Category: Good to Know
Read about what could be good to know if you are interested in traveling to Iceland or already have it on your plan.
Iceland is a fascinating country, rich in heritage and natural wonders. Just like its landscape and history, Iceland is multi-faceted and intrigues visitors from around the world.
Before you set off on your journey, learn more about its culture and history. And know what to expect in terms of the best things to visit and the best time to travel.
We’ve put together a guide to Iceland, detailed and useful, just for you.
- Look up all our Iceland vacation packages to get started with planning the trip of a lifetime.
Let’s start with the basic facts about Iceland. It is a unique island set in the northern Atlantic Ocean. Nicknamed the Land of Fire and Ice, Iceland offers an amazing landscape of glaciers and volcanoes.
Iceland has a population of only 350,000 inhabitants making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. Nearly two thirds of Icelanders live in or around Reykjavík as it is the financial and cultural center of the country.
Around 75% of Iceland is uninhabited, including the highlands, glaciers, lava fields, and beaches. So there is plenty of tranquil and untouched places to visit!
Quick facts about Iceland:
- Capital: Reykjavík
- Currency: Icelandic króna (ISK)
- Time zone: Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) all year
- Language: Icelandic
- Religion: majority Lutheran
- Main industries: fishing, geothermal power, and tourism
- Drinking age: 20 years old
Our guide to Iceland continues with more about Icelandic history, weather, and wildlife below.
The Norse origin of the early settlers is what influenced the language and culture of Iceland today. Most of the evidence indicates that the first permanent settlers came from Norway and from parts of the British Isles where Viking settlements had been established.
According to The Book of Settlements (Landnámabók), Ingólfur Arnarson was the first permanent settler of Iceland, establishing himself there in 874. A few decades later, in 930 the settlers established their central parliament, the Alþing. It is still active today, making it the oldest surviving parliament in the world.
In the 1200s a pact was made with the King of Norway and later Iceland fell under Danish rule due to Scandinavian pacts and wars. It wasn’t until 17 June 1944 that Iceland was going to regain its independence. This national holiday is now celebrated every year.
Weather in Iceland
Is it always cold in Iceland? With a name like that, you would think so, wouldn’t you? But the climate in Iceland is milder than you may expect. Thanks to the Gulf Stream, Iceland enjoys a temperate ocean climate with cool summers and relatively mild winters.
Icelandic weather is very changeable and it can happen fast too. This is why, when you’re visiting, you should always be prepared for unexpected weather. You may experience all four seasons in one day, so pack well to adjust your clothing at short notice.
The average summer temperatures in Reykjavík are 10-13°C (50–55°F). But you may encounter some warm days into the 20s°C (68°F +). In winter, expect temperatures to hover around 0°C (32 °F). In the north, they may fall to -10°C (14°F) or below.
What to pack, all year long, for a trip to Iceland:
- Lightweight under layers such as long-sleeved shirts and t-shirts
- Woolen sweaters and fleeces
- Rainproof and windproof coat (insulated for winter travel)
- Rainproof pants
- Sturdy walking or hiking shoes with woolen socks
- Warm hat, scarf, and gloves
While Iceland’s stunning landscape is the main reason people travel here from far and wide, there is also a variety of wildlife to witness. In fact, the water, sky, and land are teeming with beautiful animals!
Icelandic marine life is exquisite. Go on a boat tour to try to catch sight of the many types of whales, dolphins, and seals feeding around Iceland. The capital of whale watching in the country is the northern town of Húsavík.
All land mammals, except for the Arctic fox, have been brought by settlers to the country. These include the many, many sheep and the reindeer of East Iceland that all roam freely.
Finally, bird watchers will be pleased to hear that there are over 70 species that nest regularly in Iceland. This even includes some that do not breed anywhere else in Europe.
Up to about 10 million puffins spend their summers in Iceland. Find them on the high bird cliffs around the country, such as the Látrabjarg cliffs in the Westfjords. Also be on the lookout for harlequin ducks, Barrow’s goldeneyes, gyrfalcons, and Brünnich’s guillemots, among others.
Fun fact: Did you know that Iceland is one of the few places in the world without snakes?
Iceland’s natural beauty
One of the biggest draws of Iceland is its stunning and rugged natural beauty. You may be wanting to visit to be able to witness the tall peaks, windy cliffs, ice caps, and black beaches, among many other highlights.
Read a little bit more about these natural gems you can find in Iceland here.
A relatively young land, geologically speaking, Iceland is located on both the Iceland hotspot and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which runs right through it. This location means that the island is highly geologically active with many volcanoes.
There are at least 30 active volcanoes in Iceland. In fact, Iceland’s volcanic activity made world news recently with the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in March 2010. It disrupted international air traffic for some weeks.
Geothermal activity takes many shapes and forms too. They are an important part of Icelandic nature and include mud pools, steam vents, sulfur pits, and geysers.
You’ll also want to keep in mind the relaxing hot springs in which you can dip to warm up after a day of hiking or exploring. There are some ‘wild’ ones, but you can also visit spas and baths that tap into geothermal springs.
Geothermal power is also used for domestic and industrial purposes around the country.
If you love to see majestic waterfalls of all shapes and sizes, Iceland is the country to visit. There are in fact thousands of waterfalls around the country, so you’ll have plenty to choose from.
You will generally find at least one or two waterfalls on itineraries including the Golden Circle, south coast or the Ring Road. But you may want to go off the beaten path and visit even more.
Here are our top 10 waterfalls to see in Iceland:
- Gullfoss, part of the Golden Circle
- Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, located on the south coast
- Svartifoss in Skaftafell
- Dettifoss in the Vatnajökull National Park
- Goðafoss in North Iceland
- Dynjandi in the Westfjords
- Hraunfossar waterfalls in the west
- Hengifoss in East Iceland
- Haifoss in the East Fjords
Iceland’s nickname as the Land of Fire and Ice comes less because of its climate and more because of its glaciers. The various ice caps, outlet glaciers, alpine glaciers, mountain glaciers, and ice streams bring the total of glaciers in Iceland to 269! They cover over 11% of its landmass.
The largest Icelandic glacier is Vatnajökull, which is 8,200 square kilometers and up to 1,000 meters thick in places. It is also the biggest of its kind in all of Europe!
The landscape of the island bears witness to the last Ice Age. And the powerful glacial torrents continue to shape the land, carving spectacular gorges into the lava landscape.
Black sand beaches
You may have heard about the black sand beaches of Iceland. If you’ve never witnessed those before, you’ll surely be awed by the stark color of the Icelandic coast.
Black sand occurs because of the volcanoes nearby. It is a mix of molten lava entering in contact with the water. The lava cools down so rapidly that it breaks up into sand instantly.
Some of the most famous black sand beaches include Reynisfjara and Diamond Beach, on the south coast, as well as Djupalonssandur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula.
If anything, while you’re visiting Iceland, you’ll find the other colors of sand bizarre. Like the red sand of Rauðisandur in the Westfjords.
Be careful when walking along the beaches in Iceland. You should try to keep a safe distance from the shoreline due to rogue waves and strong undercurrents.
Iceland has 3 main national parks:
Þingvellir (or Thingvellir) is where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. It is an impressive sight and one of cultural importance too.
It was inscribed as one of Iceland’s UNESCO World Heritage sites because it is the original location of the Icelandic parliament, the Alþing.
Snæfellsjökull is located along the Snæfellsnes peninsula and is a must-see if you’re visiting the area. You’ll find Vatnajökull in the southeast. The glacier that makes up the national park is Europe’s largest ice cap and can be admired from a faraway distance.
Visiting the capital, Reykjavík
Reykjavík is the capital and largest city of Iceland, where nearly two thirds of the country’s population lives. It is a lively and thriving city at the center of Icelandic culture, with fun activities and attractions for you to explore.
You’ll also find a range of excellent cafés and restaurants offering delicious international cuisine.
Whether you’re in town for a city break or staying the night before you tour the island, it’s worth taking the time to explore the capital.
Here are the 10 best things to do in Reykjavík:
- Taste Icelandic cuisine
- Learn more about history at the National Museum of Iceland
- Walk along the seaside and see the Sun Voyager
- Dip in one of the city’s geothermal swimming pools
- Take in the view from the top of Hallgrímskirkja
- Try the most popular ice cream in the country
- In summer, hike up Mount Esja
- Sail to Viðey Island to see the Imagine Peace Tower
- Take the bus to Grótta Lighthouse for a relaxed day
- Visit the Perlan and its Wonder of Iceland exhibition
Music and culture in Iceland
We couldn’t write about Iceland without mentioning the amazing cultural scene of this small but vibrant country. You’ve likely heard about an artist or two from the Land of Fire and Ice.
And if you’re just dreaming of your future trip to Iceland, you can look up some of these to travel via art. It’ll keep you entertained until you can see the real thing in person!
Famous Icelandic musicians and bands
Boasting such world-famous artists as the queen of Icelandic music, Björk, and the popular indie band Sigur Rós, Iceland is clearly a musical country.
For your Iceland playlist, you’ll also want to add Of Monsters and Men, Kaleo, and Sóley, who are all making their mark around the world.
International artists often play in Iceland, while at the other end of the spectrum you will find that many pubs offer a variety of live music.
Literature in Iceland
Nowadays Iceland is known for its Nordic noir crime fiction books. But way back when, it was the Icelandic sagas that made their way into the world consciousness. They are a great way to learn more about the local mythology as most date back to the 12th and 13th centuries.
Then modern Icelandic literature was recognized in 1955 when Halldór Laxness won the Nobel Prize of Literature.
To travel to Iceland through books, pick up authors such as Thor Vilhjálmsson, Einar Kárason, Arnaldur Indriðarson, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, and Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, amongst others.
Best festivals and events to attend
Iceland is a lively nation with many celebrations. All year long, there are international festivals or smaller events you could attend to immerse yourself in the Icelandic cultural scene.
Here are the events and dates to remember:
- The midwinter festival of Þorrablót in January
- Winter Lights Festival in February
- Beer Day on 1 March
- Iceland Winter Games in March
- First day of summer in late April
- Reykjavík Arts Festival in June
- Seafarers’ Day in early June
- Iceland’s National Day on 17 June
- Secret Solstice Festival in late June
- Folk Music Festival in July
- Bræðslan in July
- Reykjavík Jazz Festival in August
- Reykjavík Culture Night and Marathon in August
- Pride in Reykjavík in August
- Réttir in September
- Reykjavík International Literary Festival in September
- Reykjavík International Film Festival in late September
- Iceland Airwaves in November
Northern Lights in Iceland
The Northern Lights are one of the biggest draws for travelers visiting Iceland in winter.
But what are Northern Lights, you ask? Also known as the Aurora Borealis, they are caused by the interaction of particles from the sun with the upper atmosphere near the North Pole. That reaction creates the wonderful light effects we know as Northern Lights.
We often get asked, “what is the best month to see Northern Lights in Iceland?” Well, there isn’t one month in particular. We do recommend visiting in winter for the best chances of sightings. That’s because you need a dark northern sky, which Iceland has plenty of at that time of year.
Wondering where to go to see the Northern Lights in Iceland? You could see them about anywhere, even from the capital. But follow our top tips to put all the chances of sightings on your side:
- Visit in winter as the skies are darker at that time
- Head to the countryside if possible
- Stay up late as the best sightings occur between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.
- Check the forecast as you’re looking for good weather conditions and clear skies
- Be patient and dress warmly to stay out in the Icelandic winter
- Book a fun outing like a cruise or bus tour to hunt for the Northern Lights
And always remember that this phenomenon is natural and so cannot be timed or guaranteed. There is always some luck involved!
Guide to Iceland – What and when to visit
Finding out what you want to visit and when you’ll travel to Iceland are the first two steps in the planning process. Below you’ll find some tips to pick the right season for your travels and our top tens of things to do and see during your visit.
What is the best month to visit Iceland?
Iceland is a beautiful and exciting country all year long. This is why Iceland Tours has created itineraries for summer and winter alike.
Only you can choose which is the best time for the adventure you have in mind. Fantastic activities and sights are available in both travel seasons and each one has different draws and benefits.
Exploring Iceland in summer
The summer is by far the most popular time to visit Iceland. There are also a wide variety of activities and festivals to attend, and the landscape is at its best. Hiking is an activity favored by locals and visitors, and you could even dip your toes in the sea.
Iceland’s stunning highland region opens in late June if you want to go off the beaten path. The Westfjords also become more accessible at this time of year.
The months of June, July, and August are the most popular as they enjoy the best and most stable weather of the year. During these months, you can enjoy the never-ending daylight thanks to the midnight sun. It means the days are long and you can explore to your heart’s content.
For a slightly quieter time, visit during the shoulder months in May or September.
- Check out our summer tours to Iceland for more inspiration.
Exploring Iceland in winter
Due to the darkness and winter weather, the period between October and March attracts fewer visitors. But it is more and more popular!
In fact, there are some big draws to visiting at this time. You’ll enjoy a quieter side of Iceland, with less traffic on the roads and at the popular attractions. There’s less demand for accommodation and activities too.
And don’t let the winter weather keep you away. Iceland in winter can be as enchanting as ever, with frosty waterfalls and snow-capped mountains.
While winter driving in Iceland can be more challenging, it is a great way to travel. You could discover the south coast or even drive around the Ring Road. You just need to be flexible and always check on the weather and road conditions before setting off each day.
The biggest attraction of visiting Iceland at this time of year has to be the Northern Lights. They are sure to be on many bucket lists! This natural phenomenon can best be enjoyed in darkness, which is why winter is ideal for sightings.
- Look up our winter and Northern Lights tours of Iceland.
- Related: Find out more about when to visit Iceland with our expert’s blog.
Best things to do and places to visit
Wondering what you should not miss while visiting Iceland? We’ve compiled it all for you. The best things to do, the best places to visit, and even the best activities or day tours to add to your itinerary.
Top 10 things to do in Iceland:
- Go hiking in national parks
- Relax and dip in hot springs
- Photograph the Icelandic wildlife
- Marvel at countless waterfalls
- Witness the Northern Lights in winter
- Learn about Icelandic folklore and legends
- Taste the Icelandic cuisine
- Admire the bobbing icebergs on glacier lagoons
- See the rock formations along the coast
- Explore the highlands in summer
Top 10 places to visit in Iceland:
- Golden Circle
- Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon
- Lake Mývatn
- Blue Lagoon
- Snæfellsnes peninsula and Snaefellsjökull National Park
- Vatnajökull National Park
- Vík í Mýrdal and its surrounding attractions
- Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls
- Visit some of these with a Ring Road tour of Iceland.
- Related: Read more about driving the famous Ring Road in our expert blog.
Enrich your stay even more with one or more of these fun activities:
- Go horseback riding
- Try ice caving
- Take a helicopter tour
- Hike on top of a glacier
- Snorkel between the tectonic plates
- Drive a snowmobile in winter
- Watch for whales or Northern Lights on a cruise
- Walk “Into the Glacier”
- Sail onto the glacier lagoon
- Visit the Fridheimar greenhouse
- Kayak by Sólheimajökull glacier
Traveling with the family
Iceland is a great destination to visit with your family. In fact, there is something here for all ages. And Iceland is very family-friendly, with festivals, activities, and restaurants for all.
If you want to travel to Iceland with young children, we recommend visiting in summer. This isn’t just about the school holidays, but also about the way you’ll be able to explore. There is more daylight to take advantage of at this time and more kid-friendly activities available too.
Here are our recommendations for top family adventures in Iceland:
- Walk through lava caves and tunnels
- Hike to an abandoned farm at Kleif
- Learn about geology at the Perlan
- Ride an Icelandic horse
- See the wild reindeer in East Iceland
- Go puffin- and whale-watching
- Visit the Háafell goat farm
- Try the flight simulator at FlyOver Iceland
- Attend the Children’s Culture Festival in April
- Let them try the slides at the Reykjavík swimming pools
Hiking in Iceland
Iceland is a fantastic location for hikers, amateur or experts alike. If that is the reason you’re visiting this Nordic nation, you’re in for an unforgettable adventure.
You could hike Mount Esja outside Reykjavík or take on trails in the countryside. A popular multi-day hike is the one at Laugavegur in the highlands. The national parks are also ideal for days of walking.
The best time to visit Iceland for this outdoor endeavor is between June and September. It is during these summer months that the paths are accessible. With the longer daylight hours, you can also take full advantage of the trails and Iceland’s natural beauty.
Please always be careful as a hiker to not put yourself in danger and always be ready for the weather conditions.
How to explore Iceland
There are many ways to travel around Iceland. It’ll all depend on your personal tastes and requirements. You could go on a guided or self-guided vacation. Read more below.
Is Iceland expensive to visit? How much money do you need per day in Iceland? These are frequently asked questions that we answered in our expert blog post about the subject.
