Iceland Travel Tips
Welcome to the Land of Fire and Ice; Iceland is so incredibly beautiful, it’s no wonder it’s become one of the world’s hottest destinations in recent years. Here, dramatic landscapes, volcanoes emptying into icy seas, the alluring beauty of the Northern Lights and thermal hot spas that are said to have healing powers all come together on one island. Whether you are considering traveling independently or on a guided tour of Iceland, you might be overwhelmed by the seemingly endless opportunities for exploration. Where to begin? We’ve rounded up the facts, highlights, and Iceland travel tips you should know.
Covering just 40,000 square miles with a moderate population of just about 391,000, the main island of Iceland is a nation with strong connections to family and nature. The country is also comprised of about 30 minor outlying islands. Here are some basic facts to get started.
- Iceland does require visitors to have a valid and current passport for entry. The passport should remain valid for at least 3 months post travel. However, guests do not need to secure a Visa for stays shorter than 90 days in length.
- No additional vaccines are required for entry, though the Center for Disease Control highly recommends that all Americans are up-to-date on immunizations before traveling.
- Crime rates are incredibly low in Iceland, with instances of violent crime even rarer yet. Take care to guard your vital documents and valuables and you should be just fine.
- The local emergency assistance number is 112. There is also a US Embassy to help American Citizens while traveling abroad.
- The government is a parliamentary constitution. This means that the president is elected by popular vote but, unlike the USA, is not subject to any term limits. There is also a judicial branch and a legislative body that is chosen by popular vote once every four years.
- The official language is Icelandic. The language is considered Northern Germanic and is derived from Old Norse. English is also widely spoken and understood.
- The currency is the Icelandic krona, and generally trades at a rate around 100 krona per 1 USD.
- Icelandic people pride themselves on being strong naturalists. The island has been ranked 13th by Yale University in their 2012 index of Environmental Performance.
With a name like Iceland, the natural assumption is that this North Atlantic island is covered by ice. However, the name is deceiving. In fact, Iceland rarely sees ice incursions, the last one occurring in 1969! The reality is that, while the country is positioned just below the Artic Ocean, the Gulf Stream brings cool, temperate summers and relatively mild winters.
The result of that warm current is that the climate is most closely likened to the Alaskan Peninsula or the Aleutian Islands as opposed to other land masses that lie at a similar latitude. While summertime highs don’t tend to climb above roughly 55°F, winter lows rarely fall below 25°F.
Geographically, Iceland is considered a part of Europe, even though it nearly splits the difference between Europe and North America. It is formally considered part of the Mid-Atlantic Range and is home to deep, ice cut Fjords as well as lava fields and volcanoes.
The island is widely known for its abundance of volcanoes. With hundreds of volcanoes, more than 30 of them considered active, the island is composed mainly of basalt. And volcanoes aren’t the only thing erupting in Iceland. Forget about “Old Faithful,” the oldest known geyser on planet Earth can be found in Iceland, and erupts roughly every 10 minutes year round.
Highlights not to miss
Reykjavik: Get lost in Reykjavik, the world’s northernmost capital. Home to the largest population in Iceland and the country’s earliest settlement, the city offers visitors a variety of history and culture to explore. Reykjavik is also noted as one of the greenest, safest, and cleanest cities in the world, meaning you can feel safe exploring in a group or on your own, even on long winter nights. Expand your cultural awareness while in Iceland by visiting the historical political and religious site of Bishopric of Skalholt, just about an hour’s drive from the city.
The Blue Lagoon: No trip to ‘The Land of Giants’ is complete without a stop at this geothermal spa, one of the most photographed attractions in all of Iceland. Located outside Reykjavik, the Lagoon has been called one of the “25 wonders of the world” for its mineral rich waters originating more than 2,000 meters below the Earth’s surface. That water’s natural silica, paired with minerals and algae, give the lagoon its celebrated light blue hue and cloudy appearance. Best of all, the water stays at a comfortable temperature of 98-104°F year round.
Volcanoes: With hundreds of volcanoes and more than 30 active systems, Iceland is home to several notable peaks, ranging from 1,200-2,600 feet. Volcanic activity is closely monitored here and while eruptions are not frequent, they do happen. Iceland is also home to the youngest volcanic island is the world, Surtsey, formed in 1963. But don’t plan on visiting the island on your trip—it’s currently only accessible to scientists studying new land growth.
