When planning a trip to Iceland, you may have some questions. What is the best time to visit Iceland? What are the best things to do in Iceland? How long does it take to drive around Iceland?
In this Guide to Iceland, we will answer all your questions and help you plan your trip. Also, we want you to fall in love with the best landscapes of Iceland even before you can see them with your own eyes.
An Iceland vacation is a once in a lifetime experience. Visiting the black sand beaches, the magic waterfalls, the Golden Circle and the stunning Blue Lagoon of Iceland are some things you cannot miss. Those natural wonders increase tourism in Iceland every year. As you may know, Iceland is nowadays one of the most popular touristic destinations in the world.
There are plenty of natural wonders and ways to visit Iceland, like taking an Iceland Road trip driving across the Ring Road or exploring the Icelandic Highlands. Whatever way you decide to travel to Iceland, take for granted that it will be memorable.
Guide to planning a trip to Iceland on your own
This guide will be especially useful if you want to plan a trip to Iceland by yourself (without hiring travel Iceland packages). Here, we will talk about all the critical topics that you should consider when planning a self-drive trip to Iceland: best time to travel to Iceland, best things to do, rental car, and much more.
How to plan a trip to Iceland in 10 steps
- What to do in Iceland: Must-see attractions in Iceland
- Best time to visit Iceland
- Getting around Iceland: travel Iceland by car, by campervan or without a car
- Iceland trip itinerary ideas
- Cheap flights to Iceland
- Best hotels in Iceland
- Do I need a Visa to travel to Iceland?
- Iceland travel insurance
- Iceland trip average cost
- What to pack for Iceland. What to wear in Iceland
Follow the steps above to plan the best Iceland trip ever.
Iceland vacation packages
In recent years both local and international companies have been created to provide services in line with the growing tourism in Iceland. Unlike a few years ago, today it is possible to find cheap Iceland tours and Iceland travel package deals that encourage travelers, with little time for planning, to book an Iceland trip.
If this is your case, and you are looking for an all-inclusive Iceland trip or an Iceland Golden Circle tour, you can skip many of the previous steps, although I recommend you read carefully the section of documentation requirements and what clothes to bring to Iceland.
But, if you are a photographer or your primary goal is to photograph the island, then you may be interested to know more about our Iceland Photography Tour in September, taking place during the best time to see the Aurora Borealis in Iceland.
During this trip, we won’t visit only the most impressive locations, but we will focus on the best photography spots in Iceland. This trip is not for everyone since we will get up early to enjoy the best light and, at night, if the Northern Lights are active, we will barely sleep.
To come with us, you have to be a truly passionate freak of photography, disregarding your level or skills. If you join us, we are going to spend most of the time photographing, so you need to be an enthusiastic photographer.
You can check the itinerary and price of the trip to Iceland that we are planning for the next fall season, here.
1. Best things to do in Iceland
When planning your trip to Iceland, the first thing you should know is which are the best places to visit. There are plenty of natural wonders in Iceland, and also a few historical sites, so it is a real challenge to design a plan that includes the most important ones in your trip to Iceland by car. My first recommendation for traveling to Iceland is that you do not try to see everything. Focus on one part of the island and try to explore it to the fullest.
To help you out, in this section you will find not only the essential places to visit in Iceland but others that are less known and are also worth visiting.
Besides, at the end of this section, you will see them sorted by the different touristic areas of Iceland, and we will finish the article with an Iceland map where you will see at a glance all the most important landmarks.
Before starting, please bear in mind that, although most of the attractions in Iceland are free, the tourism in Iceland has gone through a huge spike in recent years, and this had a big impact both in the ecosystem and the people who live there. From my first trip in 2015 to my last trip in 2018, I found several places closed, while others are charging fees and prices are also constantly rocketing due to the huge demand.
This guide is being constantly updated as soon as we are aware of any change so you can find the most accurate information for your trip to Iceland.
BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN ICELAND
To summarize, these are the essential places to visit on your trip to Iceland.
- The Blue Lagoon of Iceland: This geothermal spa was popularized for the healing properties of its waters.
- Geysir: The most famous geyser of Iceland pumps water out to the sky every few minutes at a height of more than 65ft (20m).
- Thingvellir: One of the most important historical places in Iceland besides being the place dividing the tectonic plates of Europe and America.
- Seljalandsfoss: You cannot miss passing behind this 60-meter-high waterfall.
- Skogafoss: One of the most impressive waterfalls in Iceland where you can see incredible phenomena like double rainbows and moonbows.
- Vik: The volcanic beach of Reynisfjara was awarded as one of the most spectacular non-tropical beaches in the world.
- Jokulsarlon: Iceland’s most stunning glacial lake. Enjoy watching how large ice blocks fall off from the glacier.
- Diamond Beach: One of the best landscapes in Iceland, where you will see a black sand beach full of pieces of ice coming from the glacier.
The Blue Lagoon of Iceland is the most visited attraction on the island. This geothermal spa has been widely promoted by National Geographic (which included it in the list of the 25 most important wonders of the World) and by Condé Nast Traveler (who considered it one of the best 10 hot springs in the World).
Most of the travelers that visit Iceland bathe in its turbid and blue waters full of silica and sulfur that contrast with the volcanic black landscape where it is located. In addition, it is believed that its waters, at a temperature of 104ºF (40ºC), heal skin diseases.
However, there are three reasons why we didn’t visit the Blue Lagoon of Iceland during our second trip.
The first is because of the expensive price. The basic Iceland Blue Lagoon tickets cost $57 (50€) in the low season and in the weakest hours.
Secondly, because of the number of people who visit it. The tickets for the Blue Lagoon are usually sold out quickly so you need to book them well in advance. Although once in the water you are comfortable, it will always seems that there are too many people.
And last but not least, because, even though most of the people think it is a natural wonder, the Blue Lagoon is artificial. It was created in the 1970s by the geothermal power station that is located next to this attraction to leverage the waste of hot water used to move the turbines. Although the water is heated by volcanic activity, we prefer to visit any of the other natural hot springs in Iceland.
In addition, given the success of the lagoon, they built two hotels in the Blue Lagoon, the Silica Hotel (with a high but still affordable price) and the Retreat Hotel (a luxury hotel with a very expensive price).
If you plan to visit this SPA, check our ultimate guide to the Iceland’s Blue Lagoon.
These hot springs are the best alternatives to the Blue Lagoon of Iceland:
I have visited the Reykjadalur thermal river in my two trips to Iceland and I know I will do it again on my next trip. The hike through the Steam Valley is totally worth it and, although it is completely free, it is never crowded. The temperature of the water is higher the further up we go.
Seljavallalaug pool is one of the oldest in the country and was built for teaching how to swim. The entrance is free and is only cleaned once a year so it is usually full of algae. Normally the water temperature is around 95ºF (35ºC).
The Secret Lagoon of Iceland is a good alternative for those who want to pay less than the Blue Lagoon. Although it is supposed to be the oldest pool in Iceland, all the facilities are renovated. It is located in the Golden Circle and from the water you can see a small geyser that erupts every 5 minutes. Its price is quite low compared to the Blue Lagoon; 3000 ISK ($25/€22).
Myvatn Nature Baths are located in one of the most active volcanic areas in Iceland, in the North of the island, and are a good alternative to the Blue Lagoon. The entrance fee is 4500 – 5000ISK ($40/€35 approx) and they are not as crowded as other thermal baths as not everyone visits North Iceland.
The area where three of the most popular attractions in Iceland are located (the Haukadalur valley, the Thingvellir valley, and the Gullfoss waterfall) is known as Iceland’s Golden Circle.
THE GEYSERS OF ICELAND – HAUKADALUR VALLEY
Visiting the Valley of Geysers is one of the essential things to do in Iceland. There is no better way to understand the telluric force of Iceland than enjoying one of the six geysers located in the valley or visiting its geothermal plant.
Like volcanoes, geysers evolve over time, as do their activity. Nowadays, the Great Geyser who named this phenomenon worldwide is inactive, but his brother Strokkur, who erupts every 5 to 10 minutes, pumps a stream of water more than 65ft (20m) up making this one of the most exciting things to see in Iceland.
The double waterfall of Gullfoss is different from any other waterfall that you have ever seen before. This 100ft (30m) waterfall is impressive not only for its huge size but also for the spray that it produces when the water falls off to the big canyon below.
The other interesting thing about this waterfall is that the river continues practically perpendicular, so when seeing it from above, you have the impression that the earth swallows the water producing a deafening noise.
Without a doubt, it is one of the must-see waterfalls in Iceland.