But the short answer is that it is possible to travel to Iceland on a budget. With Iceland Tours, you get good local deals and the options to pick your preferences in terms of accommodation, activities, and car hire.
Iceland is the perfect destination for a road trip. Taking the wheel means you can go at your own pace. Stop whenever you want to take in the breathtaking views or to visit attractions.
Are you thinking of touring the Ring Road all the way around Iceland? We answer the question “How long does it take to drive the Ring Road in Iceland?” in our expert blog.
Driving in Iceland is an adventure that you won’t regret! Especially when you book with Iceland Tours as you’ll get in-car Wi-Fi, unlimited mileage, GPS, collision damage waiver, and more as part of your booking.
- Browse our self-drive tours of Iceland.
Privately guided tours of Iceland
A private tour of Iceland means you’ll get the undivided attention of your own expert guide who will also act as your personal driver. Iceland Tours will even handpick a guide for you to make sure they match your interests.
You then sit back and relax. Enjoy the views and all the insight your guide will bring you about Iceland. They will also be able to tailor your tour even more chatting with you every day about your preferences.
- Book a private tour of Iceland to enjoy the company of a local guide.
Camping tours of Iceland
A camping trip to Iceland can be the same as a normal self-drive tour, but you get to sleep closer to nature. You’ll stay in camping grounds around the region you picked or the whole country if you’re touring the Ring Road.
Iceland Tours will always include camping gear so you don’t have to lug your own items on the flight over. Your gear will be made up of a tent, sleeping bag, mattress, cutlery, stove, and cool box.
You only have to cover the camping fee, which is usually between 1500 and 3500 ISK per night per person.
- Browse our camping tours in Iceland.
If you’re looking for a fun but short getaway, Iceland is still excellent for that kind of stay. Come explore Reykjavík, the buzzing capital, and take day tours to famous attractions. This is great if you want to stay put for your getaway or only have a few days to explore.
There is so much to visit in Reykjavík, as you may have read above, and many fun activities to add to your itinerary.
Take a day tour of the Golden Circle or go relaxing at the Blue Lagoon. Enjoy whale watching, a visit to the Westman Islands, or adventure yourself “Into the Glacier” or in a lava tunnel.
- Find an Iceland city break to suit you.
You’ve learned so much about Iceland and maybe you’re ready to create or pick an itinerary. If you’re wondering how many days you need to see Iceland, we recommend at least a week for a tour of the island.
With less time than that, you may want to focus your adventures around one or two specific regions instead.
Here is our suggestion for a 7-day itinerary:
Day 1: Arrive in Iceland
Depending on when you fly into Iceland, you’ll have the rest of the day to explore Reykjavík. The capital city is a treasure trove of interactive museums, fun activities, cozy cafés, and excellent restaurants.
Day 2: Drive north to Akureyri
Today you start your road trip. You’ll pass through Borgarfjörður and Skagafjörður. The latter is known for its horse breeding so keep an eye out for the fluffy and sturdy Icelandic horses. Along the way, make a pit stop by the beautiful Hraunfossar waterfalls.
Day 3: Lake Mývatn area
Drive to the Lake Mývatn Nature Reserve, one of Iceland’s most inspiring areas. On the way, don’t miss the impressive Goðafoss as well as the Námaskarð geothermal area to see bubbling mud pools and hissing steam vents. There are two craters worthy of your time too, Víti and Hverfjall.
Day 4: The East Fjords
Today you drive through East Iceland and discover the East Fjords. Visit small history museums, try local seafood, and enjoy the charming villages. At times, you’ll see that the road hangs precariously on the mountain slope providing stunning views below.
Day 5: Highlights of the southeast
After passing various outlet glaciers from Vatnajökull you’ll arrive at Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. This enchanting sight with bobbing icebergs is a must-see! We then recommend spending some time in the Skaftafell area. This natural oasis, surrounded by glaciers and stark black sand plains, is ideal for hiking.
Day 6: The Golden Circle
Today you discover the highlights of the famous Golden Circle. See geysers, admire the stunning Gullfoss waterfall, and marvel at the geology of Þingvellir National Park.
Day 7: Departure
And just like that, it’s time to say goodbye to Iceland. Depending on when you’re flying home, you may be able to squeeze in some last few sights in Reykjavík.
Congratulations you made it to the end of this article! Do you feel like an expert on Iceland now?
Have you always wanted to witness the Northern Lights in Iceland? Or are you intrigued by them? This magnificent feat of nature has inspired people for centuries and it’s definitely worth adding to your bucket list.
With our ultimate guide to the Aurora Borealis in Iceland, you’ll learn more about this phenomenon, how it is formed, and where and when to see it in the Land of Fire and Ice.
About the Northern Lights
The Northern Lights, also Aurora Borealis, are the green and sometimes pink ribbons of color that can be seen in dark skies. They are “northern” because they occur near the north pole. You’ll find a similar occurrence in the southern hemisphere called Southern Lights or Aurora Australis.
Now onto the real questions. What are they? How long do Northern Lights last? Do the Northern Lights happen every night? We’re here to dish it all out for you.
What are the Northern Lights?
This phenomenon is created by giant flares from the sun or solar storms. These happen about 150 million kilometers away from Earth. The flares then send blasts of charged particles towards our planet.
These solar winds take around 40 hours to reach Earth, and once the particles come into contact with Earth’s atmosphere, it creates a reaction. The results are glowing emissions that create the light show in our night skies: the Northern Lights!
It’s good to know that the lights can have more than one appearance. The type of atoms involved, the intensity of the solar activity, and the pull of Earth’s magnetic field all have a role to play. The lights can appear in a variety of shapes, movements, brightness, and colors.
The most common color of the Northern Lights is green. But, if you’re lucky, you may be able to see pink, violet and red ones. As for shape, they vary from simple ribbon to a full rippling curtain, and sometimes arcs and streaming rays.
The length of the display also varies depending on the solar activity. Generally, you can expect a good light show to last between 15 and 30 minutes. And if you’re really lucky, it may go on for a couple of hours.
- See all the activities you could add to your itinerary, from Northern Lights to super jeep tours.
Can you predict Northern Lights?
As they are dependent on the “space weather”, it’s difficult to accurately predict the Northern Lights in advance. Just like normal weather, it can vary and change at a moment’s notice.
But once you’re in Iceland, you can keep an eye on the Icelandic Met Office’s aurora forecast. It gives you a rating, between 0 to 9, of your likelihood of seeing the Auroras. Anything above a 2 is promising.
As the Northern Lights are best witnessed on a clear night, one without cloud cover, you should keep an eye on the weather conditions too.
These tools can also help with your Northern Lights hunt:
- Aurora Forecast app: Track where and when the Northern Lights will appear.
- Cloud Cover Forecast: Receive the latest weather updates to find out whether you’ll have a clear night or not
- SolarHam: Get a reliable 3-day geomagnetic forecast so you can plan your upcoming excursions.
Is Iceland a good place to see the Northern Lights?
This is the question if you want to see them while visiting Iceland. And thankfully the answer is yes! Iceland is an excellent location to witness the Aurora Borealis.
Did you know that there is a region called the “Northern Lights belt”? It circles the Earth between 65 and 72 degrees north (parallel) and has a high auroral frequency and intensity. The north of Iceland sits just within this belt, making it a prime location for a sighting.
How often are Northern Lights visible in Iceland? As part of the country is sat within this famous belt, in winter your chances of seeing the Northern Lights are high. That said it is a natural phenomenon and therefore always dependent on weather and solar activity, as explained above.
- Book a private tour of Iceland to hunt for the Northern Lights with a local guide.
When to visit Iceland to see the Northern Lights
So when should you plan your trip to Iceland if your main goal is to see the Auroras? Read below to plan your dream winter getaway. (And yes, that was your first clue!)
When is Northern Lights season in Iceland?
You could simply call the Northern Lights season winter. This is the best time to visit Iceland to see the Northern Lights thanks to the longer nights of the season. Some regions get as many as 19 hours of darkness in the depth of winter.
This means you’ll have a greater chance of seeing the lights between October and March.
- Browse all Iceland Tours’ winter and Northern Lights packages.
Can you see the Northern Lights in summer?
Anytime between mid-April and mid-August is not ideal. With the phenomenon of the midnight sun, it’s much harder to see Auroras with the naked eye at that time of year.
