Best time to visit: November, December, January, July, August
Average high: 6˚C
Average low: 1˚C
Price of meals: 5/5
Holiday type: Adventure / Family / Romantic
Iceland is gaining a reputation as the ideal getaway for nature lovers and outdoor adventurers. The country has the land area equivalent to the UK, but only has a population of 300,000. Most citizens live in the capital, Reykjavik, so once you set out into the country, you will feel like you are exploring an undiscovered world. With its volcanic landscape, mountainous terrain, and steaming thermal pools and geysers, Iceland is a land before time, and is ready to welcome you to some of the most incredible and accessible natural wonders on the planet.
If you don’t mind the cold and are looking for a short getaway, go in the winter. Reykjavik will be quieter, prices will be a little lower, and you will be able to enjoy the spectacular Northern Lights. While the roads are more treacherous, Iceland’s Golden Circle (The Blue Lagoon, the tectonic plates at Þingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss waterfall, and the geysers at Haukadalur) are all close to the capital.
However, to truly discover Iceland’s wonders, you should stray further, for which we recommend travelling in the summer. Twenty-four-hour sunlight and ice-free roads will make driving Iceland’s Route 1 (it’s primary road which circumnavigates most of the country) safer. Tours and coaches are available, but renting a car will allow you more freedom to explore, especially as there are cheap campsites throughout the country where you can pitch a tent for as little as £5 per night. The Western fjords in the northwest are harder to access, but beautiful if you make it there. There are also plenty of small villages to stop at a long the way if you don’t want to camp. The thousands of waterfalls surrounding the remote Seyðisfjörður make this site a particular favourite.
Besides the Blue Lagoon and whale watching in the northern fishing village of Húsavík (where humpbacks are common but you may even spy a blue whale, if you are lucky), the majority of natural sites are free to access and marvel. From black-sand beaches and icy lagoons, to towering waterfalls and glacial hikes. Travel in any direction for just a few minutes and you will find a new wonder—Iceland’s true magic is that even if other people are nearby, you will feel like you are the first person to discover it.
Iceland’s proximity to the Arctic Circle means it is subject to relatively cold weather throughout the year, rarely rising higher than 12 or 13˚C in the summer. July and August enjoy 24-hour daylight. Conversely, the winter months normally only see up to 4 hours or low sunlight per day, although you will be rewarded with the spectacular Northern Lights. Rainfall is heaviest from September to December, although it is still comparable with the rest of the year, and rain clouds come and go with regularity. Like most mountainous regions, weather can change suddenly. The best way to deal with any cold or unpredictable weather is to come prepared with suitable clothing.
Most food is imported to Iceland, making eating out, and hospitality services in general, quite expensive. An “inexpensive” meal for one will cost about £16, but a three-course, mid-range meal for two will put you back, on average, £85-90. Beer is 50-60% more expensive at £8-10 per bottle. A cup of coffee is approximately £3.70, while a bottle of water costs £1.65.
While there is no way of getting around the high cost of hotels and food, you will balance out your spending by viewing the spectacular natural sites and hikes around the country—most which are low-cost or entirely free to access.
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