Iceland, the land of fire and ice, is a breathtaking Nordic island
nation with awe-inspiring landscapes, ranging from dramatic volcanic
mountains to vast glaciers. It is home to stunning geological
formations, geothermal pools, and a rich Viking heritage. With its
thriving arts and music scene, friendly locals, and an abundance of
outdoor activities, Iceland offers a unique and unforgettable travel
experience. We hope this Iceland travel guide will help you plan your
trip to Iceland.
Table of Contents
Iceland Travel Guide: When to Visit
The best time to visit Iceland depends on your preferences and interests:
Summer (June – August): This is the high season, with long days, milder temperatures, and the famous midnight sun. Summer is the perfect time for sightseeing, hiking, wildlife watching, and road tripping, as most roads, including the popular Ring Road, are easily accessible. However, expect higher prices and more tourists during this time.
Shoulder Season (May, September – October): These months offer a balance between favorable weather conditions and fewer tourists. It can be an excellent time for road tripping, as you can still enjoy many of Iceland’s natural attractions without the summer crowds.
Winter (December – March): For those who want to experience the Northern Lights, snowy landscapes, and winter sports, this is the ideal time to visit. Keep in mind that days are shorter, and the weather can be unpredictable, with some roads becoming impassable due to snow and ice.
When planning your trip, consider your interests and the activities you want to engage in, as well as the weather conditions and tourist crowds.
Iceland Travel Guide: How to Get There
There are several options for reaching Iceland, depending on your departure location and preferences:
By Air: The primary gateway to Iceland is Keflavik International Airport (KEF), located approximately 50 km (31 miles) from the capital city, Reykjavik. Several major airlines offer direct flights from numerous cities in Europe, such as London, Paris, and Amsterdam, as well as from North American cities like New York, Toronto, and Los Angeles. Flight durations vary based on the departure location, with flights from Europe typically taking 3 to 4 hours, and those from North America taking 5 to 7 hours. The best way to reach the city center of Reykjavik is by booking a shuttle. We used FlyBus and the experience was nice and efficient.Several budget airlines offer flights to Keflavik International Airport (KEF) in Iceland. Here are a few popular options, along with their official websites:easyJet: A British low-cost airline offering flights to Iceland from various European cities.Wizz Air: A Hungarian low-cost airline with flights to Iceland from select European destinations.Ryanair: An Irish low-cost airline that operates flights to Iceland from different cities in Europe.
Transavia: A Dutch low-cost airline that connects Iceland with cities in the Netherlands and France.
Vueling: A Spanish low-cost airline providing flights to Iceland from certain European cities.
PLAY Airlines is an Icelandic low-cost airline that operates flights to Keflavik International Airport (KEF) from various destinations in Europe and North America.
By Ferry: The Smyril Line operates a weekly ferry service between Hirtshals, Denmark, and Seydisfjordur, Iceland, with a stopover in the Faroe Islands. The journey takes approximately two days and offers travelers the option to bring their own vehicles, making it a popular choice for road trippers. Keep in mind that this option is more time-consuming and can be more expensive than flying, but it provides a unique travel experience.
By Cruise: Some cruise lines include Iceland as a destination in their itineraries, typically as part of a broader North Atlantic or Arctic cruise. While this option doesn’t allow for an in-depth exploration of the country, it can be a convenient way to visit some of Iceland’s coastal attractions and cities.
Iceland Travel Guide: Getting Around
Exploring Iceland can be a thrilling experience, and there are several transportation options to help you navigate the country:
Car Rental: Renting a car is the most popular and flexible way to explore Iceland. It allows you to travel at your own pace and visit off-the-beaten-path locations. Ensure you have a valid driver’s license and are familiar with local driving rules and regulations. Consider renting a 4×4 vehicle if you plan to drive on gravel roads or in the highlands. Major car rental companies, as well as local providers, are available at Keflavik International Airport and in Reykjavik. In the winter time it might be best to consider a guided tour because they have more insight on the snowy/icy weather and road closures. Also, be prepared that road closures can happen and you could get stuck in an area for a few days.
Public Transportation: While Iceland’s public transport system is limited, buses are available for intercity travel. The main bus operator, Strætó, runs services in Reykjavik and between major towns. Other companies like Reykjavik Excursions and Sterna Travel offer scheduled routes to popular tourist destinations. Keep in mind that bus services may be infrequent, especially in rural areas.
Guided Tours: Numerous companies offer guided tours to popular attractions, such as the Golden Circle, the South Coast, and the Glacier Lagoon. These tours typically include transportation, a knowledgeable guide, and sometimes meals. This option is ideal for travelers who prefer a more structured experience or do not wish to drive themselves. They also help navigate the unpredictable weather. We recommend NiceTravel, they were affordable, only operate small group tours and were easy to work with.
