If you’re preparing to travel to Iceland, these Iceland travel tips will help you along the way. Iceland is one of the most popular European destinations, and for a good reason. It’s an easy connection between Europe and North America, and the landscape is natural and surreal.
I’ve traveled to Iceland multiple times, during all seasons. In the fall, winter, and the glorious summer. Each time, we travel to different areas of the country, always driving and road-tripping, and spend weeks on end in the country. These Iceland travel tips come from our personal experience traveling multiple times in one of the most beautiful places in the world. We’ve written countless articles about traveling in Iceland, which you can see in our Iceland travel guide.
The truth is Iceland’s landscape can be found nowhere else. A mixture of hot springs, glaciers, wet deserts, lava fields, and a dizzying amount of waterfalls makes Iceland an adventure destination dream. No matter how you’re planning to travel to Iceland, these Iceland travel tips will make your trip better!
Our Best Iceland Travel Tips
There is No “Best Time” to Go
So, when is the best time to go to Iceland? The short answer is that it depends on what you want when traveling to Iceland. Are you searching for warm (ish) weather and the midnight sun? Or do brisk winter nights, fewer crowds, and the Northern Lights strike your fancy?
I’ve now traveled to Iceland three times – in June, July, and October. June was the most unpredictable, and although I thought I’d be frolicking under the midnight sun the whole time, the reality is we got three days of sunshine, three days of downpours, and a week of cloudy meh weather our entire two weeks.
When I traveled to Iceland in July, I enjoyed partying under the midnight sun and hiking in a t-shirt. Another time we visited in October, and the fall colors were simply unique, and we actually had better weather than we did in June and July! To top it off, we saw the Aurora Borealis for the first time.
If I were to pick ideal times, it would be June, October, and December. Generally, November and March are the months to avoid as they’re between seasons (cold rain). However, after our most recent two week trip in June, all I have to say is plan for everything in Iceland – the weather truly is unpredictable.
Can You See the Aurora in Iceland?
Of course it’s possible to see the aurora in Iceland, and it’s one of the best places in the world to witness the sky light up in greens and purples. This phenomenon is typically observable from approximately mid to late August through March. Don’t arrive in June expecting to see the aurora, as it barely even gets dark during this time.
The key factors to spotting the Aurora include finding a location free from light pollution, having clear skies, and hoping for active aurora displays. It’s worth noting that if the aurora activity is particularly strong, it may even be visible in Reykjavík and other towns.
It’s not AS expensive as you may think.
Iceland is known for being one of the most expensive destinations in the world – and it is! Though, with some planning, it doesn’t have to be. Some of the best ways to save money are to travel during the off-season and avoid eating out. Restaurants and alcohol in Iceland are costly.
If you focus more on hiking excursions and less on paid attractions like the Blue Lagoon or snorkeling the Silfra Fissure, you’ll save a bit of money!
We’ve traveled to Iceland three times now. The first time, I backpacked on a budget of $30 a day (back in 2013 – inflation!); the second time was in 2017, and we traveled in October to save money.
On our last trip, we visited Summer Solstice, the high season in Iceland. I budgeted the entire trip, and for two weeks, we spent $7500 for two people, or about $600 a day, and $300 per person per day. This included our campervan, campsite fees, activities, food – everything. It is certainly far from the cheapest trip we’ve ever taken, but it could have gotten more expensive, and we didn’t hold back on experiences either.
Tipping in Iceland
It’s not customary to tip in Iceland, so rest assured that at least that high restaurant bill includes the tip!
Rent a Campervan!
We’re firm believers that a campervan is the best way to get around Iceland. While a camper is more expensive than a car rental, you can sleep and cook in it! Meaning you don’t have to search for any hotels or deal with costly restaurants in Iceland.
While the summer rates with a campervan are quite high, we love the freedom and flexibility the campervan gives us. Having the ability to drive for as long as we want during the day, stopping at as many sights as we want, without worrying about making it to our hotel or dinner reservation, is the ultimate freedom.
Having a campervan also allowed us to stay out well past midnight to see the famous sites without the crowd, and crash in the camper for a power nap after. Like I said, a camper is the way to do it if you’re after freedom.