THINGVELLIR NATIONAL PARK
Thingvellir or Þingvellir, located on the northern side of Þingvallavatn, the largest lake in Iceland, is one of the most important historic sites on the island. One of the oldest parliamentary institutions in the World was founded here, and it was the place where the independence of Iceland was declared.
In addition, it is the perfect place to observe the continental drift, as you can find here the fracture with the separation of the American and European plates.
The most impressive fault is Almannagjá, which forms a large canyon. In addition, you can visit other faults, some of which are filled with water, such as Nikulásargjá known as Peningagjá (pennies canyon), as there is a belief that by throwing a coin your wish will be fulfilled.
Within the national park, it is also worth visiting Öxaráfoss waterfall.
In addition to these three places that officially make up the Golden Circle of Iceland, many visitors usually combine the Blue Lagoon and the following attractions on 1-day Golden Circle tours:
Bruarfoss is called the bluest waterfall in Iceland.
Previously, the access to the falls was easy, but the owners of the private properties you had to pass through to get to the waterfall decided to put a fence following the increasing number of visitors. Now, to get there it is necessary to hike 45 minutes from the official parking following the Brúará Riverbank.
There is no signposting after the parking and it is very easy to get lost, so I recommend that you check our Iceland tourist map where I have marked the trail.
Along the trail, you will also see two other impressive waterfalls: Miðfoss and Hlauptungufoss. Do not try to hike this trail under rainy conditions or if it rained recently since it is usually covered with mud and the terrain becomes slippery. If the conditions are favorable, hiking this trail is one of the best things to do in Iceland.
The aquamarine lake inside the Kerid volcano is another major tourist attraction in Iceland. This easily accessible crater is characterized by its reddish terrain that is often filled with moss in summer. Although previously the visit was free, today, the owners of the land where it is located charge a fee of 400 ISK ($3.3/€3) to visit it.
Krisuvik / Seltún
The geothermal area of Krisuvik is located on the Reykjanes Peninsula, very close to the Blue Lagoon. In this area, there are different geothermal fields, such as Seltún, where you can see fumaroles, “clay pots” and hot springs. The soil is bright yellow, red and green and it is a very popular area to hike.
WHAT TO SEE IN south ICELAND – RING ROAD
In this section, we will talk about the must-see places in the South Iceland’s Ring Road, the road that goes around the island and the most important in the country (road 1).
Unlike other roads in Iceland, the Ring Road is maintained during the winter, so we can travel it all year round. South Iceland is the most visited area on the island since most of the places of interest are located here.
These are the places to see in South Iceland when driving the Ring Road counterclockwise:
Seljalandsfoss is one of the most important waterfalls in Iceland. When you are driving the Ring Road from the east, you can see it in the distance, but it is when you are right below it when you realize how vast it really is.
There is a small path to pass behind the waterfall, but I recommend you wear a raincoat because the water spray will drench your clothes. In addition, it is important to wear boots or shoes with a good grip to avoid slipping.
If you visit Seljalandsfoss in summer, one of the thing you have to do in Iceland is seeing the sunset behind the waterfall, since you can see the sun setting behind the veil of water.
Although the visit is free, the parking of Seljalandsfoss is 700ISK ($5.8/€5). The place is very accessible so it is usually crowded.
Gljúfrabúi waterfall is unique. You can get to it just by walking a couple of minutes from Seljalandsfoss and it is quite hidden in a sort of broken cave. You can see it from above but to see the real power of the waterfall I strongly suggest seeing it from the ground.
Over the last years, it has become very popular so it is not surprising that you have to wait to enter carefully by stepping over the stones that allow you to get inside.
They say that in the Skógafoss waterfall a Viking hid a treasure behind the water veil. Whether you want to enjoy the double rainbow on a sunny day, hear the roar of falling water, or seeing the Northern Lights dancing over the waterfall, you can not miss this natural marvel.
One of the most important hikes in Iceland, Fimmvörðuháls, starts from here.
The short hike to reach Kvernufoss waterfall is as worthwhile as seeing the waterfall itself.
When you go through it you will understand why most Icelanders still believe in trolls and elves. Once there, there is a small path that allows you to pass behind the waterfall. Without a doubt, it is another of the natural wonders that you have to see in Iceland.
Walking on a glacier is something you have to do in Iceland. One of the several found in the South of the island is the Sólheimajökul glacier. You cannot visit it on your own, so you should hire a tour.
DC PLANE WRECK
In 1973 a US Navy plane crashed on Solheimasandur beach. Luckily, the pilot survived but the plane was abandoned on the endless black-volcanic beach. Nowadays, the DC Plane Wreck is one of the most popular things to see in Iceland.
Before, you could reach the wreck of the Douglas DC-3 by car, as I did on my first trip to Iceland in 2015. However, a few years ago they fenced the road to prevent the vehicles from passing and now you need to walk about an hour to get there on your own.
REYNISFJARA Y DYRHÓLAEY
Near the town of Vik we find some of the best landscapes of Iceland.
Reynisfjara beach with its famous black volcanic sand is as impressive as deadly. It stands out for the basalt columns where the puffins nest during the summer, Reynishverfi, and for the three basalt sea-stacks of up to 200ft (60m) high that rise from the sea, Reynisdrangur, which the locals believed were three petrified trolls.
Before getting there, there are two viewpoints from where you can see the beach from above.
The first, accessible to all cars, brings you closer to other basalt formations and provides an incredible view of the Dyrhólaey arch.
The second one goes up to the Dyrholaey lighthouse and besides the view of the arch, it offers a panoramic view over the beach of Solheimafjara, where you can experience an unforgettable sunset.
Reynisfjara is, at the same time, the most dangerous beach in Iceland.
As soon as you enter the beach, you will see more than 5 different signs warning about the “hidden” danger of this beach. The sneaker waves easily suck people into the sea and sadly some tourists lost their lives on this beach. Please, for your safety, stay away from the water, especially on windy and stormy days.
The Fjadrargljufur canyon is 328 ft (100m) deep and 1.2 miles (2km) long. It is also a good stop to do on the Iceland’s Ring Road. However, it is one of those fragile locations highly affected by the recent massive arrival of visitors to Iceland. Please abide by the signs that you will find indicating the places where you cannot walk.
Nearby you can also find Fagrifoss waterfall, although you will need a 4×4 car to get there driving across the F206 road and after crossing a few rivers.
The Svartifoss waterfall is located in Skaftafell, which belongs to the Vatnajökull National Park. This original waterfall is one of the best phot spots in Iceland, with beautiful black basalt columns framing the waterfall.
To get there you will need to take a 1-mile (1.5km) uphill trail or a 3.5-mile/5.5km loop trail. On the way, you will pass by other very striking waterfalls: Magnúsarfoss and Hundafoss.
Svartifoss is frozen during the winter, so the best time to visit it is spring, summer and especially the fall season when all the vegetation brights in beautiful colors.
One of the Vatnajökull ice tongues, Svinafellsjokull, competes directly against Sólheimajökul as the most popular glacier of Iceland for hiking. However, both glaciers are different.
Sólheimajökul is recommended for those who want to practice ice climbing, while the latter is formed by steep ridges that, while not suitable for climbing, are more beautiful to contemplate. To visit it, like the rest of the glaciers in Iceland, you will need to take a tour.
The next Vatnajokull ice tongue that we can visit is Falljökull, that means “the falling glacier” in Icelandic.
From this tongue, we can see the impressive views where the glacier crashes into the mountain and falls towards the ocean. The majority of Iceland’s visitors do not choose to visit this glacier since during some periods of the year it is not suitable for hiking, but if you want to do something different, you can hire this tour.
We continue bordering the Vatnajokull glacier along the Ring Road until we reach the first glacier lagoon that we will visit on a trip to Iceland, Fjallsárlón.
In the lagoon, we can see pieces of ice falling from the glacier that remain floating like icebergs. The size of the lagoon is smaller than the well-known Jokulsarlon, which we will visit later.
Jokulsarlon is, without any doubt, the most important glacier lagoon on the island and a must-see landscape in Iceland. Like the previous one, this lagoon is full of pieces of ice, often with intense blue color. The lake has a great dimension, so I suggest you go around some of the different areas to see the changing shapes of the icebergs. Besides, it is easy to see seals swimming by the ice.
In Jokulsarlon and during the summer, you can take boat tours that get you to see how the pieces of ice fall off from the glacier.
Thanks to Jokulsarlon we have one of the most beautiful beaches in Iceland, Diamond Beach.
