Last updated: 05:41 PM ET, Tue February 02 2016

Why Iceland Is on Everyone’s Travel Radar This Year

Destination & Tourism | Janeen Christoff | February 02, 2016

Why Iceland Is on Everyone’s Travel Radar This Year

PHOTO: Northern lights in Iceland. (Photo courtesy of Visit Iceland)

From budget travel to luxury travel, Iceland can’t seem to escape anyone’s list of the best of travel this year. Luxury Travel Guide chose Iceland its number-one destination for travel this year. The country topped Budget Traveler’s list of Where to Go 2016. Women’s lifestyle website Refinery29 said Iceland was one of the places every woman should go this year. NatGeo staffers picked it, saying that it is one of the only places on earth where the “highlight of your trip (the northern lights) depends on factors such as solar wind conditions and space storms.” 

Praise has been heaped upon the tiny island nation with a population around 350,000 people. And for good reason. Iceland has something for everyone in this exotic, ice-capped paradise.

Movie buffs will thrill at the sight of filming locations for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Adventure enthusiasts will love glacier climbing and those looking to get a glimpse of the elusive northern lights have a good chance in Iceland during the winter months.

The country is enjoying a boom that is driven by increased tourism investment. There is more airlift, providing travelers around the world with more connectivity to Reykjavik. Hotels are springing up around the country – not just in the capital – and tour operators are creating new itineraries – and more options – that include Iceland.

More Airlift

Airlift received a major boost with the entry of low-cost airline Wow in the international market. The company took over operations of Iceland Express in 2012 and, in 2014, it had already flown 1 million passengers. The company began serving passengers in the U.S. last year and launched extremely low-cost fares to Iceland from a variety of destinations on the East Coast. Now, in 2016, the company will expand to offer direct connectivity between Reykjavik and the U.S. West Coast this summer.

VIDEO: Check Out Iceland in Stunning 4K

Influx of Hotels

The number of overnight stays in the country has also risen. Iceland saw a 36 percent increase from December 2014 to December 2015 – and 89 percent of those overnight stays booked by foreign tourists were in hotel rooms, rather than other forms of rental accommodation. Perhaps this is what is leading to Iceland’s recent hotel boom. 

New hotels are popping up around the country. Iceland will be the home of a new Marriott Edition hotel, scheduled to open in 2018 and the new Canopy brand from Hilton will open a property in the country later this year.

In 2015, Iceland welcomed a crop of new properties around the country. 

Mengi Kjarnholt in South Iceland is akin to a B&B. It is a small property with just 10 rooms. Located in the countryside, it provides a unique experience for visitors to Iceland by blending the best of its nature, culture and art scenes in the heart of the country.

READ MORE: Iceland Serves as Starkiller Base in 'Star Wars'

Hotel Husafell is located in West Iceland. This design-focused hotel operates like an adventure lodge with a variety of activities such as hiking, day tours, ice caving and more.

Puffin Hotel can be found among the East Fjords in a charming town with a history rich in folklore. The property dates back to 1918 and is in the center of Eskifjordur, offering views across the fjord and of the Holmatindur mountains. 

In the charming village of Grindavik, Reyjanes, the new Hotel Lava Grindavík recently opened in the heart of the small fishing village. The Blue Lagoon is a short drive away and the town is surrounded by lava fields, making it an ideal jumping-off point for exploration. 

Just a few kilometers from Akuyeri, a cultural center in Iceland, is the Hótel Kjarnaskógur. The 46-room hotel offers a focus on health and wellness as well as a tranquil setting. 

New Tours

With increased interest comes increased opportunities and tour operators are jumping at the chance to offer their clients options in the country. Trafalgar, for example, is offering the Ultimate Iceland journey. The 10-day trip circumnavigates the country, checking out glaciers, lava formations, geysers, fjords, the world-famous Blue Lagoon and more. The journey is brand new for this year and prices start at around $3,600 per person and are available from May to September. 

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