Nature in Iceland is designed to make you feel small - volcanoes covered by ice loom over a verdant green coastline, glaciers grind their way to the ocean, geysers erupt and the northern lights dance in the sky.
All the while culture blooms - from medieval sagas to modern pop-musicians and Nobel-prize winning authors. And then there is the glorious food and the warm, quirky people - what is there not to love about Iceland?
best time to travel
Iceland can be visited year-round - summers are generally pleasant and winters are not half as cold as the name and the location of the country might suggest. For hiking, June through mid-September is the best time. If you wish to see the Northern Lights, come between October and March. Winter is a spectacularly beautiful time with low striking light, making for great photography.
places to go
The first place to be settled by the Vikings of old is also Iceland's largest city by far. Expect creative people, amazing design, captivating art, great nightlife and some of the best museums in the country, all set in crystal-clear ocean air against a backdrop of snowy mountains.
Reykjanes Peninsula & Blue Lagoon
Enjoy a soak in the thermal waters, mud, and steam of the Blue Lagoon before continuing to the dramatic landscape of the south-westernmost tip of the peninsula, the Krisuvik hot spring area and lake Kleifarvatn.
Experienced by many as a day-trip out of Reykjavik, this classic route shows you the oldest parliament in the world and meeting place of two continents at Þingvellir, the explosive geyser Strokkur and the spectacular waterfalls at Gullfoss.
Þórsmörk & Landmannalaugar
Glaciers, mountains in every colour of the rainbow and ancient forests overlook swirling rivers, soothing hot springs, incredible lava flows and deep gorges. Fantastical rock formations rise up out of carpets of Arctic flowers and brilliantly coloured moss. The four-day Laugavegurinn hiking trail connects both areas.
The verdant south coast of Iceland offers the beautiful waterfalls of Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss, fed by glaciers such as Eyjafjallajokull. Black floodplains carve through green valleys while the cliffs at Dyrholaey are one of the best spots to watch puffins.
In the south-east of the country, on the edge of Europe's largest icecap, Vatnajökull, lies Iceland's most popular wilderness area: Skaftafell. It offers rugged peaks, raging rivers, sandy glacial valleys lined with twisted stands of birch and thundering waterfalls, all connected by a network of hiking trails.
Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon
On their way to the wild Atlantic Ocean chunks of iceberg float through this glacial lagoon, lined with black volcanic sand. Take a boat trip out on the lagoon, or walk along its shores. This is a photographer's dream, especially at sunset.
Remote fishing villages and forgotten farms perch on the edge of cold fjords, backed by wild mountains off which waterfalls plunge to the sea. This is Iceland at its best.
Dettifoss & Ásbyrgi
With the greatest volume of water of any waterfall in Europe, Dettifoss is Iceland's most impressive cascade. The nearby canyon of Ásbyrgi was gouged out in a matter of days by an immense jökulhlaup (glacial flood), triggered by the eruption of a volcano underneath a glacier.
Prettily situated on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, Húsavík is Iceland's whale watching capital and home to a rather unusual museum....
Mývatn is the name of a beautiful lake situated in the midst of an area of otherworldly landscapes, offering lava fields, volcanoes, steaming vents and pseudo-craters. Climb a perfect volcanic cone to peer into its crater, or hike the weird formations at Dimmuborgir.
Iceland's second biggest town is well-tended and small but offers a surprising number of cool cafes and excellent restaurants
Jutting out from the mainland a few hours north of Reykjavik, Snæfellsnes Peninsula offers volcanic peaks crowned by a glacier, sparkling fjords, steep sea cliffs, abundant birdlife, lava caves and a smattering of fishing villages. It is a miniature of Iceland, offering all the best the country has to offer.
Take a hike
Iceland offers some of the best hiking in the world. Without any major altitude to be gained, hiking trails crisscross the many national parks and wilderness areas in this stunning country. From short walks to waterfalls, to multi-day treks like the spectacular four-day Laugavegurinn trek, Iceland has a hike for everyone.
Bathe in a hot spring
The Blue Lagoon is probably one of Iceland's most famous features. Yet almost every town and village has swimming pools fed by thermal springs. You may even find a hot spring in the middle of the mountains where you can soak after a long hike.
Read a book at midnight
Lying as it does close to the Arctic Circle, the months of June and July see almost 24 hours of daylight. The sun may dip just below the horizon, but at midnight there is enough light to read a book.
Marvel at the Aurora Borealis
Due to its location close to the Arctic Circle, the months of October through March see long nights and are therefore prime months to see the mesmerizing Northern Lights dance across the skies.
See a puffin
Iceland is one of the best places in the world to see these comical birds with their multi-coloured beaks filled with fish.
Despite its reputation as a whaling nation, Iceland is one of the best countries in the world to see these majestic mammals. Eleven whale species can frequently be seen in Icelandic waters.
Superjeeps are 4WD vehicles, modified with big wheels to take on the challenging off-road terrain of Iceland's interior like the multi-colored landscapes of Þórsmörk & Landmannalaugar.
Peer into a volcano
Climb to the rim of a volcano and peer inside it. If you are lucky enough you may even witness the raw power of an eruption.
Walk behind a waterfall
Seljalandsfoss has a trail which lets you walk behind the thundering waters of the falls. An unforgettable experience!
Watch the earth burst
The hot water spout after which all other geysers are named is situated at Geysir. Nearby Strokkur bursts up to 30 metres into the air about every 15 minutes - an impressive sight for sure!
See continents collide
While continents collide at a very slow pace, the result is the spectacular landscape at Þingvellir, Iceland's original parliament.
Sail through an icy lagoon
A boat trip through Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is a must for photographers and nature lovers alike. Chunks of iceberg float through this black sand-lined lagoon, en-route to the Atlantic.
Hike a glacier
Strap on your crampons, pick up your ice axe and join a guided hike on one of Iceland's many glaciers.
With some of the best lamb and seafood in the world, food lovers have plenty to celebrate. Try staples like rúgbrauð (rye bread) and brennivín (schnapps). Dairy features big on the menu, while the adventurous can try Hákarl (fermented (and pungent!) shark).
For a city of its size, Reykjavik hosts a remarkable number of great museums. The Settlement Exhibition, the National Museum, the Maritime Museum and the Einar Jonsson Museum (for sculptures) are some of the best.
Last but not least, Reykjavik's nightlife has earned a reputation to be great. Don't be surprised if your restaurant over the course of the evening turns into a dance floor or nightclub!