Pushed from the Jokulsarlon to the sea, some of the pieces of ice float towards the black sand beach popularly known as “Diamond Beach”. The contrast of the dark volcanic beach with the blue ice pieces is one of the things you would not imagine before planning an Iceland trip.
As we tour Iceland’s Ring Road, we continue to find breathtaking landscapes. The next one is the beach of Stokksnes, a beach of black sand dunes covered with vegetation below the imposing Vestrahorn mountain in the background.
To get to the beach by car you have to go through the Viking Café, where for the past few years you have to pay 700ISK to drive your car in. The opinions are radically different, and you will find many people who say that it is not worth the visit, but for me, it is the best of Iceland.
Taking another path from the Viking Café on foot, you arrive at the Viking Village, a set that was used to film the television series Vikings, in Iceland. The truth is that the decoration doesn’t look very real and I would even say that it is dangerous, since it is halfway constructed. However, the valley was full of Icelandic horses and if you did not know, you can not leave Iceland without getting close to one of these beautiful Icelandic animals.
The last point I recommend to visit on your trip to Iceland by car is the Hvalnes lighthouse, with the incredible Eystrahorn mountain in the background.
OTHER THINGS TO do ON THE island RING ROAD – THE BEST OF NORTH ICELAND
If you have enough time, it is worthwhile to continue touring the Ring Road and make a loop. If you want to drive around the whole island of Iceland take at least 10 days.
The Flogufoss waterfall is at the next to the road, at the height of Breiðdalsvík, so it deserves a stop. It has 200ft (60m) of fall so it is one of the highest in the area.
You will have to turn off on the 993 road and walk about 40 minutes to reach Hengifoss, one of the highest waterfalls in Iceland, with 400ft (128m) high that fall to a magnificent gorge. The waterfall is surrounded by colorful rocks that presents different layers of volcanic eruptions. On the way, there is another waterfall called Litlanesfoss, which is full of basalt columns.
The Klifbrekkufoss waterfall can only be visited in summer, by the 953 road, since winter closes this mountain pass. It consists of numerous small waterfalls that fall in zigzag completing a total height of 300ft (90m).
Gufufoss is a square-shaped waterfall of a considerable size found in the East Fjords of Iceland on the way to Seydisfjordur. Its name means fall of steam, by the abundant mist that it gives off when falling.
The Dettifoss waterfall is the most powerful waterfall in Europe, producing a cloud of steam that can be seen from miles. It is situated between Selfoss and Hafragilsfoss, the three waterfalls of the Fjöllum river that we will visit. This waterfall can be seen from both banks of the river, from the 864 road, which is a gravel road, bordering the east, or from the 862 road, which is a paved road, bordering the west bank . From one shore to another it only takes an hour so it is possible to visit both viewpoints during your trip to Iceland.
Both views are spectacular. From the eastern bank, the waterfall looks on its side, but it is possible to approach the fall to feel the intensity and roar of the water. From the west side, the view of the waterfall is more frontal, although it is not possible to get too close and the view is more limited due to the steam caused by the waterfall.
Selfoss is 1 mile (1.5km) upstream of Dettifoss and to get there you will have to take a path that starts from the Dettifoss car park on the right bank. Unlike the previous waterfall, it disperses the entire flow in many small jumps, being a low waterfall but much wider and no less impressive.
Hafragilsfoss is located under the two previous waterfalls and can also be visited from both banks, although it is more accessible from the east. Although from the west side we can get closer, you can get the best view from the east with a telephoto lens.
For photographers, the best views of the last three waterfalls are taken from the 864 road, although it is advisable to drive with a 4×4 car.
If we follow the 862 road, the paved section ends and starts a dirt road that can also be driven by 2wd cars leading to Hljóðaklettar, the echo rock, a volcanic formation found in the Jökulsárgljúfur National Park. This layer of basalts seems to have been compressed at the ends and elevated in the central zone creating a cave taken from another world.
Visit the geothermal area of Myvatn is something you have to do in Iceland when driving around it. In its center is Lake Myvatn, which is one of the largest in the country, and around you will find sites such as Hverir, a geothermal area where fumaroles, bubbling mud pools, and geysers are the protagonists. Here we can also find Grjótagjá cave, with hot springs inside, popularized as the setting for one of the most romantic moments of the Game of Thrones series.
If we continue around the lake we will arrive at Dimmuborgir, that means dark castles, an area with very unusual volcanic formations, where the eruptions of steam columns under the still hot lava fields carved caverns and rock formations that the Icelanders considered the catacombs of the hell. Local legends tell that here also live the Yule Lads, 13 trolls that are the equivalent of Santa Claus at Christmas.
KRAFLA VITI crater AND LEIRHNJUKUR
Near the Myvatn area, taking the paved 863 road and after passing the geothermal power station we reach the point where the Krafla volcano fires occurred and we can find the spectacular Vití crater surrounded by mountains of colors and fumaroles and with a lake in its interior of intense blue color. Nearby it is highly recommended to hike the lava fields of Leirhnjukur where we can see more fumaroles, mud pools and hot springs surrounded by colorful mountains.
Visiting the Godafoss waterfall is another thing you have to do in Iceland. It is very accessible from the Ring Road and stands out for its shape. 40ft (12m) of fall and 100ft (30m) wide divided in half by a huge rock that lets an elegant jet of water pass through the middle. The legend goes that when Iceland decided to convert to Christianity, the statues of the pagan gods were thrown by this waterfall and hence it was named as “The waterfall of the Gods”.
This basalt sea-stack located on the north coast of Iceland is another of the many attractions of the island. Its shape reminds a rhinoceros drinking water. Hvítserkur was recently reinforced with concrete to preserve its spectacular shape.
One of the best places to see the sunset in the north of Iceland is the Skardsviti lighthouse. As in the list of things to see in South Iceland, we end this section with a lighthouse, also very busy when the Northern Lights decide to dance across the sky.
WHAT TO SEE IN ICELAND – SNAEFELLSNES PENINSULA
If you have time to visit the Snaefellsnes Peninsula on your vacation in Iceland, do not hesitate.
These are the best things to do in Snaefellsnes:
Although the Kirkjufell mountain is always full of tourists, it is still a must stop on a trip to Iceland. The waterfalls down the hill, the large meadow that is painted with the sunset colors and the iconic pyramidal mountain make it probably the most popular photograph in all of Iceland.
The lava cliffs of Arnarstapi are perhaps the most spectacular in Iceland. Driving the cost road that goes from Arnastapi to Hellnar you will see huge lava walls, migratory birds, and spectacular rock formations like the famous Gatklettur arch or the statue of Bárður Snæfellsás, protector of the Snaefellness Peninsula. Near Arnastapi we can also find the Rauðfeldsgjá canyon.
Not far from Arnarstapi we will find the volcanic beach of Djúpalónssandur, other spectacular black beach in Iceland, where we can see the remains of a shipwreck.
The lava cave of Vatnshellir is famous for being the place to enter the center of the Earth in the famous book by Jules Verne. It stands out for the stalagmites inside and the deep silence that is in the deepest part of the cave. You need to hire a tour to visit it.
The Snaefellsjokull glacier located on the top of the volcano that covers the Snaefellness Peninsula offers the possibility of being explored through guided hiking tours in special vehicles.
The Church of Búðir is the most photographed church in all of Iceland. In addition to its characteristic black color, its location at the foot of the Snaefellsjokull volcano and next to the sea, make it one of those idyllic locations taken from a fantasy world that are frequent in Iceland.
The beach of Ytri Tunga is one of the best seal observatories in Iceland. Seals can be seen throughout the year, but especially during June and July.
The giant basalt columns of Gerduberg located at the entrance to the peninsula, are one of the most impressive geological formations in all of Iceland.
This cliff located in the north of the Snaefellness Peninsula has a perfect panoramic view of the lava cliffs to the side and the Snaefellsjokull volcano to the opposite side. If we make the journey we can find the lighthouse of Svörtuloft, with its striking orange color.
You should check our guide on things to do on Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and the northernmost capital in the World. It is not only a starting point to see the wonders of Iceland, but also a historical, cultural and gastronomic landmark same as other Nordic capitals.
These are the main attractions of Reykjavik:
The colossal Hallgrimskirkja church is almost 250ft (75m) high and is one of the main attractions in Reykjavik. It is visible practically from any point of the city.
From the main tower, we can enjoy a 360º view of the city of Reykjavik. The tower is open every day except Sundays and the price is 900 ISK ($7.5/€6.6) for adults.
The Harpa concert hall is one of the most symbolic buildings in Reykjavik, famous for its original glass design and the reflected colors when the light changes.