But we can dispel the myth that the Northern Lights aren’t visible in summer. From mid-August you may be able to see the lights in the dark sky. This is because daylight hours are starting to decrease. Longer nights give you more opportunities to see the Aurora Borealis.
What is the best month to see the Northern Lights in Iceland?
There is no single best month to see the Northern Lights. As mentioned above, you should visit Iceland between the months of October and March for your best chances.
Check out our expert’s blog about when to visit Iceland to pick the best month for you.
When is the best time of the day to see the Northern Lights?
As you can only see the Aurora Borealis if the sky is dark, that rules out the daytime. Even in wintertime, you’ll want to avoid hunting for the lights during the few hours of daylight.
Once darkness sets in, the Auroras can be visible at any time. To increase your chance of seeing them, stay up late at night. The optimum time for sightings is between 9:30 PM and 1 AM.
Where to go in Iceland to see the Northern Lights
Iceland is a fantastic destination to witness the Aurora Borealis, and you’ll probably be able to spot them from just about anywhere on the island. That’s exciting, isn’t it? But we realize this may not narrow down your choices. Read below for our top locations.
Which part of Iceland is best for Northern Lights viewing?
The best part of Iceland to witness the lights is in the countryside as you’ll be away from light pollution, like streetlighting. Thankfully, that means a lot of the island is ideal for this nocturnal activity.
We also recommend heading north if you can cross into the “Northern Lights belt”.
Where in Iceland can you see the Northern Lights?
Our favorite spots in Iceland to see the lights dancing in the sky are:
Westfjords – As it is a remote peninsula, the Westfjords are perfect to seek dark skies. Here you’ll definitely be away from light pollution and enjoy stunning, unspoilt natural beauty.
North Iceland – From Lake Mývatn to Akureyri, passing by the Tjörnes peninsula, North Iceland is ideal to hunt for the Northern Lights. That’s because the north of Iceland is almost inside the Arctic Circle and sits right inside the “Northern Lights belt”.
And, thanks to its small population centers, you’ll have a lot of darkness to look forward to.
Snæfellsnes peninsula – Located off the Ring Road and with a magnificent national park, this peninsula is another worthwhile, quiet region to discover. And bonus point, you’ll recognize some of the top filming locations from Game of Thrones here.
Reykjavík – Yes, even the capital is on our list! If you’re lucky you’ll be able to admire the lights straight from the city. Maybe you’re only staying in Reykjavík for a short stay? Try heading out to the Grotta Lighthouse or go on a boat tour to step away from the city lights.
But also keep an eye out near Vík, on the south coast, and in the East Fjords. If the conditions are good, anywhere in Iceland could become a backdrop to these spectacular natural wonders.
Planning your Northern Lights getaway to Iceland
Are you even more excited about your adventure in Iceland now? To start planning consider our further advice below.
There are multiple ways to see the Northern Lights in Iceland. On a road trip, you could drive to remote corners of Iceland to hunt for the lights. See a quieter side of the country and take your time to enjoy it.
- Browse our winter self-drive tours of Iceland.
Or leave it to the experts. A private tour will allow you to enjoy Iceland from the passenger seat and with a dedicated, local driver-guide.
There are also day tours and optional activities you can add to your itinerary. Pick from bus tours that drive to the countryside, or even cruises to enjoy the Northern Lights from the sea. Group tours take the hassle out of planning it by yourself.
And, did you know some hotels offer wake-up calls if the Northern Lights show up in the middle of the night? It’s a good option if you’d rather not stay up and wait.
When you’re ready to book your Northern Lights adventure to the Land of Fire and Ice, browse our Iceland vacation packages or get in touch with our travel experts. They’ll tailor an itinerary for you to enjoy the best winter getaway!
You may have seen the tranquil photos of bathers in milky-blue waters set against stark lava fields. The Blue Lagoon in Iceland is synonymous with relaxation and incredible spa experiences. It’s no wonder this geothermal pool has become one of the most popular attractions in Iceland!
If you’re looking to know more about this spa and what you can expect from your visit, we answer your frequently asked questions about the Blue Lagoon below.
- Interested in Blue Lagoon tours? All of Iceland Tours’ packages can be tailored with a visit to this geothermal spa
About the Blue Lagoon
First things first, what is the Blue Lagoon? Maybe you’ve heard the name and know it’s a must-see in Iceland, but not much more?
The Blue Lagoon is a spa pool with milky-blue waters enriched with minerals. As the lagoon is soothing as well as a spectacular sight, it has become a very trendy stop in Iceland. In fact, it is one of the most visited places on the island!
Read on to learn about how it was formed, what is in those iconic blue waters, and more.
What is in the Blue Lagoon?
The Blue Lagoon is famous because of the unique color of its water: a milky shade of blue. This is thanks to its high silica content. The water is also rich in salts and algae.
And you’ll be glad to hear nothing else is added. In fact, the Blue Lagoon holds 9 million liters of geothermal seawater, which naturally renews itself every 40 hours or so. As foreign bacteria don’t thrive in this ecosystem, no disinfectants are needed.
Where is the Blue Lagoon in Iceland?
The Blue Lagoon is located on the Reykjanes peninsula, south of Reykjavík. It is set amidst the lava fields of Grindavík near Þorbjörn mountain.
The lagoon is only a 20-minute drive from Keflavík International Airport and about 45 minutes from Reykjavík. This handy location makes the Blue Lagoon an ideal spot to visit upon arrival or departure from Iceland, or as a day trip from the capital.
- Find an Iceland city break to suit you
Is the Blue Lagoon a natural spring?
It may surprise you to hear that no, the Blue Lagoon is not a natural hot spring but is actually man-made. And in the same vein, the water actually comes from the nearby Svartsengi geothermal power plant.
After the geothermal extraction at the power plant, the extra water that isn’t used to heat the homes of Icelanders is released onto the nearby lava field. This is how the Blue Lagoon got its humble beginning.
After a lot of research into the benefits of geothermal seawater, including the algae and silica, the Blue Lagoon was founded officially in the 1990s. It has since evolved into the well-known hub of hospitality and wellness that exists today.
Does the Blue Lagoon smell like sulfur?
Generally, the hot water in Iceland sometimes smells of sulfur, the effects of its geothermal origin. Although some geothermal areas you might visit smell strongly of sulfur, like Námaskarð or Seltún, you may not notice it at the Blue Lagoon.
Some do smell it upon arrival, but you’ll get accustomed to it as you relax and enjoy this memorable experience.
Good to know: The smell is natural and nothing to be worried about. In fact, did you know Iceland has one of the cleanest waters in the world? Icelanders drink it straight from the tap, unfiltered. So, to do like the locals, don’t forget your bottle to refill during your trip.
Is the Retreat Spa at Blue Lagoon worth it?
Only you can answer that question. It depends on what you want out of your visit, how much time you have and, importantly, your budget.
The Retreat Spa is the luxury spa of the Blue Lagoon and therefore you’ll enjoy an exclusive experience if you book it. The price starts around 50,000 ISK (321 EUR, 390 USD, 278 GBP) for a 5-hour stay.
You can expect access to:
- The famous Blue Lagoon
- The exclusive Retreat Lagoon
- A private changing room
- The Blue Lagoon Ritual, an exhilarating spa journey
- The Blue Lagoon skincare amenities
- The Spa Restaurant
- The 8 subterranean spaces (relaxing rooms, a sauna, and more)
You’ll also get a drink of your choice and the chance to enjoy massages and beauty treatments.
How much does it cost to go in the Blue Lagoon, Iceland?
Prices to visit the Blue Lagoon depend on the package you choose. There are 3 levels: comfort, premium and luxury. For up-to-date information and prices, we recommend checking the Blue Lagoon website.
And if you’re wondering how much money you need for a trip to the Land of Fire and Ice, check our budgeting guide to Iceland.
What are the Blue Lagoon opening hours?
The Blue Lagoon is open 365 days a year, but the opening hours vary depending on the season. In summer, you’ll find that opening times are longer. Check their website for up-to-date information.
Please be aware that pre-booking is essential. As it is one of Iceland’s most popular spots, you’ll want to reserve your slot in advance to avoid disappointment.
During your visit to the Blue Lagoon
You’re booked in and ready for all the comforts of bathing in the Blue Lagoon. Here is what you can expect of your visit.
What is included with the Blue Lagoon entrance?
There are 3 different packages you can purchase at the Blue Lagoon. Comfort, premium, and the luxury entrance for the Retreat Spa, which we’ve discussed above.
