Photographed all over
Welcome to the land of elves and trolls, fire and ice, moss and steam.
Over the past four years, we got so SO many emails, direct messages, and comments with questions about traveling Iceland that we just couldn't keep up with answering them, anymore. Even though we tried to provide as much information as possible on our old blog it felt like it was never really enough. Or at least not well-enough organized for you guys to find exactly what you've been looking for. So with a brand-new website design and the blog completely switching over to Iceland related topics we feel it is about time to revamp our good old Iceland guide for one last time and to make sure that this time you will find absolutely ALL the answers to your questions. Throughout this extremely extensive Iceland travel guide, we will provide links to our in-depth articles about everything you might be interested in so that you will hopefully leave 'Dear Heima' with the information you've been seeking. If not, you can always shoot us an email or reply to our newsletter so that we know what other topics to cover in the future. Without further ado – our comprehensive guide to traveling Iceland:
TABLE OF CONTENTS
(simply click on where you wanna jump to)
1. Suggested trip length (and season) for an unforgettable stay.
Two of the most commonly asked questions when traveling to Iceland are: 'How many days would you suggest we stay in Iceland?' and 'When is the best time to visit?'. Even though we are fully aware that most people and travel guides would say “go in summer and stay around 6 days” we think that's an absolutely inaccurate answer. So what do we suggest? It highly depends on what you want to do and see and what other preferences you have. We love both, Icelandic summer and winter. If you want to go camping then definitely go between June and end of August, if you are longing for Northern Lights then November to early March is your season. We don't really recommend traveling to Iceland in March/April/May since those three months can be really nasty weather-wise but other than that: all year round is a good time to travel to Iceland! You can hike from April until late October, you can ski almost all year around (but November until April is the season of snow). If you want to see an ice cave then don't come in summer, if you want to see the arctic lupines in full bloom then make sure you travel the country end of June/beginning of July. If you want to go blueberry picking then August is just your time and if you are interested in wildlife like puffins and whales then April until September is when you should go.
If you want to know more about what to do and when to do it - dive into our extremely extensive 'Iceland Outdoor Activities' guide, where we created an overview of all the things you could (and should) do, see and try in Iceland depending on the time you are visiting. When it comes to how long you should stay in Iceland in order to get the most out of it then we can just answer 'depends on what you want to do and see', as well. But we've tried to at least give you an idea of what might make the most sense:
If you are looking for further information on what you can do when traveling Iceland...
...then you might wanna check out our extensive and utmost comprehensive 'Iceland Outdoor Activities - what to do in Summer / Winter (and in between)'. Find everything from outdoor fun that doesn't cost to the craziest and best tours you can possibly book, festivals to attend, food to try and cultural events to be a part of, right over here:
2. What do I have to know and keep in mind before booking a trip to Iceland?
Iceland isn't a complicated country and it, therefore, isn't very complicated to prepare for a trip to Iceland (unlike planning the trip itself) Still, there are a few things you should keep in mind and research/prepare before you actually book and go on your journey north. A lot of news that is top news in Iceland aren't necessarily in your countries news. You will know if a volcano erupts while it erupts but it definitely makes sense to quickly check if one of Iceland's 31 currently active volcanoes is showing signs of unrest, as well. You can get such information on en.vedur.is under the “volcanic eruptions” section. Green triangles indicate that all is fine, yellow is a sign of unrest and if you see something orange or red – we would definitely cancel the trip! To be safe, check some Icelandic news site before your trip (like Iceland monitor) to be aware of which forces of nature might cause you trouble (when there is a storm forecast lots of roads will close down and you might have to reschedule some of your stops and overnight stays.)
If you want to pay Iceland a visit in winter then you should be aware that it is not recommended (at all) to travel the ring road by car – not as long as it is a 4x4. Especially in the eastern part of the country, the roads are still partly gravel and the snow can be massive. We've traveled icy and slippery roads numerous times by now and if you sit in a car that is incapable of dealing with said conditions – you REALLY have a problem. Traveling in a caravan is absolutely impossible. There will be people out there claiming that all of this is no problem, that you can still take a camper van around the island and travel without a four-wheel drive, but we have seen so many nasty (!) accidents by now that we are highly suggesting not to take such risk. Round trips are therefore best during the summer months and shorter stays with day trips (and especially night trips to see Aurora) are perfect during winter.
Other than this, traveling to Iceland is everything but complicated. No vaccinations needed, citizens of the EEA don't have to have any kind of visa just their passports (has to be valid for at least three months after your stay) and are allowed to stay in the country up to three months without any registration whatsoever. If you are from other countries then in most cases getting a visa isn't a struggle, as well. You can stay in Iceland for up to six months if you can prove that you are looking for a job. If you want to extend your stay then you have to apply for a so-called 'Kennitala' which is like a social security number or ID. Registering for such number can be done via Register Iceland. You have to either prove that you are studying or working in Iceland, have a solid income and pay your taxes, are married or have family in the country OR register with your own company which is quite a bit of paperwork – but probably still easier than in most other places on this planet. If you want to stay longer than the allowed three months and have any kinds of questions according to it you can always speak to your countries embassy. We can only speak for the German one but everyone has been very kind and helpful whenever we had a problem. You can find your embassy's address, email and phone number via embassy.goabroad.com/embassies-in/iceland
In Iceland, almost everyone speaks English so you can travel the country easily without speaking any Icelandic, at all. Even in the tiniest of village most of the people will understand you. Almost all the useful/important websites come with an English version and at public amenities, doctors, hotlines, take away places and so on people will be able to help you out and understand you. If you are from Europe you don't need a power adapter – you do need a European one if you are visiting from for example the States, though.
Iceland is all year round Greenwich Mean Time (UTC+0). There are no Daylight Saving Time clock changes.
What actually is a problem is bringing your pet. There are incredibly strict guidelines when it comes to importing and your darling will have to stay at home. If you want to stay for several months or plan on immigrating and therefore definitely want to bring your pet then you should know that our furry friends have to be in quarantine for several weeks (four, to be precise but the worst case can be up to four months) until they are finally allowed to enter. There are no permissions granted for a usual holiday. The regulations are this strict because the Icelandic animals are highly prone to infectious diseases due to the geographic isolation of the island. Plus, Icelandic animals are hardly ever vaccinated. If you are coming to Iceland for horseback riding then there's also a few things you have to keep in mind. It is not allowed to bring used leather riding equipment and even if it isn't leather it has to be disinfected and you will have to be able to prove so. Similar rules apply to fishing gear. Make sure to get all necessary information if you want to bring any kind of equipment to Iceland. (You can easily do so via the Federal Foreign Office.)
You might want to study the customs regulations in any case. The amount of alcohol you are allowed to bring is extremely limited, foods are only permitted up to three kg (and absolutely no raw meat of any sorts) and tobacco is also strictly regulated.
3. Icelandic Krona and paying on the island
The currency in Iceland is the Icelandic Krona. Currently, 1€ equals 124,4ISK, 1$ = 105,7ISK and 1£=141,7ISK – but since that fluctuates a lot we highly suggest installing the OANDA app on your phone to always be able to check the recent exchange rate. In actual fact, you will hardly need any cash in Iceland since you can pay almost everything (pharmacy, restaurant, parking tickets, shopping) with a credit card (your signature is usually enough, you won't be asked for your PIN) – even at kiosks, bakeries and the candy floss booth at the street festival. Some souvenir shops even accept foreign currencies like Euro, Pound, and Dollar. Probably the only time you will ever need cash is when taking the public transportation in Reykjavik (if you don't get your ticket in advance). If you do prefer cash anyways then we would recommend exchanging money at the airport in Iceland since that most likely costs less than doing it in your country or withdraw what you need at some ATM (in this case you might want to ask your bank in advance what cost exactly that means for you).
