TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Basics of Traveling in Iceland: which regions to visit
- When to Go: seasonal trips, tourism calendar, weather, safety
- Where to Go: local establishments that can be found in a particular area
- What to Do: specific things you have to do when you’re traveling there
- Where to stay: hotels, hostels, apartments and Airbnbs
- What to eat: restaurants, top street foods, convenience stores/groceries
- Getting around: how do you travel in that country
- Itinerary: focuses on budget and mid-range prices
- What to Bring: What to wear, navigation tools, gear, and money
- Gadgets and Tools: Apps that will be useful in his travels
- Money: How to Transact, conversion of currency and availability of ATMs
The Iceland Travel Guide: Basics of Traveling
Despite its remoteness, Iceland has been attracting more travel lovers in the last several years.
The untouched greens, isolated location, and mystical richness of its landscape and lifestyle are some of the reasons globetrotters visit the icy land every year. Apart from its mind-boggling sights and sounds, our definitive Iceland travel guide will introduce you to the many ways you can explore the drop-dead gorgeous country.
The truth is, Iceland is beautiful everywhere you go. For your own ease, we have selected the best places to visit within its regions. The country has an ecosystem of its own--with the capital Reykjavik as the most-known place.
Next to its heart-stopping glaciers, the most beautiful of landscapes are made from volcanic formations. You can find those in the Golden Circle, a trio of must-see sights around South Iceland, comprising the Gullfoss Waterfall, the Geysir Geothermal Field, and the Thingvellir National Park.
There, you can also marvel at Iceland’s largest volcano, Hekla, and the quaint villages of Vik and Skogar; in the center of it all is the range of mountains of the Landmannalaugar highlands.
East Iceland is all about natural resources in the midst of their colorful houses. A plethora of fjords, greenery, and land plateaus will spellbind even the most fastidious of wildlife lovers. In this region, be sure to pass through the Hallormsstaður National Forest and take a few shots of the stunning Hengifoss waterfall.
Also referred to as the Reykjanes Peninsula, the South of Iceland is an underrated spot ,, that has a vast expansion of land towards the sea. A trip to this part of Iceland is not complete if you don’t take a dip in the magnificent Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa. Make sure to stop by Lake Kleifarvatn, the largest lake on the peninsula.
When you grow tired of exploring the rugged landscape, just get lost in Reykjavik - Iceland’s vivacious capital, in the South. Immerse yourself in the local life by relaxing at the poshest of hotels, indulging in Iceland’s best beers, or teasing your taste buds with the freshest catch.
When to Go to Iceland
In this section of our definitive Iceland travel guide, you’ll find tips on when to visit the country.
From the table above, it becomes apparent: winter equals cold and heaps of snow while summer equals warm temperatures and plenty of color. Let’s look at each season in more detail:
Winter - the Best Time for the Natural Phenomena like Aurora Borealis
Iceland winters aren’t as cold as it may seem, but they come with tons of snow as expected. In the capital of Reykjavik, the temperature from October to April is -0.5C/30F (-0.5C) on average. In the South, the mercury of the thermometers can go as low as 32 F (0C) , and w-22F (-30C) in the North. During winter, changes in the wind can have a big impact on the kind of holiday you have. Make sure you know the weather forecast during a particular season, month, andday.
Iceland in the winter is the perfect time for you to admire spectacular attractions such as the Aurelia Borealis, Skaftafell Ice Cave, and the Glacier Lagoon. The cold weather shows the best side of all these natural phenomena. Snow often falls during this time, but it does not disrupt daily activities like horseback riding and cave exploring.
Summer - Greenery, Festivals, Bird and Whale Watching
The Summer months in Iceland are technically from May to September, when there is less ice and the day is longer than the night. From June to August, flora, fauna, greenery, and landscapes are all in full bloom.
The average temperature of 52 F (11C) - is cool enough to stroll in clothing with enough layering. Sunshine can balance the cool breeze and goes well with a day in the mountains or trekking through the hills.
At night, the countryside becomes a campsite. The grounds are dry enough for you to pitch tents and have group activities.
Summer festivals are a popular attraction for those who love outdoor entertainment. Don’t miss the Secret Solstice and Eistnafug festivals. Natural tourist spots like Lake Myvatn, theNature Reserve, and the area around Reykjavik are known for their bird sighting and whale-watching.
Spring and Autumn - Weather without Extreme Changes
If you visit the country in spring or autumn, take a trip to the south of Iceland to admire the Fjallabak Nature Reserve in the south of Iceland.
The site is best toured from June to even late September where the weather cooperates. Our trekking point at Landmannalaugar and prepared for a four-day long hike along where we ended at Thorsmork. If you’re feeling adventurous enough,, the hiking trail goes as far as Skogar. IThe lava fields in the area’s vicinity enhance the feeling of robustness.
If you don’t like extreme changes, spring and autumn are your seasons to visit Iceland.
- Experience nature all-year round - activities throughout the seasons are made to be enjoyed outside
- National parks are best enjoyed during late Spring to early Autumn, where its cool enough to enjoy the outdoors and streets are less crowded
- Caves and glacier attractions are opened specifically for tourists from November to January
Where to Go
South of Iceland: Greater Reykjavik
Our Iceland travel guide observes how Reykjavik resembles old-fashioned towns in Europe It is small and charming and at the heart of the city is the country’s commercial district that has numerous churches and establishments that lead to urban apartments and parks.
The largest river in the area is Elliðaá River where fishermen catch fresh salmon. Greater Reykjavik refers to the region that includes the capital of Reykjavik. It has six municipalities and is self-sufficient - with its own transportation system and waste segregation system.
Local vintage finds are up in this alley, too, next to numerous clubs and party places where tourists and locals mingle.
Chic first timers can get recommendations from locals on restaurants that combine traditional Iceland food with other cuisines, explore its cultural underbelly or shop till you drop.
In the Capital: Laugavegur (Reykjavik City)
Laugavegur is the central cosmopolitan hub in the city where tourists and locals gather. Its nightlife is a breath of fresh air considering that the country is mostly remote and calm.
Restaurants and bars start the evening with different events such as jazz music, where local artists perform concerts and movie night.
Here are some of the best spots in town:
Skuli is ranked as one of the best bars in the capital and in the country and has received an almost perfect rating for their extensive range of beers. It has about 130 brands to choose from, 14 of them craft beers made in Iceland and available in taps.
Shots of beer and samples of cheese can be ordered so you have a fill with a little bit of what the bar has to offer. 6-beer shots costs around 4500ISK ($32USD) while happy hour serves foreign beer brands for $8.
Food served are fish and chips, seafood bao buns, premium German sausage and spiced chicken wings. During the day, you can enjoy arcade games and relax, while during the night, concerts bring people together. Happy Hour starts from 4PM and lasts until 7PM.
- Mikkeller and Friends
This cocktail bar hosts the recent happenings in Reykjavik while serving some of the most scrumptious pizza in the city. It is a franchise of the Copenhagen bar whose other locations are in Paris and London.
The bar has a wonderful selection of beers and cocktails, with around 20 taps of different kinds of brews. The beer list written on the mirrored wall and informally shelved for customers to see.
TIP: Interact with the barmen and hear their peculiar stories of the city and its beers.
A restaurant that has a little bit of Europe and Scandinavia, this fine dining establishment is perfect for your inner trendsetter. Apotek is ranked as one of the top restaurants in the city.; tThe menu consists of delicately crafted meals with artistic flair. Well-done surf and turfs, fresh salad and fish, and refreshing homemade margaritas for the summer.
A six-course meal costs around 8,900ISK ($63), but it gives you a chance to experience the fancier side of Reykjavik. Additional side dishes that you order can make you spend as much as $100 to $300 for this so this gives you a hefty price bracket.
If you feel like splurging and reveling in delicious gourmet food, Apotek is your go-to spot. But if you’d like to try more affordable options, check out the options below:
A hip spot that ticks all the boxes if you want a taste of cosmopolitan Reykjavik. It is a mid-range restaurant where groups of people (more than 5) can gather and have a good time.
While Slippbarinn is mainly a restaurant, they also have special mixed drinks: alcohol, fruit shakes and spirits. Locals love the cold cuts, seafood and vegetable platter, calamares, and hamburgers.
There are two happy hour windows. The afternoon one runs from, 3 PM to 5PM. The evening one starts at 9 PM and runs until 11:30 PM.
But that’s not the best news.A meal for two people costs around $26, which is a big bang for your buck, considering the fresh ingredients and how expensive generally Iceland is. Sliplbarinn also has a good rating when it comes to their service and desserts. A definite must-try!
Top Bars in Reykjavik
The Paloma Club is one of Reyjavik’s most esteemed nightclubs. Its youthful vibe attracts locals and tourists alike. Dance the night away with pop and reggae mixes and remixes;
Don’t worry about getting tipsy because drinks come with a little food served on the side.
. Neon lights pair well with DJs and their playlists. Like most clubs in Iceland, you can party as late as 5 AM. Make sure to book a reservation in advance through their Facebook page.
B5 is one of the best-rated clubs in the capital because of its exclusivity. It is located in a traditional building that turns into a modern bistro during the day. At night, B5 turns into a venue for amateur bands to play. B5 has available sockets for those who choose to bring their laptops or for those who want to charge their phones. Their drink menu is available on their website.
Planning a trip to Iceland is surprisingly carefree even if you don’t have a set itinerary for it. The country is secluded, which makes it the ideal place for exploration and unexpected adventures.
Nature Outside Reykjavik
The Blue Lagoon is synonymous with the country’s hot springs. Regarded as one of the 25 wonders of the world, it’s no wonder the place tops our sightseeing list.
Open since 1976, it is not just a feast for your eyes but also for your health. The lagoon’s signature blue water stems from a peculiar mixture of silica, salts, and algae. The water’s rich mineral content has a host of benefits for the body. Authorities maintain the water’s temperature at 99-102 F (37-39C), and change it every two days..
Our Iceland Travel Guide highly recommends that you visit this spot as it is just 40 to 45 minutes from the capital of Reykjavik. Around the lagoon you’ll find restaurants, hotels, spas, and shops, so there are more things to do than just dipping in the heated water. Either way, this spa is still a must-see even from the sidelines. Look into Iceland: Expedia, a 15-minute introductory trip to Iceland and its capital.
Northern Lights - Aurora Borealis
The Northern Lights is one of the most mind-blowing natural phenomena. The amazing spectacle occurs when solar particles meet the earth’s surface to ionize and create what are seen as dancing lights in the sky.
You can observe the phenomenon in areas that are slightly above the 60º North latitude mark. The best time to witness the Lights is from September to April, when the sky is as dark and clear as possible. Solar activity that is sufficient for the Lights’ condition must also be present.
The best place to see the Aurora in Iceland is in Reykjavik. The phenomenon happens late at night from 10PM to 11PM. During the winter time, when it takes the sun a longer time to set (polar night) and because of this, the aurora can be seen in the late afternoon, from 4PM onwards.
Depending on the intensity of the weather like strong winds, Aurora Borealis that can go throughout the day, particularly during 6PM and 10PM. See our Itinerary section to book the best dates to go and see the Northern Lights.
- The Golden Circle
Golden Falls (Gullfoss)
Known to be the biggest waterfall in Europe, the Golden Falls is in the heart of the Hvítá river canyon, located in Southwest Iceland. The showstopper in this nature spot is Gullfoss Water height of 105 feet (32 m) that drops down into the valley below.
Its high sediment content makes the water glow when hit by sunlight. Included in the Golden Circle Route along with the Geysir Hot Springs and Thingvellir National Park.
The waterfall is just an hour and 30-minute drive ( 70 miles or 113 km) from Reykjavik. From there, you can also start the Golden Circle Tour.
The waterfall is divided into two: the first waterfall cascades from a height of 36 (11 m), while the steeper one drops from 69 ft to the crevasse below The large crevasse was a result of constant water erosion.
The Golden Falls is marked by the visitor center. When hiking the area around the waterfalls, it is highly advisable to follow the trails and small children should be kept at a safe distance. You can take pictures from the guided path - but don’t worry. The area is sufficient enough to capture the true beauty of the falls.
Geysir Hot Springs
The Geyser Hot Spring area is an active geothermal field that erupts hot water into the air. You’ll find plenty of exploding geysers around the area. The most active geyser, Stokker, gets its pressure from the ground and can shoot water as high as 100ft.
A free exhibition-demo is extended to tourists who are interested in how the springs bring heat to the neighboring areas through a plumbing underground system. The Geysir Hot Springs have historical roots that go back to a thousand years. There are more than 12 water geysers , and seismic activity still happens every now and then.
TIP: To avoid the rush of tourists, the best time to view the geysers is before 10 AM, or just before 4PM when the last batch comes. When you do arrive there, just like the barriers at Golden Falls, follow the marked trails to avoid being sprayed by boiling water.
Thingvellir National Park
While Gullfoss and the Geysir hot springs are just a 10-minute walk from each other (9.7km), Thingvellir National Park will make you do a little trekking for 3 hours. If you want a more leisurely pace, then a 45-minute drive should do it.
This natural reserve is part of the Golden Circle, despite it being in the Southwest of Iceland, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. Thingvellir has different environments living within it that makes it a sustainable ecological site. More importantly, it is characterized by the tectonic and volcanic activity that have resulted into ground fissures and has sprung forth small bodies of water and rock formations.
For hikers, this is a pleasant trip with a light to medium difficulty; there are bridges, trails and hills to guide you and the incline is minimal. This is a great place for a nature walk with families, young people and their friends. Even teenagers who have an accompanying adult can appreciate the scenery.
North of Iceland
Icelandic tourist attractions are natural or made from nature. Iceland is both modern and laid back; its remoteness is due to its geographical location where tourist spots are carved in the caves or formed by volcanic rock. Iceland North brings to you a cultural feast of where adventure meets relaxation… or doing your vacation as you relax. Depending on whether you choose to go here are our selected places for Northern paradise:
The Herring Capital: Akureyri
This is referred to as the Founding City, it is the most dense community outside Reykjavik and has an equal fare of natural and man-made attractions. Akureyri has around 48 restaurants and offers modern food fare such as unique ice cream flavors, sandwiches and pasta. Their Brynja ice cream is a hit with locals and Icelandic bars line the city. Moreover, whale watching is a must-see past time included in tour packages.
We were able to enjoy the resounding Akureyri Botanical Gardens that have an abundance of 400 plants which are strategic only to the country. The Akureyrarvaka festival was at a high during that time of August where many local artists showcased music, art murals and fireworks at the end.
Outside Akureyri: Siglufjörður
It is the town that is most Instagram-worthy--with its colored row houses, it is the center of Iceland’s traditional culture. Its historic roots on fishing evolved into the cultivation of the trade making the town and its harbor the reason for Iceland’s thriving economies. It is home to the Herring Era Museum, one of the country’s most important museums. It takes an hour for a car or bus from Akureyri to arrive in Siglufjörður.
Siglufjörður is also the place of the Folk Music Center and the annual Folk Festival where tourists can learn more about how the Icelanders live and feel through music. The event, which takes place in July, also offers short courses on local handicrafts and other forms of art. This is some of the best ways to immerse yourself in the culture especially for a long-term trip. These activities are family-focused and can be enjoyed by small to large groups of people.
The mountains in Siglufjörður are picturesque and in the winter, the area is converted to a cross-country ski trail. Apart from mountain skiing, the town has a nine-hole golf course, a 25-metre indoor swimming pool, sauna and indoor hot tub. Never mind you thinking that you can handle the cold… Siglufjörður is ready for you.
Towns in the North
Northern towns in Iceland are tranquil and flat, often immersed in the middle of nature. As one of the first trading ports of the country since the 1800s, Hvammstangi has a fishing industry that contributes to the nation’s supply of fish. Other industries that thrive in the town are textile and tourism. Hvitserkur is a trademark of the North, in the form of a rock monolith that stands 15m on the shore of the Vatnsnes peninsula. Around the Hvitserkur are several wildlife like seagulls, seals and jellyfish while across the fields is the Ánastaðastapi rock that protects strong winds from continuing to the residences.
What To Do
Where to Stay
Considering everything from travel costs to common bookings and food, we’re not going to deny that Iceland can cost you. But - the cost is worth it and if you do not think it’s worth it, we will show you how economizing for an Iceland trip will still give you a memorable experience.
With all these in mind, you would have a rough idea of how much to spend and how much to spare. For starters, the average trip to two adults at any sensible hotel in Reykjavik is 25000 ISK to 50000 ISK ($200 to $400). Prices are flexible and it starts from there. When you are going for the upper limit or the more luxurious end, it could reach up to $1,500 a person.
On a budget, tours in Iceland can give you some reasonable finds. A budget hotel can offer you $68 or mid-range $300 a night from March to April and September to October. If you are willing to free yourself from the boutique lifestyle, the dormitory-style of living can change your mind. You have the option of interacting with people and these hostels have private rooms just like hotels. Occupying a dormitory allows you to pay more than half of what you would pay in hotels ($44-$77 as of 2018).
An average private room in a hostel costs $147 to $163 in the said months. Hostels outside of the capital range from $92 to $102 which goes down to $63 to $70 during the tourism season. Twin rooms are easily discounted too: from $146 to $90 and can save you a lot. All About Iceland has a comprehensive list of accommodation fees that you can browse, AirBNB and caravans included.
The Best Affordable Accommodations in Iceland
Our Iceland Travel Guide takes cue from Telegraph UK’s picks on the best accommodation throughout Iceland. The list ranges from cheap to luxury-- and it considers the surrounding location, amenities and aesthetic for its evaluation.
If you are considering living in the capital, we recommend a mid-range hotel that has all the amenities and a little extra for you to choose from. For an additional amount, you can be in a strategic position in Reykjavik, with access to the nearest tourist spots so you wouldn’t have to rent transportation (walking/train/bus would do).
Mid-range lodgings have basic amenities including health and wellness facilities and technological access. They will also be surrounded by restaurants, lodgings and the airport is nearby.
Budget pick: Mid-range lodgings are a bargain-with some having promos that can last during peak seasons. Hostels like the Kex Hostels also host modern conveniences being in remote areas and mountains; these include the ability to rent cars and buses and heated pools.
What to Eat
With its proximity near the Atlantic, Iceland has some of the best seafood. Chefs have become creative on how to present their dishes so fish are not served plain but are often with flavor. Its remoteness allows the community to be brought together by food; Informal restaurants and food stalls are found throughout the country and not surprising, the best eats are those found nearby.
Groceries and Markets in Iceland
The more expensive the store, the more variety it has. And the reason why even food can be a bit pricey is basically because Iceland produce is fresher than most. For starters, fruits and vegetables are grown organically from local farms and greenhouses, where they maximize geothermal energy that comes from their hot springs. Moreover, you do not have to worry about where your meat and poultry comes from since all are free-range.
Dealing with cheaper, budget grocers mean that food becomes more local and in Icelandic. It’s not necessarily a bad thing but you will have to research more on what brand is the most reliable. We rate the budget and high-end groceries that can be located throughout the country and if you have read a lot prior to our list, then some of these names won’t surprise you.
Supermarkets Next Door
Kjörbúðin is a grocery that focuses on smaller regions throughout Iceland. It has a more personalized style of service that aims to serve each customer’s needs and wants. For years, it has been a favorite in rural areas and it is one of the last privately-owned specialty shops out there that serve for convenience. Items do not come in discounted prices but are less cheaper than high-end marts.
Víðir is rated by The World Pursuit as having some of the best produce (fruits and vegetables) in Iceland. This is a mid-range grocery store that is newly established and again, there are other places where prices are lower BUT selection-wise, this is one of the stores that has one of the freshest and diverse food items in its retail so better give it a go too.
10-11 is the most expensive grocery store that can double the price of goods if you bought them at any budget mart that can cost you a lot when there should be no reason to. The reason why it is on this list is so that you will be aware that values here are pricey despite it being everywhere and being open 24/7.
This applies from their produce to junk food. If you want to save some cash, then we advise going to the other markets in this list. To find out more about food shopping, go to I Heart Reykjavik where the site gives more choices for you depending on where you are in Iceland.
Local and Street Food
Nothing beats the Iceland Travel Guide's Must-Trys and here are some of it. For a complete experience of Iceland, don’t leave until you have tried these traditional eats: Fish stew, stockfish and Iceland Langoustine.
Fish Stew is an Icelandic dish made from potatoes, onions, milk and the white fish Catch of the Day (preferably cod or haddock). Different restaurants throughout the country have their own way of making the soup but if you prefer to make this at your local accommodation, even better. Local cooks suggest that for a cheaper fish stew, pollack is the best. If you do not have any available fresh fish, this is fine since this recipe is about using leftovers. See where you can buy affordable seafood from our list of groceries above.
Other stews are made with lobster, and also another variation of their stews are their lighter soups. Iceland Langoustine is also a type of fish stew with more vegetables like carrots and celery. We don’t know what it is about their soups that is so good--but trust us, Icelandic soup is some of the best around. Reykjavik has some high-rated restaurants that serve all kinds of soups such as Lækjarbrekka, Salka Valka Fish and More, Humarhöfnin and Fisherman Fish Stop and Kitchen.
