Don’t let Iceland’s frosty name mislead you. This teeny island isn’t completely covered in ice, but its jaw-dropping terrain is pretty other-worldly. Couple this with natural spas, outdoor excursions and a thriving craft beer scene, and you’ll see why Iceland makes for a fun-filled holiday. It’s no wonder we picked it as our destination of the month!
Iceland at a glance
Most holidaymakers visit Iceland for its vast and incredible landscape. Laced with geysers, geothermal pools, volcanoes, black sand beaches and barren, lunar-like scenery, Iceland is a destination in its own category of gorgeous.
Iceland was founded around 874 CE by Norwegian settlers, and today is still the most sparsely-populated country in Europe. That’s largely because it’s only really possible to live in Iceland’s coastal regions and outlying islands, due to extreme weather conditions in other spots. But on the whole, mainland Iceland is much warmer than other countries in similar global positions, and lies just underneath the Arctic Circle.
Visiting Iceland will most likely take you toward Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik. It’s a spot where relaxation starts in eerily-blue geothermal pools, your local brewery is a five-minute walk down the road and the sky lights up in dazzling pinks and greens thanks to the Northern Lights.
5 fun facts about Iceland
- The only native land mammal in Iceland is the arctic fox, who migrated across the frozen sea during the tail end of the Ice Age.
- Beer was only legalised in Iceland in 1989. Since then, the country has developed a full-blown love affair with beer. The capital city is teeming with craft breweries featuring sips made all over Iceland and the world.
- More than 60% of the Icelandic population lives in Reykjavik. Mid-Iceland is largely uninhabitable, and has been likened to the surface of the moon.
- The Icelandic language is closer to Old Norse than any other modern Norse language, which means most Icelanders are easily able to read 1,000-year-old texts.
- Iceland is home to 30 active volcanic systems, and in the past 500 years, Iceland’s volcanoes have made up a whopping third of the world’s lava output.
Things to do
- Watch the Northern Lights
Visiting between September and April will give you the best chance at seeing the natural phenomenon known as the aurora borealis, more commonly referred to as the Northern Lights. It’s caused by a reaction between particles, and is shown through ribbon-like bands of light that streak across the sky, visible only at night. In Iceland, there are tours that’ll take you out to top viewing points.
- Swim in a geothermal pool
If you see Icelanders hopping into a pool of steaming water, don’t be alarmed. They aren’t human lobsters, they’re just going for a swim in one of Iceland’s hundreds of geothermal pools – heated naturally from the earth. Swimming in geothermal pools is a long-standing tradition in Iceland, and four of the 13 baths from original Icelandic society are still standing.
- Go whale watching
More than 20 species of cetacean – whales, dolphins and porpoises – take to Iceland’s cold waters in the summer, making this time of year fantastic for whale watching. Tours depart from all over the country, including Reykjavik’s Old Harbour and northern cities.
- Join a tour of the Golden Circle
Iceland’s Golden Circle is a popular loop frequented by tours and travel groups, as it highlights the country’s vast terrain in one go. Travelling around the Golden Circle will take you to sites like the Gullfoss waterfall, a geothermal pool and the Pingvellir National Park.
Here are some of our top money-saving deals on holidays to Iceland.
Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik
Once a paint factory, this stylish hotel boasts a close proximity to Reykjavik’s harbour, a gym with a climbing wall and its very own cinema playing Icelandic films. On top of this, the Icelandair Hotel is also home to Reykjavik’s first cocktail bar, mixing up sips made with local ingredients.
The Fosshotel is the largest in Rekjavik, tallying up under its amenities category a quick walk from the centre of town and the Old Harbour, plus a sleek blue-grey interior, a restaurant serving a buffet breakfast and a la carte dinners, and a beer garden dishing up favourite pub bites.
The Cabin Hotel keeps things simple with modest decor, a restaurant and lounge bar, plus a teeny souvenir shop. It’s also just a quick jaunt from Kringlan, Reykjavik’s shopping mall, along with the city centre.
Feeling inspired to go to Iceland? What will you do first? Let us know in the comments.