Domestic Flights:Air Iceland Connect and Eagle Air offer domestic flights between Reykjavik and several towns across the country. This option can save time when traveling between distant regions, but it can be more expensive than other modes of transportation.
When planning your trip, consider factors such as budget, personal preferences, and the destinations you wish to visit to choose the most suitable mode of transportation for your Icelandic adventure.
Iceland Travel Tips
Be prepared for changing weather: Iceland’s weather can be unpredictable, with rain, sunshine, and strong winds all possible in a single day. Bring waterproof and windproof clothing, as well as good quality shoes or boots suitable for various terrains. This should also be taken into account when driving across Iceland.
Respect the environment: Stay on marked trails, don’t pick plants, and leave no trace.
Try local cuisine: Don’t miss out on traditional Icelandic dishes like Skyr, Pylsur (hot dogs), Artic Charr, Meat Soup, Icelandic Lamb, and Hákarl (fermented shark – it tastes awful but it’s an experience?).
Book accommodations in advance: Iceland’s popularity as a tourist destination and lack of hotel/lodging inventory means that accommodations can fill up quickly, especially during the high season. Booking your lodging in advance ensures you have a comfortable place to stay.
Visit local swimming pools and hot springs: Iceland is famous for its geothermal pools and hot springs. Don’t miss out on experiencing the relaxing and rejuvenating effects of soaking in these naturally heated waters. Popular options include the Blue Lagoon, Sky Lagoon, Mývatn Nature Baths, and numerous local pools in Reykjavik such as Laugardalslaug.
Stay safe while exploring: Pay attention to local warnings and guidelines, particularly when visiting glaciers, volcanic areas, or geothermal sites. Don’t venture too close to cliff edges, and avoid crossing rivers unless you are familiar with the proper technique and have a suitable vehicle. Always let someone know your travel plans and check the weather forecast before embarking on hikes or other outdoor adventures.
Take advantage of free attractions: Many of Iceland’s natural wonders, such as waterfalls, geothermal areas, and national parks, are free to visit. Make the most of these opportunities to enjoy Iceland’s beauty without incurring additional costs.
Cook your own meals: Eating out in Iceland can be expensive. So, if you are looking to save money do so by purchasing groceries from local supermarkets, such as Bonus or Kronan, and preparing your own meals. Many accommodations offer shared kitchen facilities or you can stay at an apartment hotel.
Bring a reusable water bottle: Iceland is known for its clean and fresh tap water. Refill your water bottle instead of buying bottled water to save money and reduce plastic waste.
Use the scooters: Getting around in Reykjavik is easy and the numerous amount of scooters from Hopp and Zolo make it easy to zip around the city quickly.
See the Northern Lights: Iceland is one of the best places in the world to see the northern lights but even then you have to get real lucky that the weather is clear and that there is a strong storm. We were lucky enough to see it a few time so maybe you will be too! The winter and early spring is a must because you need darkness to see them.
Iceland Travel Guide: Typical Costs
Budget: Hostels and budget guesthouses in Iceland range from $30 to $60 per night. For example, in Reykjavik, you can find a dorm bed in a centrally located hostel for about $30-45.
Mid-Range: Mid-range hotels and private accommodations, such as Airbnbs, generally cost between $90 and $180 per night. This range typically includes 3-star hotels or well-located private accommodations.
Luxury: Luxury hotels and premium vacation rentals in Iceland range from $225 to $450+ per night. High-end hotels in Reykjavik or other popular tourist areas can reach upwards of $300 per night for a deluxe room.
Budget: Budget dining options in Iceland, including street food and local eateries, can cost between $10 and $30 per meal. For instance, a quick meal like a hot dog or a slice of pizza can cost around $10, while a traditional Icelandic meal at a local eatery can cost around $25-30.
Mid-Range: A meal at a mid-range restaurant in Iceland can cost between $45 and $90. This range includes places where you can get a main course and a drink or a multi-course meal at a local restaurant.
Luxury: High-end dining at the best restaurants in Iceland can cost $120+ per person. This includes renowned establishments like Dill in Reykjavik, where a tasting menu can easily reach $180 or more.
Budget: Budget travelers in Iceland can rely on public transportation, with city bus fares costing around $3 per ride. Intercity buses are also an affordable way to travel, with tickets usually ranging from $30 to $90, depending on the distance.
Mid-Range: For those who want a bit more convenience, taxis and car rentals are available. Taxi fares typically start around $3.50 and then $2.50 for each subsequent kilometer. Car rentals can cost from $60 per day.
Luxury: For luxury transportation, consider hiring a private car or a chauffeur service. These services are variable in price, starting from around $150 for a short journey to $450+ for a full day.