Best For Northern Exposure: Iceland

Ahead of us the road snaked up the hillside. Against the stracciatella landscape of brown and cream, it had a distinctly aqua hue.

Ahead of us the road snaked up the hillside. Against the stracciatella landscape of brown and cream, it had a distinctly aqua hue. Is that ice? Ruth stopped the car. We looked at one another. "Shall we go for it?" the look seemed to say. We both grinned. What the hell, you only die once. For a second the car seemed to rear up, as she bore down on the accelerator. Yeeeeeehaaah! We cried. Or rather, we didn't. Actually we took one look, and turned round.

Earlier my Thelma & Louise fantasy had been in full flight. We'd arrived at Reykjahlid (population 450) in the north-east of Iceland exhilarated. The 100km drive from the airport at Akureyri had taken us over mountains sifted with snow, past iridescent frozen lakes and grass the colour of rolling tobacco. Strange and beautiful, the late sunrise (it's dark until 10am) plays tricks: in the rear-view mirror I'd seen a mound of lava turn into a man.

At the 41-room Hotel Reynihlio, beside Lake Myvatn, we were the only guests (December is off-season but in spring the place twitches with bird-watchers, and from February there's sufficient snow for cross-country skiing). "You'll have to hurry, there are only a couple of hours of daylight left," said our host Petur, marking our itinerary on the map. "You must see the Krafla volcano, here. But you might not be able to get up if it's too icy."

"Oh right, will the road be blocked off then?" I asked brightly.

"No, but you can tell if it's all glisting."

"Great, thanks," we said, heading for the car. Did he say glistening? Something told me Petur had overestimated our skills in the ice-reading department. But hey, we're tough. We can ride bumpy propellor planes ("Nothing to worry about," said the pilot), and eat rotted shark without gagging in Reykjavik's market ("I'm proud of you," said our city guide, Gunnar). We can walk on black ice in unsuitable boots, and drive across snowy mountains ... Well almost.

A few kilometres later, coming down a hill, our Hyundai Santa Fe began to slide from side to side. We weren't going fast, so I just had time to register Ruth's look of surprise at the wheel, before realising we were about to skid over the edge of the steep drop and die - albeit in embarrassingly slow motion.

We didn't, but after our crash course in ice we knew the "glisting" route to the volcano was a no-go. Oh well, you don't need a death wish to have fun in Iceland. Next stop, the bubbling mud. "If I only see one thing in Iceland it has to be the bubbling mud," said Ruth, several times, before we saw it. In the car park the wind was so strong I couldn't open the door. Clambering out of the driver's side, bent double and stumbling through clouds of gas, we made our way to the solfataras viewing platform. No one tells you how bad Iceland smells. Here, where the sulphur is near the earth's crusty surface, it's hardly surprising, but when it comes out of the tap in your hotel room it's a shock. In my country, I thought, staring at a lone bubble in the watery grey pit below, they'd concrete this over and put a barbed wire fence around it.

On to the Myvatn Nature Baths - a natural thermal pool on the side of a hill. "The lake is not very warm," said the attendant, "but you can go in." "Thank you," we yelled, but the bitter wind stole our voices. Rounding the corner we saw the waves whipping across the water. The etiquette, Gunnar had told us in Reykjavik, is to first get your skin so hot under the shower that you're too numb to feel the cold. So off we went to the changing rooms. Or rather, we didn't. Instead we got back in the car, turned the heated seats up full (you can't beat that just-wet-yourself feeling when your legs are frozen) and drove the long way round the lake as the sun set. Then, having milked the staggering skies for all the photos they were worth, we pulled into the supermarket to sample a traditional Icelandic pic'n'mix.

That night in the hotel café, pink-cheeked and shiny-eyed, we drank Viking beer and schnapps, with big bowls of lamb soup and sweet, dark bread, baked in the underground steam-ovens nearby. As we walked back to our room, the Northern Lights, which had filled the sky every night for a week, shone with more astounding beauty than usual. Or rather, they didn't. They'd gone with the wind on the day we arrived. And frankly, after the icy thrills of our road-trip, I didn't give a damn.

Discover the World's three-night trips to Iceland's scenic north east (February to April) start from £588 per person (including flights from the UK, domestic flights, transfers, three nights at Hotel Reynihlid (breakfast included), and tour of Lake Myvatn. Add-ons start from £29 per person in Reykjavik and £33 in Akureyri (based on two sharing). Optional car hire from £28 per day. For more information tel 01737 214214 or visit www.discover-the-world.co.uk

Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick