Wildlife

Vestmannaeyjar’s puffins The largest puffin colony in the world lives in this eye-catching archipelago.

Húsavík’s whales View underwater marvels and birdlife on a boat expedition from Iceland’s whale-watching heartland.

Hornstrandir’s Arctic foxes Iceland’s only native mammal thrives in a faraway kingdom of towering cliffs and mossy stones.

Lake Mývatn’s birds Twitchers adore the marshy surrounds of the lake, a magnet for migrating geese and all kinds of waterfowl.

Vatnsnes Peninsula’s seals Take a seal-spotting cruise from Hvammstangi or drive the peninsula to scout for sunbaking pinnipeds.

Stunning Scenery

You realise that choosing between incomparable vistas is like trying to pick a favourite child? This list could be endless…

Þingeyri to Bíldudalur Zipper-like fjordheads resemble fleets of earthen ships engaged in a celestial battle.

Breiðafjörður Thousands of islets dot the sweeping bay as rainbows soar overhead in summertime sun showers.

Skaftafell to Höfn Glittering glaciers, brooding mountains and an iceberg-filled lagoon line this stretch along the Ring Road’s southeast coast.

Eastfjords Supermodel Seyðisfjörður steals the limelight, but its fine fjord neighbours are just as photogenic.

Þórsmörk In the 'valley of Thor', lush green plants nestle under volcanic peaks, and among wild stretches of desert and looming glaciers.

Askja A remote, sapphire-blue lake at the heart of an immense caldera, accessed across vast, barren lava fields.

Tröllaskagi Peninsula The road hugs steep mountainsides, then emerges from tunnels to capture magical vistas of glistening waters.

Hiking

Landmannalaugar A striking realm offering endless foot fodder; the hike to Þórsmörk is the original flavour of wilderness walking.

Hornstrandir Pristine nature as far as the eye can see in this hiking paradise orbiting the Arctic Circle.

Skaftafell Follow trails through twisting birch woods or don crampons to tackle offshoots of mammoth Vatnajökull ice cap.

Jökulsárgljúfur Offers a veritable smorgasbord of geological wonders, including thundering waterfalls and Iceland’s ‘Grand Canyon’.

Kerlingarfjöll A remote highland massif with geothermal activity, and a growing reputation among the hiking community.

Borgarfjörður Eystri The base for a superb series of trails – don't miss the giant boulders and green ponds of Stórurð.

Lagoons & Swimming Pools

Blue Lagoon It’s hard not to adore a soak in this steaming silica soup surrounded by dramatic flourishes of frozen lava.

Mývatn Nature Baths Ease your aching hiking muscles at the north’s scenic answer to the Blue Lagoon.

Krossneslaug A Valhalla at the edge of the world where lapping Arctic waters greet a toasty geothermal source.

Lýsuhólslaug Swimming in this pool's mineral-rich waters is like soaking in a warm gin fizz with a twist of algae.

Hofsós Swimming Pool This perfectly sited fjord-side swimming pool puts the sleepy northern town of Hofsós on the map.

Gamla Laugin Mist rises from the 'Secret Lagoon' in Flúðir, surrounded by wildflower-filled meadows.

Víti The milky-blue waters are tepid, but the location – a crater beside the Askja caldera in the remote interior highland – is sizzling.

Sundhöllin Central Reykjavík's deco delight has had a makeover, and now features indoor and outdoor pools.

History

Settlement Exhibition A cleverly curated exhibit constructed around the excavation site of an ancient Viking hall.

Settlement Centre Gain insight into Iceland’s settlement and famous Egil’s Saga through beautiful wooden sculptures.

Herring Era Museum Recreates the heyday of herring fishing, which once brought frenzied activity and riches to Siglufjörður.

Víkingaheimar A fresh-faced museum whose centrepiece is a perfect reconstruction of the oldest known Viking-age ship.

Lakagígar Attempt to comprehend one of the most catastrophic volcanic events in human history.

Eldheimar The 'Pompeii of the North’ museum gives insight into the devastating 1973 eruption on Heimaey.

Fáskrúðsfjörður The French flavour of this fjord is celebrated with a chic hotel and museum development.