Plus, you sleep in nature every night and still use a heater in the winter if you wish! If you want to travel with a Happy Campers van as we did (and you should they are the BEST!), make sure to read our full review. You can easily book using this link, but make sure to book well in advance during high season.
You don’t have to reserve a campsite.
You must stay at a campsite if you plan on camping around Iceland, whether with a tent, campervan, or RV. Unlike camping in the US or Canada, you don’t have to reserve the campsite in advance. There are hundreds of campsites around Iceland, and you can roll up at any time, without reservation, and set up camp.
If you arrive late at night and no one is there to take payment, you can pay in the morning when the office opens!
Speaking of campsites in Iceland, don’t arrive in Iceland expecting to find private grounds in the woods with a nice place to build a fire as we did. These exist in North America and are not so much in Europe. We haven’t camped much around Europe, so I can’t shed too much light on that. But campsites in Iceland, compared to grounds in the US or Canada, are…not that great.
Campsites in Iceland are usually nothing more than a parking lot, sometimes, there is grass, sometimes there are trees for some privacy, and sometimes it’s quite literally a parking lot. The nice ones have clean toilets and hot showers; sometimes, there is a kitchen area too. Hopefully the ground is level, so you can park your campervan, set up your tent on level ground, and sleep comfortably.
Campsites in Iceland are often run by local Icelanders who happen to have some extra land for campers. We camped at 14 campsites in Iceland in the summer and paid anywhere from 1600 ISK to 2500 ISK per person per night for parking on the land for a total of $350 for the two weeks – in addition to our campervan rental.
We searched for most of our campsites on Google Maps and were meticulous with staying at campsites only rated above 4.0. We paid extra attention to reviews that mentioned hot showers and clean facilities – because not every campground offers this. Sometimes they charge extra for showers.
Most campsites only operate in the summer, so if you are traveling Iceland in the off-season or winter, you’ll have to work a bit harder to find open campsites. Occasionally, some campsites owners will let you still park on their land in the winter, but no facilities are usually available beyond this. We learned this the hard way when we traveled in October.
Book Your Accommodation in Advance
If you’re not camping or in a campervan/RV you’ll need to book hotels and guesthouses, and there is not nearly enough accommodation to cater to the large number of tourists Iceland sees in the summer.
You’ll want to book your accommodation well in advance if traveling during high season (summer months). How far in advance? I would recommend 6+ months or more to score some of the best rates and have more options to choose from.
paid parking stations Are annoying
Most destinations in Iceland offer free parking, allowing you to drive without concern about parking fees or road tolls. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to be aware that certain locations require parking payment, and at times, travelers may unintentionally overlook checking for paid parking spots.
These fees apply in national parks like Skaftafell or Thingvellir, downtown Reykjavik, and popular attractions such as the Geldingardalir (Fagradalsfjall) volcano and Seljalandsfoss waterfall.
Most of the paid parking areas in Iceland are like something out of the future too. No parking attendant is checking to see if you paid. Instead, you’ll find a camera that takes your license plate as soon as you pull into the lot.
That means as soon as you pull into the lot, your license plate is noted, and you’ll be subject to pay the parking fee, even if you end up not staying or didn’t mean to pull into the lot.
Some parking areas give a 10-minute grace period, but some do not, and it became annoying for us as we weren’t given a chance to decide if paying 1000 ISK to park was worth the viewpoint or sight we were at. The easiest way to pay for parking is through the Parka app (Download: Google Play | App Store)or the website parka.is.
Most Roads are just one lane
The majority of roads in Iceland consist of two-lane paved stretches, and this includes the Ring Road. Nonetheless, it’s not uncommon for a “main” road to unexpectedly transition from a smooth, well-paved surface to a gravel road.
Fortunately, even these gravel roads are generally well-maintained and pose no issue for all types of vehicles, even 2WD cars, ensuring safe travel conditions.
Watch Out For Sheep!
Like in the nearby Faroe Islands, sheep are everywhere in Iceland and you’ll need to watch out for them while driving. They sometimes have a tendency to wander into the road, and you’ll need to slow down and avoid them.
Do not speed
If you rent a car in Iceland and have plans to drive around; pay attention to the speed limits. Don’t speed – you don’t want a speeding ticket in Iceland! There are speed cameras around Iceland, but they generally give you fair warning when they are there.
When renting a car or campervan, one of our top Iceland travel tips is to find out about F-Roads.
In Iceland, F-roads, also known as mountain roads or highland roads, are a specific classification of roads that traverse the country’s remote and rugged interior. The “F” stands for “Fjallvegur” in Icelandic, which means “mountain road.” These roads are unpaved and typically only accessible during summer when conditions are more favorable.
F-roads are characterized by challenging terrain, including gravel, rocks, river crossings, and steep inclines. They often require vehicles with high ground clearance, four-wheel drive (4WD), and specialized equipment to navigate safely. Due to their remote nature and difficult conditions, traveling on F-roads is considered an adventure and requires careful preparation and caution. Not every rental car or campervan can travel on F-Roads, and you’ll need to rent a 4×4 specifically if you want to get into the Icelandic Highlands. This can add to your trip’s cost, but it’s worth seeing the beautiful Highlands.
Don’t drive a car not rated to handle the F Roads down an F-Road. If you damage the vehicle, insurance from your rental car agency is typically voided, and you could pay large for your mistake.
Credit Cards Are King
Never once have we used cash in Iceland. Credit cards are accepted everywhere – even in public bathroom stalls. Of course, having some money on you never hurts, but I wouldn’t convert much of it to Icelandic Kroner. If you need tips for travel banking, we have a post.
We suggest you carry around 5,000 ISK to get out of any unknown situations. Get yourself a credit card with no foreign transaction fees and provides you travel rewards for using it. Here are a few of our favorites.
Drive the Ring Road
Iceland’s Ring Road, or Route 1, takes you around the entire country – like a ring! It’s one of the best road trips you can take in the world and brings you to some of the best spots in Iceland.
The route took us about 12 days (including time in Reykjavik), but if you are short on time, you can do it in 5-7 days. However, be prepared to spend a lot of time in the car.
Drive the Golden Circle
If you only have a short amount of time to travel in Iceland but want to get out of Reykjavik (and you should), consider renting a car to drive the Golden Circle. The Golden Circle is a 300-kilometer route looping in and out of the capital.
It’s only a one-day drive or tour out of Rejykavik and will take you to some fantastic sights. Including Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall, and Geysir and Strokkur. You can also loop in the Kerið volcanic crater and the town of Hveragerði, the hot springs capital of Iceland.
Head to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
If you have extra days in Iceland, one of my top Iceland travel tips is to head to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. It’s only a two-hour drive from Reykjavik. The Snæfellsnes Peninsula has been dubbed “Little Iceland” because it displays a wide variety of beauty found throughout Iceland on a compact peninsula.
Waterfalls, cathedral churches, a glacier, and numerous mountains can be found on the peninsula. Side note: This is also where you can discover Kirkjufell, the famous mountain from Game of Thrones. It’s shaped like an arrowhead. 😉
get off the ring road
I know we said to drive the iconic Ring Road, and you 100% should; however, don’t forget to venture off the loop around Iceland. The Ring Road stays pretty busy, especially in the summer and along the south coast of Iceland.
Some of our best stops were found by venturing off the Ring Road. We especially loved exploring Husavik and hikgin to Glymur Waterfall!
The South Coast of Iceland
We’ve now driven the Ring Road twice, in both directions, as well as the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and other parts of the country. The one area that is significantly busier than the rest of Iceland is the Southern Coast. This is where famous sites like Skogafoss, Vik, and Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool are.
The southern coast is arguably the most dramatic part of Iceland with waterfalls galore. Also it’s not a far drive from Reykjavik, meaning many people can take day trips to the area. This keeps the Southern Coast plenty busy!
Along with getting off the Ring Road, we highly recommend you carve out time in your Iceland itinerary for Landmannalaugher.
This is in the Highlands of Iceland, and to reach Landmannalaugar, you’ll need one of those 4×4 vehicles we discussed, or you’ll want to jump on a tour! Seeing this otherworldly land where so many movies have been filmed is well worth it.
Consider Skipping the Blue Lagoon
Since you’re reading our blog, I assume you aren’t living under a rock. You’ve probably heard of the Blue Lagoon in your Iceland travel research in that same train of logic. The famous geothermal spa plays host to over one million visitors a year.
The Blue Lagoon is an Instagram fanatics’ haven, and it should be for the high price tag. However, did you know the Blue Lagoon isn’t natural? Or that the water is the runoff of Geo-Thermal power plants? It’s not advertised on their beautiful website, but it’s true.
It seems silly to go to an artificial pool (and a hella expensive one at that) in Iceland, a country littered with natural geothermal pools. The Blue Lagoon is a tourist trap at its finest, and all locals will tell you that. If you’re on a budget, consider going to one of Iceland’s local pools for a swim and a chat with the locals or visiting a natural pool. There are even a few natural pools around Reykjavik that you can visit.
However, if you don’t mind the price and crave the mud masks and outdoor spa in Iceland, it might be right up your alley, and you’ll like it!
It took me three visits to Iceland to finally cave in and book a very expensive ticket to the Blue Lagoon to see what all the fuss was about, and out of all the 10+ hot springs I visited in the country, the Blue Lagoon was easily the most disappointing.
Our Favorite Thermal Baths & Hot Springs
Speaking of hot springs and thermal baths we visited many on our trip. One of our favorite things to do in the early morning or in the evening was hit up a hot spring. Here are some of our favorites:
- Reykjadalur Hot Springs: Hike to these free hot springs and stay a few hours.
- Hvammsvik Hot Springs: Our absolute favorite hot springs in all of Iceland.
- Vok Baths: Located in Northern Iceland, these baths have floating pools
- Forest Lagoon: Located in the city of Akureyri, these hot springs are hidden away in the forest and have the best cold plunge.
- Krauma: Just an hour from Reykjavik, these are a very quiet alternative to the Blue Lagoon.
- Sky Lagoon: Fantastic alternative to the Blue Lagoon, however no milky blue water.
Also, I figured I should mention that if you are camping and don’t want to be bothered with showering at the campsites, all the pay for thermal baths and geothermal spas have luxurious showers – typically with toiletries!
Don’t be Afraid to Get Naked
Speaking of pools, you will have to shower before entering if you go to a public pool in Iceland. This is a non-negotiable aspect of visiting an Icelandic pool. You must shower utterly naked in an open shower. (In the tourist thermal baths there are often private showers).
The Icelandic people take their hygiene seriously and don’t want anyone’s dirty bodies infecting their pools. They use minimal water treatment in the natural geothermal water that fills the pools.
I appreciate knowing that every person has showered and scrubbed when I am in the swimming pool before entering. Showers are separated by sex, so everyone is comfortable. I wouldn’t suggest skipping around the naked or shower part as it may get you a few scowls from the locals, or you could even get kicked out! It’s okay – no one is looking.
Visit sites outside of peak hours
Many of the most famous sights in Iceland, especially along the South Coast and Golden Circle, are incredibly busy. I’m talking about beautiful Skogafoss, Reynisfjara Beach, Svartifoss, and Seljalandsfoss. These places are amazing and worth stopping by, but one of our top Iceland travel tips is to visit these outside the hours of 10-6 pm.
In the summer, you’ll be rewarded if you stay up past midnight and visit – trust me! The sleepless nights are worth it when you realize you’ll have these popular destinations while the rest of Iceland sleeps.
The same goes for the Thermal Baths.
This same concept also applies to the popular geothermal pools in Iceland. For instance, the Blue Lagoon, Sky Lagoon, and Vok Baths are popular stops in Iceland.
We always visited the baths either as soon as they opened or about two hours before they closed and found these periods to be the most crowd-free and peaceful – especially at the famous Blue Lagoon!
Rethink Eating Out
Iceland is one of the most expensive countries to visit, and these costs will hit your wallet hard if you go out to eat. Coffee and a bagel in a local cafe will quickly run you $18-$20, and the average meal out at a restaurant will cost anywhere from $35-$70 per person. I wouldn’t even consider ordering a cocktail with that meal either if you’re on a budget – we’ve paid less in posh Manhattan bars.
The first time I visited Iceland, I went out with a few Icelanders to a Thai restaurant expecting to get something reasonable – it was Thai food. Instead, I looked at the menu, decided against paying $30 for Pad Thai, and waited while the others ate their food. Then I went to an Icelandic grocery store after for some bread and skyr and lived off that. True backpacker style!
The grocery stores are where you will get the best value in Iceland, and you can find almost anything you want at them! Our favorite grocery store is Bonus – just look for the porky pig!
Get Your Alcohol at Duty Free
We didn’t drink much in Iceland, besides a few glasses of wine or beer while relaxing at the thermal baths. The Icelandic government imposes high taxes on alcohol as a way to discourage excessive consumption and to generate revenue. These taxes can significantly increase the retail price of alcoholic beverages.
Additionally, Iceland has a small population and limited local production of alcohol, which means that a significant portion of alcoholic beverages needs to be imported. This all means that alcohol, especially liquor and wine, is incredibly expensive.
If you plan to drink a bit in Iceland one of our top Iceland travel tips is to get your bottles at duty free when you land in Reykjavik. It’s pretty much open 24/7 and is the cheapest place you’ll be able to score booze in Iceland.
Don’t take a taxi from the Airport to the City
Speaking of the airport, another one of my top Iceland travel tips is to avoid taking a taxi from the airport to Reykjavik. This taxi ride, if you choose to accept, may be one of the most expensive in your life.
A taxi from the airport to city can cost upwards of $200! We paid $30 to drive five minutes from the airport to our hotel in Keflavik as we arrived super late at night.
gas stations are where it’s at
Gas stations are where you can find almost everything in Iceland – not just fuel! It’s where you can find affordable meals and quick takeaway food options. A fantastic way to save money if you don’t have a kitchen but don’t want to splurge on an expensive Icelandic meal.
We found many N1s to have great dining options (and often extremely clean bathroom facilities). This is where you could usually find a meal for under 2000 ISK.
eat at food halls
Another great way to save money in Iceland is to eat at the food halls. Food halls are not everywhere in Iceland, and generally in the bigger cities and towns like Reykjavik, Selfoss, and Akurya.
This is where you could find plenty of different eateries for the whole family without spending an arm and leg for lunch or dinner!
Talk to the Locals
We found most Icelanders to be friendly people, so I encourage you to mingle with them. This can be hard as there are only 350,000 residents and 2 million tourists a year. On our recent trip there, we found more foreigners than Icelanders, and it became hard to be amongst the locals.
If you want to integrate yourself and learn more about Icelandic culture, head to the local swimming pools and local pubs and travel during the off-season when there are fewer tourists.
Most Icelanders can speak English.
We’ve yet to encounter an Icelander who can’t speak English, and they speak it almost perfectly – perhaps even better than you! So you never have to worry about communication or things getting lost in translation here.
You are Safe
Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world! It was the third country I traveled to solo and the first country I hitchhiked around. The crime rate is shockingly low, which makes it an ideal place to travel for solo female travelers.
However, do not think you are 100% safe with the low crime rates because Mother Nature is a bitch. Clueless tourists find themselves in life-threatening situations 3-4 times a day in the high season. It is usually of their own doing. Iceland’s weather is notoriously unpredictable and life-threatening, especially if you are traveling Iceland in the winter.
Always use your head when in the wilderness, tell someone where you’re going if hiking, and make sure that you have a cell signal to call 112 in you are in unsafe conditions. I suggest checking out Safe Travel to stay updated on weather conditions.
If visiting Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach take the waves seriously, as several tourists have drowned after being swept away by sneaker waves, and it’s become one of the most dangerous places for tourists to visit in Iceland.
In Iceland, dialing 112 serves as the universal emergency number, connecting you to all the essential response agencies for incidents involving accidents, fires, crimes, search and rescue operations, as well as natural disasters, whether on land, at sea, or in the air.
Iceland is a Great Honeymoon Destination
Many honeymooners will travel to beach destinations like the Bahamas or Hawaii for their particular trip, but we found Iceland to be a wonderful country for a honeymoon.
What sounds better, soaking up the sun on a beach while drinking a pina colada or soaking up the heat in a hot spring after chasing waterfalls in Iceland? Well, I guess both sound pretty nice.
Popular romantic activities include horseback riding, chasing the Aurora, and descending into a volcano. It’s a honeymoon for the active couple who hate tourist traps and sitting still – and don’t mind a bit of unpredictable weather!
Fuel is Expensive
If you plan to rent a car in Iceland, note that gas is costly. It’s a manageable expense to forget, so make sure to add it to your budget.
At over $2/Liter ($8/gallon), I would suggest planning all of your outings accordingly and don’t waste any fuel. We had a camper van two weeks and spent over $600 on fuel for our ring road trip. YIKES!
Go Cabin Hopping
Iceland has some of the most charming family-run guesthouses and cottages scattered across the country. If you are driving around the Ring Road, one of my top Iceland travel tips is to scope out a cabin for a night. Compared to hotels, they are some of the more affordable accommodation options.
Before our Icelandic horseback riding tour, we stayed in one charming guesthouse near Varmahlid called Hestasport Cottages. The place was warm and cozy, with a full kitchen and even a communal hot spring to enjoy in the morning or evening.
You can find many of these off-the-beaten-path guesthouses on Airbnb. Check out our post on tips for getting the perfect place on Airbnb.
Iceland is a Ski Destination
If you’re into skiing and snowboarding, Iceland has some fun ski resorts near Reykjavik, Akureyri, and Husavik. January – April is the high season for these winter activities. You can also go arctic heliskiing in the Skíðadalur Valley for the truly adventurous.
The mountains of the North are amazingly gorgeous. Unfortunately, we weren’t there in winter’s heart to participate in their heliskiing.
Bring an Eye Mask in the Summer
One of my top Iceland travel tips for the summer is to bring an eye mask. If you visit Iceland between April and September, it will still be light out when you are trying to sleep at 11 p.m.
This may affect your sleep cycle, which may already be out of whack because of jet lag. If your hotel or guesthouse doesn’t have black-out curtains, I suggest packing an eye mask in your carry on luggage. (Side note – even our campervan had blackout curtains – a win for Happy Campers!)
Even if your hotel has blackout curtains, I would still make sure to bring an eye mask just in case – they are cheap and light, so there is no reason not to!
I would pack at least the basic winter essentials no matter what time you visit Iceland. That is a hat, gloves, scarf, waterproof shoes, and a down jacket. Trust me, just one cold day with high wind, and you will thank me.
Don’t arrive in Iceland unprepared for cold weather, as it will cost you dearly to replace your suitcase with winter clothes in Iceland (remember how expensive gas is, now think about hand-knit mittens). The locals say there is no bad weather in Iceland, just the wrong clothes, and I couldn’t agree more!
Also, bring a bathing suit and a travel towel for all the geothermal pools! Here’s a complete Iceland packing list.
bring rain pants
If there is one mistake we have made every time in Iceland (and we’ve been three times in June, July, and October), it’s forgetting rain pants. The weather in Iceland is extremely unpredictable, and even in the summer, it can rain a lot.
I’m not talking about little dribbles of rain either; we were caught in long torrential downpours more often than I wanted to be – in the dead of summer, no less! I can’t stress enough how important a good rain jacket and rain pants are.
Bring a Water Bottle
All the water in Iceland is 100% drinkable. Along with the rest of the Nordics, they say it is some of the cleanest water in the world, so there is no need to buy any bottled water and put more plastic into the world.
Get yourself a refillable travel water bottle and save your money and plastic waste.
Pick up your Rental Car from the Airport
If you plan to rent a car or campervan to get around, pick it up and drop it off at the airport. It could end up saving you a buck. Public transport from the airport is lacking, and the Reykjavik Express, one of the only buses from the capital to Keflavik airport, is 4000 Icelandic Kroner one way. That’s a $35 airport transfer on a bus! I would recommend picking up and dropping off at the airport.
If you want to rent a camper van like us, Happy Campers is an excellent company to go with. We have many wonderful experiences with them. You can easily book using this link, but make sure to book well in advance during high season as they are a family run company and sell their vans out well in advance!
Reykjavik is an Unconventional Capital City
Even though we lived in New York City, we’re not city people anymore. We prefer to be off hiking, on a beach or doing just about anything else, not in a busy city. However, Reykjavik is not the usual European city, and we enjoy spending time in this charming city.
There are no high rises and few business suits, just a laid-back atmosphere surrounded by the ocean and mountains. If you only have a few days in Iceland, you can easily base yourself in Reykjavik and take day trips or catch the local bus to places like Esjan.
In my opinion, Reykjavik deserves at least one day of exploration, unless you’re there during one of its epic festivals – then definitely stay longer!
Be careful with hot water.
When getting in the shower or washing your hands be careful. If you turn the hot water faucet too quickly and stick your hands/body in you can easily burn yourself. Geothermal water is used to heat around 90% of Iceland’s homes, and water gets hot FAST!
Get ready to hike
Sick of spending money on activities? One of the best things to do in Iceland is hike! There are plenty of amazing and beautiful hikes in Iceland, all free to enjoy. The most you’ll have to pay for is parking your vehicle at the trailhead at some locations.
A few of our favorite hikes in Iceland are to Glymur Waterfall, Mulagljufur Canyon, and Reykjadalur Hot Springs.
No Waterfall is Created Equal
It’s a well-known Iceland fact that the country has a ton of waterfalls. If you Google “How many waterfalls are in Iceland?” The number 10,000+ comes up. I don’t think anyone truly knows how many waterfalls are in Iceland.
The country is littered with waterfalls. They are all spectacular. However, some notable waterfalls make for a picture-perfect postcard opportunity. Here are a few of our favorites.
- Goðafoss: Waterfall of the gods in the Northeast
- Háifoss: A bit off the beaten track, but one of the highest in Iceland
- Morsárfoss is: Highest waterfall in Iceland
- Dettifoss: The most powerful waterfall in Europe
- Gullfoss: Along the Golden Circle and one of the most famous falls to visit
- Seljalandsfoss: You can stand behind this waterfall
- Skógafoss: A unique waterfall that comes directly from two glaciers
We made it a mission to see as many waterfalls in Iceland as possible, but even trying all our might, we couldn’t even scratch the surface.
Sometimes, especially along the Southern Coast, you’ll see a new waterfall every two minutes. Some are easily accessible, while some require a hike. Our best advice is to pinpoint the ones at the top of your bucket list and try to see those first – any extra waterfalls are just a bonus!
don’t walk on the moss
While traveling in Iceland, you’ll surely see all the moss around the country. This moss is very special and delicate. Moss in Iceland grows extremely slowly, sometimes just a few millimeters per year.
It is delicate and can take decades or even centuries to recover if damaged. Avoid stepping on the moss-covered areas and stick to designated paths or trails. Even if you see something you want to get close to, and there’s no set path to it, please leave it be, admire it from a distance, and keep it pristine. Always practice Leave No Trace principles.
The number of tourists we saw in Iceland trampling on so much delicate moss without even realizing it was also troublesome, all for the sake of a photo. Please respect the trails and environment, and leave the area as wild as you found it.
The weather is better in the north
This is completely based on our own experiences in the country, but what we have heard from locals is a true realization. The weather in Iceland is better in the north of the country than in the south.
In general, South Iceland tends to be milder and wetter due to the influence of the Gulf Stream; on the other hand, North Iceland tends to have a more pronounced continental climate, with colder winters and warmer summers.
We would constantly check the webcams and weather forecasts on the Iceland Met Office, and every time it was sunshine in the north, it was dreadful in the south. That said, Iceland’s weather is notoriously unpredictable, and conditions can change rapidly regardless of the region.
Important Iceland Websites
- safetravel.is/ – weather warnings and alerts.
- safetravel.is/travel- plans/travel-plan/ Consider completing a travel plan especially if you are travelling alone –
- www.road.is/ – Iceland Road conditions, closures etc.
- vedur.is/ – Everything weather related.
- www.bensinverd.is/gsmbensin_web.php?language=en – Check for Fuel Prices
- https://fyrirtaeki.parka.is/english-old/ – Pay for parking on the streets of Reykjavík
- https://livefromiceland.is/ – Check Webcams
- https://forvo.com/languages-pronunciations/is/ – Help with Icelandic pronunciation.
Iceland employs the standard Europlug socket featuring two rounded prongs (types are “C” or “F”). Get an adaptor before you land, as they cost extra in Iceland. This is the one we use for travel all around the world and absolutely love it.
you won’t be able to do it all
I’m going to end these Iceland travel tips with something very important that every traveler needs to hear – chill out because you won’t be able to do it all.
It’s a big country, and there’s a zillion things to do. You’ll need a lifetime to see it all. So focus on those highlights of yours and aim to visit Iceland more than once in your life!
Plan For Iceland Travel
Book a Camper!
A campervan is the best way to get around Iceland on a budget. While a camper is slightly more expensive than a car, you can sleep and cook in it! Meaning you don’t have to search for any hotels or deal with costly restaurants in Iceland.
Plus you get to sleep in nature every night and still use a heater if you wish! If you want to travel with a Happy Campers van as we did (and you should they are the BEST!), make sure to read our full review. You can easily book using this link, but make sure to book well in advance during high season.
When is the Best Time to Visit Iceland?
In my opinion, the best times to visit Iceland are June, July, September, October, and December – but it all depends on what you want! June-August is high season, but it is also summer in Iceland and when you will find the most pleasant temperatures. It’s also when you will experience the most amount of daylight and get the most out your of your trip. December is great because it is winter, you stand a strong chance of seeing the Northern Lights, it’s low season, and the temperatures haven’t gone to complete freezing yet.
However, my personal favorite time to travel to Iceland is during the fall months. It’s during September and October, when the leaves change vibrant colors around the country. Temperatures are still mild, and tourism is slowing down. You can see the full month by month breakdown for Iceland travel here.
Things to do in Iceland
There are so many things to do in Iceland that I could write a book about it. Unfortunately, I don’t have that time, so I’m showing you the ultimate Iceland bucket list here. Some things that are a must-do are going to an Iceland swimming pool, soaking in a natural hot spring, standing under a waterfall, and seeing the Northern Lights.
Photography Gear for Iceland
A high-quality camera is an essential packing item for Iceland if you want some great shots while on your vacation. We travel with our Fujifilm Camera and 200mm telephoto lens. Drones have sort of taken Iceland by storm and can capture fantastic footage as well. We had our DJI Mavic in Iceland, but make sure to use your drone responsibly as many locals are getting annoyed at the sight of them.
Whatever you do, do not forget a tripod for Iceland – especially if you plan on photographing the Northern Lights as you’ll need one for the long exposures.
Is Iceland Travel Expensive?
Traveling Iceland is pretty expensive. One of the most expensive countries in the entire world actually. Make sure that you plan accordingly and in line with your budget. It’s certainly possible to do Iceland on a budget of less than $100 a day if you are camping, cooking all your own basic meals, and traveling by public transport or score a good deal on a rental. The good news is that nature is free, and you’ll be able to see Iceland’s beauty without paying for it. So yes – it’s completely doable to have an affordable Iceland vacation.
If you plan on drinking be sure to pick up duty free alcohol before you leave the airport. A pint of beer can easily run you $15-$20!
More Helpful Iceland Travel Tips
- Icelanders speak Icelandic, but every single person I came across spoke English.
- The local currency is the Icelandic króna (ISK). ATMs are found throughout the country.
- Have I mentioned Iceland is expensive? Save money by eating in and cooking for yourself. Check out our Iceland grocery store guide for all the tips!
- Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world; however, it’s always important to use common sense when walking alone at night.
- Iceland has a strong internet infrastructure, and you should be able to stay connected easily.
Plan For Your Trip
- Protect Your Trip: We don’t travel without travel insurance, nor should you. You never know what can happen while traveling, so it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo provides excellent short-term and long-term travel insurance plans.
- Find Cheap Flights: Sign up for Going (formerly Scotts Cheap Flights) to get notified when prices get low.
- Book a Rental Car: We use Discover Car to book all our rental cars! You can also read our top tips for renting a car abroad here.
- Travel Adapter: Make sure you find a good adapter to keep your personal electronics charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land. Purchase one here.
- Travel Backpack: We like the Nomatic Travel Backpack for our travels. Check the price here.
- Our Favorite Travel Shoes: Our answer to this question is always ALLBIRDS! Check them out on their site!
- Get a Travel Credit Card: We travel worldwide for free because we have leveraged our spending into points. See why you should get a travel credit card and how you can do the same with our favorite travel credit cards.