When you pay and the card reader asks if you want to pay in your currency or Krona then make sure to click Krona since that means less cost for you. Another thing to keep in mind is the slight difficulty in taking gas (in case you are planning on renting a car) since Icelanders pay their gas directly at the pump which might not always work with your international credit card. IF it works (it's coming at more and more of the well-frequented stations) then you will need your PIN so make sure you memorize it. The huge stations have a counter at which you can pay, as well. You will have to go in first, name the amount you want to spend and the pump you are using and after paying you can fill up your tank. (Beware, though, that as soon as you leave the big cities most stations do not have a shop and/or service personnel.) So if you intend to leave the main roads – and we highly suggest you do – make sure to get a gasoline charge card which works on all unmanned pumps. (More about that under the 'Rent a car' and 'Taking Gas' section.)
4. Weather and daylight myths
The weather in Iceland is as wild as the country. It's often windy, sometimes even so damn stormy, that it makes leaving the house impossible and the streets are left abandoned. There are calm and sunny days as well, of course. Then, all Icelanders are found outside, crowding the cafés, barbecuing on their porches or in the recreational areas all around their towns. We hardly ever witnessed week-long rain, most of the time the weather is rather constantly changing. In winter, there can be massive snowfall and a white Christmas is no rarity. The question we get asked the most might very well be “Isn't it super cold in Iceland?” and the answer is: “No, not necessarily!” If you look at climate charts then you see average temperatures - which gives you a wrong idea of what the weather actually is like. It's the same all over the world – just look at such a chart for our country of origin, Germany, The average temperatures are always way colder than what we know by experience. Spring can be extremely hot where we grew up and still you would be under the impression that we had 16°C max. in May for all our lives even though we already went for a swim in hot 28°C almost every year. Due to that, we find such charts quite inconvenient and rather tell you what we have learned about the Icelandic weather and temperatures during all the summers and winters we have already spent up north.
Summer is a real lottery – one day it can be up to sunny 20°C, the next down to chilly 10°C, again. In winter, it does get cold, just not as cold as most people seem to believe. The temperatures can be best compared to the ones in Berlin (around 0°C) – but you might experience harsh gusts which make it feel way colder than it actually is. We've experienced hot days in July where we sat outside in tops and shorts but never under -10°C in December. Cold season is unarguably longer than in other parts of the world. While in Germany the first flowers bloom, and we remember always having had coffee in the backyard, we now rather stay in the warm apartment and watch the sun through the windows until end of May/beginning of June in Iceland. If you head out then you still do so in your winter clothes. As soon as the temperatures hit 15°C (which would be the average temperature in summer) all Icelanders head out, most even in a t-shirt by then, and enjoy life in the sun. Just like 0°C can feel way colder due to the wind, 15°C can feel way warmer when the day is calm and the ground not frozen anymore. There is no spring like you might know it or let's rather rephrase it this way: after winter comes spring, and then we are straight back to autumn. Summer (by definition) you won't find in the land of fire and ice. But hey, it's because of this exact climate that the Icelandic nature is as distinct, wildly beautiful as we all know it.
If you don’t like the weather in Iceland - just wait five minutes!
Like mentioned, the weather can change very noticeably from one minute to the other so you should be equipped for all possible atmospheric condition (more about that in the 'Packing List' section.) The best page to check the weather would be the Icelandic site en.vedur.is but keep in mind that the forecast is only reliable for the day. So you best check every morning and then plan the day accordingly - that way you are (relatively) save. To check the road conditions check road.is – in winter, not all roads are passable and even when the country is already transitioning to spring there might still be lockdowns due to the hurricane-like storms. They often hit the southern coast quite hard and since it is impossible to take a different route than the ring road to pass certain areas you might be stuck. On their homepage, you can always check which roads are inaccessible but you might also want to call their service number and ask about what they recommend you do and when you can expect the roads to open up, again.
Just like with the weather conditions there is this one question we always have to answer about the daylight myths. “Isn't it completely dark all winter?” And just like with the temperatures the tales that are being told deviate from the truth. We do not have a polar night in Iceland. The shortest days in December and January are four hours of daylight but that doesn't mean that it is a pitch-black night for the rest of the day since it's dawning quite a while (same for dusk). In January, the amount of daylight starts increasing noticeably, again. (Up to 10mins per day). So within a month, we gain back an hour of daylight which indeed makes quite the difference. You should be aware, though that the daylight in winter is still limited and plan your trips accordingly.
