Iceland is an island country in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. The northernmost point, Grimsey Island, actually touches the Arctic Circle!
Planning a trip to Iceland? Enjoy a smooth and stress-free holiday in Iceland with our ultimate trip planning guide. Read up on everything you need to know before you travel and prepare for the best vacation in the land of glaciers, volcanoes, and mighty waterfalls!
In terms of geology, the country is quite young. It was formed only 18 million years ago, while most land masses are much older. The island’s ever-changing geothermal activity is still alive and well, with volcanoes, glaciers and everything in between!
Just the Facts
- Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in Europe. More than 340,000 people live in a 103,000 sq km area.
- The capital of Reykjavik in the southwest is the largest city.
- More than 220,000 people (2017) call the capital region home. 125,000+ live in Reykjavík proper.
- Akureyri in the north is the next largest settlement with around 18,620 people.
- The remaining little towns and villages are generally remote.
- The country was first settled by Vikings in 870 C.E.
- Icelandic is the closest living language to Old Norse
- The country is known for its famous sagas
Locals greatly value our culture, history, and language. The adventurous spirit which brought our ancestors to this land still imbue us with a sense of adventure and progressiveness to new ideas, new people and new life experiences. Welcome to our home!
How to get to Iceland?
The best way to reach us is by air with a roundtrip ticket. More and more airlines have scheduled flights to Keflavik International Airport.
A few are listed below. If you don’t like flying or you want to bring your car along, you can sail to the island with Norræna.
|Icelandair||Norwegian Air Shuttle||SAS|
|Air Greenland||Air Atlantic||British Airways|
How much does it cost to fly to Iceland?
The cost of a trip really depends on your budget and where you’re flying from. Roundtrip tickets cost anywhere from $300 to $1200, depending on the season and your home airport. Icelandair offers a built-in layover on your way to Europe or North America, so booking all-inclusive trips or weekend trips has never been easier.
How to get around Iceland? (Transport)
From the airport, you can take a bus (see Airport transfers to and from Keflavik Airport) or a taxi to Reykjavik. If you are planning a self-drive tour, you can pick up your rental car at the airport. Renting a car has its pros and cons. Depending on your traveling plans, joining a guided tour may be a better option. Read more about self-drive tours vs. guided tours.
Where to stay in Iceland?
No matter your travel plans or what time of the year you’re visiting, you’ll always have a lot of options. Camping, hotels, hostels, guesthouses, cabins, Airbnb — you name it, we have it. If you’re planning a trip but don’t know where to stay, choose a multi-day tour that includes accommodation.
The country’s climate is relatively mild, despite the northerly location. The Gulf Stream sends us warm currents all year round, so temperatures along the coast never drop very low. The average temperature in Reykjavik is 5°, but it goes up to 12°C in summer and down to -1°C in winter. The annual downpour in the South Iceland is high, around 3000 mm, while North Iceland only gets around 400 mm of rainfall per year.
The weather chances quickly in our country and the winds can blow fiercely, especially under the mountains. The Northern Lights are visible during the dark winter months when skies are clear and the aurora activity level is high.
What to Bring on Trips to Iceland
What you pack depends on the season and your particular plans. Always bring swimwear, as well as waterproof and windproof clothing. Read more about equipment list.
Things to Know for Trip to Iceland
The Icelandic Króna (ISK) is the local currency and all prices are given in ISK. Credit cards are widely accepted throughout the country. In Reykjavik and bigger towns, you’ll easily find ATMs. You may need to pay cash to use showers and toilets in the Highlands. Plastic works for everything else.
How much do trips to Iceland cost?
A swim will cost you around 900 ISK, a hot dog is even cheaper, a pot of yogurt or Icelandic Skyr is around 350 ISK. After that, things start to get more expensive. You should expect to pay 2000-3000 ISK per day for lunch. Evening meals will cost 2500-6500 ISK each. On average, you should budget around 7000 ISK per person per day. A beer costs 1000-1400 ISK while a glass of wine is 1000-1500 ISK.
The water is clear and safe to drink from the tap. You can even drink from rivers and streams if you like! Locals use local geothermal hot water to heat their homes and showers. You may notice the smell of sulfur when you first open the faucet. Run the cold tap for a little while before you take a sip and the smell will go away.
We use F-Type two-prong plugs. The power supply is 230V and 50Hz. You’ll need to use an adapter if your devices use different plugs, voltage or hertz, including devices from the UK and USA.
Geothermal activity provides the country with hot water. We harness the heat for our houses and generate electricity from steam. The geothermal water means your morning shower might smell faintly of sulfur.
The state has a monopoly on selling alcohol. Wine, beer and spirits can only be bought in state-run Vínbúðin stores or at bars and restaurants. It is a good idea to buy alcoholic beverages in the duty-free store at the airport because the prices in Vínbúðin are quite high. You have to be 20 years old to buy and consume alcohol. Don’t be fooled if you see beer or wine in the grocery store — the alcohol content will be virtually zero!
