Iceland exercises the imagination like no other destination. Waterfalls seem to pour over every cliff edge and mountain face, mud pots pop, volcanoes smoke and fume, and a bitter Arctic wind howls across the otherworldly lava fields and fjords. Iceland’s built world, too, is a reflection of the island’s wild landscapes. Hipster cafés sell bread baked by geothermal heat, designer boutiques are filled with Scandinavian prints and natural fabrics, and public pools spill over with mineral-rich waters. While Iceland looks like it’s floating at the edge of the Earth, it’s actually more accessible than ever. It’s a short nonstop flight from the East Coast of the United States, and European travelers can even reach its rugged shores by ferry. Depending on when you visit, the Land of Fire and Ice might be drenched in a deep-red midnight sun—or lit by the flickering aurora borealis during otherwise dark winter days.
Travel between June and August tends to be the most popular with visitors. June offers 24 hours of Arctic daylight, while July and August are the warmest months, offering the best chances for good weather. Travel between mid-September and mid-October is perhaps the most ideal, as you’ll miss the swell of high-season tourist traffic, sneak in before snowfall blankets the trails, and have a solid chance of seeing the northern lights. Although winter weather can be an impediment, and the narrow window of daylight can shorten your sightseeing, excellent deals can be scored during the off-season.
Doalltravel.com airfare prices have undercut the major transatlantic players, with Icelandair and Wow Air servicing Keflavík International Airport (about a 50-minute drive from Reykjavík) directly from dozens of major U.S. cities. Car rentals are the most convenient way to explore the island, although mountain roads and general off-roading should be left to experienced guides. There’s one ribbon of road—Route 1—that travelers can follow for a complete loop around Iceland.