Iceland: why this mid-Atlantic destination remains as popular as ever
written by Julia Hammond
Iceland’s popularity, both as a short break destination and a vacation spot for longer trips, shows no signs of waning. Around 2 million international travellers chose to holiday there in 2019, most commonly for a week-long visit. So what is it that appeals to tourists and what should you do when you’re there?
Iceland’s awash with waterfalls and glaciers, iceberg-strewn lagoons and black sand beaches, geothermal spas and spouting geysers. The boundary of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates bisects the country, while its many active volcanoes continue to shape the landscape as they have done for millennia. There are few countries in the world that offer this variety of extraordinary views within a relatively small area. Visitors are spoiled for choice; the difficulty in planning an Iceland itinerary lies not with what to include, but what to leave out.
With such spectacular landscapes comes huge potential for those seeking adrenaline activities. Thrill seekers can descend into volcanic craters, zoom across glacial crevasses on snowmobiles or venture deep underground into subterranean ice caves accessible only by super jeeps. In summer, the country’s dramatically mountainous interior opens up. The rugged terrain is no match for the gravel roads that require drivers to ford rivers and cope with tricky potholes. Walkers can hike the trail of their lives; exposed ridges, hidden hot springs, starkly beautiful lava fields and magical canyons await those hardy enough to reach them.
Dark sky treats
In summer, the Land of the Midnight Sun snatches only minutes of fitful sleep. Come autumn, the nights draw in and the skies darken. It’s then that the Aurora Borealis begins to show up. Catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights is often fleeting. Seeing this elusive natural phenomenon requires a lot of luck: factors such as cloud-free skies, a lack of light pollution and strong auroral activity need to align. But when the green and purple curtains dance overhead, there are few sights that come close. Awe-inspiring, wonderful, breathtaking – all words that could have been designed for the sole purpose of describing what’s going on above.
Though you could be forgiven for thinking Iceland’s attraction is confined to the great outdoors, it offers the whole package. In Reykjavik, top class restaurants and heritage hotels cater for the discerning traveller. Sculptures, historic buildings and a wide range of entertainment options abound. Visit the Sun Voyager sculpture on the waterfront, secure concert tickets at Harpa and admire the basalt-inspired design of Hallgrimmskirkja. A stone’s throw from the city, a trip to Thingvellir National Park on the famed Golden Circle unlocks the secrets of the world’s oldest parliament.
You choose how to do Iceland your way: indulge yourself with an unending stream of panoramic views or cosy up and forget the outside world exists in one of the many delightful restaurants. However you plan it, a visit to Iceland will be one of those bucket list activities you’ll find hard to scratch from your notepad – who wants to miss out on a return trip when there’s so much more to see? Why not let Mundana help you create the package that’s perfect for you?