Situated in a remote location in the North Atlantic Ocean, Iceland is a mysterious and wonderful country of great contrast. It is a big island, extending almost 300 kms. (185 miles) north to south and 500 kms. (310 miles) east to west. Its coastline is deeply indented by fjords and bays and extends to over 6000 kms. in length. Put in basic geographical terms, Iceland is a plateau, averaging 610 metres in height (2000ft.), with vast ice fields covering its highest parts. The largest of these is Vatnajökull in the southeast. The southern coasts are low-lying and without natural harbours. The high inland plateau is ringed with high mountains and peaks, the highest of which is Hvannadalshnúkur, at 2119 metres (6952ft.), in the southern glacier of Öræfajökull. The unusual landscape of this dramatic island is made up of volcanoes, hot springs, glaciers and tortured lava formations. Only in coastal regions has this harsh environment been softened by the activities of man. Here, in isolated pockets of settlement, there are pretty harbours, quaint houses and flower-filled pastures. With a population of fewer than 300,000 people and a land area of almost 40,000 square miles, Iceland is one of the least populated parts of Europe. Almost four-fifths of the country is uninhabited, the population being limited to a narrow coastal belt and to a number of valleys and lowland plains in the south and southwest. The interior of the country remains one of Europe’s great wilderness areas.
The time in Iceland is GMT + 0 hours.
The official language of Iceland is Icelandic. This language is similar to the ancient Norse language and to the languages spoken in the Faroe Islands and in parts of western Norway. Most Icelandic people speak very good English, although your attempts to speak the local language will be well appreciated.
Iceland’s climate is moderated by the warm ocean current known as the Gulf Stream. Summers are quite mild and winters rather cold. The maximum daytime temperature in Reykjavik varies beween 2 degrees centigrade in December and January to 15 degrees centigrade in July. Night time temperatures in the Icelandic capital fall to minus 3 degrees centigrade in midwinter and 8 degrees centigrade in July. From the end of May to the beginning of August, there is almost perpetual daylight in Reykjavk and in the north of the island the sun scarcely sets during this season. At any time of year in Iceland, there is a chance of poor weather, with rain and wind. But, there can also be pleasant, clear and sunny days. In short, you need to be prepared for a variety of conditions - like summer in the English Lake District. Don't forget your waterproofs!
The unit of currency in Iceland is the Krona. For up to date exchange rates visit: www.xe.com. Sterling, US dollars and euros are easily exchanged in Reykjavik. Credit cards can be used widely and you will also be able to obtain currency at cash machines (ATM's) at larger banks in the usual way.
A valid passport is required. Visas are not required by UK, US or EC passport holders. Nationals of other countries should check visa requirement with the relevant embassy in their own countries. More detailed information about visas can be found on the trip page for your holiday on the KE website.
You should attend your own doctor and dentist for a check-up. Your doctor will have access to the most up to date information on the required vaccinations for the country you are visiting. In general, no special immunizations or medications are necessary for travel to Iceland. A very good online resource is the NHS travel website at www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk
Additional Sources of Information
The Rough Guide to Iceland.
Lonely Planet. Iceland, Greenland and the Far Islands.
The Insight Guide to Iceland.
Iceland. Photo Book. Colin Baxter.
Iceland Fleximap. Insight Fleximaps.
Landmaelingar Islands Maps. Porsmork/Landmannalaugar 1:100,000 scale.
Island (The whole island) Mal og Menning. 1:600,000 scale.
Fjallabak. Hekla - Laki. Covers Hekla and the Fjallabak. Mal og Menning. 1:100,000 scale.
Lonely Planet - www.lonelyplanet.com
Rough Guides - www.roughguides.com