Talking about sculptures and next to Harpa, we can find another of the major landmarks of Reykjavik and Iceland, “the Sun Voyager”, a Viking-shaped ship that represents a dreamboat, or an ode to the sun.
Laugavegur and the surrounding streets, located in the center of Reykjavik, offer a wide variety of shops of the most popular Icelandic brands. If you forgot to take your coat or your gloves to Iceland you can find the most famous outdoor clothing stores such as 66 North, Ice Wear or Zo-on.
Perlan revolving glass dome restaurant is located on the outskirts of the city and in an elevated position providing one of the best views of the city of Reykjavik. It is located inside a large park and is one of the best places to relax in Reykjavik.
You can check the best things to do in Reykjavik here.
WHAT TO do in Iceland – WESTFJORDS
The Northwest fjords of Iceland are one of the most overlooked areas when making a trip to Iceland. However, if you have enough time on your trip and want to see an area full of nature away from the crowds in the South, planning at least one or two days in these fjords can be a good idea.
In short, these are the best things to do in the Iceland Westfjords:
Many people visit the fjords just to see Dynjandi waterfall. Different from the rest of waterfalls on the island, its vast size and especially its imposing shape make it one of the most breathtaking waterfalls in Iceland.
The cliffs of Latrabjarg are the northernmost cliffs in Europe and the residence of many migratory birds in Iceland, making it one of the essential attractions in the Westfjords.
The Hornstrandir nature reserve is located at the northern end of the fjords and offers some of the best hikes and wildlife in Iceland. Under bad weather conditions, however, visiting this area can be a challenge. The only way to get there is by taking a boat from the village of Ísafjörður, the largest population in the Westfjords of Iceland.
The red sand beach of Raudasandur is one of the most spectacular, large and at the same time quiet beaches in Iceland. The intense color of its sand makes worth at least a stop over this beach.
The village of Holmavik is famous for the witch hunt that took place in the 17th century. Popular for its Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft that explains all the history and legends about this ancient Icelandic belief.
OTHER VILLAGES IN THE NORTHWEST FJORDS OF ICELAND
In addition to Holmavik, there are 14 other villages in the Westfjords. Some of the most interesting to visit are Patreksfjörður, the largest town in the south area of the Westfjords, and Isafjordur, the largest village in this area. In this last village we can find most of the common services in addition to the official tourism office of the Iceland’s Westfjords.
best things TO do IN THE HIGHLANDS of ICELAND
If you have the opportunity to rent a 4wd car and travel between May and September, visiting the Highlands is the best thing to do in Iceland.
The Highlands are inaccessible during most part of the year and even in summer, not many people decide to visit them.
All the nature around Iceland is breathtaking, but the Icelandic Highlands have something special, maybe for its remoteness or because you have the feeling of being by yourself at every step: Without a doubt, the highlands are a true gem to be discovered.
Before getting into this area, check the weather and road conditions and make sure your car is prepared to take you through the Highlands of Iceland. Planning the itinerary through them is important as in some roads you will need to cross some rivers.
These are the best things to see in the Highlands of Iceland, starting from the Ring Road counter-clockwise:
Haifoss waterfall is the second highest waterfall in Iceland with 400ft (120m) high and one of my favorites to watch the sunset. Besides, there is another shorter waterfall from the same river, Granni, in the same location.
The road is very bumpy because of the many holes in the 32 road and especially in the 332 road. Although they are not F roads, we found them in worse conditions than most of the F roads on the Highlands.
Sigöldugljufur is, without a doubt, the most beautiful canyon in Iceland. On the edge of this fairytale canyon, you can see multiple waterfalls of turquoise water falling to the bottom of the gorge. It is required to take a short walk from the parking lot to get there, on the F208 road.
BLÁHYLUR, LJÓTIPOLLUR & FROSTASTAÐAVATN
If you follow the F208 road to the East, you will find three lakes worth visiting. The first, Bláhylur, is known as the blue pool because of the intense color of the water contained in this volcanic crater created thousands of years ago. If we continue ahead and then turn to the left, we arrive at Ljótipollur, a crater full of water with vibrant colors surrounded by the reddish volcano which name means “ugly lake”. On the same area, we can also find the Frostastaðavatn lake, also a volcanic lake with green waters, but in this case of a larger size.
Continuing along the F208 we arrive at possibly the most visited and popular area in the Highlands of Iceland, Landmannalaugar, located at the east of the Hekla volcano. This is a very active geothermal area, with several fumaroles and hot springs, endless epic hiking trails, such as the one to Brennisteinsalda, “the wave of sulfur”, a mountain painted in colorful tones.
From here we can also start the 6-day hike called Laugavegur, which leads to Skogafoss waterfall passing through Thorsmork. Camping in Landmannalaugar is one of the best experiences in Iceland during the summer season.
Thorsmork, also known as the Valley of Thor, is located at the South of the Highlands, between the Tindfjallajökull and Eyjafjallajökull glaciers, is one of the most popular areas for hiking in Iceland. If you take any of the routes that depart from here, such as Valahnukur or Tindfjöll circle you can see this valley full of twisting blue rivers. Not even conventional 4×4 cars can get here, so it is best to take a bus to get to the volcano huts.
Askja volcano is located in the northern part of the Vatnajökull National Park. In the interior of its caldera, we can find the Lake Öskjuvatn, which is the deepest lake in the country with 700ft (217m) of depth and on one side, the small blue lake of Vití. The easiest way to get there is by taking the route F905 followed by F910 (avoid route F88 since you need to cross rivers only accessible for special vehicles and not for conventional 4×4 cars).
If you are going around the island with a 4×4 car during your holidays in Iceland, you cannot miss a visit to the Aldeyjarfoss waterfall, on the F26 road. With a crystal turquoise blue water and surrounded by hundreds of basalt columns, is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland.
The last road we will travel through our trip across the Icelandic Highlands is the F32 and the first stop from north to south is Hveravellir, a geothermal area full of hot springs, fumaroles and mud pools.
Continuing towards the south of the F32 road and turning off in the F347 we will pass through the Gýgjarfoss waterfall before reaching the Kerlingarfjoll mountain range; simply a magical place full of fumaroles and mountains of rialita that shine on sunny days.
The best hike is the one that goes to the geothermal area of Hveradalir, where we will pass through a valley full of steam from the geysers and with amazing rusty yellow and red mountains that form a unique landscape in the Highlands of Iceland.
2. Best time to visit Iceland
The next thing we must decide is when to travel to Iceland, since, although Iceland can be visited all year round, depending on the time when you travel, the things to do in Iceland will change.
We cannot talk about the best time to visit Iceland generically. It depends completely on the purpose of your trip. For example, if you want to see Northern Lights in Iceland, you’ll have to go at a different time than you would if you wanted to watch puffins or whales.
However, one of the main tips to travel to Iceland that I can give you is that you choose carefully when to go to Iceland since this will determine everything you do during your trip.
Best time to see Northern Lights in Iceland
We will not see in-depth this section since we have a complete guide to know where and when to see Northern Lights in Iceland and how to forecast Aurora Borealis in Iceland.
Briefly, I would say that seeing the Aurora Borealis is one of the most magical experiences and the best thing to do in Iceland in winter.
There are quite a few offers of trips to Iceland to see the Northern Lights, as well as Iceland Northern Lights tours from Reykjavik.
The best time to see whales in Iceland is from June to August, although from Reykjavik there are whale watching tours all year round.
Seeing whales in Iceland in winter is difficult, so most of the tours that operate throughout the year give you a voucher for two years so you can repeat the trip if there is no success in your first attempt.
It is very important that you choose a company that respects the safety distances, so the whales don’t get disturbed and their behavior is not affected when stressed with constant visitors.
In that aspect, if you are going to do the tour from Reykjavik, I recommend this company. Although, the best place to see whales in Iceland is in the north of the island, in Húsavik and Akureyri. This is the best whale watching tour from Húsavik, and this is the best whale watching tour from Akureyri.
During these tours, you can see humpback whales, minkes and killer whales, as well as many seabirds, white-nosed dolphins, and common porpoises.
Check here our whale watching in Iceland guide.
When to see puffins in Iceland
Iceland wildlife is so diverse that many tourists come to the island also to see puffins among other seabirds.
The best time to see puffins in Iceland is from April to August. These small birds called “Lundi” in Icelandic, spend all autumn and winter in the northern seas and arrive in spring to the coast of Iceland to mate.
The best place to see puffins in Iceland is in the cliffs in the south, such as the basaltic cliffs in Vik or Dyrhóaley.
