With mild temperatures and almost round-the-clock daylight, summer is the best time to discover Iceland.

If you are there for a week, base yourself in the capital Reykjavik and explore the southwest by either renting a car or going on day tours with one of the many operators in town. Those with more time on their hands can do the full Monty and go round the island on the famous Route One. Whatever you decide, there is plenty to see and do along the way, and the hospitality of the Icelanders, as well as their fascinating culture, will ensure this is a memorable trip.

One Week

The must-do for any visitor to Iceland, regardless of how long they have in the country, is the famous Golden Circle, which includes Thingvellir, the site of the old Icelandic parliament; Gullfoss, the country's most famous waterfall (yes, it's huge); and Geysir, the granddaddy of all spouting hot springs. Admittedly it's a bit touristy in summer, but you'll soon see why.

Another good option from Reykjavik is to head to the black sand beaches on the south coast near Vik. It is less busy, but just as beautiful, with intriguing basalt rock formations that never fail to amaze. The excellent folk museum in the tiny village of Skogar on the way to Vik makes a good stop on what is quite a long day trip from the capital.

If it's a sunny day, jump on a boat or treat yourself to a short flight and join the birdwatchers and nature lovers who flock every spring to the Westmann Islands to view the return of the puffins to nest from their long winter at sea. In August, millions of baby puffins leave their nests for the very first time to test their wings. This is quite a spectacle.

Or explore Landmannalaugar, the pearl of the central highlands, in a 4-wheel drive car. This colourful landscape of green, yellow, red and orange rhyolite hills is dotted with many hot pools and streams, making this a definite must for walkers and artists alike.

You must also try horse riding: the Icelandic horse (it is not a pony, although its diminutive size might lead you to believe otherwise) is a strong but gentle animal that has adapted perfectly to the terrain, and riding over lava fields and deserted beaches is a popular activity.

If all this sightseeing has left you feeling a bit drained, fret not. The milky turquoise waters of the Blue Lagoon await. Relaxing in this eerie lunar-like landscape of lava fields is the perfect antidote to a week of high octane activities and will soon take all your aches and pains away. The lagoon's mineral-rich geothermal seawater has made it one of the most visited locations in Iceland.

And when the time to refuel comes, make sure you sample some of the superb food Iceland has to offer in one of Reykjavik's many excellent restaurants. Home-grown organic lamb and lobster are perennial favourites, and offerings from the sea are second to none. Try Laekjarbrekka (website: www.laekjarbrekka.is) or SNAPS (website: www.snapsbistro.is)for traditional fare -  both are wonderful.

Two Weeks

First stop on Route One after Vik, follow in James Bond's footsteps and check out the glacial lagoon Jokulsarlon, a favourite with photographers and film crews (parts of the movie Die Another Day was shot here), where giant floating icebergs make for a surreal landscape.

Then brave the midges and discover a strange landscape of bubbling mud flats, volcanic craters, fumeroles, lava fields and grassy shoals teeming with waterfowl at Lake Myvatn (‘Lake Midge'), one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.

Husavik on the north coast is the place to go for whale watching. The waters around Iceland in general, and Husavik in particular, are some of the best in the world to spot a variety of cetaceans, including minke, blue, sei, fin, humpback and sperm whales, which are frequently being sighted just off the coast.

Visit Akureyri, 60km (37 miles) south of the Arctic Circle, which enjoys a superb setting at the head of Eyjafjordur, the longest fjord in the country, and explore the island of Grimsey, the only bit of Iceland, strictly speaking, in arctic territory.

The more energetic might want to try a skidoo (snowmobile) ride on a glacier. This is a highlight of any trip to Iceland and an unbeatable adrenaline rush as you speed through the immaculate white wilderness.

Or cast a line and see if you get lucky. The pristine streams of Iceland are popular for salmon fly-fishing. Licences for some of the most popular rivers are extremely expensive, but it is possible to fish trout and arctic char for a fraction of the price.

Many people go to Iceland to find solitude, silence and big open spaces. The best place to get away from it all is the Westfjords. This spectacular setting of rugged coastline is home to some of the most isolated villages in the country. 400m- (1,312ft-) high Latrabjarg, the westernmost point of Europe, is the largest known bird cliff on earth. A great variety of cliff-nesting species can be found there, including the world's largest razorbill colony.

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