Did you know that you can explore the whole of Iceland by road in one trip, whether you go independently by car or coach as part of a group? Visit during the summer months and you’ll find roads that are practically empty. This makes a holiday based around driving the length of Route 1 – the ring road that encircles the island and connects the bulk of the country’s inhabited parts-very appealing. Even better, in summer the Kjolur highland route is open (in winter, it’s closed due to bad weather conditions), meaning you can drive from north to south through the mountains, allowing you to take in sights like the Hveravellir Geothermal area, where you can bathe in a hot pool between two of Iceland’s glaciers, Langjokull and Hofsjokull.
Each part of Iceland has its own charms – here are some of the best from each region, with advice on where to stay to make the most of your trip. The town of Siglufjorour, situated on the edge of a narrow fjord i n the far north of Iceland, makes a good base from which to explore this sparsely populated side of the island – it’s a handsome fishing village that thrived off the back of the country’s herring industry in the 1940s and 1950s. The days of hauling in big catches of herring are now over, but there’s an intriguing museum dedicated to the fishery’s past. From here, head north and take a morning whale-watching trip via sailing boat from Dalvik harbour to catch a glimpse or several of breaching humpbacks. In the afternoon, head to the beautiful Gooafoss waterfall via Akureyri.
An important Allied air base during WWII, Akureyri is still vital today as a thriving port and fishing town. It’s home to a handful of interesting sights, including memorial museums to children’s author Jon Sveinsson and poet Davia Stefansson. There is also an aviation museum, which charts the early days of flight in Iceland, and has artefacts from WWII among other exhibits. Spend a day at Lake Myvatn in a varied landscape of ice-blue lakes and hillsides dotted with green and black lava fields. Here, you can spot a colourful array of bird life.
While you’re in the region, take a closer look at the imposing lava stacks at Dimmuborgir, which translates as ‘Dark Castles’ – they’re disquietingly eerie. End the day with a soak in the geothermal waters of the Myvatn Nature Baths. Craving some yang to yesterday’s yin? Follow your Myvatn experience with a trip to the most powerful waterfall in Europe, Dettifoss, an invigorating encounter for the eyes-and ears. If you have time, hop on a ferry from Husavikto Grimsey Island, 25 miles north of the mainland and Iceland’s only true piece of the Arctic Circle.