Bonkers but just brilliant, writes ELLA BUCHAN
CRAGGY, isolated, slightly salty - and that's just the people.
Iceland is known for being pretty unique, which is a massive part of its charm.
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It's also known for being pretty expensive. But this fascinating country has just got more affordable, with easyJet launching regular cheap flights from London Luton all year round.
And two new routes will start next year from Manchester and Edinburgh.
Flights start at £31.99 one-way including taxes, and easyJet Holidays offer packages at a range of hotels, so you can get a threenight break including flights for under £200. The flights alone were more expensive before the budget airline moved in.
And as tourism looks set to overtake fishing as the country's main industry, the Icelandic people couldn't be happier with a move that should boost visitor numbers significantly.
To prove it, there's now a sheep on the island named after the airline. And they certainly have plenty to spare, with twice as many as people.
Lamb is a speciality. Its deliciously salty taste is thanks to the seaweed people feed their livestock. Another is bread baked in the ground near geothermal springs.
Icelanders certainly know how to make the most of an unforgiving environment.
The landscape around the airport is beautifully barren. There are no signs of life here, just craggy volcanic rocks covered in moss. Traffic is light, making it a great place to hire a car and explore all the nooks and crannies.
Warm Most tourists go straight to Reykjavik, only heading out to the Blue Lagoon. That is a must-visit - we could have wallowed in the blissfully warm geothermal spring water all day, slathering our faces with mud and sipping Blue Lagoon cocktails from the swim-up bar.
But a mini road trip is the best way to experience the weird and wonderful things that make Iceland like nowhere else on Earth. You'll see the squat holiday homes in the middle of nowhere - boltholes for Icelanders when they want total isolation.
One of our guides, Villi, described an ideal winter break as "getting lots of supplies, sitting on the porch and waiting for the Northern Lights".
You might also pass a tiny green bungalow, half hidden by the rocks and in the shadow of Eyjafjallaj¶kull, the volcano that erupted in 2010. The elderly couple who live there believe elves protected them from the lava. Iceland's natural attractions are as quirky and fascinating as its people. There's the Geysir, the most active spouting hot spring in the world, and Gullfoss glacial waterfall, where the brave can walk right to the edge.
One of the most stunning spots is Thingvellir National Park, a huge geologic rift with Iceland's biggest lake and dramatic cliffs. Vikings used to meet here in the 10th Century to create new laws, making it the first parliament in the world.
We stopped for a fabulous lunch at Lindin Bistro at Laugarvatn, a popular summer resort with Icelanders. After a feast of local delicacies including reindeer p¢t©, hot smoked cod and guillemot (a succulent seabird), the chef brought out what the menu describes as "allegedly the best chocolate mousse in the world".
Layers of Belgian dark chocolate mousse, raspberry pur©e and watermelon pieces topped with warm, frothy white chocolate... I certainly haven't tasted better.
There's a natural steam baths, Fontana, next door if you fancy a relaxing afternoon. Instead, we took a drive into the mountains to the second largest glacier in Europe, Vatnaj¶kull, where Mountaineers Of Iceland offer snowmobile tours.
After being kitted out in rather unflattering overalls, goggles and helmets, we sped off over ice and snow, surrounded by mountains.
That's one of the best things about this island. You can be in the middle of nowhere with not a soul in sight, then jump in a car for 45 minutes and be in town.
Reykjavik itself is surprisingly quiet but pretty and is dotted with cute cafes and cool bars.
Beer We stayed at Hotel Borg, located in a pretty square next door to the parliament building. A big rock with a crack running through sits in the park opposite, representing how people feel disconnected from their government. No-one seems to know who put it there.
The Art Museum is just a few minutes' walk away, showcasing everything from pop art to modern sculpture.
For a traditional and inexpensive dinner, grab a cab to the Kex hostel gastro pub, where hipsters clink beer tankards over dishes of catfish and beef fillet.
If you fancy a special meal, take a ferry from Skarfabakki, next to the stunning rainbow glass Harpa concert hall, for a sunset ride to Vileyjarstofa cafe on the tiny island of Vioey.
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We enjoyed dishes such as tender lamb wrapped in rosti potatoes.
Bonkers but brilliant - like everything else in Iceland.
EASYJET Holidays offer year-round trips to Reykjavik from London Luton, with a choice of three flights a week and about 40 hotels to suit all budgets.
Two new routes from Manchester and Edinburgh to Reykjavik will launch in March 2013. A three-night stay at the four-star Borg Hotel costs £321 per person, room only, including easyJet flights departing on October 25.
See easyJet.com/holidays for more.