A car is an advantage if you want to explore the otherworldly volcanic landscape beyond the city. Roads are uncrowded but sudden severe weather conditions and unsurfaced dirt tracks can quickly turn an excursion into an adventure. It's best to organise trips out of town with a local tour company, otherwise your best bet is a hire car from Hertz at Keflavík Airport (+354 425 0221) as Smith cardholders get a ten per cent discount at Hertz. Go to www.hertz.co.uk for more details, and quote '635230' when reserving.
Keflavík airport is 35 miles from the city centre. The 50-min Flybus service meets incoming flights and costs ISK 1,150. The driver will deliver you to the door of your hotel in Reykjavík. A taxi from the airport is an expensive option, costing at least ISK 7,500.
There are no rail services in Iceland.
354 is the country code.
101 Reykjavík by Hallgrímur Helgason; Independent People by Hallðór Laxness. The celebrated sagas are not just heroic tales of feuding Vikings, raiding parties and hidden gold; they are a living tradition and a cornerstone of Icelandic culture. Hermann Pálsson's translation of Égill's Saga is one of the best.
Do go / Don't Go
In the height of summer the sun hardly slips below the horizon. If the mood takes you, the long hours of sunlight make it possible to play golf in the middle of the night. Winter is the complete opposite, with long hours of darkness, but perfect conditions for snowmobiling and dog-sledding.
The seafood is so good that Iceland fought the Cod War against Britain in the Seventies to protect its fishing grounds. The fresh langoustine, herring and salmon are delicious. The national delicacy of hákárl (putrefied shark meat) is strictly for gastro adventurers only.
The city centre is comfortably walkable. Taxis are relatively inexpensive for short journeys though they can be scarce in the small hours. The main taxi ranks are located on Lækjargata and opposite Hallgrímskirkja church.
Tipping is practically unheard of in Iceland; it could even be regarded as vaguely insulting. A service charge is automatically added to most bills.
Iceland's weather is notoriously unpredictable but you can always warm up in one of the many geothermally heated hot pools. Pack a thick jumper and some swimwear - although you'll only need the latter when bathing. The smell of wet wool ain't so sexy.
Kjarvalsstaðir Art Gallery on Flokagata displays the collection of Johánnes S. Kjarval (1885-1872), Iceland's most celebrated landscape artist. Kling and Bang on Laugavegur is a modern art space with exhibitions by young Icelandic artists (www.this.is/klingogbang). Hotel 101 on Hverfisgata has its own excellent gallery a few doors down the street. Unfortunately the infamous Phallological Museum, displaying over 150 penises from Icelandic land and sea mammals, has moved to northern Iceland - much to the relief of the local wildlife.
Undoubtedly tourist, but definitely worth a visit, is the Blue Lagoon; the country's most visited attraction. The warm, milky-blue water is said to have curative properties, even if it actually flows from a near-by geothermal power station. The lagoon is between Reykjavik and the airport so it's a great place to relax before your flight home (www.bluelagoon.com).
Kisan on Laugavegi is a charming French-Icelandic-owned boutique selling homewares, books and children's clothes. Right next door, Trilogia doubles as an exhibition space and shop selling the work of Icelandic and northern European designers. Naked Ape on Bankastræti sells brightly coloured handmade t-shirts and clubwear and hosts parties; it even offers hairstyling services. Pick up some Icelandic music at 12 Tónar on Skólavörðustígur, where the staff are always on hand to recommend their favourites.
Take the lift up the tower of Hallgrímskirkja church for a super view of the city. On a clear day, if you're lucky, you can see as far as the Snæfellsness glacier of Jules Verne fame.
Reykjavík's far-northerly location makes it a great place to see the Northern Lights. A cold, clear winter night is the best time to watch the ghostly swirls of red and green traced across the sky.
February The Winter Lights Festival helps perk up the city after several months of long, dark nights. With sunrise in winter not much before midday you can't blame the locals for getting excited. 17 June Independence Day parades, music and dancing to celebrate Iceland's independence from Denmark in 1944. 21 June The Summer Solstice Festival sees traditional Viking celebrations marking the longest day of the year. August Menninganótt 'Cultural Night', with music and fireworks late into the night. Late September-early October Reykjavík International Film Festival (www.filmfest.is). October Iceland Airwaves is an incredibly popular music festival showcasing Icelandic and International artists (www.icelandairwaves.com).