On a comfort package, you’d enjoy:
- Entrance to the Blue Lagoon
- A silica mud mask
- One drink at the in-water bar
- Use of a towel
- Sauna, steam room and steam cave
- Lagoon waterfall
In addition to these, on a premium package you’d also have:
- A second mask of your choice
- Slippers and use of a bathrobe
- Table reservation at the Lava Restaurant and a glass of sparkling wine if you dine here
How long do you need to spend at the Blue Lagoon?
It is recommended that you schedule at least 2 hours to savor the full wonders of the Blue Lagoon. But on average people spend around 4 hours here. This way you’ll have plenty of time to soak up all the benefits of the warm waters.
And it’s good to note that you book an arrival slot, but there is no time limit until closure, so relax and enjoy!
- As well as a visit to the Blue Lagoon, see all the activities you could add to your itinerary with Iceland Tours
What to pack to visit the Blue Lagoon?
If you’re visiting on a day trip from Reykjavík, you’ll want to pack a small bag with:
- Your swimsuit (and bag for the wet swimsuit)
- Flip flops or water shoes
- Any soaps or products you want to use
- Water bottle to stay hydrated
- Sunglasses for bright days
Please note that shower gel, conditioner and body moisturizer are available in the changing rooms. So are hair dryers.
Every package also comes with the use of a towel, but you can bring your own if you would rather do that. You may want to pack a robe too as it is not included in the comfort package.
You don’t need to pack a lock as you’ll be given a wristband upon entry which also acts as your changing room locker key.
If you have your luggage with you, on your way to or from the airport, you can still store it at the Blue Lagoon. You’ll have to pay a small fee to leave your suitcase or large bags in the Luggage House in the main Blue Lagoon parking lot.
Don’t forget to pack a smaller bag with your essentials.
- Book a private tour of Iceland to enjoy the company of a local guide
Does the Blue Lagoon ruin your bathing suit?
No, the water of the Blue Lagoon is unlikely to ruin your swimsuit, or even cause stains. But it is recommended that you rinse your swimsuit with cold water and soap after your stay. If you’re worried about it, you can actually rent a swimsuit from the Blue Lagoon for a small fee.
On that note, the Blue Lagoon does recommend you remove any jewelry or glasses, so they aren’t damaged (or lost) while you’re in the water.
Does the Blue Lagoon ruin your hair?
No, your hair won’t be ruined as the water isn’t harmful. But the silica of the water may make your hair stiff and difficult to manage for a few days after your visit.
Our recommendation is to tie your hair up if it’s long, and apply plenty of leave-in conditioner, which you’ll find in the changing rooms. We also advise you not to put your hair in the water.
Is the Blue Lagoon good for eczema?
While eczema isn’t mentioned specifically, the waters of the Blue Lagoon are generally soothing for the skin. The water is rich in minerals as well as silica, algae and salts, and the combination helps improve the skin barrier.
In fact, the Blue Lagoon offers treatments for psoriasis. You could book a stay at the Silica Hotel for this. Bathe in the private lagoon and follow that up with UVB narrowband light therapy, all supervised by a nurse and a dermatologist.
There are decades of research that support the efficacy of the Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater for treating psoriasis.
Do you shower after the Blue Lagoon?
Yes, you should shower before and after your stay at the lagoon.
Guests are required to shower, without their swimsuit, prior to using the geothermal spa. Simply use the showers and soaps available in the changing rooms.
After your stay, you’ll probably find it more comfortable to shower, wash your hair and dry up before leaving.
Can you eat at the Blue Lagoon?
There is a café located in the main Blue Lagoon complex, where you can grab some light snacks and beverages. Make sure to keep hydrated while at the spa.
To make it a full day, you could also lunch or dine at one of the restaurants on site. They all combine stunning views of the lava field surroundings with fresh Icelandic cuisine.
The Spa Restaurant and Lava restaurant are more casual. You could even dine in your bathrobe! For a treat, book dinner at the Moss Restaurant.
Can children visit the Blue Lagoon?
The lagoon is not suitable for children under the age of 2. Children age 8 and under are allowed entry with the use of arm floaters, which are provided free of charge. This is because in some places the lagoon has a depth of 1.4 meters (4 feet 7 inches).
Best time to visit the Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is open all year long, so you have the choice to come for a dip whenever is best suited for you. If you’re visiting Iceland in order to bathe in the mineral-rich waters, here are our suggestions.
- Find out more about when to visit Iceland with our expert’s blog
Visiting the Blue Lagoon in summer
As it is never too hot in Iceland, you’re likely to enjoy the soothing warmth of the Blue Lagoon even in summer.
Another bonus point of the high season is that you could actually bask in the midnight sun if you book for late in the evening.
Keep in mind that the summer months of June to August are the most popular with visitors to Iceland. For that reason, we recommend visiting in the shoulder months of April, May and September if you want to see a quieter side of the lagoon.
- Check out our summer tours to Iceland for more inspiration
Visiting the Blue Lagoon in winter
We often get asked if the Blue Lagoon is warm in winter. Yes, it is! The water temperature in the bathing and swimming area of the lagoon averages 37-39 °C (99-102 °F). So it’s pleasant whatever the season.
The only difference is that if you’re visiting between October and April, you may want to walk from the complex to the pool swiftly. Don’t worry, it’s just a short distance, and you’ll warm right up once you’re in the water.
- Look up our winter and Northern Lights tours of Iceland
Is it worth going to Iceland and the Blue Lagoon in winter? We think so! Winter is a generally quieter season if you want more time and space to yourself. After days of adventures on glaciers or in national parks, you’ll really appreciate a visit to the geothermal spa.
One of the added benefits of visiting in winter is the chance to see the Northern Lights. If you book later in the day, you may be able to admire them dancing in the sky as you bathe below. What a sight that would be, right?
When you’re ready to book your adventure to the Land of Fire and Ice, browse our Iceland vacation packages or get in touch with our travel consultants. They’ll tailor a memorable trip for you, including a visit to the famous Blue Lagoon.
Have you always wanted to go on an epic road trip? Take the wheel and drive around an entire country. Sing along to the radio as your partner in crime puts their feet up on the dashboard. Then you look outside, and you can see black sand beaches, volcanoes, ice caps, and steaming hot springs.
This is what awaits you when driving the Ring Road in Iceland. A safe route with amazing sights and attractions along the way. In this article, we tell you everything you need to know about driving Iceland’s famous Route 1.
What is the Ring Road in Iceland?
First and foremost, the Ring Road is the nickname for Route 1, or Þjóðvegur 1, its official name on the map. This is the national road that makes its way around the island in a circular loop.
It is 1,322 kilometers (821 miles) long and connects most of the inhabited regions of Iceland.
Look at a map of the route and you’ll see that some areas aren’t included on the Ring Road. These include parts of North Iceland, the Westfjords, the highlands, and the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Any of these can be added to your summer itinerary if you want to head off the beaten path.
- You can view all our Ring Road tours for your Iceland road trip.
How long does it take to drive around the Ring Road?
But we don’t recommend doing that! Not only because the journey would be exhausting, but because you’d miss all the amazing sights and attractions that make a visit to Iceland so memorable. It’s all about the experience along the way, isn’t it?
For a good amount of time to visit locations along the Ring Road, we recommend taking at least one week to explore the route. This should get you around the country with a comfortable amount of driving each day.
Depending on what you want to visit during your time in Iceland, you can extend your road trip as much as you want. Then you can stop at iconic waterfalls, take detours, and spend more than one day in a single location. The possibilities are endless!
Is it also worth pointing out that the speed limit is only 90 kilometers (55 miles) an hour? And the speeding fines aren’t cheap. So take your time and enjoy it!
- Check out our summer tours to Iceland for more inspiration.
Tips for driving the Ring Road in Iceland
Ready for your road trip but unsure about how to take on the Icelandic roads? We’re here for you. Read these tips to know what to expect and make driving in Iceland easier.
Drive on the right
If you’re coming from North America, you won’t have to worry about this. But if you’re visiting from Australia, the UK, or South Africa, among other places, be aware that motorists in Iceland drive on the right side of the road. And the left side of the car.
- If you would rather leave the driving to someone else, book a private tour instead. You’ll enjoy a local guide as your driver.
Be aware of Icelandic conditions
Driving in Iceland may be slightly different than you’re used to. This includes the weather and road conditions. So it’s best to come prepared.
Always check the coming day’s conditions before setting off, especially in winter. And make sure to leave enough time to reach your next accommodation safely.
