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Reykjavík boasts all the trappings of a modern European city, dusted over with eccentric Icelandic spirit. Thriving cafes, high-energy pubs and clubs, and a brightly coloured old town with rows of wood-and-corrugated-tin houses cluster together in the compact city centre.

The barren lava fields that surround Iceland's international airport are an eye-grabbing introduction to this near-Arctic island, belched out of the mouths of volcanoes (some still active), awash in midnight sun from May to August, glistening with glaciers, geysers, hot springs and waterfalls.

The official Icelandic tourist season is a summer-long affair lasting from June until the end of August, a period when the region's midnight sun keeps full dark at bay. For the rest of the year, much of the tourist infrastructure outside Reykjavík goes into hibernation. Shuttered-up hotels, non-attended campgrounds, suspended bus transport and closed or limited-hour museums are the norm outside the summer months. That said, the capital keeps going even in the deepest depths of winter, the highpoints being its joyfully excessive Christmas festivities and the spectacular (and free) light show known as the aurora borealis. The costs of accommodation, food, transport and entertainment are also less in winter though ultimately this doesn't mean much as prices in Iceland are among the highest in Europe anyway. Fans of the light would do well to remember that by the end of December the polar night is well and truly in control, and Reykjavík experiences a mere two hours of sunlight (more correctly twilight) each day.

In terms of climate, the good news is that unlike the country's interior, coastal areas are saved from unrelenting sub-zero temperatures thanks to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. The bad news is that 'Gulf Stream plus polar seas plus neighbouring mountains' equals 'lots of grey skies and rain'. Adding to the anti-climatic misery are frequent storms, fog and drizzle, plus a biting wind that makes temperatures feel colder than they really are. Reykjavík's average daily midsummer temperature is 10°C (50°F); midwinter sees a daily average of around -1°C (30°F).

Check out this excellent blog from Iceland

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