5. How do I best travel to Iceland (Flights / Ferry)?
In general, there are only two ways to travel to Iceland. Via plane and via ferry - while there's obviously a way bigger selection when it comes to planes than when taking the ferry since there is only one single line (Smyril) plying between Hirtshals, Denmark, and Seyðisfjörður, East-Iceland (with a stop in Tórshavn, Faroe Islands). The ship named 'MS Norröna' commutes all year round, the passage is around 48h including two overnights on board. Traveling to Iceland this way is one of the most expensive ways to do it since you have to pay additional fees for your car, the cabin, and food. That way, the cost for the ferry (one way) easily sums up to €900 per person. The upside? You can bring your car or caravan and include a stay on the Faroe Islands which we've been told is really really worth stopping by. You can book directly at Smyril Lines (which is recommended since, all the Iceland experts you can book such trip at are adding their profit margin, obviously) at smyrilline.de. (They also offer an 8-day Viking cruise, if you are looking for something like that.)
When it comes to flying you have quite the selection by now and a wide price range. If you take your time researching and comparing you can score a round-ticket for just €119,80 to Iceland. That means hand luggage only, standard seating and no catering, at all but it is absolutely possible and by far the cheapest option. The sky's the limit when you can and wanna spend your bucks and with Icelandair Saga Class you can opt for a rather luxurious flight. You always land in Keflavik which is around 45mins away from Reykjavik. Even though Reykjavik and Akureyri (and a few more places) have a city airport they are mainly used for inland flights and for passengers traveling to the Faroe Islands and Greenland. There has been some talk that a few bigger airlines will offer flights to Akureyri, capital of the north, in the future – but beware: if you find such flights, they might be ridiculously expensive!
Various airlines are heading to Keflavik during summer (most of them start flying out the end of May/beginning of June and stop mid of September) - in winter it's down to the two Icelandic airlines WOWair and Icelandair.
When booking you should definitely be aware that what appears to be cheap is the plain flight only and you might very well additionally pay for check-in luggage, seating and possible catering on board.
On a WOWair flight, there are no free drinks, at all so make sure to bring your own food and water. (We ate not sure about the international flights, though, but we think you at least have to always pay for snacks on board.)
With Icelandair, every guest has their own little TV which is equipped with one of the most comprehensive programs we have ever seen. Next to movies and series you will find documentaries about Iceland, Icelandic movies and (to our utter delight) stuff like 'Heima' by Sigur Rós – the very DVD that brought us on our journey to Iceland, in the first place. Landing on our favorite soil on the planet listening to 'Starálfur' is an amazing experience – sadly, it's a cost-intensive one, too. Icelandair is more expensive than most of the other airlines so you have to make sure it's within your budget.
You should also be aware that in winter the airport isn't just way less frequented – the flights are often massively delayed, as well. If there is yet another snowstorm raging you might very well wait for hours and hours until you can finally board your plane to or from Iceland. Just keep that in mind in case you, for example, have to book a train to your airport and back. In order to get from Keflavik airport to your accommodation, you will have to use the FlyBus. (If you straight on want to hit the ring road or drive to another town then you are bound to rent a car – there is no way around it.) If your destination is Reykjavik then you don't necessarily need a car. A ticket for the FlyBus costs €25 and is for both ways. A cab would cost you around €100 for one way so that's basically nonsense. The busses are going all day and there is always enough space for everyone arriving, so no worries about not getting a seat or having to wait in line in the cold. If you pay additional ISK2.500 the bus will even take you straight to your hotel. If you are staying in an Airbnb and there is a hotel/hostel close by then just name that one to the driver (or when booking your ticket) in order to get as close to your stay as possible. You can pre-book your ticket at re.is/flybus/ but you can also just buy them either on the plane or at the desk at the Keflavik airport. Besides the FlyBus there's a company called Gray Line Buses which costs the same and is equally good.
Going to Reykjavik by car is super easy and can be done without navigation since it's one single road to follow and there're signs, everywhere.
6. Renting a car in Iceland - Insurances you should book and cost in general
since this is a topic that needs an article of its own...
