The Northern Lights are one of the biggest draws in Iceland. This magical night time display is one of the most enchanting natural phenomenon on our planet, created as electrically-charged particles from the sun collide with gas particles of the Earth’s atmosphere. With an unpredictable nature, it is hard to guarantee a sighting of them, though the dark winter months between September and April are most reliable, providing the weather permits. The longer you stay also increases your chances of catching sight of these remarkable heavenly wonders.
Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavík is delightfully quirky and cool. As the world’s most northerly, and one of the smallest, capital cities it already stands out, though don’t let its size or location on the cusp make you underestimate it. Known for its colourful buildings and unique sense of design, it is surprisingly cosmopolitan and a loaded with artistic, culinary and musical character. With intriguing Viking heritage, you can learn all about the country’s early history at The Settlement Exhibition or one of the other many fantastic museums on offer. You may also wish to visit the House of Parliament, Reykjavík Cathedral and the 75-meter-high Hallgrimskirkja church, which boasts panoramic views of the city from the top. For art lovers, you can wander the outstanding Reykjavík Art Museum and National Gallery or catch the latest Icelandic films at the local cinema. There is also the intriguing Sun Voyager Sculpture to marvel at, and plenty of shops for seeking out unique Icelandic-designed mementos. At the harbour during summer months, you can depart for a whale-watching excursion. As evening falls, you can also enjoy the range of restaurants and bars that come to life with home-grown bands playing and cuisine inspired by flavours across the world and from home.
The Golden Circle is a term that applies to a route that loops from Reykjavík up into the southern uplands. In this area, you will find some of Iceland’s most magnificent attractions across its beautiful landscape, including powerful geysers and breathtaking waterfalls.
Thingvellir National Park is one of the most popular stops. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in in 2004, it stands on two tectonic plates that are gradually moving away from eachother, and you can witness the geological faultline at Almannagja gorge. You can also find the largest natural lake in Iceland, Lake Thingvallavatn, where during summer months you can go snorkeling between continents at the stunning Silfra Gorge dive site. The Oxararfoss Waterfall, meanwhile, is a beautiful sight, but hides a darker history as a place of Medieval punishment for those sentenced to death…
Along the Golden Circle you can also see Gullfoss Waterfall, a spectacular two-tiered fall which freezes into a breathtaking frozen display in winter months. Its water comes from the Langjokull glacier, Iceland’s second biggest glacier, which is a favourite place for snowmobiling. Along the Golden Circle, you can also come across the famous Great Geyser and Strokkur geyser, which spouts a forty-meter jet of water every few minutes, and Thrihnukagigur volcano; comprising three craters, you can descend 120-meters into its heart during summer months.
More from the South Shore
Beyond the Golden Circle, there is plenty more to discover in southern Iceland. Perhaps the main event, though, is the Solheimajokull glacier. This otherworldly display of ice and rock is a must-see, and an ice walk is easy for all abilities. If you don’t mind getting a little wet, you can also walk behind the 60-meter high Seljalandsfoss waterfall. Another spectacular sight is the Reynisdrangar basalt sea stacks located along the black sands of the beach below. Legend says that the stacks originated when two trolls dragged a three-master ship to land unsuccessfully and when daylight broke they became needles of rock.
Thórsmörk Mountain is also as essential stop. A paradise for hikers, it has a warmer climate than the rest of the area, making it a popular summer spot, coated in spongy moss and verdant grass. Here, you will come across the famous Eyjafjallajokull glacier, and if you hike into the canyon of Stakkholtsgja, a beautiful waterfall.
Located at the southwestern ends of Iceland, near Reykjavik, the Reykjanes Peninsula is a UNESCO Global Geopark and the only place in the world where you can see the Mid-Atlantic Ridge above sea level. Marked by under-surface volcanism and large lava fields, there are some stunning sights to see. At the Seltun geothermal area, the sulphuric water and gases have resulted in green, yellow and red sediments, along with thermal springs and simmering mud pots. To harness the benefits of the rich mineral waters to your skin, head to the waters of Blue Lagoon to enjoy a dip. In the summer, you should also try to visit the Krysuvikurbjarg cliffs, which are home to an array of migratory birds and boasts fantastic north Atlantic views.
If you visit Reyjavic during the summer months between April and September, take a boat ride out to try and spot some of the twenty species of whales that can be seen off the coast.
Festivals and Events
Reyjavik hosts plenty of festivals and events throughout the year, showcasing diverse music, food and culture, while Christmas sees wonderful festive displays. Check before you go to see if you can catch one!
British Airways from London Heathrow to Keflavik and Iceland Air from London Heathrow and London Gatwick. Easyjet flights are also available from Luton and London Gatwik and Wow Air flights from London Stanstead and London Gatwick.
From London Heathrow to Iceland: 3 hours
Travelling With Children or Without an Adult
Children travelling without both parents should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country (for example, South Africa) or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country. Please contact the relevant Embassy for the county you are travelling to for further information.
Visa and Advance Passenger Information
All passengers must ensure they have a valid, acceptable passport, any required visa and any other documentation for both the final destination and any stop-off points en route. Please make sure that Advance Passenger Information is submitted in advance to travel for all destinations. Failure to hold correct documentation or submitting incorrect details with Advance Passenger Information or Visa applications may result in refusal of carriage or entry into a country. Please check with the relevant Embassy regarding visa requirements well in advance of your travel date. Charges may apply for some visas.
Passengers not travelling on a British Passport are advised to contact their relevant Foreign & Commonwealth office for individual Visa requirements.
For up-to-date resort information, visit www.fco.gov.uk
Health facilities, hygiene and disease risks vary worldwide and you should take health advice about your specific needs from your general practitioner or a specialist clinic as early as possible before travel. Those planning to become pregnant should discuss their travel plans with their healthcare provider to assess their risk of infection with Zika. For information about Zika, other mosquito-borne diseases (such as Dengue fever and Chikungunya), Lyme Disease (caused by tick bites), and to receive advice on mosquito bite avoidance measures, please visit http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/insect-tick-bite-avoidance/
In addition, we highly recommend that you seek specialist advice from your doctor and, where recommended, obtain vaccinations or tablets for protection against, for example: Malaria, Hepatitis A, Polio and Typhoid. In some cases, treatments for Malaria should begin well in advance of travel. Travellers may also be required to show Yellow Fever Certificates on arrival in certain destinations ie, some African countries. Please note that you are strongly advised against scuba-diving for 24 hours before travelling by air. We would also like to draw your attention to the risk of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) and recommend that you consult with your doctor before travelling.
Visit the FCO website and select your destination country for the very latest travel advice: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Additional sources of information include: www.hpa.org.uk, http://nathnac.net,
www.fco.gov.uk, www.hpa.org.uk and www.nathnac.org, your General Practitioner or a specialised clinic.