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The land of fire and ice

Located jut below the Arctic Circle, now's the time to visit Iceland and see one of nature's most spectacular natural phenomena, the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. But there's a lot more to do and see there besides. Bailey Robinson specialist Chris Radford elucidates

Carole Elgueta



Iceland is a country of sharp contrasts. Home to Europe’s largest glacier as well as some of the world’s most active volcanoes, it is known as the ‘land of fire and ice’. Its location, just below the Arctic Circle, also makes it the land of darkness and light. While in summer the midnight sun brings near 24 hours of sunlight, the winter days are short with little sunlight at all. These long winter nights offer excellent opportunities to view one of nature’s most spectacular phenomena, the Aurora Borealis.

From late autumn to early spring, the Northern Lights dance across the night skies in a dazzling array of colours, giving visitors an unforgettable experience. There are many ways you can see this magical light show, and while it is possible to see them from the capital Reykjavik, your chances are vastly improved if you stay away from populated areas. The remote Hotel Ranga, located about an hour south east of Reykjavik, is the perfect retreat from which to experience the spectacular natural light show.

Surrounded by mountains and waterfalls and with no light pollution, you can enjoy the view from the glass-walled restaurant or one of the outdoor geothermal hot tubs. The hotel will keep you updated on the forecast, and you can even arrange to be woken in the night should the lights appear. In addition, Iceland has much to offer and is a truly year-round destination. One of Europe’s best whale-watching destinations, excursions can be arranged from a variety of locations.

More than 20 different species frequent the waters including minke, humpback whales, whitebeaked dolphins and harbour porpoises, as well as various sea birds such as puffins and guillemots. If you are an active traveller, Iceland’s mountains are ripe for all kinds of hiking with incredible views. In the southern part of Vatnajokull National Park, the Skaftafell region offers startling vistas of shimmering icecaps and floodplains stretching towards the sea.

Exhilarating snowmobiling experiences on either the Langjökull or Mýrdalsjökull glaciers are on offer, while opportunities for further outdoor pursuits such as kayaking, riding and fishing are also plentiful across the island. After a flight time of less than three hours from the UK, Bailey Robinson recommends a six-day itinerary starting in laid-back Reykjavik, Europe’s northernmost capital and home to some excellent restaurants and galleries.

A super-jeep tour of the ‘Golden Circle’ route takes in some of the island’s most dramatic natural wonders. Walk between two continental plates at Thingvellir National Park before visiting the spectacular Gullfoss waterfall and Strokkur geyser, which regularly erupts, shooting water high into the air. Then pick up a car and drive south for your stay at Hotel Ranga for some Northern Lights spotting. Pay a visit to the natural geothermal spa The Blue Lagoon en route to the airport, leaving you refreshed and rejuvenated for the flight home. Costs for a six-day itinerary as detailed start from around £2,180 per person, based on two people sharing a double room.

Contact Bailey Robinson at The Courtyard, Hungerford, Berkshire RG17 ONF Telephone: 01488 689700

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