.. we wrote one. Find every single detail and information you might seek right over here:
7. Traveling Iceland without a car (public transportation)
When we arrived in Iceland in 2015 we spent the first two months without any access to a car, had to completely rely on the public buses and got around perfectly fine. When asking nicely the driver even stopped in between stops so that we didn't have to walk through the rain, for example. You only have to brave the bus schedule and make sure to carry some cash then you won't have any issues to explore Reykjavik and the greater Reykjavik area by bus. The motor coaches do have card-reader units, but we would suggest booking in advance, if possible. There are various vehicles traveling the country, stopping at well-known tourist attractions and driving from one small town to the next – if you indeed want to go around the island you can only do so in summer, though. (Same for the highlands.)
On strætó.is you will find all the schedules and the route network of the entire country, they also have an app for buying tickets and brochures and maps to take with you. If you plan on staying in Reykjavik for a little longer than you might want to think about getting a 9-rides-ticket (around €24 / $28) or a one-month-ticket (around €75 / $88) - you can get those at the main bus station 'Hlemmur' or at the big malls 'Kringlan' and 'Smáralind'. The homepage is super easy to understand and connected to their online shop. A single ticket costs ISK440 and you can buy it with the app (if your credit card is being accepted) or from the bus driver. There is a see-through box right next to the driver where you just throw in either the money for a ticket or the ticket itself. If you plan on switching buses then ask the driver to print out your ticket so you can access the next bus. With one ticket you can ride on the buses for 75 minutes, no matter what line or direction. You can go quite far out of downtown and visit the suburbs and recreational areas. At strætó.is you'll also find a live map where you can track/follow the bus you are waiting to see if it's delayed and have them put together your perfect schedule. Beware: buses are not running throughout the night and very occasionally during the early morning.
8. Accommodation (Recommendations, renting a cabin, cheaper options etc.)
We could easily turn this into the most gigantic chapter of the entire article but after all, there is not much to say apart from ICELAND IS INCREDIBLY EXPENSIVE! There are various options of what you can book and where you can stay: hostels, hotels, Cabins, AirBnB, Camping (check the next chapter for loads of info on that), camper vans and Couchsurfing. There literally is no such thing as a cheap hotel or hostel – compared to every other place in the world, it's cost-intensive, all of it. Iceland's recently been nominated the world's most expensive place for a holiday so that's that. There are beautiful, modern, well-equipped hotels all over the island, with places like Hotel Borg or the Tower Suites (both Reykjavik), Hotel Rangá (south), Deplar Farm (north) and the Fosshotel at Lake Mývatn (also north) being especially amazing. So if you have the budget you can go all in and indulge in luxurious stays. If you look for a beautiful apartment to rent then the 'Room with a view', and 'Apartment K' are very recommendable. There are so many sites all over the internet where you can check for hotels and apartments, compare prices and pre-book your stay that we won't even bother mentioning them.
You can find hostels all over the country. Kex hostel in downtown Reykjavik most likely being the most famous of them. Even though the atmosphere is really nice, the food quite good and the crowd really hip – it's not one of our favs. Kex is expensive, way more than a hostel should be. If you come for the concerts then do so (the festivals are indeed super awesome) but if you are looking for a cheaper stay then this isn't your first choice.
You might want to check out the HI hostel site, instead which offers 30 unique locations and affordable stays all over Iceland and supports sustainable and responsible tourism! (hostel.is/) If you simply google 'hostels in Iceland' then you will come across pages like hostelworld, where you get an overview of all available hostels in Iceland and can compare prices, room options etc.
If you want to rent a camper van then there're countless possibilities for you, as well. We didn't hear awesome stuff about Happy Camper (which everyone seems to opt for, anyway) but there are vendors like campervaniceland.com, campeasy.com or the quirky (and personal fav') kukucampers.is which you can all browse through and will definitely find what you are looking for. If you rather want to go for perfectly equipped caravans then you should check out camperrentaliceland.com or icelandcampervans.com, who both offer motorhomes and lots of information about traveling Iceland by caravan, on top of it.