Although some people prefer to go looking for them on their own, there are also tours to see puffins in Iceland. Some of these tours focus on the sighting of puffins from Reykjavik, and others offer tours to see puffins and whales from Reykjavik or Husavik.
Best time to see the Midnight Sun of Iceland
One of the most popular things to do in Iceland in summer is to enjoy the Midnight sun. This phenomenon occurs during the summer solstice in regions close to the arctic circle when the sun never sets, having more than 24 hours of continuous light.
Iceland is not within the Arctic Circle (The Iceland Latitude is 64º, and the Arctic Circle is 66º). However, during the days close to the summer solstice we can have 24 hours of daylight in Iceland.
If you like long days and having time to do many things, then travel to Iceland in summer on the dates close to June 21 and enjoy the Midnight Sun in Iceland.
Best time to visit Ice caves in Iceland
Traveling to Iceland in winter is also a great option as we can visit the Ice Caves of Iceland. These caves are formed when large masses of ice partially melt during the summer, and this is what happens with Icelandic glaciers.
However, you should know that not every year the same caves open and they can change their shape and size from one year to the next one. Some years the caves are really stunning while others they are not so impressive.
The best time to visit Ice Caves in Iceland is from mid-November to mid-March, being, along with the Northern Lights chasing, one of the best things to do in Iceland in winter.
The most impressive caves are usually located around the Vatnajoekull glacier, and it is essential to go with a guide to get to them. These tours usually leave from Jokulsarlon, and it is essential to hire them in advance.
Best time to go hiking in Iceland
If you like outdoors, the best time to travel to Iceland and go hiking is July. The temperatures are quite good and the precipitations less frequent than in August. Take advantage of Iceland’s long summer days to go trekking to more remote places or even to take multi-day hikes.
Best month to visit Iceland
Finally, if you still do not know which is the best month to travel to Iceland, here is a list of activities you can do in Iceland depending on the month.
THINGS TO DO IN ICELAND EACH MONTH
Iceland in January
Photographing winter landscapes
Iceland in February
See frozen Iceland falls
Iceland in March
Strong northern lights during the spring equinox
Iceland in April
Enjoy the thaw season
Iceland in May
Best time to drive around the Ring Road of Iceland
Iceland in June
Iceland in July
Trekking through the Highlands
Iceland in August
Puffins and whales
Iceland in September
Fall colors landscapes and northern lights
Iceland in October
Tourist places not so crowded
Iceland in November
Ice Caves in Iceland
Iceland in December
New Year's Eve in the blue lagoon of Iceland
3. Getting around Iceland
Our travel itinerary, our accommodation, and even our budget will be determined by how we get around Iceland. In this section, you will find all the options, where renting a car in Iceland is the most popular.
You can check here the best tips to rent a cheap car.
Traveling Iceland by car
Taking an Iceland Road Trip is an incredible experience. We cannot talk about scenic drives, because all roads in Iceland are surrounded by dreamy landscapes.
Every mile traveled you will fall more and more in love with this island and the scenery, taken from a fairy tale, will not look like anything you have seen before.
That’s why the car rental in Iceland is so popular. Most of the visitors go for this option. However, it is very common to wonder if it is necessary to rent a 4×4 in Iceland or a conventional car. Although we explain everything on our ultimate guide to rent a car on Iceland, there are some quick facts you need to know.
The road network of Iceland is not very large, consisting of roads of two types: ordinary roads, which names are made up of numbers, such as the famous Ring Road (route 1) that surrounds the island, and roads where it will be mandatory to drive a 4×4 car, known as F roads, since their names are composed of numbers preceded by the letter F.
Depending on the itinerary you are going to take during your trip to Iceland by car, if you decide to visit the Highlands you will have to drive F roads, and therefore you will need a 4×4 vehicle. However, most of the self-drive trips to Iceland focus on the Golden Circle and the Southern part of the island where a conventional rental car will fulfill our needs.
If you travel to Iceland in winter, I would also suggest going for a 4×4 since there are constant snowfalls.
Besides, you should check out our guide to driving in Iceland with a tone of useful tips.
Iceland 4×4 trip
The so-called F roads of Iceland, are unpaved roads that pass through the interior of the island and are not maintained during the winter, so in October they are closed by snow until next spring. The F that precedes the number that designates the road indicates that in some section it will be necessary to ford a river and, therefore, you will need four-wheel drive and the robustness of a 4×4 vehicle.
On our last trip, we rented a Dacia Duster from Cheap Car Rental Iceland, a company dedicated to car rental services in Iceland which is also specialized in Iceland f road car rentals. The experience with them was superb, and thanks to the 4×4 I could visit some remote areas and see landscapes that I couldn’t see on my first trip with a normal car.
Besides, and even though it was somehow daunting, it was exciting crossing some small rivers.
If you are thinking to visit the Icelandic Highlands, don’t forget to bring an Iceland f roads map like this one.
In the section of frequently asked questions about Iceland, I left some tips to ford rivers in Iceland.
Traveling Iceland by campervan
Traveling Iceland by motorhome is a perfect option since there are also a lot of companies that rent RVs and campers in Iceland. If you get a good deal, you can even save a lot of money compared to staying in hotels. However, you should know that since 2015 it is not allowed to spend the night in motorhomes in Iceland outside of campsites, so I recommend you to visit the accommodation section to find out about the different campgrounds on the island.
Traveling Iceland without a car
If you want to add an extra adventure to your trip to Iceland, you can choose not to rent a car. Who says you cannot travel to Iceland for cheap?
Many people decide to travel to Iceland by bike, taking an Iceland hiking trip, backpacking or even hitchhiking. Iceland is a very safe country, so it is completely fine if you travel to Iceland with no car.
However, you must bear in mind that traveling to Iceland solo exposes you to finding yourself in the middle of nowhere in a storm and having no shelter, so I recommend you check the weather frequently.
On the other hand, other people prefer to travel to Iceland without a car, so you can hire some of the day trips from Reykjavik that I recommend you have a wonderful experience. With these excursions that I propose, I assure you that you can see the best of Iceland without the need of driving:
- Blue Lagoon and Golden Circle in one day from Reykjavik.
- South Iceland Tour in one day from Reykjavik.
- Jokulsarlon tour in one day from Reykjavik.
- Ice Cave in one day from Reykjavík.
- Snaefellsnes Peninsula in one day from Reykjavik.
- Tour to see whales and puffins in one day from Reykjavik.
- Excursion to Landmannalaugar in one day from Reykjavík.
- Northern Lights Tour from Reykjavik.
4. Iceland trip itinerary ideas
In this section, we will talk about how long to stay in Iceland and what is the best road trip itinerary. We will also answer the frequent question of “how long does it take to drive around Iceland?” And we will help you get the most out of your days on the island.
How Many Days to Spend in Iceland
Before I recommend how many days to spend in Iceland, I will tell you about my experience on the island.
I have taken two trips to Iceland, my first time I visited Iceland in 7 days in summer (August) and in the second one, I took a 10-day trip to Iceland to see the Northern Lights (at the end of September), and, although on both trips I did different things, I still have many places left to see in Iceland.
On my trip to Iceland in August, I visited the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Southern Iceland, and part of the Golden Circle. However, in September I returned with the intention of driving around Iceland in 10 days, but the bad weather changed my plans.
Finally, on this last trip, I visited some of the most touristic places in Iceland, as well as a good part of the Highlands. On the other hand, I was following clear skies to see the Northern Lights almost every night.
In short, my Iceland travel diary in September can be summarized as visiting the locations with more chances to see the Aurora, and it was mainly focus on the natural wonders of Iceland since this time I didn’t visit Reykjavik nor went to the famous Blue Lagoon of Iceland.
So, if you are wondering what is the ideal length of time to stay in Iceland, a week would be the minimum, although it is recommended ten days (to see South Iceland and the Golden Circle) and 15 or 20 days to drive around the island.
Best Iceland trip itinerary
In this section, I will give you different Iceland trip ideas so that you can choose the best trip to Iceland for you, according to the time when you travel and the days you have.
On this Iceland trip planner, you will not see any days for Reykjavik, as we believe that the nature of Iceland is so beautiful that unless you have a lot of time, it is not worth spending a day in the city.
These are my travel recommendations to Iceland.
