Iceland is very much in the spotlight this year, so we sought to discover what lies beneath its famous Northern Lights and delve deep into the craters of its volcanoes with unpronounceable names! A destination filled with dramatic attractions such as geysers, waterfalls and thermal pools, this raw and remote land is opening up to a steady flow of curious adventure travellers, with 2018 set to witness a new peak in numbers. As the gateway capital and largest city of Iceland, Reykjavik is a popular starting point for an Icelandic journey to remember.
Why A Journey To Iceland Should Start With Reykjavik
Reykjavik is the world’s northernmost capital of a sovereign state and is located in southwestern Iceland — on the southern shore of Faxa Bay. Founded in 1786 as an official trading town, Reykjavik steadily grew into a national centre of commerce, and for government, and is home to most of Iceland’s population. From being the first permanent settlement in Iceland, this important coastal capital evolved from farming, plus salt-cod production and fishing during the 1920s and 1930s, to benefit from post-war development with the help of the British and American governments, plus Royal Regiment of Canada. With its improved infrastructure and rapid development, the Republic of Iceland was founded in 1944 and a president was elected to replace the king.
Said to be among the cleanest, greenest and safest cities in the world, with a coastline made up of peninsulas, coves, straits and islands, Reykjavik is a sprawling city with low-rise suburbs, spaced-out suburbs and the striking Akrafjall mountains forming an attractive backdrop. Add to this the Ellioaa River, which runs through Reykjavik and is one of the best salmon fishing rivers in the country, and its easy to see how ancient glacial and volcanic forces have carved out the boundaries for this scenic, subpolar city. Despite its northern latitude, the North Atlantic Current and Gulf Stream moderate Iceland’s climate, with temperatures rarely drop below -15°C in winter. Summer temperatures, meanwhile, range from a comfortable 10 to 20°C, creating an ideal touring temperature for those seeking the sunnier side of Iceland.
By embarking on an exciting city tour, visitors to Reykjavík can immerse themselves in 1,000 years of history and culture, with plenty to see and admire. From the significant museums, galleries and famous buildings, to the interesting architecture, painted facades and interesting cuisine — this small city certainly packs a creative punch. Must-visits include the important National and Saga museums, whilst visitors will be intrigued by the traces of popular Viking history and fascinating language throughout the city. The concrete Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral, striking Harpa concert venue and famous Perlan fine dining restaurant — with its rotating glass-domed roof offering incredible views — are definitely worth a visit in Reykjavík. Creative world-famous talents such as singer Bjork, poet Sjon and visual artist Ragnar Kjartansson have all hailed from this remote city.
Be Awe-Inspired By The Remarkable Icelandic Landscape
Having first explored the culture of Reykjavík, no journey to Iceland would be complete without venturing further into its majestic and volatile landscape. Your itinerary should continue with a drive to Iceland’s iconic Golden Circle. After several hour’s drive, you’ll arrive at an area boasting three of Iceland’s most impressive natural sites. This Geysir geothermal area is home to the most energetic spouting spring, Strokkur, the spectacular 150-foot Gullfoss (Golden Falls) Waterfall, and UNESCO-World Heritage Site, Thingvellir National Park. Having been awe-inspired by a series of spectacular attractions and captivating scenery, visitors should head to Iceland’s South Shore to experience its famous waterfalls, black sandy beaches and herds of wild Icelandic horses. Enjoy a private boat ride to the Westman Islands, an archipelago where activities include puffin and seal-spotting, plus tours of the Saeheimar Aquarium. Another must-see region is located in the South Highlands of Iceland, between the mountain glaciers of Tindfjallajokull and the majestic glaciers and birch woods. Witness the majesty of the world-famous Eyjafjallajokull Glacier and the stunning Thorsmork Valley. Whilst here, take a super-jeep tour to witness the extraordinary geological wonders, or hike to the hilltops for dramatic and spectacular volcanic mountain scenery — plus some of the most striking glacial views in the world.
Your final highlight should involve travelling west to the world-famous Blue Lagoon. This beautiful geothermal spa appears to pierce through the pristine Icelandic landscape and makes for remarkable photographs. Delve in to enjoy the healing of the mineral-rich waters, whilst breathing in the pure Icelandic air. This is an ideal location to digest and recount your sensational encounters and thrilling experiences, from this place of extraordinary raw beauty.
Whilst every visit to Iceland should start with a stay in Reykjavik, outside the capital the hotels are fewer and far between, with small, privately-owned, lodges forming the main stay for travellers. The setting often dictates the location and design of such dwellings, with local hospitality proving more welcoming than modern amenities. Following a busy day exploring Iceland’s Golden Circle, Private Holar Lodge offers the perfect retreat to sample the local charm and to breathe the pure mountain air. Guests can soak up the views, and the unique atmosphere, plus enjoy breakfast and dinner prepared by a private chef.
In summary, every holiday to enigmatic Iceland should start with the cultural attractions of Reykjavik. Whilst famous for its incredible snow-filled landscapes, spectacular natural beauty and challenging — at times hostile — environment, Iceland’s icy appeal stretches beyond its renowned winter season. It is, in fact, a year-round destination with its colourful capital city of Reykjavik increasingly welcoming visitors wishing to see Iceland in a softer light. Spring, summer and autumn are lovely times in which to stride out into the wilderness and venture to the many wondrous geological sights with ease. Offering endless photographic opportunities, Iceland’s Reykjavik provides a wealth of exclusive attractions and should be your European destination for a luxurious adventure in 2018.
For further inspiration, please view our adventurous journeys to Iceland, or speak to our expert Travel Consultants to book your luxury holiday to Reykjavik.