Last but not least you have the option of couch surfing in Iceland. Especially young people love to connect with visitors from all over the world and are willing to let you crush for a night or two. If that sounds interesting, then check couchsurfing.com/iceland where you'll meet like-minded people, can apply for a stay at someone's home, check for car sharing activities and way more. Certainly, the cheapest way to travel the country.
Renting a cabin in Iceland is easy – but like everything else, it's gonna be more cost intensive than what you are used to. You can book cabins through various platforms (next to Airbnb) like bungalo.com (an Icelandic company) or homeaway.co.uk where you can find everything from tiny cabins to luxurious houses in the countryside. We do recommend booking a cabin through either one of those platforms (especially as it is a local rental) or to opt for Airbnb! We are huge fans of the platform since (in our experience) it's where you find the cheapest, unique and perfectly located stays in Iceland, especially if you are looking for a summerhouse, a cabin with hot pot, getting to know the locals, the lifestyle etc. We've put together a list with favorite accommodations all around the country which you can find right here:
If you are going to rather remote places like the western fjords then make sure to check AirBnB before looking for other options since you might easily find a real gem there. We for example once booked an entire house with a porch overlooking the ocean, a BBQ, a parking space and three bedrooms for less than every hotel room available in the entire west fjords. If you want to book via Airbnb but you're not having an account, yet then make sure to sign in via our link. That way you get €21 signed onto your account which you can use straight for your first booking.
9. (Wild) camping in Iceland
since this is a topic that needs an article of its own...
...we wrote one. Find every single detail and information you might seek regarding regulations, prices of campgrounds and how to save some serious money right over here:
10. Restaurants and Grocery shopping (for vegetarians and vegans)
since this is a topic that needs an article of its own, as well...
...we, of course, wrote one. Find every single detail and information you might seek about where to eat in Reykjavik (especially as a vegetarian/vegan) and where to best shop for food supplies, right over here:
Since we did not cover shopping hours in said guide - here're a few words about those: most shops and grocery stores in Iceland are open seven days a week which (obviously) includes Sunday. There are no regularized shop hours so you always have to check when the store close to you or wherever you intend to buy your food at will open and close throughout the week – it most likely varies from day to day. Some stores are open 24/7, especially most of the '10/11' – beware though – these are the most expensive stores around the country! In general, you could say that during the summer months the stores will most likely be open from 09:00 am to 06:00 pm. Keep in mind that the opening hours for the liquor stores are different and that the post office and banks are only open Monday to Friday 09:15 am to 04:00 pm.
11. Sight seeing: must sees, hidden gems, day trips and more
Let's face it: there is SO much to see all over Iceland, and we obviously can't cover it all with a simple chapter in an already massive travel guide. What you want and can see depends so much on how long you are staying, what your preferences are (culture, nature, hikes …), what your budget is and what kind of car you are renting.
If you don't mind crowds then we actually do suggest driving the famous 'Golden Circle' and get a first impression of this amazing country you are visiting. Check out Þingvellir National Park and visit 'Öxarafoss' waterfall, continue to the geysers and watch 'Strokkur' erupt every seven minutes. Then drive to magical and highly impressive 'Gullfoss' waterfall which really should be on your Iceland itinerary. Maybe book a table at the 'Friðheimar' tomato farm and indulge in their amazing food and then end your day visiting 'Kerið' crater before you head back home.
Then there's the entire southern coast with all the beautiful waterfalls, cliffs, black sand beaches, basalt columns, gigantic waves, cute lighthouses and way WAY more which you actually need at least two full days for if you really wanna see it all (and discover some hidden gems, too). Further up, if you are headed southeast you come across world-famous Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon with its massive chunks of ice. We HIGHLY recommend a visit.
– it's so worth getting out of the car and walking along the black sand beach covered in ice! Traveling around the island could easily take you four weeks if you want to stop at all those natural wonders, must-sees and hidden gems. Nailing it down to for example ten days is a matter of prioritizing. If you are staying in Reykjavik then there are countless day trips you can plan and so much to see surrounding the greater capital area. You can also spend an entire day just roaming the northernmost capital of the world since it is that versatile and interesting. Five days in the capital and you can check out the Golden Circle, the peninsula (and geopark) Reykjanes, the peninsula Snæfesllsnes, take the ferry to the Westman Islands and one day explore the area around Borganes with countless waterfalls, the cave system 'Surtshellir' and one of everybody's fav hikes 'Glymur' on the way. As we said, we can't write a simple chapter of all those hundreds of places you might be interested in and it would even be too much for an article so here is what we're gonna do: put together a list of all the single articles we wrote about specific day trips, must-sees and recommended stops so you can take your time and read whatever you are interested in the most. It's not much at the moment, but we have SO MANY articles coming up in the next couple of months (already written and ready to be published) that you might want to check back on this list now and then.
