Instant expert: Iceland

25 Apr 2016

You probably know that Iceland is home to bountiful quantities of waterfalls, geysers and volacanoes. But did you know that it has no army and one of the strangest museums in the world? Read on to find out more...

Iceland at a Glance

Population: 330,000
Capital: Reykjavik
Official language: Icelandic
Currency: Icelandic króna
Flying time from the UK: 3 hours
Timezone: GMT
Visas: No visa required for British citizens
Tipping: Not expected

10 Things You Need to Know

  1. Iceland’s population of roughly 330,000 is more or less the same as that of the London borough of Enfield.
  2. Iceland has no army. It also has virtually no trees.
  3. Icelanders love a book. There are more writers, more books published and more books read, per head here, than anywhere else in the world.
  4. Tipping is not customary in Iceland. Not illegal, as some people think, but certainly not expected.
  5. The Arctic fox is the only species of land mammal native to Iceland.
  6. The Icelandic Phallological Museum in Reykjavík is home to the world’s largest display of penises.
  7. You won’t find anyone called Chardonnay or Trixabelle – Icelanders are required to choose from a list of legal names. If they want something that's not on the list, they must first apply to the Icelandic Naming Committee.
  8. Iceland has 130 active and extinct volcanoes. In 1963, a new one appeared in the sea 32km south of Iceland. The eruption produced a new island, known as Surtsey.
  9. The nation’s favourite sport is football – in September 2015, Iceland qualified for Euro 2016 and became the smallest nation ever to make it to the finals of a European Championship.
  10. Films shot in Iceland include “A View to a Kill”, “Batman Begins”, “Interstellar”, “Noah” and “Prometheus” to name just a few. And of course, TV show “Game of Thrones” is also shot there.

When to visit Iceland

As with so many destinations, there are pros and cons for all times of year. Winter is the best time for seeing the Northern Lights, which is reason enough to go then. Autumn and spring are often good times to find a bargain, while summer is the time for midnight sun and the appearance of lush green spaces. Click here for an in-depth season-by-season look at Iceland's weather.

Iceland is Best For…

Anyone who loves the great outdoors. It’s a small island but it does wide-open spaces very well indeed.

Lovers of compact, walkable cities. Reykjavik is one of the cutest little capitals you’re ever likely to encounter.

Families. There are no end of outdoor activities for kids to do in Iceland, and nowhere better to wow them with the awesome power of nature.

The gastronimically adventurous. Rotten shark (hákarl), whale and puffin are all on the menu.

People who wonder what it might be like to visit space. It’s hard to believe Iceland is a part of planet earth sometimes.

3 Hotels We Love in Reykjavik 

Hlemmur Square

Trendy budget hotel on Reykjavik's main shopping street and just three blocks from the waterfront. Bedrooms are on the fifth floor, with great city views.

Click here for rates and availability.

Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina

Deluxe property by the Old Harbour in downtown Reykjavik. City-centre museums and restaurants are within walking distance and there’s a small gym and even a climbing wall on site.

Click here for rates and availability.

CenterHotel Thingholt

Stylish boutique hotel close to Reykjavik’s main shopping street, with a fine-dining restaurant, a gym and spa.

Click here for rates and availability.


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