Smoking in public places was banned in 2007. Many restaurants and public places have designated outside smoking areas. Cigarettes and tobacco can be bought in many stores, gas stations, and kiosks. You have to be 18 years old to buy tobacco.
Even the island’s smallest towns have natural hot swimming pools. Locals love to unwind in the hot tubs after work and families go to the swimming pools together for quality time. Pools are also a popular setting for a first date! Some say that the swimming pool is the Icelandic answer to Brits “going to the pub.” Pack a swimsuit and join the locals in the hot pot.
In our country, it’s considered only polite to take off your shoes if you visit someone’s home. Many hotels and guest houses will also ask you to take your shoes off. Blowing your nose in company is also considered bad manners.
Did you know?
Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, our former president, was the first women to be elected as head of state in Europe.
Dial 112 for police, ambulance or fire emergency. Call 1170 for after-hours medical assistance or 575-0505 for a dental emergency.
Lost and found
Summer and Winter Trips to Iceland
Summer is the easiest season to travel around. The roads are clear and the daylight hours are long. In late June, the sun is up for nearly 24 hours!
Winter is the best season to see ice caves and the Northern Lights, but keep in mind that it can get pretty cold! Bundle up in layers to survive the snow. Daylight only lingers for around 5 hours in the middle of winter.
We offer many self-drive tours that allow you to pick up a rental car in Keflavik or Reykjavik and drive through the country at your own pace. These packages include a rental car, pre-planned itinerary, and hotels. Choose from a short 4-day break from Reykjavik or hit the highway on an epic road trip for 8 days or more.
Our vacation packages are multi-day adventure tours with van transport and active guides. Most of vacation packages last 3-6 days — a fantastic introduction to the land of fire and ice. You just have to book your hotels.
There are so many fun activities and natural wonders to check out on trips to Iceland. Here are our top picks:
- Snaefellsnes Peninsula: The northwest peninsula is known for birdwatching, pebble beaches and lava caves.
- Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon: No trip is complete without visiting the gorgeous glacier lagoon in the south.
- Lake Myvatn: A turquoise lake on the North Coast.
- Ice Caves: In winter, explore the ever-shifting ice caves at Vatnajokull Glacier.
- South Coast: One of the more popular destinations, the South Coast is known for waterfalls, enormous glaciers and spectacular views.
- Ring Road: The Ring Road circles around country and hits most major attractions.
- Whale Watching: The best whale watching on Earth is available year-round from Reykjavik and Dalvik.
- Northern Lights: If you visit between October and May, be sure to hunt for the mystical aurora borealis!
- Hot Springs: A favorite local past time is soaking in the hot springs (natural and man-made) and chatting about the day.
- Golden Circle: Along this famous route you’ll see Gullfoss Waterfall, Geysir Geothermal Area, and Thingvellir National Park.
- Blue Lagoon: The spa-like lagoon is known for its mineral-rich silicon waters.
Activities in Iceland
We’ve only covered the tip of the iceberg when it comes to activities in Iceland (no pun intended). Explore undiscovered sides of nature with these incredible tours:
FAQ on Planning a Trip to Iceland
What are the best tours of the country?
All of them! If it’s your first time planning a trip to the land of fire and ice, you’ll probably want to visit the Golden Circle and the South Coast. Trips to Iceland aren’t complete without a stop at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, located just off the Ring Road.
How much do trip to Iceland cost? Is it an expensive place to visit?
Trip can be fairly costly, but they don’t need to break the bank. Read our post on Prices in Iceland to find out more.
How long should I spend in country?
If you’re here on a layover, we recommend least 2-3 days to explore Reykjavik and the Golden Circle. If you have more time, give yourself at least 6 days to explore the Ring Road. Our vacation packages help you maximize your trip to Iceland no matter how much time you have.
How do I plan a trip to Iceland on a budget?
Planning ahead, booking accommodation, and shopping for affordable tours will all help you save while traveling. Our Prices in Iceland blog has more details.
Is Iceland safe to visit?
Absolutely! Our country is one of the safest in the world. Crime is almost non-existent. As with any place you visit, you should still keep your valuables and belongings in a secure location.
The most dangerous element is the weather. If you’re traveling without a guide or in an unfamiliar destination such as the Highlands, the weather can change rapidly and you might get lost or stranded. Always check the weather forecast and have the emergency services phone number on hand.
Are food and drink expensive?
It depends on where you shop. Many grocery stores are reasonably priced when it comes to local goods. Imported food and drink can cost you a pretty penny. At restaurants, lunch can set you back $20 while dinner will likely cost at least $50 per person.
What is the best month to visit?
The best month depends what you want to see while you’re here. Do you want to go white water rafting and horse riding and experience the Midnight Sun? Come in June! If it’s the Northern Lights and ice caves you’re after, why not swing by in November? For more on what to expect each month, check out Weather in Iceland.
Is 3 days enough?
3 days is enough for a few of the highlights, such as the Golden Circle and Reykjavik. If you want to see the really authentic areas of the country, stay a bit longer for Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, Vatnajokull, a Northern Lights Super Jeep tour, and ice caves at Langjokull.