All our articles written about unique sights and perfect (day-)trips in Iceland:
Way more to come, soon!! Up next:
Snæfesllsnes Peninsula: the perfect day trip itinerary (winter edition)
A road trip down south – 3 days itinerary
48 hours in Reykjavik /must sees and dos
Reykjanes peninsula Itinerary – the ultimate day trip (winter edition)
Welcome to Reykjanes peninsula – one of the most underrated parts of Iceland. Today we want to equip you with the perfect Reykjanes day trip itinerary for the darker half of the year. What to keep in mind, what to see, where to eat and where to stop.
12. Hikes and bike trips, other (outdoor) sports and guided trips suggestions
13. Hot springs and streams (recommendations and tips)
since this is a topic that needs an article of its own...
...we wrote one. Find every single detail and information you might seek regarding bathing rules, most overrated springs, utmost beautiful streams and personal favs' & suggestions right over here:
14. Aurora Borealis – magical Northern Lights
since this is a topic that needs an article of its own, yet again...
...we of course wrote one. Find every single detail and information you might seek about where and how to definitely see the magical green lights dance through the night, right over here:
15. Health insurance, doctors and pharmacies
Make sure to get a proper travel health insurance. If your travel insurance card has the EU stars on the back that means that you are covered in case of emergency while traveling the European Union and Iceland, as well. With such card, you can claim ambulant and stationary treatment but there can always come up unexpected issues and you really are better off with an additional travel health insurance. It's cheap(-ish) and saves you a lot of nerves and problems in case something happens. With Iceland being such a wild country we can't stress enough how important such extra cover for your health can be. Depending on your age and the length of your stay you might pay something around €20/$25 and that really is worth it! Make sure to book your insurance before you leave – you can't get one while already traveling.
Icelanders are a pretty healthy crowd – probably because of the clear air and incredibly clean water. Still, they have great doctors on that secluded island and you can get all meds you might need. If you are in search of some specific pills/creams/drops then look our for stores named Apótek or Heilsuhúsið (the latter for a more traditional, nature-based medical treatment) – those are open during the regular shopping hours but of course there also are some emergency pharmacies (especially in the
big towns like Reykjavik and Akureyri) where you can stop by, all night (they even have drive-by pharmacies).
Next to regular doctors you will find so-called health centers which you can go to whenever there is an emergency. Of course, the hospitals also do have an ER. The latter only applies to bigger towns, though and is not granted in the tiny villages and remote farms. If you leave the main roads (especially when headed to the highlands) then you should definitely take an emergency medical set with you including some main meds, plaster, blister patches and disinfection – you are off the grid and getting help might take a while. If anything serious happens there is a rescue service which can get you via ambulance or even helicopter. The Icelandic rescue team is highly trained and can perfectly deal with such situations. (You can reach them 24/7 via the number 112). The organization 'Iceland 112' has an app with which you can submit your exact GPS location via one click in case you are seriously injured and need immediate help. If you are close to a bigger town and in trouble then head straight to a hospital If you need help. If it can wait a few hours then head to one of the public health centers ('minor' health issues like bladder infections, serious colds etc.) Expect some waiting time – especially in Reykjavik it can get quite crowded during high season!
More information about health care and your safety in the land of fire and ice can be found at:
On this platform you can also submit – and we suggest doing so if you go out for a several-days-long hike, plan to roam extremely off-grid or go somewhere really remote – your planned trips and tours. If something is happening and you do not have any signal then a patrol will be sent out to get you if you are not back by the date you previously submitted.
16. Winter specific information
17. What to pack for your trip to Iceland
Free mini guide including downloadable packing lists!
