Iceland is a stunningly beautiful place if you enjoy strange and desolate landscapes. Because it is so close to the Arctic Circle, the amount of daylight varies dramatically by season. The sun sets briefly each night in June, but it doesn't get fully dark before it comes back up again. In the March and September equinoxes, days and nights are of about equal length, as elsewhere in the world. If you go in December, it's almost 20 hours of darkness. Summer is definitely the best time to go, and even then the tourist traffic is still mild. The midnight sun is a beautiful sight and one definitely not to be missed. It is easy to lose track of time when the sun is still up at 23:00. Early or late winter, however, can be surprisingly good times to visit. In late January, daylight is from about 10:00-17:00, prices are lower than in the high season, and the snow-blanketed landscape is eerily beautiful. Some sites are, however, inaccessible in the winter.


Despite its name, Iceland has surprisingly mild winters for a country at that latitude owing to the warming effect of the Atlantic Gulf Stream. Iceland enjoys a maritime temperate climate and the average temperature in winter is around 0°C, although the wind chill makes it feel a lot colder. The rapidly changing weather has given rise to the local saying: 'If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes!' It's the kind of place where it's not unusual to get rained on and sunburned at the same time. The summers are cooler and more temperate than elsewhere at the same latitude and the temperature rarely exceeds 20°C.


Iceland was first inhabited by Nordic and Celtic people in the 9th century CE - tradition says that the first permanent settler was Ingólfur Arnarson, a Norwegian Viking who made his home where Reykjavik now stands. It is thought that Irish monks had temporarily inhabited the island some years prior to this. The Icelanders still basically speak the language of the Vikings. Iceland has received a great number of immigrants over the last 10 years. In the last 5 years the population of immigrants has doubled. Most of these people from Eastern Europe and South East Asia come for employment. Immigrants in Iceland are now well over 10% of the population. Icelanders also continue to use the old Norse patronymic system, which was formerly in use in Norway, Denmark, Sweden and the Faroe Islands well into the 19th century, until their governments decided that their people should adopt a surname.