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Many years ago, I had an Icelandic friend who would entertain me with exotic stories about how Iceland became one huge party country each summer. The land of the midnight sun enjoys 20 plus hours a day of daylight and the people of Iceland go a little wild over the summer months, celebrating the warm weather with festivals, street fairs, outdoor dining and indulgent drinking. Although I have not personally experienced Iceland in the summer, I imagine it to be just like the stories I was told, but with lots of natural beauty and healthy outdoor activities like bathing in hot springs, visiting waterfalls and hiking. For a European city experience with a difference Reykjavik, Iceland's cosmopolitan capital, is known as one of Europe's best nightlife cities.

Obviously with all this daylight, fine weather and activities, summer is peak season and flying here during the summer months is more expensive that at other times of the year. What also makes it a bit more restrictive is that from the U.S., IcelandAir has a virtual monopoly on the route. Having said that though, if you are happy to fly with one or more stops, or are planning on visiting other destinations in Europe before of after Iceland, then you can get there on a number of other airlines including low cost carrier Iceland Express (www.icelandexpress.com) (from London, Copenhagen, Berlin, Stockholm, Frankfurt or Alicante), British Airways, SAS, Swiss International and a variety of smaller regional and charter carriers operating out of France, Spain and the Balkans. Sample Iceland Express round-trip fares in summer include:

  • Stockholm to Reykjavik: $268
  • Copenhagen to Reykjavik: $268
  • London to Reykjavik: $279
  • Berlin to Reykjavik: $319

IcelandAir (tel. 800/223-5500; www.icelandair.com) currently has an Iceland summer fare sale. Tickets are valid for three months and a Saturday night stay is required. From New York, Boston, Baltimore or Minneapolis-St. Paul, the fare is $618 and from Orlando or San Francisco the fare is $668, which are very reasonable rates for getting anywhere in Europe at the height of summer. Departures are from June 1 to August 31, 2006. Taxes and fees of between $90 and $150 are additional.

If you are into making quick decisions, May 31, 2006 is the last day to take advantage of saving $200 on select IcelandAir Holidays (tel. 800/779-2899; www.icelandairholidays.com) summer packages for travel in June, July and August 2006. For example the four day "Romantic Reykjavik" package offers round-trip airfare from Baltimore, Boston or New York (add $75 from Orlando, Minneapolis/St. Paul or San Francisco), airport transfers, two nights' accommodations at the Hotel Loftleidir in Reykjavik, Scandinavian buffet breakfast daily, afternoon Whale Watching tour, Blue Lagoon visit and a three course dinner at Siggi Hall Restaurant. This package is usually priced at $1,345 and will be reduced to $1,145 is booked by May 31, 2006. The price goes down to $915 per person for bookings in September and October, 2006 (no additional discount applies).

Or take $200 of the "Deluxe Spa Spree" package which includes round-trip airfare from Baltimore, Boston or New York (add $75 from Orlando, Minneapolis/St. Paul or San Francisco), three nights in a deluxe double room at the elegant Nordica Hotel, Scandinavian buffet breakfast daily, round-trip airport/hotel transfers, an aromatic Salt Glow treatment, a Fire and Ice treatment, admission to LaugarSpa, unlimited access to the spa facilities and fitness center for four days and a visit to Blue Lagoon. This trip is usually priced at $1,675 in June, July and August, 2006 (less the $200 discount) and the price goes down to $1,165 for October, 2006 departures.

Scantours (tel. 800/223-7226; www.scantours.com) offers a wide selection of Icelandic land-only tours -- from escorted options to self drive packages (plus you can also book airfare through them). Their four-day "Iceland in a Nutshell" package includes airport transfers, three nights' accommodations at the Grand Hotel (or similar) in Reykjavik, breakfast daily, a morning city sightseeing tour of Reykjavik including the town of Hafnarfjordur, the Fish Market, the open air Museum Arb¿r, the old town, the harbor, the summit-meeting house Höfdi and the House of Parliament and a day-tour to the Golden Circle with its majestic waterfalls at Gullfoss, the erupting hot springs at Geysir (yes this is the original and where we get the term "Geyser" from), the national park of Thingvellir (a natural amphitheater and site of the world's first parliament over a thousand years ago) and the greenhouse village of Hveragerdi. This tour is priced from $825 per person based on double occupancy. There is also a five day version of this tour (with four night's accommodations) from $1,125.

The seven day "Countryside Odyssey" package includes touring through North and South Iceland with Whale Watching. It departs on Sundays from Reykjavik (June 25, July 2, 9, 16 and 23 and August 6 and 13, 2006). Highlights include visits to the Dettifoss Waterfall, the magnificent Lake Mývatn, through the lava fields of Dimmuborgir, the rock formations of Hljóðaklettar, the canyon of ¿sbyrgi, the hot spring area of Geysir, the queen of Iceland's waterfalls Gullfoss, the geothermal area of Landmannalaugar and a four hour whale watching boat tour in Húsavík. There is an average of 2 hours a day walking on this tour. Accommodation is three nights at Guest House Mosfell in Hell and an additional three nights at the Fosshotel in Laugar. This trip which also includes daily breakfast, two picnic lunches, six dinners, sightseeing in a private tour coach and a professional tour guide, is priced from $2,240 per person based on double occupancy with a $475 single supplement.

Because Iceland is a compact country with a lot to see, horse riding is an extremely popular way to travel around. Rannoch Adventures (tel. 888/571-3061; www.rannochadventures.com) gives you a saddle view of this diverse and beautiful destination with eleven individual adventures. Their nine-day "Iceland on Horseback -- Wild Highlands" trip is priced at $2,130 per person land-only and includes airport transfers, one night's accommodation with breakfast in Reykjavik, full room and board on the horse riding adventure (staying in farm houses and mountain cabins), native Iceland horses, helmets and saddlebags plus a English speaking guide. The trip departs on June 24; July 1, 8, 15, 22 & 29; and August 5 & 12, 2006. Travel along the historic Kjölur trail, stopping at the famous geyser hot spring area at Gullfoss and see huge glaciers, from the glacier-fed lake Hvítárvatn with its floating icebergs, to the Langjökull glacier, remote desert-like areas and vast green meadows where young horses and mountain geese roam free during the summer. Ride past extinct volcanoes, glacier lakes and across wild glacial rivers on this spectacular journey.

For more information to help you get the most out of your Iceland vacation, visit www.frommers.com/destinations/iceland and Iceland's official government tourism website at www.visiticeland.com.

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