Iceland: Photos and Travel Information

 

You will see from our free photos that Iceland is a land of water as much as of ice. Don’t let its cold-sounding name put you off visiting this stunning, wild and largely empty landscape. If you are a nature-lover, Iceland is a great place to visit.

What is Iceland like?
The Republic of Iceland, as it is properly known, is the second largest island in Europe after Great Britain, and the 18th largest in the world. But with 62% of its landmass being tundra, 118,000 of Iceland’s 310,000 inhabitants live in Reykjavik, the world’s northernmost capital city. Iceland’s nearest neighbour is Norway, which once ruled the now independent island. When Man first settled Iceland in the 9th century it was an island covered in forest, but a combination of exploitation of timber, over-grazing and volcanic activity has wiped out all except some small areas of trees in nature reserves.

The currency is the Icelandic Krona, and the economy has recovered faster than anywhere else following the banking crash of 2008. However the cost of living is reckoned to be 22% higher than in the UK, so tourists from countries other than those with a high cost of living are likely to find it expensive.

Why go to Iceland?
• Waterfalls
• The wild, wide open landscape
• Glaciers and geysers
• The Midnight Sun in summer
• The Aurora Borealis in winter
• Reykjavik’s lively nightlife
• The country’s lovely wildlife
• Fishing holidays

Green Tourism
Iceland’s economy is strong and based on service industries, finance and tourism, with traditional fishing still being important. 85% of the country’s energy comes from renewable sources, making Iceland one of the top ten Greenest countries in the world. Reykjavik runs largely on geothermal power.

When to go to Iceland
You don’t really go to Iceland for the weather, which can’t be relied on, even in Summer. From May to September you could get warm (17°C) days, but you will probably have rain and temperatures only just in double figures at that time as well.
For the Northern Lights it is better to go between September and January, but this is close to the Arctic Circle and in the northern hemisphere Winter the nights are long and temperatures only a few degrees above or below freezing. Unless you are going just for the Aurora Borealis, the best time is late May to early September, when everything is open and buses are running a full schedule – just don’t expect great weather and you won’t be disappointed! (If you want to check out Iceland weather for yourself online, the Icelandic Met Office has live webcams in various locations.)

Where to go – take your choice
Reykjavik – the capital area, for Midnight Sun/Northern Lights, and whale-watching and dolphin-watching in winter.
South Peninsula and Reykjanes – location of Iceland’s main entry airport, and an amazing area of lava fields.
North – mountains, long valleys and lava fields, and a deeply indented coastline.
Westfjords – mainly wilderness in the isolated and largely uninhabited northwest.
West Iceland – a land of volcanoes, waterfalls and flora and fauna.
East coast – forest and farmlands, fjords and small islands, fishing villages and natural harbours.
Highlands – the central mountainous area, accessible only in summer and in suitable vehicles.

Not to be missed
Iceland is nicknamed “the land of fire and ice”, based on its (mostly dormant) volcanoes, thermal springs and geysers, alongside glaciers and frozen tundra. It could just as well have been dubbed “the land of waterfalls and wildlife”, for the snowmelt feeds so many rivers, and the number and variety of waterfalls is staggering: Gullfoss (Golden Falls) is the largest and most visited, Delifoss is Europe’s most powerful waterfall, and Glymur’s 192 metre drop is the longest in the country.

Whales, seals and dolphins are to be seen on organised trips, and ornithologists flock to the country to see puffins, kittiwakes and skuas nesting on the cliffs. The only indigenous wild land-based mammal is the Arctic Fox, but humans have introduced mink, mice, rabbits and, of course, reindeer. Polar bears occasionally make their way from Greenland to Iceland on icebergs, but you are very unlikely to see one.

Getting there etc.
A number of airlines run flights from Europe (3-4 hours) and North America (5-6 hours) to Keflavik International Airport, 48 km (30 miles) from Reykjavik. Icelandair aims to exploit its geographical position between Europe and the US, by using Iceland as a hub to link 16 airports in America with 27 gateways in Europe. Buses run between the airport and the capital – going home you will need to take the airport bus two and a half hours before your flight time. Alternatively all the major international car hire companies are based at the Car Rental Centre at Keflavik Airport.

If flying is not for you, there is a weekly Smyril Line car ferry from Hirtshals in Denmark and Torshavn in the Faroe Islands to the port of Seythisfjorour. This option allows you to bring your own vehicle to Iceland.
Self-drive holidays are popular, but you need to be a competent and confident driver, as you may well meet challenging conditions on some roads. The alternative is to take organised tours.

Where to stay
There is a wide range of accommodation in Iceland to suit every taste and budget, from luxury hotels to hostels, camping and mountain huts. Luxury and business hotels are mainly found in Reykjavik, but other options to consider are rental apartments and B+B in Icelanders’ houses.

Have a look at our pictures of Iceland, and use them for free if you wish (see terms on the Home page), then see if you don’t want to go there yourself!

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