This small island in the north Atlantic attracts visitors from all over the world with its stunning landscape. The midnight sun, majestic fjords and lava fields are an experience. This is Iceland, and it has been chosen the “Best European Country” by the Guardian and Observer Readers’ Travel Awards 2012.
Mývatn is a shallow eutrophic lake situated in an area of active volcanism in the north of Iceland, not far from Krafla volcano. The lake was created by a large basaltic lava eruption 2,300 years ago. Bubbling mud flats, volcanic craters, newborn lava fields, and grassy shoals teeming with waterfowl are among the sights of the striking Lake Myvatn region, one of the most geologically active and stunningly beautiful areas in Iceland. The lake is a national conservation area and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.
Go off the beaten track
As wonderful as those sights are, it is a crying shame to miss Iceland’s more far-flung offerings: Wonders like the Westfjords, which boasts of the highest concentrations of nesting cliff birds in the world. You might want to see the Jökulsárlón (literally “glacial river lagoon”), Hornstrandir nature reserve, hikes across Landmannalaugar, or the highlands of Askja and Kverkfjoll. Many tend to miss out on the far north-eastern edge of Iceland: Borgarfjordur Eystri and Melrakkasletta.
Europe’s most expensive destination has become more affordable in the past few years. Reykjavik at cut-price is a thing of beauty — just like the pony-sized Icelandic horses ridden at a tölt. A thriving nightlife, shopping districts, cafés and geo-thermal pools make Iceland’s capital the capital of cool. Add to this a backdrop of snow-topped mountains, air as cold and clean as frozen diamonds, and incredible volcanic surroundings, and you’ll agree that there’s no better city in the world.
The long, calm, deep fjord of Seyðisfjörður twists and turns 17 kilometres from its mouth to the head of the fjord, where the town of the same name shelters beneath Mt Strandartindur and Mt Bjolfur. Seyðisfjörður is regarded by many as one of Iceland’s most picturesque towns, not only due to its impressive environment, but also because nowhere else in Iceland is there a community of old wooden buildings that have been preserved so well as here.
Skjálfandi bay, off Husavik in northern Iceland
Skjálfandi, geologically more a bay than a fjord, is located in the northern part of Iceland. The Icelandic word “Skjálfandi” literally translates as “trembling” which might refer to earthquakes in the area. Húsavík, the Iceland’s whale-watching capital, is a picturesque town located on the northern coast. Its bay, Skjálfandi, is famous for the abundance of different whales, dolphins and birds species, which can best be observed during the whale-watching trips departing from Húsavík harbour.
Tjörnin is a placid lake at the centre of Reykjavik. It echoes with the squawks of over 40 species of visiting birds, including swans, geese and Arctic terns. Feeding the ducks is a popular pastime for children. Pretty sculpture-dotted parks line the southern shores, and their paths are much used by cyclists and joggers. In winter, hardy souls strap on ice skates and turn the lake into an outdoor rink.
Things to do
Choose between the opportunity to drive through lava fields and black sand beaches of the Reykanes Peninsula on quad bikes, or join a guided glacier excursion on Solheimajokull, one of Iceland’s most impressive glaciers. Explore a frozen world of crevasses and sink holes and ice walls. All the necessary equipment is provided and no experience is needed.
Reykjavik, the Blue Lagoon, ash clouds, economic disaster … these are the places and events Iceland is best known for. But beyond the capital — and the headlines — is a spectacular landscape steeped in tradition and folklore. Travel there in September and you can join local farmers as they embark on the annual ritual of gathering their sheep from the mountains of south Iceland to be taken down to fertile pastures for winter grazing.
Trekking here is off-track, wild and remote, and will take you through hidden valleys and fairytale icy landscapes. This is a volcanic island producing spectacular geysers and relaxing thermal pools, which will be most welcome after your trek! Whale watching isn’t a bad pastime either and the spectacular shows of the Aurora Borealis will remain with you forever.
Things you need to know
Best time to go
Spring and autumn are special times here. The weather is beautiful. In autumn, you may see the northern lights. In May it is warm, dry and light from 4am to 10pm. Both times are cheap: prices fall. More than 90% of Iceland’s tourists visit during summer. And that is not the only way they limit themselves: less than 10% stray more than an hour from Reykjavik, sticking to the well-trodden Golden Circle linking Thingvellir national park, Gullfoss, the Blue Lagoon and Geysir.
How to get there
The Leifur Eiríksson International Air Terminal in Keflavik is the gateway for most passenger flights to and from Iceland. Multiple carriers will take you to the Keflavik airport. It may take you 28 hours or more to reach your destination. Flights from Hyderabad have stopovers at Delhi and Brussels and for the return journey, it has stopovers at London, Mumbai and then Hyderabad. The whole trip will set you back by Rs.1,66,500.