Iceland trumps as Lonely Planet’s European hotspot

Luke Graham, special to CNBC
Frequent flier

A tiny city in northern Iceland has topped travel guide Lonely Planet's list of the 10 best places to visit in Europe this summer.

Lonely Planet gave the top spot in its list, which was published on Wednesday, to Akureyri, Iceland's second-biggest urban area, because of its tourist-free, natural beauty.

"Akureyri tops the list as the best place in Europe thanks to its easy-going feel combined with an urban buzz, while also providing a great base for exploring north Iceland's green pastures, fishing villages and waterfalls, not to mention glimpsing awe-inspiring glaciers, volcanoes and lava fields," said the Lonely Planet in a press release.

Boats moored in a harbor in Iceland.
Nadezda Murmakova | Shutterstock

Although Akureyri has only 18,000 residents, it is Iceland's second-biggest city after the capital of Reykjavik. It sits on Iceland's lesser-visited northern coast, surrounded by mountain peaks and nearby activities for tourists include cross-country skiing, fishing and whale- and bird-watching.

Iceland is located just south of the Arctic Circle—but if you visit this summer you are unlikely to freeze, because its climate is surprisingly mild. The Icelandic Meteorological Office forecasts temperatures of between 7 Celsius (45 Fahrenheit) and 16 Celsius (61 Fahrenheit) this week in Akureyri.

Read More The travel trade: 4 vacation stocks to buy

Other top picks from this year's Lonely Planet list included Leipzig in Germany, because it will host several festivals and exhibitions this summer, plus Malaga in Spain, due to its range of art galleries and museums.

"The destinations have been chosen by our team of European experts. Some may be surprising, some are definitely under the radar, but all of them are great places to visit right now," said Tom Hall, Lonely Planet's editorial director, in the press release.

Leipzig is gearing up for a year of festivities.
Oliver Hoffmann | iStock | Getty Images

The 42-year-old travel company also listed Europe's 10 best beach destinations in Europe and top places for family holidays. Montenegro in former Yugoslavia has the best beach in Europe, according to Lonely Planet, while Kent in the U.K., was the top choice for a family holiday.

In 2014, Lonely Planet highlighted Greece as the best place to visit in Europe because the country's economic problems made it an affordable destination.

Europe's 10 Best Places:
Akureyri, Iceland
2. Leipzig, Germany
3. The Azores, Portugal
4. Malaga, Spain
5. Belgrade, Serbia
6. Piedmont, Italy
7. Baku, Azerbaijan
8. Amsterdam, the Netherlands
9. Tromso, Norway
10. Porto, Portugal

Follow us on Twitter: @CNBCWorld