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Lonely Planet


There’s no place like Iceland

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Hornstrandir Nature Reserve in the Westfjords

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What is it about Iceland? Can I say, “everything?” 

It’s an out-of-this-world landscape that just happens to be… in this world. Its people are so welcoming and hospitable – and kind of don’t get what all the fuss is about, which frankly, I love. And it is the kind of place you have to see to believe. Even Instagram can’t do it justice.

I recently spoke with local travel expert Gunnar Þór Pálsson from his office in Reykjavik to ask him all about his home country to better explain Iceland’s allure. Gunnar works with Elsewhere (a Lonely Planet company) creating bespoke itineraries and group adventures all around Iceland. 

“I’m always trying to gauge what travelers really want from their visit, and I’m very involved and invested in the whole process,” Gunnar says. Now that Iceland is back up and running after a two-year hiatus, Gunnar says, “we’re going to have a great summer. It’s pretty booked!” I think I’ll take advantage of his insight and plan to take one of Gunnar’s Iceland itineraries for next summer. Is it 2023 yet? 

Yours truly,

Brekke Fletcher

Director, Newsletter Content 

The far-flung Westfjords

Immerse yourself

Below, find some of the highlights of Elsewhere’s local expert Gunnar Þór Pálsson’s itinerary where you'll experience Iceland’s otherworldly interior.

Hiking Iceland's breathtaking Highlands

Welcome to Reykjavík: Your entry to Iceland is the capital of Reykjavik, a small city that is big on good times. Stroll along Laugavegur, the city’s main drag, where you’ll find the usual array of tourist shops and classic watering holes.

Check out Geysir: A must-stop along the Golden Circle, the roadside attraction called Geysir gurgles, hisses and boils all around you with fumaroles, springs and geysers that erupt on the regular. Hot times, all around.

Drive the Kjölur route: This is the real start to your Highlands adventure. You’ll ride in a rugged 4x4 traversing some of the country's most dramatic landscapes, between the Hofsjökull and Langjökull glaciers. 

Take photos at Landmannalaugar: A playground for photographers and hikers where you’ll witness all the marvelousness nature can throw at you, including windswept rhyolite mountains, a rock type that creates a full spectrum of dazzling colors. 

View Eldgjá: The largest volcanic canyon in the world, also called the Fire Canyon, Eldgjá was formed by a fissure created during a massive volcanic eruption sometime in the 930s CE. The canyon stretches for 40km and drops 270m at its steepest plunge down.

8 days, 7 nights in the Highlands of Iceland

This group adventure from Elsewhere (a Lonely Planet company) includes off-roading, hiking and bathing amid Iceland's most stunning landscapes.

Seljalandsfoss waterfall on the South Coast of Iceland

Iceland is a volcanic island, just south of the Arctic Circle in the North Atlantic.

Catch the Flybus at Keflavík International Airport. Drive time is roughly 50 minutes.

Stay at locally-owned hotels throughout the trip, like Hrauneyjar Highland Center.

Bathe in the Blue Lagoon before you start to drive Iceland's rugged terrain.

Get ready for some of Iceland's most unique and diverse experiences on this Group Adventure from Elsewhere.

Unforgettable Iceland Experiences

There’s no shortage of epic things to do on this mystical, magical isle. Check out Experience Iceland, Lonely Planet’s latest tome, brimming with recommendations and intel from local experts. Now all you have to do is go!

Ask an Insider

Read an excerpt from Brekke's chat with Elsewhere's local Iceland expert, Gunnar Þór Pálsson.

How’d you get your start in the travel game?

I studied tourism in British Columbia, and I bounced about a bit. I’ve worked in museums as a tour guide, I got a license to drive tour buses, driving the classic sightseeing spots, like the Golden Circle, which gave me the perspective of actually being on the road as a tourist. 

What do you love most about it?

People, particularly Americans, are open and excited about the prospect of traveling to Iceland, and they’re really chatty. We get to know each other over weeks or even months. They tell me about their families, and I tell them about mine. Sometimes, I even meet up with clients for a beer before they go on their trip. 

"We are a small population, and we are gobsmacked and awed that people come all this way to see us."

- Gunnar Þór Pálsson

What do you like to get up to during your downtime?

What’s a fun fact about Iceland?

When NASA was preparing the astronauts for the lunar missions, they brought the astronauts and their equipment to Iceland to train and try out their equipment in Icelandic conditions, because they figured that the conditions in Iceland were similar to those on the moon.

You can use a credit card anywhere, so you don’t need to bother with having Icelandic króna on hand.

What kind of traveler will enjoy seeing the Highlands?

This kind of itinerary caters to people who want to be off the beaten path, who are hikers who want to see the volcanic landscapes and the geothermal features that you don’t see if you just follow the Ring Road

And what should people pack?

You can’t make any promises about the weather in Iceland, so you need to be prepared for anything. Dress in layers. You can have shorts and a t-shirt in the afternoon, then the temperature plummets and it starts raining. Have things that dry quickly, like a quick-dry towel. Bring hiking boots (and hiking sticks, if you feel that’s something you need).

  If you’re doing an outdoor trip, remember you’re going to wear the same pants, the same fleece jacket. Bring a bathing suit for sure, and jeans or something decent for the hotels.

Most important question: How can you see Atlantic puffins?

From June until the end of September, you'll find them on Dyrhólaey Island. They will be flying everywhere. You can view where they are nesting and raising their young, so you get to see them up close and personal.

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