A country sculpted by the elements, Iceland deserves to be discovered on a road trip.
With one main ring road looping the island, it’s easy to drive through the dramatic, other-worldly landscapes, detouring on to gravel roads to find hidden waterfalls and secret lagoons.
The sparsely populated Nordic nation is now open for business, and the timing couldn’t be better: highland roads are accessible, migratory flocks have landed, and the days are long enough to pack two holidays into one.
Dodge the crowds by following this route through the west and north, touring coastlines clustered with bird colonies and venturing inland for panoramic mountain views.
Leaving Reykjavik, head north along the ring road, turning west on to route 54 at Borgarnes. A backbone of snow-streaked peaks stretches along the Snaefellsnes peninsula, ending in the sugar-dusted dome of Snaefellsjökull, a dormant volcano and glacier.
On black-pebbled beaches Dritvik and Djupalonssandur try lifting granite boulders, once hauled by hefty fishermen to measure their might.
Nearby, descend 200 metres into Vatnshellir cave, an 8,000-year-old lava tunnel accessed by a spiral staircase (£21; summitguides.is). Two coiling towers created by an expulsion of gas are highlights of the 45-minute tour.
Visit the studio of pagan artist Liston in Grundafjordur. Firmly believing every stone has a soul, his rocky works of art take shape according to their inner spirits.
Stay: Perched on the edge of the world, Hotel Budir frames the beach and coastline through its floor to ceiling windows (doubles from £223, room only; hotelbudir.is).
Clutches of wind-stunted, dwarfed birch woodlands cover Husafell, an outdoor playground of hiking, biking, horse-riding and running routes through canyons and crystal-clear rivers. The park lies inland; turn off from route 1 and take the 50 and 518. Options for walking are plentiful. Or take a trip to the Canyon Baths (£56; husafell.com), where a guided two-hour stomp is rewarded with a dip in geothermal waters.
Constructed using flagstone from the canyon floor, the site features three pools of varying temperature, all fed by hot springs. Savour superb views of mountains and glaciers.
Stop at Hraunfossar, a 1km wall of waterfalls, and Barnafoss, where ferocious flows have sculpted a slalom of twists and tunnels. Deildartunguhver, a hot spring, provides water to spa Krauma (£26 plus £5 towel hire; krauma.is).
Stay: Modern eco-hotel Husafell is in the thick of the wild action (doubles from £110, room only; husafell.com).
Northern Iceland harbours a store of wild waterfalls and ancient paths. Diverting from route 1, head inland along gravel road 715 to Kolufoss, a barrier-free waterfall cascading through a zig-zagging gorge.
Further north is Borgarvirki; fortified by basalt walls, the hilltop construction could once have been a fortress.
1238 The Battle Of Iceland (£20; 1238.is), is an interactive museum in Saudarkrokur on the neighbouring fjord. Recounting one of the country’s bloodiest battles, it features an alarmingly realistic taste of those violent times.
Stay: One of Iceland’s oldest wooden houses, Hotel Tindastoll has its own hot spring (doubles from £110, B&B; arctichotels.is).
Take the 76 towards Hofsos, and head to Siglufjordur, once the centre of the country’s herring industry.
If the smell of fish scales is overwhelming, wash away any unpleasant odours with a soak in the Bjorbodin Beer Spa (£113 for a couple; bjorbodin.is) in Arskogssandur, a 45-minute drive south along the 76 and 82.
Continue north to Husavik. Sightings of humpbacks are highly likely in this whale watching capital. See them on a silent, carbon-neutral boat tour (£61 for three hours; northsailing.is). Or watch them breach and fluke from the clifftop Geosea infinity pools (£28; geosea.is), where seawater is heated by volcanic rocks.
Stay: Fosshotel Husavik (doubles from £78; islandshotel.is).
P.S Although very small, Reykjavik is the most northern capital in the world and is home to more than half of the Icelandic population. This colourful and quirky city is packed with numerous restaurants, cafes, bars and museums and is a perfect destination to explore by foot.
Travel abroad is subject to restrictions due to the pandemic. Be sure to check the latest guidance before booking
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe