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12 Must-Have Things to Bring When Traveling to Iceland

|May 8, 2023
Anthropologist, social media guru, Icelandic nature and food enthusiast.

Being well prepared for your trip to Iceland is essential. It will help you to relax and enjoy the journey knowing you have all the things you need. We’ve spoken to a local traveler who has put together a list of the must-have essentials to bring for your trip to Iceland. Some of these things may not have been on your original ‘what to bring to Iceland list’ and might even surprise you.

Many travelers and visitors from across the world have said these are “must haves” when traveling around Iceland. Whether you are heading off on a tour or embarking upon a  self drive tour to the attractions yourself, Iceland can feel remote and some things can be hard to find.v

Views over Iceland's incredible landscape

1. Sunscreen

3 bottles of sunscreen, an essential to protect against the strong sun in Iceland

One of the first travel essentials on our list is the most overlooked: sunscreen. It is often forgotten since the country is named ICE-land, but the sun in Iceland is strong and, therefore, it’s easy to burn. Because of its location so far north and sitting on the Arctic Circle, Iceland gets an incredible almost 24 hours of sunlight in the summer months and, in the winter, bright snow. We advise using sunscreen at all times, even if there is snow on the ground or when you’re bathing in pools.

2. Sunglasses

Sunglasses for the bright conditions of Iceland

With the sun in Iceland being extra strong, sunglasses are needed 365 days a year. They are especially needed when driving or hiking as the sun can reflect off of snow and bodies of water, and at certain times of the day will be low enough to get right into your eyes. If you are planning on glacier hiking without sunglasses, think again. There is a reason every tour guide on the glacier is wearing sunglasses and it's because of the brightness. During the summer months, you’ll also be glad of sunglasses to keep insects like midges away from your eyes.

3. First aid kit

Small first aid kit to deal with cuts and scrapes

If you are planning on heading off the beaten track and exploring some of the most beautiful, secluded places in Iceland, then packing a travel first aid kit is essential. It doesn’t have to be anything too complicated, but a selection of band-aids for blisters, cuts and scrapes, eyewash and antiseptic wipes is definitely advised. You never know if and when you may need it. 

4. Chapstick / Lip balm

Lip balms and chapstick for protecting against harsh weather

The weather in Iceland is extreme with its swift constant winds and endless changes. It causes your lips to get very dry. Prepare for this by bringing lip balms and chapstick for every pocket. This is one of the most raved-about travel essentials for Iceland and something everyone always talks about!

5. Water bottle

Reusable water bottles that can be filled across Iceland

Although you can buy bottled water all over Iceland, you really don’t need to. Before the tourism industry boomed, locals would never buy bottled water, “because clean water is free in Iceland and can be found in lakes, waterfalls, and rivers”. When traveling in Iceland, bring a bottle and fill it up from taps and, clean rivers and waterfalls.

6. Toilet paper + Ziplock bags

Toilet paper and Ziplock bags for traveling

Iceland is making efforts to make traveling as comfortable as possible by putting toilets all around the ring road but you may still drive for a while without seeing a town or any sort of WC. So when nature calls in nature, it’s good to have toilet paper and a ziplock bag to put the used paper in. This way you can throw this in a trash bin as soon as you see one. Please don’t leave toilet paper to ruin the beautiful landscape.

7. Camera

Cameras for taking pictures of Iceland's incredible scenery

This one is pretty obvious when you are coming to Iceland but the landscape is out of this world and breathtakingly beautiful, so you will want to capture everything! The best thing is, you don’t even have to be a professional photographer to get incredible shots, Icelandic landscapes pretty much do it for you. From the pretty little iron houses, and the Icelandic horses, to the midnight sun and the Northern Lights, Iceland has so much to capture.

8. Portable battery

Portable batteries in various shapes and colors

If you use your phone for taking photos, then bringing a portable battery charger is a must. The battery in your phone may run out quickly if you are using it to take photos, get directions and organize travel. However, even if you aren’t using it much, your phone battery can be affected by the elements. If it gets super cold, which happens in Iceland, your device might shut down even at 40% and you may need the charger to restart it.

9. Headlamp / Flashlights

Variety of head lamps and lights for exploring at night

This essential is for those traveling to Iceland in winter. One of the things to bring would be a headlamp or touch. This is extremely useful if you are walking at night, visiting a hot spring or just staying in the countryside. During the winter months, the sun may not rise until 10 am and then sets early, which means you may be exploring in darkness. Having a flashlight may come in useful when you are heading out or heading home.

10. Snacks

Selection of healthy snacks and food to bring on a trip

This tip is, again, to do with the distance between towns in Iceland and the remote locations of some sights. The further you are from Reykjavík, the further the lengths between villages that offer food. The variety becomes limited the further you go from the main towns, so if you have any special food requests (vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free, etc), we strongly recommend packing food.

11. Extra clothing

Warm layers suggestions for traveling Iceland

While exploring Iceland, temperatures can change quickly which means it can be difficult to know what to wear. A simple and effective way to keep warm is to bring lots of layers and pack various thermals. Consider bringing thermal gloves, hats and scarves to wrap up warm if it gets windy. The same goes for rain - bringing a raincoat will save you from getting damp and cold.

12. A swimsuit

4 swimsuits, an essential for traveling Iceland

The last essential on our list is all about adventure. Having a swimsuit with you at all times increases the chances of an adventure because you never know when you might find a town with a cute pool or stumble across a natural hot spring. The main point is to be prepared for something amazing, so bring a swimsuit and a towel. Happy soaking!


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