Playing in Iceland copy

Three reasons you should visit Iceland

If you’re looking to get away from it all, there are few better places than this volcanic outcrop in the North Atlantic. The island covers around 100,000 square kilometres, yet just 340,000 people live here. More than half of these are in the capital, Reykjavik. Once you leave the tourist trail, heading into the remote Highlands or the vast white desert of the north, you’ll have little but curious ponies for company.

The landscape

This is a wild, rugged place that feels as if it’s been ripped from the centre of the Earth. The ground seems scorched by magma, contorted by volcanoes and split open by glaciers. Geysers burst from deep below the surface, emerald valleys roll into the ocean and icy waterfalls tumble from clifftops. This land has inspired myth and legend for thousands of years. In fact, Iceland is so magical that it has convincingly served as distant planets in films Oblivion, Interstellar and Star Wars Rogue One, and as many of the fantastical realms from TV’s Game of Thrones. It is a place beyond compare.

The extremes

In high summer, the sun never sets and 24 hours of daylight seems to make the air (and the people) crackle with excitement. Hike to the summit of Valahnúkur Mountain for 360-degree views over a landscape of crystal glaciers, rugged peaks and deep valleys. Dive or snorkel in the clearest water in the world between the two tectonic plates that separate Europe and North America. In winter, temperatures drop as low as -30°C, the snow piles high and days pass in an endless eerie twilight. At this time of year, you can relax in the steaming waters as the sparkling Northern Lights dance overhead.

The quirks

It’s not surprising that a place as enchanted as this has a close connection to the supernatural. More than half of Icelanders believe in the existence of the huldufolk or ‘hidden people’, tiny elves or fairies who exist alongside the full-sized population. Many people believe they have caused accidents or bestowed luck. Roads are diverted around rocks so as not to disturb the huldufolk. Tiny doors are painted on stones and wooden houses built into hills - entrances to their realm.

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