The island of Iceland, with its area of 102,819 km2 and a population of nearly 300,000, is the westernmost state of Europe. The eminent volcanic island is located on the Atlantic ridge that separates the European and American plates. The morphology of the territory is conditioned by tectonics and by the action of glaciers over thousands of years have been modeling rivers, valleys and numerous fjords that cut the coast. The most important mountain range in Iceland where major rivers are born, crossing from east to west south-central part of the island, with the highlight of the Hvannadalshnúkur summit (2,119 m), which rises towering the glacier territories of the Vatnajökull.
The volcanic nature of Iceland marks much of the economic and social life of the country, being the volcanoes and geothermal energy sources and also tourist attractions. Nowadays several volcanoes show significant activity as Hekla, Laki, Eyjafjallajökull, the Grímsvötn or Kafla. The fact that some of them are under the ice of the glaciers, increases the potential risk to the population of a volcanic eruption. Ice melting can occur which can cause floods in the adjacent valleys. On the other hand, on the island there are 250 geothermal areas, fountains, wells and geysers. These include the Deildartunguver geothermal springs, the largest river in Iceland, where the water emerges at a temperature of 100 ° C. Kafla geothermal areas near Lake Mývatn and Krísuvík in Keykjanes peninsula are also worth noting.
Icelandic glaciers cover up about 11.5% of the total island. There are four main glaciers on the island: the Vatnajökull, the largest in Europe, the Langjökull, located to the west, the Myrdalsjökull, located along the southern coast, and Hofsjökull, located in central Iceland. Besides these there are 6 smaller glaciers located inland. Noteworthy for its unique location, the Snaefellsjökull, located on the volcano at the western end of the peninsula of the same name, and Drangajökull, one of the most remote glaciers located on the Hornstrandir peninsula, in the West Fjords.
Spectacular waterfalls are another of the island attractions. Hundreds of waterfalls flow from the coastal cliffs, vertical walls surrounding valleys and natural steps formed by rivers. Among them are some of the mightiest of Europe, as Dettifoss, huge waterfall that plunges 60 meters into the river Jokuslá, or Gullfoss, situated on the river that collects water from melting glaciers and Hofsjökul Langjökull. Other waterfalls are attractive for its location and its beautiful water curtain, like Skógafoss, pristine waters veil on a perfect green environment.
Everyone visiting Iceland will meet the ubiquitous Icelandic sheep and the beautiful horses, but certainly the interest in Iceland’s fauna is its wildlife. In the sea live cetacean species, such as blue whales, humpback, rorquales, dolphins and orcas. Many of these mammals can be observed by hiring some of the tourist cruises departing every day from Husavik, Reyjjavík or Snaefellsness. Another highlight is the seal that lives in colonies in different parts of the island. Worth noting are southern colonies like Snaefells, Vatnsnes Peninsula and lagoon Jokulsarlon seals. Among land mammals, although more rare to observe, the arctic fox, mink and reindeer are notable. But Iceland is a paradise for bird lovers with over 100 species. Ducks, cormorants, gulls, oystercatchers, egrets, sparrows, … but none of these towers the atlantic puffin (Fratercula Arctica), the national bird.This black and withe coated bird with a multicolored beak will delight any nature and photography lover. Good observation points of this bird can be found on the West Fjords, on the cliffs near Vik, in the most hidden eastern fjords and Vestmannaeyjar Islands.
There are two main areas, the northern influenced by Arctic Ocean currents, undergoes a rigorous thermal regime. The southern area, however, where rainfalls are more abundant, benefits from the Gulf Stream and the climate has some oceanic climate characteritics. The weather in general is very inconstant in Iceland. In a few hours you can go from a clear day to a day with clouds, windy or with heavy rainfall. The best time to visit Iceland is from May to September. During this period, temperatures are gentle with temperatures in May averaging 6-8 º C, 10ºC on June and 12ºC on July / August. The maximum temperature can rise above 20 ° C easily on warm, sunny days of summer. Rainfall averages vary from 40 mm to 200 mm per month depending on the location. Winter temperatures are rigorous, but less extreme than it might seem. Snow might appear from October to April. In winter, the best purpose to visit Iceland, are the aurora borealis.
Activities and places to visit
Trekking and hiking – Short walks or long treks from a few hours up to one week. Circuits as well known as Laugavegur one or others who venture into the Highlands to find geothermal areas and volcanic fissures.
Mountaineering – Also in Iceland you can do pretty ascents to peaks of different heights and features. The ascent to Hvannadalshnúkur is a major activity, but you can also enjoy numerous scenic peaks from which to contemplate the natural attractions of the country.
The Ring Road – Drive the main road of the island, the number 1, called “Ring Road” is the most popular and the best way to know the different areas of the country.
Off-road excursions on the Highlands – In Iceland off-road vehicles are used to travel to the inhospitable interior of the island. Wading great rivers, vast plains and semi-desert go round glaciers and above…Anything is possible with these spectacular machines.
Nature – Whale spotting, bird spotting, mountains, glaciers, rivers, mountains and waterfalls … added to the volcanic attractions.
Relax – Bathing in one of the hot springs on the island or enjoy a spa offered by any of the bungalows or cabins, is a pleasurable experience to unwind from a long day of sightseeing and hiking.