It’s good to also be aware of potential road hazards. These may be unique challenges you’ve not encountered before, such as the many sheep in the country.
Most of the highway is paved, but short stretches of the road in East Iceland have a gravel surface.
There are also a number of narrow passes, blind summits, and single-lane bridges to take with caution. When in doubt, always slow down.
Finally, be aware that you’re likely to drive through road tunnels, built to bypass mountain roads. These includethe sub-sea Hvalfjörður Tunnel (5.7 kilometers) and the Almannaskarð Tunnel (1.3 kilometers).
- Browse our camping tours in Iceland.
Stop when you can
Don’t take stops for granted. In certain parts of Iceland, there can be long stretches of road without shops or towns. This is especially true along the south and east coasts.
For that reason, refuel, use the bathroom, and grab snacks whenever you can. Most importantly, make sure to keep an eye on your fuel levels to avoid running out.
Do not drive off-road
Off-road driving is prohibited and you shouldn’t attempt it. This is because it damages the vegetation and could potentially be dangerous. People caught driving off-road are fined heavily by the authorities.
You can always go for a hike if you wish to see the natural beauty from up close.
Enjoy the journey
After taking these tips and precautions to drive safely in Iceland, all that’s left is for you to enjoy yourself. It isn’t a race. Take your time to make the journey and marvel at the scenic views along the way.
- Check out all the amazing activities you could add to your Iceland itinerary.
Which way do you drive the Ring Road in Iceland?
As the Ring Road is a circle, you can pick whichever way you want to drive it. You’ll notice a lot of our tours go clockwise. This means you’ll first head north before coming around the east and south coast, finishing with the famous Golden Circle. What a way to end your epic Iceland adventure!
But maybe you want to start with the Golden Circle? It’s all up to you. As it’s a loop, you’ll see all the same spots regardless of which way you drive.
Can you drive the Ring Road in Iceland in the winter?
Yes, you can drive the Ring Road in wintertime. In fact, some people prefer to visit in winter to experience a quieter side of the country.
At this time of year, you can enjoy less traffic on the roads as well as the stunning beauty of the snowy landscape. You can maybe even spot the Northern Lights. Winter road trips are growing in popularity for these reasons.
If you decide to visit at this time, you should prepare yourself for the adventure. Be aware of road safety precautions, be a confident winter driver, and always purchase travel insurance!
The top tip for a winter road trip is to always check the weather and road conditions before setting off each day.
For the best experience, why not hire a 4×4 vehicle? It will make driving in such conditions easier and more comfortable.
Suggestion for an Iceland Ring Road itinerary
There are so many ways to see the highlights of the Ring Road in Iceland. Here is one of our most popular itineraries, taking you around Route 1 over 8 days in Iceland. This timeframe allows you to relax and explore to your heart’s content.
Day 1: Arrive in Iceland
Depending on when you fly into Iceland, you’ll have the rest of the day to explore Reykjavík. The capital city is a treasure trove of interactive museums, fun activities, cozy cafés, and excellent restaurants. You can also marvel at the surrounding natural beauty from here.
If you would like to relax after your flight, you could also book a slot at the Blue Lagoon to dip into the geothermal waters. It’s the perfect way to decompress before setting off on an adventure!
- Book one of our self-drive tours in Iceland for a memorable road trip.
Day 2: Drive north to Akureyri
Today you start your road trip by heading north. You’ll make your way through Borgarfjörður and Skagafjörður. The latter is known for its horse breeding, so keep an eye out for the fluffy and sturdy Icelandic horses.
As one of your stops for the day, you’ll want to see the magnificent Hraunfossar waterfalls, flowing from lava fields into a river.
Reach the capital of the north, Akureyri, for your overnight stay.
Top tip: If you want to extend your stay to include the Snæfellsnes peninsula or the Westfjords, this is when you would do it. These regions are located in the western parts of Iceland.
Day 3: Lake Mývatn area
You have a full day of adventure ahead of you. Drive to the Lake Mývatn Nature Reserve to see why it is one of the most inspiring areas in Iceland. On the way, don’t miss the impressive Goðafoss, known as “the waterfall of the gods”.
The Mývatn Baths are very popular if you would like to spend the day relaxing instead of exploring.
You are staying for a second night in Akureyri.
Day 4: Exploring the northeast
Are you a fan of whales? Because today you’ll start the day by driving to the charming fishing village of Húsavík. It is known as the whale watching capital of Iceland.
You’ll then follow the coast and drive the Tjörnes peninsula. We recommend making a pitstop at the tip of the peninsula to enjoy the view and try to spot some seabirds.
Another recommendation for a leg-stretching stop is the lush canyon of Ásbyrgi where you could go for a walk.
Continue your journey southwards to the edge of East Iceland. You’ll spend the night in the Egilsstaðir area.
Day 5: The East Fjords
Today you drive through East Iceland and discover the East Fjords. Visit small museums and marvel at the long fjords and quaint seaside villages. At times, you’ll see that the road hangs precariously on the mountain slope providing stunning views below.
You’ll spend tonight in the Höfn region.
Day 6: Highlights of the southeast
Today you’ll stop by one of Iceland’s biggest bucket list items. After passing various outlet glaciers from Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest ice cap, you’ll arrive at Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Many travel to Iceland just to see its glistening icebergs.
This enchanting sight nestles at the foot of Iceland’s highest mountain, Hvannadalshnúkur. In summer, you could book a boat trip to go onto the lagoon to see the bobbing icebergs from up close.
We then recommend spending some time in the Skaftafell National Park. This natural oasis, surrounded by glaciers and stark black sand plains, is ideal for hiking.
You’ll stay in the Vík area tonight.
Day 7: The Golden Circle
From Vík, you’ll continue west back to Reykjavík. Along the way, you’ll discover some breathtaking waterfalls and the highlights of the famous Golden Circle.
As you make your way back to the capital, through South Iceland, stop by Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss. These last two waterfalls will not disappoint!
And then head on to the Golden Circle, featuring three of Iceland’s most famous landmarks. See jets of steam being blasted over 50 feet in the air by Strokkur at the Geysir area. Walk through history and marvel at the geology of Þingvellir National Park. Take a picture of the magnificent Gullfoss waterfall.
If you are visiting for a shorter amount of time, don’t miss the Golden Circle as it is an ideal day trip from the capital.
Day 8: Departure
And just like that, your journey in Iceland is over. Or maybe it isn’t if you’ve extended it. Stay as long as you wish!
But in this itinerary, you’re boarding your flight back home today. Depending on what time it is, you may have time to squeeze in more visits and tasty treats in Reykjavík.
Top tip: Don’t leave without trying the local ice cream!
If you didn’t go on arrival, you could book a slot at the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa. It is located near the airport and the perfect activity to say goodbye to Iceland.
How to book a trip to Iceland to drive the Ring Road
You may think the first step is renting a car and booking accommodation, but we recommend choosing what you want to see before doing anything else. Pick what you want to experience most and it’ll direct you to the best time to visit.
Then you can start reserving your transportation, hotels, camping sites, flights, and so on. When you travel around the Ring Road, make sure to keep the driving distances in mind when booking your accommodations.
Want to have it all done in one? Book through the local travel specialists at Iceland Tours. We know the country like the back of our hand and have created tried-and-tested packages so you can see the very best of Iceland.
We can even tailor your tour or advise you on attractions and activities depending on your interests. Just ask!
It’s easy to do on the Iceland Tours website. Select your vacation start date and length of travel and then add what you’d like to do. You can pick your car, accommodations, and activities based on your budget. Then we organize it all for you, so when you arrive, all you have to do is enjoy yourself!
Look up all our Iceland vacation packages to get started with planning your dream trip.
Before traveling, you may be wondering just how safe your destination really is. As you are looking forward to a trip to Iceland, we’re here to tell you that, well, you can’t pick a safer destination!
The Land of Fire and Ice is indeed the safest country in the world. And you don’t have to simply trust our word. Below we explain how and why Iceland is so safe and the measures you can take to make it even safer.
You’ll even learn about traveling to Iceland in the time of Covid-19 as we detail how Iceland is facing the global pandemic.
Iceland, the safest country in the world
When we say that Iceland is the safest country in the world, you can rest assured that this is based on the Global Peace Index (GPI). These facts make our claims justified, right?
Every year the GPI ranks all countries in terms of safety and security. It looks at all kinds of stats from countries across the world, from appealing things like health care quality and happiness index to extreme things such as national war involvement and murder rate.
Important note: this isn’t something you need to worry about in the Nordics!