7-day Iceland road trip itinerary
- Day 1: Iceland Golden Circle Tour: Thingvellir + Kerid + Gullfoss + Geysir + Bruarfoss
- Day 2: Stunning Iceland waterfalls: Seljalandsfoss + Gljúfrabúi + Skógafoss + Kvernufoss
- Day 3: Beach and Glacier hikes: DC3 Plane Wreck + Sólheimajökull
- Day 4: Glacial lagoons: Fjaðrárgljúfur + Fjallsárlón + Jökulsárlón
- Day 5: The best beaches in Iceland: Diamond Beach + Stokksnes
- Day 6: Basaltic beauties: Svartifoss + Vik + Dyrholaey Reynisfjara
- Day 7: Hot springs in Iceland: Blue Lagoon + Krýsuvík
- Day 1: Iceland Golden Circle Tour: Thingvellir + Kerid + Gullfoss + Geysir (Northern Lights in Gullfoss)
- Day 2: Stunning Iceland waterfalls: Seljalandsfoss + Gljúfrabúi + Skógafoss + Kvernufoss (Northern Lights in Skógafoss)
- Day 3: Glacier hike: Sólheimajökull (Northern Lights in Skógafoss)
- Day 4: Glacier Lagoons: Fjaðrárgljúfur + Fjallsárlón + Jökulsárlón (Northern Lights in Jökulsárlón o Diamond Beach)
- Day 5: The best beaches in Iceland: Diamond Beach + Stokksnes (Northern Lights in Stokksnes)
- Day 6: Basaltic beauties: Svartifoss + Vik + Dyrholaey Reynisfjara (Northern Lights in Reynisfjara)
- Day 7: Hot springs in Iceland: Blue Lagoon + Krýsuvík Seltún
10-day Iceland trip itinerary
- Day 1: Stunning Iceland waterfalls: Seljalandsfoss + Gljúfrabúi + Skógafoss + Kvernufoss
- Day 2: Beach and Glacier hikes: DC3 Plane Wreck + Sólheimajökull
- Day 3: Glacier Lagoons: Fjaðrárgljúfur + Fjallsárlón + Jökulsárlón
- Day 4: The best beaches in Iceland: Diamond Beach + Stokksnes
- Day 5: Basaltic beauties: Svartifoss + Vik + Dyrholaey Reynisfjara
- Day 6: The Icelandic Highlands: Landmannalaugar
- Day 7: Iceland Golden Circle Tour: Gullfoss + Geysir + Bruarfoss
- Day 8: Heading to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula: Kerid + Thingvellir + Kirkjufell
- Day 9: Volcanic cliffs: Budir church+ Gatklettur + Arnarstapi Cliffs
- Day 10: Hot Springs in Iceland: Blue Lagoon + Krýsuvík Seltún
- Day 1: Stunning Iceland waterfalls: Seljalandsfoss + Gljúfrabúi + Skógafoss + Kvernufoss (Northern Lights in Skógafoss)
- Day 2: Glacier Hike: Sólheimajökull (Northern Lights in Skógafoss)
- Day 3: Glacier Lagoons: Fjaðrárgljúfur + Fjallsárlón + Jökulsárlón (Northern Lights in Jökulsárlón)
- Day 4: Iceland Ice: Diamond Beach + Ice Cave in Vatnajökull (Northern Lights in Diamond Beach)
- Day 5: Iceland Mountains: Hvalnes Lighthouse + Stokksnes (Northern Lights in Stokksnes)
- Day 6: Basaltic Beauties: Svartifoss + Vik + Dyrholaey Reynisfjara (Northern Lights in Reynisfjara)
- Day 7: Iceland Golden Circle Tour: Gullfoss + Geysir (Northern Lights in Geysir)
- Day 8: Heading to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula: Kerid + Thingvellir + Kirkjufell (Northern Lights in Kirkjufell)
- Day 9: Volcanic Cliffs: Budir Church + Gatklettur + Arnarstapi Cliffs (Northern Lights in Budir Church)
- Day 10: Hot Springs in Iceland: Blue Lagoon + Krýsuvík Seltún
Iceland 15 days itinerary
- Day 1: Thingvellir + Kerid + Gullfoss + Geysir + Bruarfoss
- Day 2: Seljalandsfoss + Gljúfrabúi + Skógafoss + Kvernufoss
- Day 3: DC3 Plane Wreck + Sólheimajökull
- Day 4: Vik + Dyrholaey Reynisfjara + Fjaðrárgljúfur
- Day 5: Svartifoss + Svínafellsjökull
- Day 6: Fjallsárlón + Jökulsárlón + Diamond Beach
- Day 7: Stokksnes + Hvalnes + Flögufoss
- Day 8: Hengifoss + Klifbrekkufoss + Gufufoss
- Day 9: Detifoss (east side) + Hafragilsfoss + Hljóðaklettar
- Day 10: Detifoss (west side) + Selfoss + Myvatn: Viti + Leirhnjukur + Hverir + Grjótagjá
- Day 11: Goðafoss + Aldeyjarfoss
- Day 12: Skardsviti Lighthouse + Hvítserkur
- Day 13: Kirkjufell + Budir + Gatklettur + Arnarstapi cliffs + Ytri Tunga
- Day 14: Blue Lagoon + Krýsuvík Seltún
- Day 15: Ice Cave tour (winter) or Whale watching tour (summer)
In summer, replace the 12th day with a whale watching tour from Húsavík and delays the rest of the itinerary for a day.
In winter, replace the 7th day with an excursion to an Ice cave from Jokulsarlon and delays the rest of the itinerary for a day.
- Day 1: Thingvellir + Kerid + Gullfoss + Geysir + Bruarfoss
- Day 2: Seljalandsfoss + Gljúfrabúi + Skógafoss + Kvernufoss
- Day 3: DC3 Plane Wreck + Sólheimajökull
- Day 4: Svartifoss + Svínafellsjökull
- Day 5: Fjallsárlón + Jökulsárlón + Diamond Beach
- Day 6: Stokksnes + Hvalnes + Flögufoss
- Day 7: Fjaðrárgljúfur + Vik + Dyrholaey Reynisfjara
- Day 8: F249 Thórsmörk
- Day 9: F210 Maelifell + Axlafoss + Ófærufoss
- Day 10: F208 Landmannalaugar
- Day 11: F26 Ljótipollur + Bláhylur + Sigöldugljufur + Haifoss
- Day 12: F35 Kerlingarfjöll + Hveradalir + Gýgjarfoss + Hveravellir
- Day 13: Skardsviti Lighthouse + Hvítserkur + Kirkjufell + Budir + Cliffs of Arnarstapi
- Day 14: Blue Lagoon + Krýsuvík Seltún
- Day 15: Whale watching tour from Reykjavik
5. Cheap flights to Iceland
Practically, the only way to travel to Iceland is by plane, arriving at Keflavik airport, which is 45 minutes from Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland.
The cheapest way to get to Reykjavik from the Keflavik airport is using this city bus.
Thankfully, nowadays it is possible to travel to Iceland for cheap. If you plan well in advance and use our cheap flight hacks, it is not difficult to find cheap flights to Iceland.
My recommendation is activating a Kiwi.com alert for flight offers to Iceland about six months before your trip. If the price decrease, something that usually happens three months before the flight date, you will receive a notification.
To guide you, a reasonable price for flights to Iceland from Europe will be around €200-400 and from New York around $400-600.
The next thing we must do is choose the best places to stay in Iceland.
Although tourism is increasing, there is still a long way to meet the growing demand of travelers who come in search of nature to the island. There are not yet too many hotels in Iceland, so I recommend you book your accommodation well in advance if you don’t want to end up paying more.
Although in summer many people prefer to camp in Iceland, in winter this is not recommended, leaving just the option of either a Camper Van or traditional accommodation.
We have a specific article where we talk about the best areas to stay in Iceland. However, in this section, we will tell you all the possible options for accommodation in Iceland, including a map where you can find the best hostels and campsites in Iceland.
Best hotels in Iceland
This is our selection of the best hotels in Iceland, depending on whether you are looking for luxury hotels, ideal for romantic nights or when you are enjoying your honeymoon in Iceland and cheap hotels when you want to spend as little as possible while looking for hotels that offer a good location.
Luxury hotels in Iceland
- Hotel Rangá (Southern Iceland near the Golden Circle): The best Northern Lights hotel in Iceland. They have an alarm service to warn you if the Aurora Borealis appears. It has private Jacuzzis in the rooms.
- Hotel Gullfoss (Golden Circle): In the heart of the Golden Circle, it stands out for its impressive rooms and its unbeatable complimentary breakfast.
- Hótel Kría (Vik): With a modern design made of wood, this hotel has the best restaurant in the area. It is very well located.
- Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon (Jokulsarlon): Incredible views, modern and comfortable rooms, and quality buffet breakfast.