Glaciers: Unsurprisingly, Iceland is home to many glaciers. A must visit destination is the Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon, where high tide fills in the sea level land bringing with it discarded icebergs from Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, an outlet of Vatnajökull glacier, to create the picturesque lagoon. Other impressive glaciers worth noting include the blue icebergs of Lake Jokulsarlon, Vatnajökull, which is the largest glacier in Europe, and Snæfellsjökull, which is a volcano whose crater is covered by a glacier. Truly, fire and ice meeting in one place.
Waterfalls: So much of Iceland’s beauty is built around dramatic scenery, and its many stunning waterfalls are no exception. A few of the most notable include:
Popular Guided Tours of Iceland
Scenic Iceland & the Northern Lights: Winter
Our shortest adventure through Iceland, this eight day trip showcases the very best of Iceland in a convenient timeframe. The adventure kicks off in the dark winter’s evening in Reykjavik seeking out the natural show that is the Aurora Borealis. Every evening of this trip includes time for spotting this natural show that only Mother Nature and lady luck can guarantee seats to. Trek south to Vik to see to Iceland’s newest geothermal heat site at Hellisheidavirkjun and take in the beauty of two raging waterfalls (Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss) and two fiery volcanoes (Hekla & EyjaFjallajokull). You’ll also see the “Niagara of Iceland” on a visit to the mighty GullFloss waterfall. As the trip winds down, you’ll spend a day exploring Iceland’s governmental history in Thingvellir and visit the homes of famed poets and medieval scholars. You’ll also have a chance to witness Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls, and Deildartunguhver, Europe‘s most powerful hot spring. Finally, spend a full day exploring Reykjavik and her famed Blue Lagoon, a warm bath of mineral rich waters surrounded by snowcapped mountains. Click here to learn more.
Natural Wonders of Iceland
At 10 days in length, this trip leaves no stone uncovered as you travel through the Land of Fire and Ice. You’ll enjoy Iceland’s fascinating geological and ecological highlights during this 10 day journey. Spend a day exploring the capital city of Reykjavik before traveling east to Iceland’s newest geothermal heat site at Hellisheidavirkjun and ultimately ending at the hot springs at Geysir. You’ll also have a change to see the “Niagra of Iceland” with a stop at the mighty GullFloss waterfall. Your trip also includes a visit to the ancient religious site of Bishopric of Skalholt. And, as no trip to Iceland is complete without some level of glacial exploration, this trip also includes a day of dramatic scenery along the southern coast to see black sand beaches, the largest glacier in Europe, and the smaller blue icebergs of Lake Jokulsarlon. Make your way to the most powerful waterfall in Europe, Dettifoss, as well as Godafoss, known as the ‘Waterfall of the Gods.’ This trip winds down with a visit to Snaefellsjokull National Park where you will find Iceland’s most active volcano, Grimsvotn, as well as Snæfellsjökull Glacier, black lava fields and a yellow beach. The trip ends on a relaxing note with time to unwind at the world famous Blue Lagoon. Click here to learn more.
Our most immersive experience, this eleven day experience traces the borders of Iceland, from the Capital city of Reykjavik, to the northern most city of Siglufjordur, back around to the western tip, a stop in southerly Vik, and ending back in Reykjavik. Along the way you’ll see the mighty waterfalls of Gullfoss, Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, Dettifoss, Godafoss And experience a rich cultural experience when you visit Thorbergur Center. The trip includes stops in two of Iceland’s best national parks; Thingvellir and Skaftafell National Parks. This trip also introduces experiences in Iceland’s lava fields of Eldhraun and the birthplace of icebergs, Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon. You’ll also experience sweeping views of ice carved fjords and the stunning simplicity of Lake Lagarfljot. Spend two nights exploring the highland desert plateau Mödrudalsöræfi, and the boiling mud pools of Námaskard pass. The trip also includes a visit to Snæfellsjökull glacier in a picturesque area surrounded by black and yellow sand beaches. Finally- soak in the mineral rich waters of famed Blue Lagoon. Click here to learn more.
We recommend packing in layers throughout the year. Winter travelers should bring all the essentials to stay warm and comfortable, including a scarf, sweater, gloves, hat and winter jacket. To save space in your suitcase, consider packing a neutral color palette that can be easily mixed and matched to create a variety of different outfits. For more helpful ideas, take a look at our Essential Packing Tips and GET Packing List.
Learn more about guided tours of Iceland. Questions? Call a Travel Specialist at 1-977-622-9109.