National Museum Great historical context and content, spanning Settlement to the modern age.

Icelandic Emigration Center How and why so many Icelanders headed to the New World for a new life in the late 19th century.

Wilderness Center Step back in time in at this unique farm that's home to creative, history-tinged accommodation and exhibits.

Local Food

Fish soup Any restaurant worth its salt has fish soup on the menu – try it at Narfeyrarstofa or Tjöruhúsið.

Lamb Iceland’s headliner meat is a locavore’s dream; it falls off the bone at myriad restaurants, including Fjallakaffi.

Langoustine The Höfn fishing fleet pulls countless crustaceans from the icy local waters; Höfn’s restaurants simply grill and add butter.

Skyr A delicious yoghurty snack available at any supermarket in Iceland. Taste it in creative, upmarket form at Slippurinn.

Hverabrauð Sample this cake-like rye bread, baked underground using geothermal heat, around Mývatn.

Tomatoes Friðheimar serves up tomato soup and top-notch Bloody Marys in a geothermally heated greenhouse.

Dairy delights Stop in at farm cafes doling out creamy treats (cheese, cream, ice cream) – Efstidalur II and Kaffi Kú are exemplary.

Barley and herbs Vallanes is an organic farm deliciously setting the record straight on what can be grown in Iceland.

Waterfalls

Dettifoss With the greatest volume of any waterfall in Europe, thundering Dettifoss is nature at its most awesome.

Goðafoss The ‘Waterfall of the Gods’, loaded with spiritual symbolism, looks like it’s been ripped straight from a shampoo commercial.

Skógafoss Camp near this gorgeous gusher then hike up into the highlands for 20 more waterfalls just beyond.

Dynjandi Veins of Arctic water cascade 100m over terraces of stone and afford some of the most gorgeous fjord views.

Seljalandsfoss A (slippery) path in the rockface gives behind-the-scenes access to this postcard-perfect chute.

Hengifoss Iceland's second-highest falls plummet into a photogenic, brown-and-red-striped gorge.

Unique Sleeps

Hótel Egilsen A run-down merchant’s house transformed into a gorgeous harbour inn with boutique-chic fixtures.

Hótel Djúpavík This legendary bolthole fulfils fjord fantasies; Sigur Rós shot part of their documentary here.

Dalvík HI Hostel A charming, vintage-inspired hostel like no other. Budget prices belie boutique decor.

Silfurberg Soak in a glass-dome-enclosed hot-pot at this luxurious boutique guesthouse in view-blessed Breiðdalur valley.

Ion Luxury Adventure Hotel Swim in geothermal waters and dine on organic, local fare at this award-winning design hotel.

Wilderness Center Bunk down in a recreated baðstofa (historic living/sleeping room) on a farm in a glorious, remote eastern valley.

Buubble Hotel Scouting for Northern Lights might prevent you catching any shut-eye in these unique clear domes.

Tungulending A secluded waterfront outpost designed to make you slow down and enjoy the knockout views.

Þakgil Camp in an emerald-green valley among stark mountains and dramatic rock formations.

Retreat Hotel The exclusive way to access the Blue Lagoon, complete with private lagoon and decadent subterranean spa.

Architecture & Design

Churches Some of Iceland’s most intriguing architectural flourishes can be seen in Stykkishólmur, Akureyri and Reykjavík churches.

Iceland Design Centre Promotes Iceland’s designers and architects, and the brains behind the annual DesignMarch event.

Harpa Reykjavík’s dazzling concert hall and cultural centre glows like the switchboard of an alien ship after dark.

Turf houses A paradigm of pre-modern Iceland, these hobbit houses, such as Glaumbær, offer a wonderfully whimsical insight into Iceland’s past.

Reykjavík design boutiques Icelandic designs from sleek, fish-skin purses to knitted lopapeysur (Icelandic woollen sweaters) and nature-inspired jewellery.

Þórbergssetur Honouring a local writer, this museum has an inspired exterior (resembling a giant bookshelf) that's a traffic-stopper.

Nordic House Showing that the Nordic countries know a thing or two about good design, this capital cultural centre oozes good taste.