Lonely Planet, the largest travel guide publisher in the world, has released their top picks for European travel destinations this year. These off-the-beaten-path destinations are curated for “the type of traveller that looks for the next step.” In other words, the list aims to highlight “the overlooked places” and “the destinations that are just starting to get the buzz.”
Northern Iceland comes in third after Porto and Budapest, but Lonely Planet notes that “few destinations seems to be attracting as much word-of-mouth love as Iceland right now.” The article cites the country’s affordability, hot springs, mystery writers, and the recent popularity of Icelandic bands as the momentum behind its rise.
The capital city of Reykjavik – home to two thirds of the country’s population – has understandably drawn most of the focus, but Lonely Planet urges travelers to think outside typical destinations like the Golden Circle and consider the “wild charms” of the North. Arnheiður Jóhannsdóttir of North Iceland Marketing Office confirms that the region hosts “many of Iceland’s most popular natural attractions, such as Dettifoss, Europe‘s most powerful waterfall, and Grímsey Island, where travelers can cross the Arctic Circle.” You might recognize Dettifoss from the 2012 film Prometheus, in which the waterfall’s breathtaking power and ferocity provided a dramatic backdrop for the origin of life on primordial Earth.
Dettifoss is a perfect example of how the North showcases “nature in all its wild glory,” as Lonely Planet’s guide to Northern Iceland puts it. A breezy 45 minute flight will take you away from the tourists, into the kind of untouched scenic landscapes that photographers dream about – including waterfalls, sulfurous mud-holes, whale watching, geothermal fields, bizarre rock formations, and ice caves.
As an added incentive, the 11 year cycle of the aurora borealis reaches its peak in 2013. According to Lonely Planet, Iceland’s view of the Northern Lights will be even better than in more northern parts of Scandinavia. If you’ve had your eye on Iceland, this year is the time to go. Northern Iceland is easily accessible from Reykjavik, with flights leaving up to 8 times per day and starting at just $67.