Iceland is one of my favorite travel destinations. It amazes me how versatile this country is. You can be driving alongside luscious green grass and babbling clear brooks and the next minute be in a desolate area, victim of a volcanic eruption or even relaxing in one of the natural geothermal pools. It really is incredible. One of the best parts of traveling to this country, is that all of the top sites to see are outdoors so you aren't limited by cost or hours of operation. This travel guide will give you all you need to know for planning your next trip to Iceland, even if you are short on time!
When to Go to Iceland
Iceland is one of those countries that you can visit year round, as long as you are prepared for varying temperatures and you know what you can and can't see during the month you chose.
Winter can be a beautiful time to visit but temperatures can plummet -22°F (-30°C) with December to February being particularly icy months. If you choose to go during this time, be sure to pack proper thermal gear!
Interested in viewing the northern lights? They are visible September until April but February to March and September to October are known as the best months to see them
Late November through December and January are the times where there are barely any hours of daylight. If all you want to see are the northern lights, this won't affect you but I do not recommend going during this time if you want to be outdoors for prolonged periods of time
June and July are the months of the midnight sun, meaning that it is not uncommon for the sun to start setting around 10 pm. It doesn't truly get dark during these months so if you have trouble sleeping at night this may not be the best time for you to visit. I personally went during July and loved it because more hours of daylight meant more hours exploring and the temperatures were much more mild.
No matter what time you go, be prepared for changing temperatures and pack accordingly! As locals say, there is no bad weather, just bad clothes.
Where to Stay in Iceland
If you are traveling to more than just Reykjavik, I highly recommend that you rent a car and some camping gear. Campsites are not only plentiful but are extremely cost effective. They provide you with the flexibility to stop for the night whenever and wherever you want. You can find them at least every mile and they usually cost $10 or less for the night. If you aren't much of a camper, you can look into hotels around your route but they are a little more scarce so I recommend booking well in advance. This site allows you to rent camping gear from Reykjavik which I highly recommend so that you do not have to bring your own gear from your home country. It's easy and affordable.
Top Things to See and Do in Iceland
Drive the Ring Road - This is without a doubt the best way to see Iceland. The great part about the ring road is that it is one road that spans the circumference of Iceland so it's very easy to navigate without a set itinerary. All of the major sights are clearly marked with road signs so you can stop at your leisure in addition to the below destinations.
Seyðisfjörður - A quaint little picturesque town that is worth walking through and taking a little break. My favorite thing to do was to stop for a cup of coffee and a slice of cake in these kind of towns
Thingvellir national park - Located just under an hour away from Reykjavik, this national park is part of the Golden Circle route of Iceland
Dettifoss Waterfall - The most powerful waterfall in Europe. Though the drive is a little rough, down a gravel road, this waterfall is certainly worth a stop
Kerid Crater -a volcanic crater lake located in the Grímsnes area in south Iceland
Hverir geothermal field - A site that proves yet again how versatile Iceland's terrain is. You can see bubbling mud pools, hissing fumaroles and sticky red soil.
Vik - quaint little town that is an ideal spot to spend the night and grab some dinner
Akureyri - A beautiful city on the water and well worth a day exploring. There are gardens, quaint architecture, and different shops and restaurants to explore
Reynisfjara Beach - stunning black sand beach that is known for puffins nesting. If you're lucky you'll catch sight of them
Tour Kaldi Brewery - Not too far from Akureyri, is a local brewery. We called ahead and arranged a private tour which included a lot tastings and a glass for less than ten bucks. Each taste was a full glass so this was one of my favorite stops.
Fjadragljufur canyon - a must see and one of the must stunning sites of Iceland
Viti Crater - A huge explosion crater, about 300 metres in diameter. The crater was formed during a massive volcanic eruption.
Svartifoss waterfall - Located in Skaftafell National Park. We only hiked to see the waterfall but if you enjoy hiking then I recommend this park because there are dozens of trails of varying length and difficulty.
Whale watching at Husavik - layer up for this one because it is cold on the water. Whale watching is quite the experience. It’s incredible to see such magnificent creatures. Talk about another feeling small moment.
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon - Do not miss this lagoon! A large glacial lake, there is plenty of beautiful vantage points and you can even take a boat tour amongst the glaciers
Blue Lagoon - a geothermal spa that is a must see. Yes, it is a touristy but it is still very worth experiencing. It's relaxing and quite the unique experience
Fossardalur Waterfall - The view is certainly worth it even though it gave me a few panic attacks from the height
Reykjavik - capital and largest city of Iceland. It is home to an impressive collection of interesting attractions and places of historic significance
Take Part in Reykjavik's Nightlife - Nightlife in Reykjavik is something you have to do. The bars/clubs are all located within walking distance of each other and they are open until the wee hours of the morning. The best part? While you're partying the night away, local food vendors set up in the central square. It's magical to walk outside and have a plethora of drunk food options
Local Food to Try in Iceland.
Skyr Cake - Skyr is an Icelandic yogurt-like low-fat dairy product unique to Iceland with rich flavor and a creamy thick texture and when it is made into a cake it is absolute heaven. The cake tasted like cheesecake but was lighter and fluffier and lined with a buttery graham cracker crust that melted in your mouth
Icelandic Hotdog - They’re made mostly from Icelandic lamb, along with a bit of pork and beef. They are topped with raw white onions and crispy fried onions, ketchup, sweet brown mustard called pylsusinnep, and remoulade, a sauce made with mayo, capers, mustard, and herbs. Hot dogs aren’t dismissed as cheap fast food, though they are the cheapest meal in Iceland. You’ll see people eating hot dogs throughout the day
Pönnukökur - This is a cross between a crepe and a pancake and can be made either sweet or savory. The consistency and taste is more like a pancake except without the sweetness. One of my favorites was filled with mixed veggies, mushrooms, cheese, barley, and a creamy garlic sauce
Craft Beers - Iceland has some fantastic craft brews that pair well with your meals. Be sure to try a variety!
Tips to Make the Most Out of Your Stay
More Iceland Posts