Geologically the world’s newest country, Iceland is one of the world’s top holiday destinations for experiencing geographical wonders.
Both fire and ice have shaped the other-worldly landscape that dominates the island of Iceland, a country that attracts visitors looking for extreme adventure, breath-taking scenery and indulgent boutique hotels. Whether it be relaxing in the thermal waters of the Blue Lagoon spa, snow-mobiling across glaciers, partying with the nocturnal vodka-gulping locals in Reykjavik or soaking up the Northern Lights from your outdoor jacuzzi – you cannot beat the fascinating geology and quirkiness of this country. Highlights in Iceland include the popular Golden Circle tour; which takes in the Geysir geothermal area, the spectacular Gullfoss waterfall , and the UNESCO site Þingvellir National Park which was the site of Iceland's parliament from the 10th to 18th centuries.
Walk (or dive) between two tectonic plates, watch the thundering Atlantic surf on the deserted black beach at Reynifjall, swim in glacial rivers, super-jeep through Mordor-esque valleys of black ash and white snow, and trek up the now world-famous volcano, Eyjafjallajökull. The “Game of Thrones effect” has been cited as a key factor behind the recent remarkable growth in annual visitors to Iceland, as ever since the hit TV series first featured Iceland, glimpses of the country’s frozen landscapes have lured mega-fans from around the world to the little island in the north Atlantic. Our tried and tested accommodation will reassure you that there’s plenty of reason to spend at least some of your time indoors during a luxury holiday in Iceland.
THE TO DO LIST
Buggy touring is the latest thing in Icelandic ATV adventures, taking you up close to the breathtaking mountain views just beyond Reykjavik
Try Iceland's 'national' food, a hot dog from Reyjavik's famous harbourside hot dog stand Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur
Explore your surrounds on horseback at Skálakot Manor, a boutique farmhouse hotel in a rural area of southern Iceland where Icelandic horses have been bred for generations
The South coast of Iceland is a magical area filled with adventure opportunities. Vast black lava beaches as far as they eye can see, massive waterfalls, fascinating rock formations and enchanting glacier tongues, all within an arm’s reach. Set in rural isolation on a glacial river, Hotel Ranga is the perfect place to watch out for the Northern Lights from the comfort of your own outdoor jacuzzi. During the summer months Hotel Ranga is also an excellent spot to try your hand at Icelandic salmon fishing and enjoying the fresh produce and local ingredients that are expertly cooked and served at the hotel’s acclaimed gourmet restaurant. Skálakot Manor has been meticulously (and lovingly) resorted from an old family farm into a luxury manor hotel just a two hour drive from Reykjavik, surrounded by the infamous Golden Circle. If you're a keen horse-riding enthusiast they offer day tours around the farm or longer tips of up to five nights out into the highlands. Hotel Budir is the perfect base for those wanting to explore the starkly beautiful Snæfellsnes peninsula on Iceland's western coast, home of Snæfellsjökull glacier and volcano which famously featured in Jules Verne’s Journey to the centre of the Earth. This small and stylish boutique hotel is situated right at the edge of the ocean, with its own private inlet where boats can dock and plenty of activities on offer from whale-watching to hiking and snow-mobiling. Nearby Hotel Husafell boasts its own geothermal baths, which are complimentary for guests.
In contrast to the more crowded south coast, Northern Iceland is remote and untouched. Hidden in the depths of northern Iceland's scenic Troll Peninsula is Deplar Farm, a 13 bedroom converted sheep farm ideal for those looking for a wild, raw and remote experience. Inspired by Iceland's turf houses, Deplar Farm perfectly blends the traditional with the contemporary - cosy rooms have floor to ceiling glass walls designed to bring the outside in. Surrounded by mountains, lakes and rivers, the wilderness of northern Iceland is right on the doorstep and waiting to be explored. In Winter guests spend the days summit-to-sea heli -skiing or snowmobiling, before taking in the Northern Lights from the geothermal infinity pool. During Summer months it’s fly fishing for huge Atlantic Salmon and Arctic Char, discovering Iceland’s endless valleys on foot or sea-kayaking and whale-watching. Meals and activities are included, so guests can choose their own itinerary according to their personal tastes and interests. Alternatively, for those looking for complete escapism, nothing beats the true isolation of the Westfjords aboard either Arktika or Aurora, two sailing ships that can access some of the most remote areas of the country whilst serving as your home. From skiing to trail running, guests can enjoy some of Iceland’s best activities and jaw-dropping scenery without a single soul (other than the odd whale) in sight. Admittedly lodgings are not spacious, but you are certainly made to feel very comfortable in your cabins, and surprisingly we enjoyed some of our best meals here. With a good group of friends, this is an unbeatable adventure experience.
In Reykavik, the most northerly capital in the world, the minimalist monochrome splendour of Hotel 101 is the ideal backdrop from which to explore this tiny city, jam-packed with the unexpected from world famous DJs to boutique shops and endless culinary delights. If Art Deco is more your thing, check out new boutique bolt-hole Sandhotel conveniently located on Reykjavík’s high-street, Laugavegur, or the grand-dame Hotel Borg, a famous landmark of the city, which has been elegantly furnished to retain an air of the 1930s with a modern twist. Canopy by Hilton is bold and beautiful and right in the hub of the city, just a stone’s throw from fabulous art galleries, restaurants and bars. Rooms are Scandinavian in design and styled in shades of ocean and volcanic rock. The perfect place to start or finish a trip, The Retreat at Blue Lagoon is a new favourite of ours and thanks to private access to the geothermal waters you can escape from the crowded main pools at the infamous Blue Lagoon. For those looking to rejuvenate after an adventurous trip, The Retreat offers a complimentary spa Ritual (combination of minerals, silica and algae), morning yoga and possibly the most comfortable beds in the country! You won’t be left hungry here, with a choice of either a seven course tasting menu at The Moss Restaurant or the more informal Lava Restaurant overlooking the volcanic lava floors.
Looking to extend your trip?
Head further west to discover the last frontier of Inuit culture and explore icebergs, glaciers and wildlife in the vast snowy landscape of Greenland with our excellent guides...