1000 Places

#TravelTuesday: Ring Road, Iceland

1000 PLACES TO SEE BEFORE YOU DIE CALENDAR

Tuesday 19 September 2017

Ring Road

Iceland

Just below the Arctic Circle lies a volcanic and otherworldly nation that is sadly misnamed. Iceland is in fact about 90 percent ice-free, and it boasts one of the planet’s most varied and incredible landscapes, with a mix of lunarlike deserts, windswept tundra, extraordinarily green grassland, and glacier-carved valleys and canyons. Medieval Europeans believed it to be the threshold of the underworld, and Jules Verne chose an Icelandic volcano as the entranceway for his Journey to the Center of the Earth. The word “geyser” was coined here, named after Geysir, the largest of the island’s many spouting hot springs. There are also lava fields, bubbling mud pools, and steam vents here. And, yes, ice. The dramatic glacial lagoon at Jökulsárlón, in the southeast, is famous for icebergs that break off from the glacier face and form an ever-changing maze that challenges chugging tour boats.

The two-lane Ring Road (or Route 1—the only motorway circling the island) runs a roughly 830-mile loop. Along the way, you can stop and explore dramatic canyons, thundering waterfalls, and lava formations like those near Mývatn, a detour in the northeast corner; plan to spend about 8 days to complete the circuit around the island.

Reykjavik is your likely arrival point in Iceland. The world’s northernmost capital is perched on a scenic peninsula and boasts a vibrant music scene, cutting-edge galleries, a sprawling market, and first-rate dining. Week-end nights can be rowdy here (particularly during the summer), when locals and visitors alike take part in the late-night runtur (pub crawl), which tends to get more animated as the evening progresses. Reykjavik has a handful of excellent hotels, including the Hótel Holt, with its praised Gallery Restaurant serving Icelandic-French fusion, a cozy bar with fireplace, and 41 classically decorated guest rooms filled with Icelandic artwork: It houses the largest private art collection in the country.

The island’s fabled Blue Lagoon, just 35 minutes outside town, is one of a dozen public thermal pools that are said to be Iceland’s health and beauty secret. The swimming area is filled with silica-rich water whose milky turquoise color comes from blue-green algae. With temperatures near 102°F sending up billowing white steam, and a geothermal power plant just next door, the scene seems almost surreal—much like the entire island.

Visitor info. Hótel Holt: Tel 354/5-52-5700. Cost: from $160 (off-peak), from $335 (peak); dinner $55. Best time: Jun–Aug when average temperature in Reykjavik is 50°F. Jul sunset is about 1 a.m., and the sky never completely darkens.

And don’t forget to check out the book!

About the Book:

The world’s bestselling travel book is back in a more informative, more experiential, more budget-friendly full-color edition. A #1 New York Times bestseller, 1,000 Places reinvented the idea of travel book as both wish list and practical guide. As Newsweek wrote, it “tells you what’s beautiful, what’s fun, and what’s just unforgettable—everywhere on earth.” And now the best is better. There are 600 full-color photographs. Over 200 entirely new entries, including visits to 28 countries like Lebanon, Croatia, Estonia, and Nicaragua, that were not in the original edition. There is an emphasis on experiences: an entry covers not just Positano or Ravello, but the full 30-mile stretch along the Amalfi Coast.

Every entry from the original edition has been readdressed, rewritten, and made fuller, with more suggestions for places to stay, restaurants to visit, and festivals to check out. And throughout, the book is more budget-conscious, with starred restaurants and historic hotels such as the Ritz, but also moderately priced gems that don’t compromise on atmosphere or charm.

The world is calling. Time to answer.

Buy the Book
Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | Workman

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