- Fosshótel Mývatn (Northern Iceland near Myvatn): Exclusive design and very well located. Free sauna from which you can see Northern Lights. Its restaurant is one of the best in the area.
Cheap hotels in Iceland
- The Base by Keflavik Airport (Keflavik): Cheap hotel near Keflavik Airport that has both private and shared rooms. Complimentary transfer to the airport.
- Route 1 Guesthouse (Reykjavik): Best option to stay in Reykjavik for cheap. Breakfast is included and it has a kitchen so you can prepare your food.
- The Barn (Vik): Hotel recently opened but of superior quality, so it is not surprising that prices rise in the future. It has both private and shared rooms as well as a kitchen that you can use.
- Hotel Jökull (Stokksnes): Very comfortable hotel with large and clean rooms. They offer private and shared rooms. The breakfast is included.
- Lónsá Guesthouse (Northern Iceland near Myvatn): Small rooms but very clean and reasonably well priced. They have laundry facilities that you can use.
Best campsites in Iceland
If you travel in summer, I recommend camping in Iceland at least one night, not only because you will save a lot of money, but because it is the best way to be in touch with the nature of Iceland.
Whether you are traveling in Iceland by Rv, by campervan or by car, camping is a good option. It was what we liked the most, and if you are willing to sacrifice a little comfort for enjoying this experience, you will not regret it. If you have ever dreamed of falling asleep with the roar of a powerful waterfall, you cannot miss camping in Iceland.
These are some of the best campsites in Iceland:
- Hellissandur Camping: On the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
- Camping Geysir: In the Golden Circle
- Brennisteinsalda Camping: In Landmannalaugar
- Skógar Campsite: At the Skógafoss waterfall
- Skaftafell Camping: In the Skaftafell National Park
- Camping Höfn: In Hofn near Stokksnes
Most of these campsites have bathrooms and showers. However, if you want to add a little adventure to your experience, you can also wild camp in Iceland. Just make sure that you are not camping in an illegal area (like most of Iceland’s National parks or private properties).
Although previously this was not regulated, from 2015 they banned wild camping in much of the island to preserve its delicate ecosystem. You can check where wild camping is allowed in Iceland here. Overnight in vehicles, camper and motorhomes outside campsites or authorized areas are prohibited.
If you are going to camp for most of your time in Iceland during summer, either with a motorhome or with a tent, you should check the Campingcard, that allow you to camp for free in more than 40 campsites in Iceland for 28 nights (they don’t have to be consecutive) for a price of $170 per tent or RV.
Best hotels and campings of Iceland on a map
7. Iceland Visa and Passport Requirements
You do not need a visa if you travel to Iceland for tourism for up to 90 days. However, if you want to study or work and you are going to spend more time in Iceland, a visa is required. In any case, if it is mandatory to have a return ticket that shows the date when you will leave the country and a passport that expires in more than six months from your arrival.
If you check where is Iceland on a map, you would know that Iceland is part of Europe, but it is not part of the European Union. However, according to the Schengen agreement, all member countries can travel to Iceland with an ID card and without a passport, although we always recommend bringing it too.
8. Iceland travel insurance
Hiring good travel insurance to Iceland is mandatory.
The main problems that we can face during our trip are flight cancellations due to natural disasters (some Iceland’s volcanoes are active, so it is not uncommon to see Keflavik Airport having to cancel flights from time to time). Above all, we need to buy the best travel insurance for accidents that happen when doing outdoor activities in Iceland.
As Iceland is in Europe, travel insurance for the Schengen area will be enough.
You can get the best quality-price insurance with Heymondo.
We bought annual travel insurance (perfect if you plan to take several trips this year).
9. How Much Does a Trip to Iceland Cost?
In this section, we calculate an Iceland trip average cost considering all the travel expenses during your trip to Iceland. As in any destination, if you want to take an Iceland trip for cheap, it depends on you and your taste for accommodation, activities, and food. Take this only like an estimated budget.
We will take as a reference, a 7-day Iceland trip cost for two people, and we will use the Iceland currency: the Icelandic crown.
How much does it cost to travel to Iceland?
As said on the cheap flights to Iceland section, the Iceland trip cost from us is around $400-600 and from Europe is around €200-400, so we will estimate 40000ISK per person round trip.
Total expenses on flights to Iceland for two people = $1000 = 120000ISK
How Much Does It Cost to Rent a Car in Iceland?
It will depend on whether you want to rent a 4×4 car in Iceland to explore the Highlands or if you just need a 2WD vehicle.
The price of 4WD rental cars in Iceland is around $140 per day (16400 ISK), while we can find 2WD from $90 per day (11000 ISK)
For calculating our cost of traveling to Iceland on a budget, we are going to consider the cheapest option.
Total expenses on rental car in Iceland for 7 days = $640 = 77000ISK
Fuel price in Iceland
The Iceland Gasoline prices are very high, currently is 220ISK ($1.83) per liter. In most trips to Iceland, you need to drive many miles because the interesting points are usually far from each other. In our case, we filled our Duster’s tank every two days, so in the end, we spent a good amount of money on gasoline in Iceland, approximately 5500ISK ($46) per day.
Total expenses in fuel in Iceland for 7 days = $322 = 38500ISK
How much is a hotel room in Iceland?
The price of hotels in Iceland is quite high, so if you want to take an Iceland trip on a budget, the best option is camping.
However, this is only possible during the summer, so for our estimated Iceland trip budget, we consider staying in hotels. The average price of a hotel room in Iceland is $230, although if we plan well in advance, we could find some offers at around $140.
Total expenses for accommodation in Iceland for 7 days = $960 = 115000ISK
Iceland trip food budget
The restaurants in Iceland are costly, so we decided to check in extra luggage full of food. However, we could still see how expensive it is to eat in Iceland. The average price of breakfast in Iceland is $17, while for lunch or dinner is around $40. Therefore, you should consider around $97 per person per day.
Total food expenses in Iceland for 2 people in 7 days = $1360 = 162300ISK
If you want to reduce your food expenses, but you don’t want to check in an extra suitcase, I recommend combining restaurants with grocery stores. Although supermarkets in Iceland are expensive too, I assure you that you can save a lot of money. Especially I recommend buying at Bónus or Krónan, as they usually have quite a few offers.
How much does a 1-day tour in Iceland cost?
Some of the most popular tours in Iceland are:
- Northern Lights Tour from Reykjavik from $52 per person
- Whale watching from Reykjavik from $97 per person
- Golden Circle & Blue Lagoon Tour from $105 per person
- Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon Tour from $140 per person
- South of Iceland Full-Day Tour from $84 per person
- Snæfellsnes Peninsula Full-Day Tour from $105 per person
- Ice Cave Tour from $250 per person
To calculate the cheapest travel budget to Iceland, we will consider that you don’t take any of the tours mentioned. In that case, the cost of a 7-day trip to Iceland for two people would be as follows.
If you want to save even more, check our guide on travel on a budget.
10. What to pack for Iceland
To finish, we tell you what to bring in your trip to Iceland in the summer and winter.
As the Icelanders say, the problem is not the weather but your clothes, or so as to speak: bad weather is never an impediment to enjoy the island. Howevwe, a bad choice of what clothes to wear in Iceland is.
The main thing you must put into practice is the trick of layering clothes, which we can leverage both in winter and summer. The weather in Iceland is very changeable, so it is useful to wear different layers that allow you to be comfortable if it is sunny, rainy or snowy. We will explain it in more detail below.
What to wear in Iceland in summer
The average temperature of Iceland in summer is 68ºF (20ºC), and some days it reaches a maximum of 77ºF (25ºC). However, rainfall and strong gusts of wind are very frequent in summer, so we should be prepared for colder temperatures.
essential Clothes to wear in Iceland in summer:
- Quick dry t-shirt made of synthetic fabric.
- Polar fleece or sweatshirt, whatever is more comfortable for you.
- Thermal leggings, if necessary.
- Rain pants, even if the weather is nice, as Iceland is full of waterfalls.
- Cotton socks, preferably without seams.
- Waterproof jacket and it is better if it is multilayer.
- Cotton gloves for the coldest days.
- Cotton beany, or cap if the weather is nice.
- Waterproof boots highly recommended if you go hiking.
- Repel rainwear, in case one of the frequent Icelandic summer storms take place.
What to wear in Iceland in winter
The average temperature of Iceland in winter is 32ºF (0ºC), so you must be ready for the extreme cold.
essential Clothes to wear in Iceland in winter:
- Thermal Long-sleeved vest and leggings made of hydrophobic synthetic fabric.
- Cotton socks, preferably without seams.