GPI is considered the leading measure of global peacefulness. So, you can trust them when they say that Iceland is at the top.
In fact, Iceland has held the title of safest country in the world since 2008. Okay, we’re bragging a little bit now… But hopefully that simple fact reassures you.
- Look up all our Iceland vacation packages to get started with planning your dream trip
Why is Iceland so safe?
There are many factors that make Iceland a safe and unforgettable vacation destination.
Did you know that Iceland is in the top 5 happiest countries in the world? According to the 2020 World Happiness Report, it ranks high in all cornerstones of wellbeing.
A study found that this was in part thanks to the Icelandic class system. The country’s social welfare and education promote an equal society. During your travels, you’ll meet locals who are passionate about their jobs, their land and happy to show you why.
Because people are happy, there are very few social problems, including a low crime rate. Don’t trust all those Nordic noir novels and TV shows. They do not paint an accurate portrayal of Iceland! You’ll even find in Iceland that police officers do not carry guns.
Iceland also boasts one of the best health care systems in the world. According to the Healthcare Access & Quality Index 2020 and the WHO’s report, it ranks at number 15 worldwide. It is only topped by a handful of European and Asian countries.
And it has definitely been one of the best countries in the world for Covid response and management in 2020.
Another bonus point of this inclusive nation? Iceland is one of the best destinations for LGBTQ+, female and solo travellers thanks to its liberal outlook and welcoming atmosphere.
- Browse our camping tours in Iceland
Staying safe in Iceland
While Iceland is already a safer country than most, you can still always look out for yourself. Whether that’s on the roads, the mountains or in the city, it’s best to be aware of your surroundings and use common sense.
In this section, you’ll learn our top 5 tips for staying safe during your trip.
1. Purchase travel insurance
Before you set off for Iceland, make sure you have travel insurance to cover you and your family. For safe travel, this is a must! It protects your health, your luggage, your flights and even your bank account in case of bigger claims.
Make sure your policy is comprehensive to include all the activities you want to do as well as coronavirus-related claims.
If you are from an EEA country, don’t forget to bring your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with you.
2. Learn about local road safety
Driving in Iceland is an adventure you won’t soon forget. Just imagine the open road in front of you with views of the white glaciers, stark volcanoes, and the majestic sea.
Before you set off on the road trip of a lifetime, familiarize yourself with the driving laws and potential hazards you may face. These include the many sheep that populate Iceland as well as the one-lane tunnels and bridges in remote areas.
It’s also good to be aware that gas stations are sparse in the countryside. Keep an eye on your fuel levels and fill up when you have the chance.
Finally, off-road driving is strictly prohibited as it can damage the vegetation.
For peace of mind, you may want to watch this short video on “How to drive in Iceland”.
- Book one of our self-drive tours in Iceland for a memorable road trip
3. Check the weather daily
Thanks to the Gulf Stream, Iceland’s climate isn’t as cold as you may think. What you should expect though is weather that can change quickly and often.
For that reason, be sure to pack and dress appropriately when visiting Iceland. This is especially true if you intend to do outdoor activities, go camping, or want to travel in winter.
You’ll also want to check the weather forecast every day before setting off. In winter this is important because the conditions could affect your route, with road closures and such.
And if you intend to look out for the northern lights, a clear sky is what you’re hoping for!
4. Go hiking with peace of mind
The terrain in Iceland is magnificent and attracts outdoor enthusiasts from around the world. You could go hiking in the national parks, on glaciers, and even along volcano craters. But whether you are a newbie or experienced hiker, make sure to be ready for the Icelandic experience.
Hiking is extremely dependent on the weather and season due to the accessibility to the trails. Visit between May and September to take advantage of the beautiful hiking paths and long daylight hours.
Never put yourself in danger! Bring the required gear, plenty of water, and always look up the mountain you’re about to hike to know what’s ahead.
- Check out all the amazing activities you could add to your Iceland itinerary
5. Take precautions with your valuables
Although violent crimes are few and far between, petty crimes occur, like in most countries.
Be vigilant with your possessions, especially in public. Don’t leave your belongings unattended, for example at swimming pools or in restaurants.
Generally, and with all these precautions, you can rest assured that your stay in Iceland will be safe. You can sleep soundly, just like children in prams that the trusting Icelandic parents leave outside shops.
Traveling to Iceland in the era of Covid-19
In normal circumstances, Iceland is very safe to visit. But these aren’t usual times, and travel to Iceland has extra considerations, as with everywhere else. This is because of the quarantine and social restrictions put in place due to the current global pandemic.
We’ve gathered all the info about Iceland and coronavirus below to help you stay informed.
How is Iceland dealing with the coronavirus?
The Icelandic government faced the crisis head on at the start of the year, implementing a rigorous tracing, testing and isolating policy to avoid further spread of the virus.
All these precautions were put in place to protect both visitors and people who live in Iceland, as everyone’s health and safety is the top priority. And thanks to all these efforts, cases dropped to single figures and Iceland’s borders reopened over the summer.
As is the case around Europe, cases have gone back up with the arrival of winter. This means there are now more restrictions in place, which are reviewed every two weeks.
The positive news is that data suggests that Iceland is one of the world’s leading countries when it comes to testing. Yes, we’re bragging again…
How is it traveling to Iceland right now?
Depending on where you’re coming from and what your home country allows, you could travel to Iceland right now. But be aware of restrictions currently in place before your journey.
As the local restrictions and conditions of travel are reviewed every two weeks, please visit covid.is for up-to-date information.
Looking forward to future travel with Iceland Tours
Despite everything happening with the coronavirus, with breakthroughs and upcoming vaccines, it is time to be optimistic about the future. And to get excited about traveling again!
To look forward to a fantastic trip during which you can tour the Ring Road or discover the Golden Circle, you could take advantage of our Book with Confidence plan.
As part of these new terms, Iceland Tours is offering you risk-free booking for 2021. This means you can rebook your tour without any changing fees or cancel your tour and receive a 100% refund if Covid-19 directly impacts your travel.
We will also cover the cost of a PCR test for you, if there is one.
Read more about this new flexible terms and conditions.
We hope that this article answers any questions you may have had about visiting Iceland. Because, yes: Iceland is a safe country for visitors. Come and experience it for yourself!
When you’re ready to book, you can browse our tours to find the one that suits you, or get in touch. One of our expert agents will answer any queries you may have and help you craft the trip of your dreams!
Like many other Nordic and Scandinavian countries, Iceland has a reputation as a costly vacation destination. Maybe you’re in two minds about traveling to Iceland for this reason? To dispel any myths and fake news, in this article we’re answering the big question: Is Iceland expensive?
The quick answer is yes…no…maybe?
It depends who you talk to and what you’re used to.
It’ll also depend on how you plan your vacation, who you book with and, well, what you think of as expensive! Maybe a holiday staying in hotels is something you think is too pricey? Or you prefer public transportation, to save money and to feel more like a local?
Read on and you’ll find out:
- How much is a trip to Iceland on average
- 10 amazing cost-saving tips
- How to get the best out of your budget
How much is a trip to Iceland?
Let’s start with overall numbers and then break it down.
The average cost of a tour in Iceland is 23,000 ISK per person, per day. Thousands of anything might sound like a lot, but this is in Icelandic Krona, the local currency of Iceland. When exchanged it is the equivalent of around 150 Euros (EUR), 183 United States Dollars (USD), or 135 Pound Sterling (GBP)*.
This includes accommodation, transport, activities, and food. The way you plan and book all of these can make it more or less expensive. We’ll give you tips on how to travel to Iceland on a budget in the next section.
*[All calculations in this article are provided in good faith but exchange rates change daily. For the latest rates, check out this currency converter.]
Breakdown of costs
Food: If you’re eating out, the average amount for one person per day is 4,000 ISK (26 EUR, 32 USD, 24 GBP). This is at the lower end of the average and can easily climb if you go out to nice restaurants.
That brings us to our next point, which we have not added to our total cost…
Alcoholic beverages: People often say that it is expensive to drink out in Iceland and it will definitely be pricier than in many other places. The average cost of a draft beer in a bar in Reykjavík is around 1,200 ISK (8 EUR, 10 USD, 7 GBP).
You will be able to find cheaper places and drinks, but if you’re on a budget you may want to skip going out drinking or treat yourself occasionally. Other tips include buying some bottles at the Duty Free on arrival at Keflavík Airport and checking out happy hour deals.
