A mythical kingdom ruled by elves and Arctic energy, Iceland is where the past meets the future in an elemental symphony of wind, stone, fire and ice.
A Symphony of Elements
Iceland is, literally, a country in the making – the natural elements work in harmony to power its veritable volcanic laboratory: geysers gush, mudpots gloop, Arctic gales swish along silent fjords, stone towers rise from the depths of an indigo sea, and glaciers grind their way through cracked lava fields and the merciless tundra. The sublime power of Icelandic nature turns the prosaic into the extraordinary. A dip in the pool becomes a soothing soak in a geothermal lagoon, a casual stroll can transform into a trek across a glittering ice cap, and a quiet night of camping means front-row seats to either the aurora borealis’ curtains of fire, or the soft, pinkish hue of the midnight sun.
A Deeply Personal Experience
Beyond the torturous clash of ecological anomalies, it’s hard not to be deeply touched by the island’s awesome beauty – few leave the country without a pang and a fervent vow to return. Iceland has that effect on people – it turns brutes into poets, and sceptics into believers. Perhaps it’s the landscape’s austere bleakness, or maybe it has something to do with the island’s tiny population, but a soul-stirring visit is as much about the people you meet as it is about the ethereal landscape. The warmth of the Icelanders starkly contrasts the frigid climate – expect complimentary cakes and cookies, friendly intellectual banter, invites to pub crawls, eager hiking buddies and 50 new Facebook friends when you return home.
Scandinavian Sensibilities & Sagas
Iceland’s climate and environment is as charged as the scrolls of its ancient sagas; electrifying legends of heroes and thieves during a time when the rest of the European continent was mired in disease and ignorance. The era’s mystic ruins, crumbling turf houses and haunting cairns act as the cultural and tactile counterpoints to the islanders’ modern set of visual pursuits. Influenced by its Scandinavian brethren, Iceland’s current spectrum of style embodies the airiness of a crisp Arctic evening. The relative ease of life allows for an aesthetic that draws on the desolation of the surrounding land and mixes it with the whimsy of the collective imagination.
Best places to stay in Iceland
Best treks with killer views
Trekking may be hard work but it’s all worth it to encounter exceptional landscapes, extraordinary mountain peaks and serene snapshots of local colour. This article is adapted from Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Adventures.
Iceland's best hot springs
Volcanoes and glaciers in Iceland
Iceland destination guides
The world’s most northerly capital combines colourful buildings, quirky people, a wild nightlife and a capricious soul to devastating effect.
Ten of the world's most mind-blowing landscapes
Gazing at a remarkable view for the first time is one of travel’s greatest thrills - and these 10 landscapes are among the most mind-blowing we’ve ever seen. Straight from our brand-new hardback Lonely Planet's Beautiful World, these landscapes are almost too extraordinary to be real.
Hiking in Iceland
Sailing from Spitsbergen to Greenland, follow the ice’s edge with an eye peeled to the horizon for wildlife. Navigating south, you'll explore this remote landscape not only by ship but also on foot and via Zodiac. This journey highlights the contrast and change in the Arctic as you move south, finally ending in the Iceland, "the Land of Fire and Ice.
Golden Circle Classic Day Trip from Reykjavik
Want to see some of the best-known natural phenomena in Iceland on a day trip from Reykjavik? From spouting geysers, tumbling waterfalls and ancient volcanoes, the popular Golden Circle Classic full-day excursion by coach will introduce you to Iceland's world-renowned pristine natural beauty surrounding the capital.
Fire and ice: adventures in Iceland
You could be forgiven for mistaking Iceland's scenery for a sci-fi movie set. Boiling water blasts out of geysers, and cracks in the earth belch steam. Arid plains and mustard-coloured rocks stretch endlessly into the distance. Volcanoes lurk menacingly under a covering of snow.