If we say “Iceland,” you probably think of the Northern Lights, geothermal baths, and midnight sun. And you’d be right! The Land of Ice and Fire has gotten quite the buzz over the past few years as the ultimate destination for travelers in search of jaw-dropping natural splendor.

We sat down with Jónas Abel Mellado of Arctic Adventures to learn about his adopted home of 30 years and the best things to see and do while you’re visiting. Read on for insider tips in his own words.

1. Head east to Iceland’s fjords

I have lots of favorite parts of Iceland, but the fjords in the east probably top the list. Not enough people go east to see the fjords — they’re missing out! The landscape in that part of the country is so amazing. The valleys are beautiful, too.

2. Dive into your surroundings

You could spend your time in Iceland doing so many different things. The best way to get a feel for the country is by exploring the nature we have here. You can go snowmobiling, white water rafting, snorkeling and lava caving, canyoning, diving, ice climbing, take glacier hikes…the list goes on and on.

3. Get to know the locals

Iceland is known for its natural beauty, but for me, it’s the people and the culture that truly make the country special. Take time getting to know the locals. They’re a great bunch!

4. Take advantage of every season

In Iceland, there’s no one time to visit — plan your trip around what you’re into. My favorite season is probably the summer because you have 24 hours of sunlight. That way, I can go hiking for as long as I want to! If you want to see the Northern Lights, come between September and March.

5. Visit this glacier lagoon

You have to go to Jökulsárlón. This lake is gorgeous and has a beautiful black sand beach full of ice cubes and crystals from the sea. Locals call this beach “diamond beach.” It’s a truly magical place.

6. Hike the Valley of Thor

Head to Þórsmörk, the Valley of Thor, for the best hiking. The scenery here is ever-changing and the landscape is breathtaking. It’s absolutely worth a visit.

7. Stay in this small town

The tiny town of Bakkagerði is located in Borgarfjörður Eystri. With just 100 residents, it’s easily one of the cutest and most charming little towns in all of Iceland. It’s also the best place to go puffin watching! And if you like a good hike, make sure to stop by the Álfaborg, the City of the Hidden People.

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