To make packing utmost easy for you we did not simply write a chapter or article, we instead created a free mini guide for you, including downloadable packing lists, which gives you an overview over what to bring, what to keep in mind and which clothes we absolutely recommend.
18. Additional info like important phone numbers and websites
plus a few words in Icelandic and some information about flora and fauna
Even though you might not be expecting it, Iceland can, despite its rough nature, indeed be traveled with a physical handicap. Most hotels and restaurants are equipped/built accordingly and will mention so on their homepage. Grocery stores are mostly accessible for wheelchair users, same for the ferries and all airlines. A lot of (bus) companies offer special tours. At obi.is you can find a lot of information about disability-friendly hotels and the major sights and their accessibility. At icelandunlimited.is you can find tours and travel solutions.
Some general information
You can get maps of Iceland for free at all tourist information and most gas stations.
Your cell phone will have perfect signal almost everywhere on the island - only when roaming the highlands you might be cut off from civilization, completely. All townships over 200 inhabitants are covered by GSM. The Icelandic phone companies are Siminn, Vodafone, TAL and NOVA and they all offer phone-cards – just in case you don't have internet and telephone service abroad covered in your contract. You can buy said phone-cards at all manned gas stations of the country.
For emergency calls (including police, ambulance, emergency doctor and fire brigade): 112
Police Reykjavik: +354 551 1166
Emergency Medical Service Reykjavik: +354 522 1230
Hospital Reykjavik: +354 525 1000
Health Care Centers: +354 585 1300 (www.heilsugaeslan.is)
Weather Forecast: +354 90 20 600
Info Service Road Conditions: +354 1777 or 1778
Taxi Service Reykjavik: +354 588 5522
The Icelandic area code is +354
Icelandic is an extremely difficult language and considered one of the top most difficult to learn languages on planet earth for a reason. The sounds and letters (two of them being the old Norse runes ð and þ which only survived due to Iceland being so remote and secluded) are almost impossible to pronounce for all English speakers and most other (European) languages. Icelandic is an old language that hardly ever changed – therefore, a lot of Icelanders are still able to read the original scripts of their ancient viking sagas. Here's a few things you might want to know:
Toilets (snyrting) for women are marked with the word “konur”, those for men with “karlar”. 😉
Good morning / good day: góðan daginn
Please: gerðu svo vel
Thank you (so much): takk (fyrir)
Good night: góða nótt
Have a safe trip: góða ferð
Goodbye: bless (bless)
Do you speak English?: talar þú ensku?
I don't speak Icelandic: ég tala ekki íslensk
Vegetation in Iceland is limited but against all prejudices there "wouldn't be a single tree in entire Iceland" the country does have forested areas, especially in the eastern part. Flowers indeed are rare, not until May that some colorful friends show up between the moss. End of June, beginning of July the arctic lupine (also known as Alaskan lupine) is covering the country with endless hues of purple – an incredible sight. All lichens and moss are extremely sensitive and once you step on them (or damage them otherwise) it takes years for those delicate plants to recover. Due to the rather mild climate, summer is insanely green and a variety of wildflowers blossoms. Quite a few different berries can be picked in the end of summer, there's also masses of wild rhubarb to harvest, then.
Next to countless breeds of birds (Iceland is a dream for every ornithologist) the country is inhabited by the extremely cute puffin, Icelandic horses (never call them pony, Icelanders will be offended), sheep, reindeer and arctic foxes. Every now and then an ice bear arrives at the northern shore of Iceland, drifting over from the arctic. Furthermore, every single breed of whale living on this planet can be found in the ocean surrounding the island where they meet dolphins and one or the other Greenland shark.
And this is where our guide comes to an end. If you seek further information then you can either check the FAQ at our 'About' or contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org. If you wanna stay on top of new articles and mini guides then make sure to subscribe to our newsletter, where we send out an overview of all newly released articles once a month and tend to add one or the other free goodie. Thanks for reading, we hope you found what you were looking for! (And thanks a ton for sharing this piece of content with whomever it might be helpful for, as well)!
Takk fyrir and bless bless! <3
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