Its economic (and volcanic) woes have become well known over the past couple of years, but 2012 is shaping up to be one of the best years ever to take cheap flights to Reykjavik. easyJet is offering a new, three-times-per-week service from Luton, it was voted "Best" in Lonely Planet's Travel Readers' Choice award and Iceland is experiencing two "maximum cycles" - brighter and more intense Northern Lights and more volcano activity.
Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and its position close to the Arctic Circle makes it the furthest north seat of a national government anywhere. However, its climate is not nearly as harsh as its location would suggest. Winter temperatures average just a few degrees Celsius below freezing.
Although the area has been populated since the 9th century, Reykjavik was not founded until the late 18th century making it a relatively young city, by European standards. Today its population of about 120,000 enjoys a thoroughly modern city with many natural amenities at its disposal.
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Fresh arrivals aboard cheap flights to Reykjavík will be pleased to hear that the local climate is considerably milder than Iceland's location just south of the Arctic Circle would suggest. This is the result of the Gulf Stream that flows along the southern and western coasts of the country and greatly moderates its winter temperatures. As a result these are just a few degrees Celsius below freezing at their lowest in December and January. However there is no disguising Iceland's position during the summer months with the average highs in July and August reaching just 14 degrees Celsius.
When to fly to Reykjavik
The peak season here extends from June to August when there is close to 24 hours daylight per day. July is the best time for whale and bird watching. Various festivals and celebrations also draw visitors to the city, among the most popular are Culture Night in August, the Winter Lights festival in February and the Festival of the Sea in June. By September, prices begin to fall and the days start to get much shorter.
Although the Northern Lights are best seen between September and March, December is probably the height of the off-season not only because of the relative cold but also because the days are just four hours long.
Getting around Reykjavik
You can save a lot more money after your cheap flight to Reykjavik by using public transport. The bus system, Strætó, will take you around the city and the suburbs cheaply and quickly. They don’t run all day, but there are some night buses.
Watch your budget when you’re out late at night because taxis can be expensive. It’s easy to walk around Reykjavik, so most people don’t rent a car. There are plenty of bike rental companies to be found, so consider a two-wheeler to get around.
Reykjavik insider information
- At 914 metres high, Mt Esja is Reykjavik's most outstanding feature and is also a popular hiking area among the locals. There are a number of routes to the top to choose from but regardless of how you get there, be sure to take in the stunning views of the city below.
- Best known as the site of a summit between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986 that effectively ended the Cold War, Hofdi House, built in 1909, is among the most beautiful buildings in Reykjavik. It was initially home to the French Consul in Iceland but has since hosted a number of famous guests including the Queen, Winston Churchill and Marlene Dietrich. These days it is used for official receptions and although it is not open to visitors, it can be viewed from the outside.
- Hallgrimskirkja church is Reykjavik's most prominent landmark and is visible from just about anywhere in the city. Designed by Gudjon Samuelson, it aims to resemble volcanic rock formations and took 40 years to build before the grand opening in 1986. At the front of the building is a statue of Leifur Eiriksson, also known as Leif the Lucky, who was the first European to discover America some time around the year 1000 AD. Needless to say he was a native son.
- A few minutes from the city by boat, a visit to Videy Island is a must for travellers arriving on cheap flights to Reykjavík. Inhabited since the 10th century, the island was a destination for pilgrims during the middle ages and was the site of the local port and a government seat before its last inhabitant left in 1943.
- The Pearl is a curious glass structure perched on top of a series of tanks that store the natural hot water of the area that in turn is used to heat the city. The dome houses a restaurant where the fine cuisine competes with the panoramic views of the city for visitors' attention.