- Polar fleece or jersey, which will insulate the inner layer. If you are very cold, wear two.
- Ski pants, waterproof and with thermal fabric inside.
- Wool socks, to be placed over the cotton socks.
- Hand and toe warmers.
- Waterproof thermal boots for hiking or rain boots.
- Fleece-lined Beany that covers your ears.
- Waterproof insulated jacket, preferably with a fleecy layer inside.
- Cotton or thermal gloves.
- Waterproof gloves to be wear over the previous ones.
- Crampons, if you want to hike on ice.
Use this guide to packing for a cold destination as a packing list for Iceland, so you forget absolutely nothing.
These are some of the most common questions that we wondered when planning our trip to Iceland and questions that other travelers usually ask to us and we consider useful to plan your Iceland Road trip.
Some of them are already answered during the article, but we wanted to list them in this last section.
Although it is in Europe, Iceland does not belong to the eurozone, and the € currency is not accepted anywhere on the island. The currency in Iceland is the Icelandic króna (ISK) which currently equals $0,0084 or €0,0073.
As this island is hardly populated, especially in its interior, many wonder how many people live in Iceland. Although with the growth of tourism some people have moved to the island in search of job opportunities, the current population of Iceland doesn’t exceed 350,000 people.
Icelandic is the official language in Iceland. However, all people working in the tourism sector in Iceland speak English too. In some establishments, it is also very common to find Spaniards and Portuguese working, given the numerous job opportunities on the island thanks to tourism.
Despite what you may think, the weather in Iceland is quite good. Thanks to the Gulf currents that bring warm marine water to the coasts of the island, the average temperature of Iceland is 41ºF (5ºC), entirely superior to other zones located to the same latitude.
It is true that the winters in Iceland are icy, with frequent snowstorms that leave the interior of the island wholly depopulated. In these areas of Iceland, the minimum temperature is 14ºF (-10ºC) during winter.
However, during the summer, the climate in Iceland is mild, with maximum temperatures of 77ºF (25ºC) that can change quickly, so you always must be aware of what weather is expected in Iceland in the coming days and be prepared for strong gusts of wind and rain. For this, I recommend you visit Vedur. On this website, we can find the most accurate weather forecast in Iceland.
However, if you are preparing your trip, I recommend you choose on which dates to travel using the historical data of Iceland year-round temperature and rainfall shown here.
Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland, being the northernmost capital of the world and located to the southwest of the island. Most of the population of Iceland lives in Reykjavik, and there you can find all the services needed for your trip: airport, rental cars, and Iceland day tours companies.
Since 2017 roaming is free throughout the European Union and Iceland among other partner countries. Following this, you will not have to pay to use your phone data and calls while you are in Iceland if your telephone operator is from one of the treaty countries.
During our trip, we verified that roaming in Iceland is free. However, you can find online experiences of other travelers who were charged for having exceeded the data consumption indicated in their contracts, so I recommend that before using the Internet in Iceland or calling by phone, check your conditions with your phone company.
Iceland takes the Greenwich Mean Time all year. You can check what time is in Iceland now here.
Eating in Iceland is expensive. However, if you want to know what to eat in Iceland, these are some traditional Icelandic food that you may want to try:
- Cod: Iceland is one of the largest producers of cod in the world, and its quality is excellent. You can try it cooked in various ways, but the most typical is the dry cod called harðfiskur, where the cod is left to dry by hanging it outdoors on wooden structures called hjell.
- Icelandic lamb: it is well known that there are more sheep than people in Iceland, so of course, lamb is a typical food Icelandic food and can be cooked in many ways, such as in the famous soup Kjötsúpa where it is mixed with vegetables.
- Kæstur hákarl, which means fermented shark. This recipe was brought by the Vikings in Iceland when they discovered that the toxicity of shark meat disappears with the fermentation.
- Reykjavik’s Hot dogs: Believe it or not, hot dogs are the most typical and cheap food in Iceland, brought by American influences during the Cold War.
- Whale meat: unfortunately, along with Japan and Norway, whaling is still legal in Iceland. I recommend that, disregarding how exotic it may seem, avoid this option.
- Skyr: this thick and creamy dairy product is undoubtedly the typical dessert of Iceland and is delicious accompanied by honey or berry jam.
Of everything we tried, if there’s anything you must eat in Iceland, it’s the lobster baguette of Hafnarbudin in Hofn.
The daylight hours in Iceland vary abruptly throughout the year. While in the days close to the summer solstice there are 24 hours of daylight in Iceland, in the winter solstice the sun barely crosses the horizon, forming the phenomenon known as the Polar Night.
These phenomena are more pronounced as we approach the North Pole, and therefore during the Midnight Sun in Iceland, it may be that only the north zone sees the sun for more than 24 hours, but that in areas to the south the sun still hides for some time.
If you want to know how many daylight hours Iceland has on a specific date, you can check it here.
Of course, you can travel to Iceland with kids. The landscapes of Iceland are so diverse and unique that there is no better way to show the beauty of Nature to the little ones than preparing your trip to Iceland with kids.
The best time to travel to Iceland depends on your goals. For example, if you want to know when to travel to Iceland for hiking or outdoor activities, July is the best month since we have higher temperatures and lower rainfalls.
However, if you want to see the Northern Lights in Iceland, September is the best month, since it is not very cold nor there is abundant rainfall, but there are enough dark hours to see the aurora borealis in Iceland.
A week in Iceland is the minimum time that I recommend you spend. In seven days you have enough time to take a Golden Circle tour and see some of the main attractions of Southern Iceland.
The time needed to turn around Iceland is ten days minimum, although 15 days is more advisable.
In case your goal is to see the Northern Lights in Iceland the more days you spend in Iceland, the more chances you will have to see them. However, keep in mind that there is not a minimum number of days to see the Northern Lights in Iceland. You may spend three days and get to see them or spend three weeks and have no luck.
There are about 130 volcanoes in Iceland, being Hekla the most active volcano in Iceland, although Katla, Bárðarbunga, and Grímsvötn are expected to erupt in the coming years.
Taxis are extremely expensive, so the best way to get from Keflavik airport to Reykjavik is by booking this city bus.
There are grocery stores everywhere in Iceland. The grocery stores vary from large supermarkets to small gas stations where they have a supermarket section.
The best supermarket in Iceland is Bonus, where you can find the best prices, although we can also check other options such as Kronan, Netto, Hagkaup, Kjarval or Samkaup.
There are gas stations scattered throughout Iceland.
The most common gas stations are N1 and Olis, although we can also find Costco and Orkan.
The fuel is Iceland has a very high price, but the cheapest gas station in Iceland is usually the N1.
In most of Iceland, it is legal to fly drones. However, the following restrictions must be considered:
- You cannot fly a drone above 120 meters without the permission of the Icelandic Transport Authority
- It is forbidden to fly drones within 2 km of international airports and less than 1.5 km from any other airport/aerodrome.
- It is not allowed to fly drones over people and less than 150 m from a public building.
- In private properties and other public places, you have to adhere to the specific rules. For example, you cannot fly a drone in Skogafoss or Jokulsarlon.
Previously backcountry camping in Iceland was not regulated, but since 2015 it is forbidden to camp in some parts of Iceland. You can see where wild camping is legal in Iceland here.
If you are going to visit the Highlands of Iceland or travel an F road, you will need a 4×4 car during your trip to Iceland. If you are going to take a Ring Road trip, it will not be necessary.
The F roads of Iceland are unpaved mountain roads that pass through the center of Iceland by the so-called Highlands and are often crossed by rivers.
How can I check the Iceland road conditions?
Before telling you how to cross a river in Iceland, you should know that no rental of 4×4 cars in Iceland includes insurance covering the damage caused when trying to ford a river, so always do so at your own risk. Our advice is to bring wading boots that allow you to cross the river by walking to check the depth before trying with the car.
If you are not sure, turn around. You won’t have cell connection in the Highlands, and it can be hours until someone who can help you pass.
The first time you ford a river, try to stay calm. Look for the shallower section that is usually where the river is wider. If you see a section with calm water, it is possible that this section is deeper. If you aren’t confident, wait for another car to pass to see how deep the river is.
You must cross using the first gear and make sure the car is in first reduction gear and four-wheel drive mode. Do not speed up or brake while you are going through the river, simply keep the speed constant.
Finally, we leave you an Iceland trip planner map with all the essential things to do in Iceland that I hope it will be useful to plan your trip.
Let us know if you know another location that you want us to pin in our map of Iceland, which you can download from the link.
I hope this guide to Iceland inspire and encourage you even more to plan an unforgettable trip to Iceland.