Other than liking its music stars Björk and Sigur Rós, until quite recently a lot of people hadn’t heard much about Iceland. But visitors to the country have almost tripled since 2000 and we’re a bit sad that the cat’s out of the bag. With its storybook charm and otherworldly landscapes – glaciers, Europe’s largest waterfall, the oldest known geyser – it’s certainly worthy of exploration.
The capital, Reykjavík, is an incubation centre of creative types and has a thriving music scene. Iceland Airwaves, held annually, is a music festival not to be missed. The bohemian village of Seyðisfjörður, set among mountains and fjords, is laden with hippies and charm. And you’d be crazy to come this far and not sink into the warm waters of Grjótagjá, the same hot spring cave where Jon Snow locked lips with Ygritte. In between you’ll find quaint fishing towns and rural houses covered in turf due to the lack of native trees. Wanting wildlife? Be rewarded in places like Husavik, a world-class locale to spy spouting whales and droves of fluttering puffins. Or test your mettle snorkelling or diving between the continental plates at the Silfra fissure in the Thingvellir National Park.
While most of Iceland’s food is fish, lamb or dairy, the traditional cuisine may make you wince: súrir hrútspungar (preserved ram’s testicles), svið (sheep’s head), hákarl (fermented shark) and hvalspik (whale blubber) are just some of the stomach-churning offerings probably best avoided.