Lækjarbrekka is a historical restaurant in Reykjavik that serves traditional Iceland fare. They are known for their lobster soup (with salad), reindeer burger, fish and chips (with freshly caught fish) and a set menu that focuses on seafood and produce from the country. Their prices are mid-range to high-end from 3900kr to 6900kr ($30-$50) per meal.
Fishman Fish Stop and Kitchen is one of the best places to get your seafood fix with its gluten-free option and sweet potato mash.
Stockfish describes a method of cooking rather than a single dish. It is based on a Norwegian preservation process where unsalted fish is left to dry in wooden racks through the cold air. With this method, the fish should be able to last for years and be easily transported for export and markets. Tourists can buy it either fresh or in supermarkets and it is mostly eaten as a staple food or with a main meal. Fish that have used this process are whitefish like cod, pollocks and haddock.
The organic process is done immediately after the fish is caught and gutted. It is placed on top of the racks from February and left for three months; it thrives in degrees above zero with minimal moisture. When time is up, it is transferred to a more humid environment where it is dried for an additional two to three months.
Eating it is an acquired taste and the aging process is similar to that of parma ham and wine. This food is highly up for discussion because you’ll tend to like it as you eat it more and, well, it’s healthy for you. Due to the fish being exposed to the cold, it retains its nutrients and vitamins. Another plus to it is that it is accessible in wet markets and groceries (buy it in brands like LaRuche) should you choose to stay in Iceland for a while. Some restaurants serve it with butter as an appetizer.
Another homegrown favorite is Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur that is located in Reykjavik through a series of eatery chains. Iceland’s favorite hotdog consists of a three-meat combination of lamb, pork and beef. The chain itself was established in 1937 and now stands in Tryggvagata where it is adjacently across the Harpa Concert Hall.
While it is already an honorary institution in the capital, the hotdog’s claim to tourism was through Bill Clinton, who visited the stand in 2004. Since then it has appeared in numerous publications and continues to be one of Europe’s best hotdogs. Other than ketchup, it has the condiments of remoulade, crisp fried onion and yellow, sweet mustard. If you want proof in your bucket list that you ate something uniquely Iceland, we highly recommend that you try this out.
Iceland is no stranger to Asian cuisine and if you are craving for something Oriental, you ought to check places like Kore, a fusion of Korean-American food. They have an Icelandic twist on Korean fried chicken, fried rolls and tacos that you cannot afford to miss. A serving of a hotdog costs around 450kr ($4).
Prices in Iceland can be a little steep and if you are on a budget, you would want something filling and nutritious that will hopefully last you during the day. The food fairs and selection above can be your guide as to what to eat. Read more about Iceland’s street food.
- One way on how to economize on prices such as food is by booking tours that include breakfast and dinner. There are ways to enjoy food in the country: cooking, eating in restaurants and street foods. Grocery prices range from $1.20 for a liter of milk to $20 for a glass of wine. Other food items would be in between these values. A full meal would probably cost $15 to $30 depending on what you serve. Cooking is normally allowed in hostels, apartments and campervans; it would provide travelers a healthy meal without splurging excessively.
- Another way to budget is by going through the several street food stalls in cities. Particularly in Reykjavik, independent food stalls can cost $10 or less with a serving size made for two people. Restaurants that are medium-priced go from $13 to $23 on a meal for two. Fast food restaurants go for $11 to $15. Below is a list of food stops that can give you a filling feast that won’t break the bank.
Hlemmur Mathöll - Iceland’s first food market that takes variety to the next level. With the aim of multiculturalism and experimentations of different ingredients, this is the place where you are not limited to one type of food.
There are several restaurant kiosks that can tickle your fancy: La Poblana , Bahn Mi and Jómfrúin Scandinavian Kitchen that specialize in Mexican, Vietnamese and Danish food respectively. There are also stalls that serve only barbecued meat, grilled seafood and fresh produce. See here for a complete list of the stalls participating.
Grandi Food Hall - located at what appears to be a converted shopping center, this follows suit from Hlemmur Matholl. This glorified food court hosts different ranges of food courses and beverages that are half the price than those paid in Reykjavik’s restaurants. It has delectable vegan options and gives you the opportunity to socialize with people.
You won’t go wrong in experimenting at any of the restaurants in Laugavegur. However, tradition cannot be beaten so Lækjarbrekka is our main pick. While it is pricey, you can order one meal for a mid-price range and be satisfied.
Budget pick: Go for the food halls. It has variety in every corner where you can select your meals from more than one restaurant. For every $10 meal, the serving size is right for about two people or one hungry person that can last you throughout the day.
As a tourist, knowing how to move around Iceland gives you the confidence to explore more. Public transport is available throughout Iceland. These are by their public transport system, scheduled bus and airport tours, by ferry, and car. We will also discuss other modes of transport when the necessity calls for it.
Public Transport System
Iceland has Straeto, a public bus system that focuses on the Great Reykjavik area and its six municipalities - with stops for every 10 minutes during rush hour and every 15 minutes after rush hour. The bus route is available online with a general fare of ISK 480 ($3.78). For travelers, passes are more convenient. One and three-day passes are suitable for those who will be travelling within the city for 24 hours or a couple of days. One day passes are worth ISK 1,900 ($14.97) while Three-day passes that are used within Reykjavik costs ISK 4,400 ($34.68).
As per the website, buses now accept cash, card, debit cards and smart tickets (those in your phone). It is advised that you keep the receipt of your ticket in the event that you may want to have a refund for your trip. Straeto also makes trips outside of the Reykjavik and passengers pay only one fare to travel. Here are the fares for different travel lengths.
Renting a car is a preferred mode of travel, especially for those who want an immersion tour of the place. There are many things to consider when renting a car:
- Roads - because of the seasons, some roads are more accessible than others. There are cars that are suitable to, say, dirt roads and those suitable for narrow roads near mountains. The car you drive will depend on the roads you take. The vehicle agency will advise you on what can be driven. Majority of Icelandic cars are manual and should you prefer an automatic, it would be best to notify the agents beforehand so they make the necessary preparations. Also, specific roads may require you to drive a four-wheel drive so be prepared or choose an itinerary that requires a normal car.
- Beware of accidents - Rental cars are often prone to damage since travelers underestimate the wind speeds especially in areas with higher altitudes. To avoid this, you could opt for another tour where the climate is less harsh or if you insist, be ready for a sudden change in weather when driving. It is advised that should there be a lack of visibility, staying indoors would be better.
Roads will be slippery at this time and can comprise the condition of the traveler and the vehicle. Always stop at an appropriate parking space before getting out in the middle of a scenery to get out or take a picture. There have been recorded accidents caused by this behavior. Iceland is particular with speed limit signs and you should be aware of them and follow through. The maximum speed limit is 90m/h.
Qualifications for renting a car in Iceland are the following:
- Valid identification (call the agency to confirm what they accept)
- Current driver’s license in latin alphabet (latin alphabet varies from different agencies) and has a two-year validity
- Other qualifications will be mentioned by the agency
Plane schedules to and from Iceland are straightforward. There are flights for Iceland’s international airport, Keflavik, from Scotland, Ireland, Faroe Islands and Greenland. The rest are all domestic flights in different areas of the country. Flight services are used by locals and tour agencies when the weather is harsh and remote places are not accessible by road. Nevertheless, domestic flights last approximately half an hour to get to your destination. Inspired by Iceland has the complete list of transfers from Reykjavik to the airport.
Just like England and Japan, hailing a taxi is considered a high-end form of travel. Taxis are on duty in Reykjavik, with two commercial cab companies BSR and Hreyfill Baejarleioir. The latter has an app that you can reach like Uber. Neither Uber or Lyft is available.
Other Forms of Transportation
Hitchhiking poses no safety threat in Iceland, considering how safe the country is. Remote travelers find themselves at a loss of direction due to a lack of knowledge search prior to their trip. But this is not a recommended form of transport because you could be at risk of being exposed to the weather. Upon reaching closed roads, you could be forced to wait for hours or camping nearby areas where you shouldn’t. It is still better to plan an itinerary with fixed transportation services.
Biking, like renting a car, is a popular way for tourists to get around and like driving, you have to be experienced--both in riding and in troubleshooting. Iceland has different terrains that can turn into a different story if you are not prepared. Tour guides offer bikes and option; you can also bring your bike to the country via plane.
Hiking is not meant for transportation but those who possess lots of strength do this to go from one place to the other. There are hiking trailers all over tourist spots but cabins that you can live in a rest for awhile. Always be aware of the change in weather and bring the necessary clothing and devices that you need like maps and GPS.
Journey by boat or ferry is also possible whether sponsored by a tour agency or renting to travel. A complete list of ferries and ferry-based tours to browse the potential trips to Grimsey and other towns in the North. Cruise ships are a more leisurely way of touring around.
Transportation in Iceland is comfortable. Their buses are efficient but are city-centric and when reaching other regions, you’d have to find another way of getting there. We strongly suggest renting a car as it is cheaper in the long run, especially if you intend to stay in Iceland for a long time with more than two people.
Budget: Ride a bus. A ticket costs $4 and you can tour the city with just one pass. You can also sign up for tours that have inclusive transportation.
While planning a trip to Iceland, there are crucial things to be considered:
- How many will be joining the group?
- Will you be planning a tour or go on your own?
- How much budget are you willing to allot including additional costs?
- What is the optional itinerary?
- Will you be shopping?
- Where will you be living?
- How long is your stay?
Best Tours in Iceland
Packed tours in Iceland are divided between the two seasons of summer and winter. To break down the climate in the country, it is not all ice as it appears. In fact, for a country that is located south of the Arctic Circle, winter months are less harsher--with the summers being warmer than expected. Here is a guide to getting your ideal tour of Iceland.
Step 1: Select the touring company that you know tries to accommodate what you like. As per testimonials and research, we came across this list in TourRadar that show high ratings for all tour companies and operators. The top searches being Iceland Travel, Arctic Adventures, Guide to Iceland, Nordic Visitor, and Follow Me. The tip with these companies will depend on the kind of tour you want.
Step 2: Group and Individual Tours. Sometimes part of the fun of traveling to Iceland is getting lost and exploring lone trails on one’s own. A one-on-one tour by a professional tour guide can fuel your interest in the place with their knowledge of local culture and traditions. If that is the case, then these tours might be for you. These one-day, intimate packages get you to know Iceland more through immersion than just passing by tourist sights.
Most of these tours stand out - the experience allows you to connect with the people and the community. Noteworthy options:
- Ride with Locals - Consider this if you know how to ride a motorbike and are willing to tour from coast to coast. This is not for the faint of heart; in fact, the tours (which last from 3 to 6 days) require an advanced level of riding. The company offers three tours with the inclusion of a hotel in Reykjavik/mountain huts, breakfast, snacks, and dinners, insurance, gas, and a back-up motorcycle if the necessity arises. The tour is around $2,800 to $5,000 for the lot and can accommodate up to 6 people. It is exclusive to flights and riding gear.
- Intrepid - the company that offers budget trips all over the world. For Iceland, there are 10 trips. One of the best-rated, One Week Camping in Iceland, starts and ends in Reykjavik. The tour focuses on remote destinations that require participants to engage in the itinerary, which is why it is targeted to 18 to 29s. Meals and transportation are included. Tour points include the Golden Circle and Thorsmork Valley. These are done during Winter. One Week Camping estimates at around $1,530 depending on the people participating and room costs.
Another favorite tour is Iceland Discovery and it can be recommended to families with older children. A seasoned tour guide explains tourist hacks that can help save money along the way. Guesthouse and a farm stay that last 7 days. Activities like a waterfall stop, tree planting activity, and a Glacier Lagoon boat tour are some of the activities to look out for.
- Iceland Travel - probably the most raved about and easily accessible company, Iceland Travel offers road trips, guided tours and day tours for those who love a little variety along the way. Bestsellers are on the budget for a longer period of time (5 to 6 days) than day tours. Day tours are offered from all over Iceland and these include indoor trails within notable places.
Step 3: Know what the amenities are included. For most guided tours, transportation and hotels/cabins/hostels are paid for, meals also. You will also be paying for fees needed in those places needed in the itinerary. For example, summers often have Iceland horse riding and whale watching. Tour packages include how much you need to pay for these activities.
Incentives in Iceland tours can have the following:
- Professional English-speaking tour guide
- Attractions included in the package
- Accommodations (unless a day tour)
- Equipment crucial to attractions
- Flights crucial to attractions
- Breakfast and other meals (depending on the tour)
Some services that sometimes come with tours but it is best to ask the tour company about:
- Flights going to Iceland or those not in the package
- Clothing for snow or cold weather such as thermal underwear, down jacket, hiking books and socks
- General equipment for snow or cold weather such as skis
Finding Universe suggests that the quality of a tour depends on what is included and excluded in the tour packages. Individual prices for the services hold more bearing than the price of the tour as a whole. Check for the complete itinerary at a tour company’s website where details such as price and routes are posted.
We surveyed our chosen companies are here are the top tours:
This tourist attraction is inspired by the Iceland locations in the show, which comprise of Reykjavik, Godafoss, and Akureyri in 5 days and 4 nights. It starts from the first day of January 2020 to the last day of April in 2021. Optional tours of the Northern Lights, Akureyri Food Walk and Golden Circle Express are available.
After the snow melts, you will be treated to longer days and fields of nature. When that happens, Reykjavik is a capital full of festivities and this tour navigates the best sights in the city via Flybus or car in 4 days and 3 nights from April to May 2020. Cultural museums and national parks are inclusive.
This is a cross-country tour that is perfect for nature and adventure lovers. The tour is slow-paced but covers strategic trekking points that travelers will certainly find authentic. The difficulty of the hike is easy to moderate and those who sign up are encouraged to be fit. Accommodations are some of the best hotels in Reykjavik and the countryside.
Travelers have the option of 3 to 7 days of a private tour. Private tours are those limited to a single person or group of people coming together and is facilitated by an English-speaking tour guide. Covers at least 20 attractions going back to Reykjavik at the last stop. The 3-day tour is available all-year round with the cost of $750 per person. Meanwhile, the 7-day tour is available until February 2021 and the group rate starts at $5000.
- Definitely go for the Northern Lights. It’s a natural phenomenon that only comes once a few months--and therefore when it comes, it is still a profound experience. The tour starts from the capital and shows you the Northern region of Iceland. Meals are inclusive.
- DO go for a Gilded Tour or The Golden Tour. It is traditionally Iceland and if you’re going to the city sights, it is worth it to see the breathtaking Golden Falls and Thingvellir National Park. Also, more nature tours costs less for you, which is a win-win.
- South Iceland and Fjords Tours are also worth the scenery.
Budget: The Blue Lagoon. If you can choose one tour, this takes it. It’s a national place of visit and even if you are not signed up in the fanciest hotel, it does not get more Iceland than this.
Staying Safe in Iceland
By location and maintenance, Iceland is a relatively safe city. Its location in the North Atlantic and away from surrounding countries make it unlikely for foreigners to go in and out of the country easily. Iceland ranks as the safest country in the world based on the Global Peace Index while Reykjavik is included in the top twenty safest countries in the world. And we’re not even going into detail yet.
If you need more persuasion as to why and how Iceland is safe, read on. For the record, violence and crime has its imprints in the country; there is an effort on the part of the Icelandic government to keep these to a minimum and not simply attribute the safety of their country to something which can be measured.
Iceland takes care of the health of its people by taking care of its nature. Natural resources are well-maintained in the region because precautions are done throughout the year to clear up the debris and outcome of fierce weather. Roads are cleared and rescue services are always on standby to make sure that things go smoothly.
Iceland’s size also contributes to how safety is managed. Due to its isolation, it is not in the way of large terrorist threats. There are marginalized groups within the country known for their extreme views but they do not pose a grave threat on the country as a whole. Almost all surrounding places in Iceland are safe--Breiðholt is known to have the most foreigners living in an area and has the status of having a lot of teenagers who vandalize. Nonetheless, streets and corners are still safe.
Iceland is concerned about their travelers’ safety and therefore the phone application 112 Iceland connects you with emergency services and a tracking device for your current location.
Top Resources for Traveling to Iceland
- Cover any essential guides, websites, resources that one should read before going to [country]. Make sure to mention what makes these resources so cool.
- Guide to Iceland - the best tours of Iceland with the best deals going to the best places.
- Iceland Travel - an online guide for group tours across the country depending on the length of travel chosen. Our detailed review and summary of Iceland Travel tours are accessed in the next segment.
- Reykjavik Budget Itinerary - The Poor Traveler’s recommendation on how to get around the capital on a budget.
- Iceland Itinerary - Iceland travel tips on how to survive a 5-day tour
Reykjavik Highlights: Rick Steves’ Travel Talks
Iceland Vacation Travel Guide
Rick Steves' Europe: Iceland’s Fissure
Budget for Iceland
For the average cost of living, Iceland is above average in spending. If you know where to look, there should be a middle ground between the three different price ranges. To put things into perspective, here is a useful and comprehensive estimate of prices in Iceland: https://www.followmeaway.com/prices-in-iceland/
WHAT TO BRING
Outfit Gear - Common sense suggests that depending on the location and climate of the country, the default wardrobe to an Iceland trip is a coat, some boots, socks, warm comfort wear and that’s it. Actually, no--you need more. First of all, summer weather in Iceland should not be underestimated. BE PREPARED. You would not just be needing outfits for the cold; you would also need a specified number of outfits that go with the activities that you would be doing.
- Know your route and read guidelines beforehand. Iceland is a known tourist spot; adventure activities means that you should take note of the weather and the terrain that you would be walking in. It is a country exposed to the elements and should there be an emergency, you should be ready.
- BRING EXTRA SHOES. Multi-functional footwear is best suited for Iceland tour and travel. We suggest shoes and boots that are waterproof, lightweight and specified for hiking. It would be best to bring an extra pair especially during an all-day trip. Slippers can be a comfortable alternative when relaxing at your lodging room or using the shower.
- ALWAYS BRING SUPPORT. Support accompanying your clothes and shoes can minimize physical accidents and aches. There are all types of support available in the market: back and body braces; ankle, knee and foot braces to make sure your feet do not get too tired from walking too much. This especially applies to those who are attempting a high-intensity tour that includes mountain climbing and caving.
- JACKETS AND VESTS ARE A MUST. Jackets and vests are a necessity to fight the occasional winds. Vests are advised to be made from fleece to increase the warmth that it can give the body. Windbreaker jackets are the most ideal. If you don’t have a thick jacket with you, layering a thick layer of clothing also helps.
- INVEST IN THERMAL UNDERWEAR. Thermal clothing is made from material that is made specifically to keep you warm. There are different kinds that fit men and women differently. You can wear this to limit wearing lots of clothes. To read more about them, TripSavvy has evaluated some of the best. If you can’t get your hands on any thermal clothes, fleece material is a close second.
- GO WATERPROOF. Waterproof the gadgets that you will bring, especially your phone. Other waterproof options would be for your bags,and shoes.
WHAT TO USE
Gadget and Tools
For those who will be camping outside, you may want to consider this to be in your luggage:
- Sleeping bag (lightweight is preferred especially when put in a backpack)
- Always bring a travel pillow and eye masks/shades
- Camp towels and toiletries - remote areas may not have convenience marts to purchase from
- Water bottle - browse through collapsible water bottle options
- First Aid Kit - alcohol, hand sanitizer, bandages, band-aids, pain relievers/cold medicine
Apps for Iceland
A useful list of apps that you can download in Iceland to help you navigate the country through your road trip
- Visitor’s Guide in Iceland Apps - https://visitorsguide.is/information-about-iceland/apps-for-iceland/
- Guide to Iceland - https://guidetoiceland.is/travel-info/top-10-apps-for-travelling-in-iceland
- Wake Up Reykjavik - https://wakeupreykjavik.com/must-have-apps-to-have-on-trip-to-iceland/
A vital resource when travelling is knowing that you have cash. In Iceland, cash is not necessary but it can be convenient for random stops when on a road trip. The official currency in Iceland is the Icelandic krona and it is the only one accepted as well.
ATMs are found throughout the country and are opened at specific hours, not 24/7. In this case, always have your credit (Visa or Mastercard) or debit card with you as almost all places in the country can be transacted with this method.
Thanks for reading our guide, make sure to follow our blog or check out some of our other travel guides. Suggested Readings:
The comprehensive article from International Expeditions glosses you to Iceland travel trips through sights that the country is notable for. This source does not list all the attractions down instead it gives you specific sceneries that you are able to find in one or many places. This gives practical tips on how to navigate Iceland depending on what you have on your checklist.
Another comprehensive article of a traveler’s experience in Iceland with a wide budget. Where to go, how to enjoy yourself and fashion necessities.
An article by Iceland Travel, this article gives homegrown tips on how to survive the country during winter, what traditions should you not be surprised with, the important etiquette when getting into their hot springs and answers the question why you should be adventurous with Iceland restaurants.
We help you become fully prepared for your next trip, especially if you thought about it on a whim. Travel recommendations can be useful on the important aspects of an Iceland trip: expenses, handy snacks and weather expectations to make your visit more of a glorious accident.