reachable from Reykjavik with a one-hour flight onto Hornafjordur or five hours by car along the road running through the south coast of Iceland.

  • Landmannalaugar coloured mountains: one of the most spectacular landscapes of all Iceland, due to the presence of mountains of rhyolite (volcanic rock) that creates fantastic multicoloured views. The area is the ideal starting point for hikes on Iceland's central plateau and interesting treks that can last from a few hours to several days. At the visitor center there is a refuge and the area can be reached by tourist buses from Reykjavik or by own car (it is eventually best to rent an off-road vehicle, as the track is not always in good conditions).

  • Iceland plateau: considered a real desert, the central highlands of Iceland offers a lunar landscape dominated by expanses of sand, ancient volcanic calderas, streams and rocky pinnacles oddly shaped. Crossing the central plateau by 4x4 is quite challenging and can take several days, therefore, it is best to book the tour with a professional operator that uses appropriate vehicles and knows the area well.

  • Myvatn lake and Dettifoss waterfalls: located in north-eastern Iceland, not far from the town of Akureyri, Lake Myvatn offers interesting volcanic landscapes dominated by dozens of volcanic cones (some very small, some huge) and curious lava formations. The nearby fumaroles allow to appreciate the intense geothermal activity, while the Dettifoss waterfalls amaze with their water flow, the largest of all the waterfalls in Europe. On the way to Akureyri, it certainly worth stopping to admire the beautiful Godafoss waterfall, as well as visiting some traditional small town.

  • Hekla volcano: considered one of the most active volcano of Iceland, Hekla can be reached in a day tour from Reykjavik by 4x4 up to the limit of the snow, from where the trip continues by snowmobile or snow cat. The top of the volcano, at 1,491 meters above sea level, offers a breathtaking views over the south of Iceland, while you can keep warm thanks to the heat coming out of the pumice, which covers the entire top of the volcano.

  • Fjords in the north west of Iceland: probably Iceland is not well known for fjords, but in the north-western region, geologically older and less affected by mass tourism, there is a wide network of spectacular fjords which resemble the Norwegian landscape. Here you can paddle in the calm waters, rent a mountain bike or hike in a landscape quite different from the rest of Iceland. The region is either a 5 hour drive from Reykjavik or a 40 minutes flight that ends onto Isafjordur after a breathtaking landing in a fjord.

  • Westmann islands (Vestmannaeyjar): located off southern Iceland, the Westmann Islands can be reached by a 25-minute flight from Reykjavik or in a few hours by car and ferry. Little known by mass tourism, the Westmann is an archipelago of a dozen islands, offering a landscape dominated by spectacular cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and nesting site for puffins. On the main island of Heimaey, the little "capital" has to tell incredible stories about underwater volcanic eruptions that shaped the archipelago itself.

  • Grimsey island and the Arctic Circle: the only place where Iceland meets the Arctic Circle is along the small island of Grimsey, located forty kilometres off the northern coast and reachable by either a short flight from Akureyri or a few hours sailing from Dalvik. On the island of Grimsey, rarely visited by foreigners, you can walk across the Arctic Circle to cliffs overlooking the sea, where there are Puffin nests, or you may appreciate the calm life in one of the most remote fishing villages of Iceland.

  • Blue Lagoon hot springs: not far from Keflavik International Airport, about 40 kilometres from the capital Reykjavik, the Blue Lagoon offers the opportunity to take a dip in outdoor hot and curative hot springs of Svartsengi. Being very close to the airport, some tourists are taking advantage for a brief visit to the Blue Lagoon while waiting for their flights.



HOW TO GET TO ICELAND?

Getting to Iceland is quite easy thanks to the extensive route network operated by Icelandair. The most important hubs in Europe and North America have at least one non-stop daily flight onto Iceland, with weekly flights added also onto minor hubs during summer (high season). International flights operate onto Keflavik airport, about 40 kilometres from Reykjavik, while most domestic flights operate from Reykjavik city airport, a structure conveniently located within walking distance from most of Reykjavik downtown. Transfers from and to Keflavik airport are offered by bus companies and most tour packages to Iceland already include airport transfers.

WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO GO TO ICELAND?

For its interesting geology made of volcanic rocks of various shapes and colors, it is advisable to go to Iceland during the short summer, when the snow has melted even at higher altitudes. Going to Iceland between late June and early September (high season in Iceland) allows to fully appreciate the diverse landscape, otherwise hidden by the snow. However, there are places suitable to be visited even in winter, such as the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon, while the very short winter days offer more opportunities to watch the northern lights without having to wake up in the middle of the night. Recently, many tour operators specialized in trips to Iceland, are offering a growing number of tours even in the winter, for fans of ice and snow.

OTHER TRAVEL TIPS USEFUL TO KNOW BEFORE GOING TO ICELAND

Below you will find a list of more Iceland travel tips useful to know while organizing a trip to this interesting country:

  • What is the time zone in Iceland? Iceland is on Greenwich (Zulu) time.
  • What is the currency in Iceland? The official currency in Iceland is the Icelandic Krone (ISK). Credit cards are welcome and widely accepted even for very small expenses.
  • What is the official language of Iceland? Iceland's official language is Icelandic, but English is well spoken by most of the population.
  • How are the power sockets in Iceland? The power sockets in Iceland are with two round pins (type C and F) and it is suggested to bring a universal adapter. Voltage is 220V at 50Hz.
  • Will my mobile phone work in Iceland? The mobile network in Iceland is surprising developed, however, the coverage may not be guaranteed in the most remote areas. It is in any case suggested to check with own phone operator if roaming to Iceland is supported and at what price.


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ICELAND PICTURES AND TRIP REVIEW

Geyser in Iceland Gullfoss waterfalls, Geyser and geothermal area, Þingvellir national park <<-- GO
Day tour from Reykjavik by bus, known as "Golden Circle Tour" to the most interesting places near the Iceland's capital. Visit the impressive Gullfoss waterfalls, the Geyser national park and the fault where European and American plates meet together.
Hekla volcano Hekla volcano excursion from Reykjavik <<-- GO
Excursion to the top of Hekla volcano in Iceland, by snow cat. The tour leaves from Reykjavik and requires almost a full day.
Glacier in Iceland Hornafjörður, Höfn, Vatnajökull glacier day tour, Jökulsarlon lagoon <<-- GO
Flight from Reykjavik to Hofn, followed by a Super Jeep tour over Vatnajokull glacier, the continental Europe largest glacier.
Godafoss waterfalls Day tour to Akureyri, Goðafoss waterfalls, Myvatn lake, hot springs <<-- GO
Day tour to Akureyri, visiting the Myvatn lake area with its hot springs, and the beautiful Godafoss waterfalls.
Isafjordur, Iceland Isafjörður (Isafjordur) by mountain bike and Flateyri by kayak <<-- GO
Day tour to Isafjordur by mountain bike and kayak. The north-west of Iceland is very different from the rest of the country, because of the deep fjords of glacial origin.
Westmann islands, Iceland Westmann islands (Vestmannaeyjar) including a boat tour <<-- GO
The Westmann islands are interesting because of their odd geological history made of sudden volcanic eruptions and islands coming out from the ocean in just one day.
Blue lagoon, Iceland Reykjavik city tour, Reykjanes peninsula and the Blue Lagoon excursion <<-- GO
Reykjavik city tour by tourist bus, followed by an excursion to the geothermal areas of Reykjanes peninsula and by a bath into the Blue Lagoon.

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