Good to know: Tipping isn’t a big deal in Iceland. You can leave some change, but tipping is not expected. And don’t bother trying to add up the tax as it’s already included in the price!
Accommodation: Based on two people sharing one basic hotel room, the average price is around 20,000 ISK (130 EUR, 159 USD, 118 GBP) per night. This amount can be brought down if you go camping or stay in hostels.
Activities: The cost of the average traveler will be around 5000 ISK per day (33 EUR / 40 USD / 29 GBP). This includes museums, day trips, and other fun stuff you can fill your days with.
It can again climb up fast if you want to go on unique experiences, such as snorkelling between continents, spa retreats, and guided tours inside glaciers.
Local tip: It is easy to use credit cards in Iceland, especially in Reykjavík. In fact, if you don’t have extra charges while abroad, you may find it is an efficient way to pay for activities, restaurants and more during your trip.
Transportation: The best way to see more of the country is to rent a car. You could easily take day trips to the famous Golden Circle or to the south coast, or drive along the entire Ring Road.
Public transportation isn’t impossible but not easy to do to get around, especially if you don’t have an unlimited amount of time. Renting a car will allow you the freedom to pull the car over at any attraction or breathtaking view as well!
The average transport cost is around 8,000 ISK per day (52 EUR, 62 USD, 47 GBP).
- Browse our self-drive tours in Iceland for the road trip of a lifetime
Another transport cost you have to take into consideration is the shuttle bus from Keflavík Airport into Reykjavík.
You may pick up your rental car from the airport, or your tour company may include a private transfer as part of your package. But, generally speaking, the cheapest and most efficient way to reach the capital is with the Flybus. Prices start around 6,700 ISK (44 EUR, 53 USD, £40) for a return ticket.
For a taxi fare, the average cost is around 13,500 ISK (88 EUR, 107 USD, 80 GBP) for one way.
Total: That brings us to a grand total average cost of around 322,000 ISK (2099 EUR, 2559 USD, 1896 GBP) for a 7-day trip shared by two people. Or 189,000 ISK (1232 EUR, 1500 USD, 1111 GBP) for a single traveller.
How to see Iceland on a budget?
The more you’re reading through this article, the more we hope you understand that a vacation in Iceland doesn’t have to be expensive. And yes, it is possible to visit Iceland on a budget.
Here are our 10 tips to lower your average expenses and visit the Land of Fire and Ice at a lower cost:
1. Look out for airline deals
You’ll notice we didn’t include anything about airfares in our total above. This is because it will vary wildly depending on how far you’re coming from, Australia versus the United States for example.
You can often get a better deal by looking at airlines that serve your local airport hub. Or if you are part of a rewards program or have airmiles to spend.
2. Try camping
Camping is a very popular way to spend your nights in Iceland on a budget as the cost is lower than that of hotels. Make sure to come between June and August to enjoy this way of seeing Iceland.
Good to know: Iceland Tours includes camping gear for the duration of your stay if you book a camping holiday with us. An added bonus is that it allows you to keep your baggage light.
Camp sites fees are usually between 1500 and 3500 ISK (9-23 EUR, 12-28 USD, 9-20 GBP). This alone could bring down your week-long tour of Iceland to 206,500 ISK (1357 EUR / 1652 USD / 1228 GBP) for 2 people.
- Look up our camping tours in Iceland
3. Book early
Another way to save money is by booking in advance. This goes for your car rental, activities, and overnight stays.
Accommodation in Iceland can book out really early for the high season, which is between June and August. To have the best choices within your price range, make sure to book 6 months to a year in advance. Some companies offer early booking discounts too. Be on the lookout for these!
By booking in advance, you don’t have to break the bank early. At Iceland Tours you can reserve your preferred tour and date with only 20% deposit. This way you have longer to save and get excited about your upcoming travels!
4. Travel to Iceland in winter
You’ll find that accommodation is generally cheaper during this time of year. You may think it’s too cold, but there are so many advantages to visiting in winter. Think of the beautiful snowy mountaintops, glittering waterfalls, and the famous Northern Lights.
By comparing two of our 7-day tours, between winter and summer, you’ll find that you could save around 300 Euros (365 USD, 271 GBP).
5. Find free hot springs
Were you looking at the Blue Lagoon Spa, but it is too expensive for your budget? The way to do this one cheaper is by going to wild hot springs in the countryside. Perfect if you’re on a self-drive tour and you can stop whenever you want.
Not only will this allow you to adventure yourself off the beaten path, but it’ll make for great photo opportunity. This way you can show off to all your friends back home on social media!
Another suggestion is to join the locals at the Reykjavík city pools. They are heated and open year long. Families will especially like these as there are often slides and shallow pools available.
6. Bring a water bottle
The water in Iceland is some of the best in the world! Yes, it’s definitely worth boasting about! As it is safe to drink water from the tap, bring a reusable bottle to refill every day. A bonus benefit is that it’s eco-friendlier than purchasing plastic bottles during your trip.
Local tip: Run the water for a few seconds to remove any sulfur smell (especially in warm water). It is totally natural because of the geothermal origins of this water.
7. Book a tour or accommodation that includes a meal
At Iceland Tours we include continental breakfast with your hotel accommodations. That saves you some money and allows you to be well fed before setting off on your day’s activities.
8. Go hiking
Visit Iceland between June and September and you could spend your time hiking in the wilderness. Take in all the amazing sights, viewpoints, and natural wonders. And it’s free!
9. Look up free tours
If you have a free day in Reykjavík or other larger towns in Iceland, you may want to check out if there are free walking tours offered at that time.
You usually are expected to tip at the end of free tours.
10. Try the street food
You don’t have to eat out to treat yourself. You could get a pastry to go or even a famous Icelandic hot dog. These are usually cheaper than sit-down meals.
Please book travel insurance. We know that it’s an additional expense and, if all goes well, it will be a “lost cost”. But if something doesn’t go right, it could save you money, protect your trip and your health.
Don’t forget to treat yourself
While visiting Iceland, especially with all our useful tips, it should be easy for you to cut costs and travel on a budget.
Whatever you do, though, make sure to include some unique experiences to your itinerary. Or at least one amazing thing, whether that’s going puffin or whale watching, tasting the local cuisine, or walking on a glacier.
You won’t regret it and it may make your time in Iceland even more memorable! It’s the trip of a lifetime, so treat yourself!
- Check out all the amazing activities you could add to your itinerary
How to book a budget trip in Iceland?
The easiest and most efficient way to book a budget trip to Iceland is through local companies that include it all.
On Iceland Tours’ website it is simple. You can pick your starting date, length of travel and then go through every detail to see how much it costs. You can pick your car rental type and accommodation preferences depending on your budget.
And when you compare your budget to our prices and realise you’ve saved money, you’ll get to feel smug about it!
You’ve made it to the end! It means you’re now ready to plan a budget for a trip to Iceland. And you can now answer the big question yourself: Is Iceland expensive? It doesn’t have to be!
Make sure to browse our website when you’re ready to book or get in touch. One of our agents will answer all your queries and help you tailor a tour to fit your budget and preferences.
You can’t go wrong when choosing a trip to “The Land of Fire and Ice”. Iceland is a great year-round destination! Whether you’re visiting during the snowy months or at the height of summer with its never-ending days, you can experience Iceland’s stunning beauty.
If you’re wondering when to visit Iceland, it’s all broken down for you here. We explain each season’s benefits as well as when to go to Iceland for specific pursuits. Only you can decide which matches you best!
Visit Iceland in summer – June to August
The summer months have the best weather of the year. Expect less precipitation, much higher number of daylight hours, and the warmest temperatures. Generally, Iceland experiences highs of 15°C (59°F) and lows of 9°C (48°F) at this time of year.
That means if you’re not too keen on cold temperatures, this is the ideal time for you to visit. You could take the opportunity to go hiking and explore remote corners of the country in the midnight sun.
Take advantage of the sunny days, that go on and on, to explore to your heart’s content. Drive the Ring Road around the island in less time. Having longer days means you can cover more distance.
Or you could take all the time you want and really soak up the atmosphere and gorgeous landscape of glaciers, lagoons and jagged mountains.
- Check out our summer tours to Iceland for more inspiration
Visit Iceland in fall – September to November
This is the time of year when the weather starts to drop, and the days become shorter. This shoulder season is ideal if you are seeking smaller crowds and don’t mind cooler temperatures.
Travelling to Iceland during the fall period means witnessing the transition from summer to winter. As the darkness slowly sets in, you’ll start having good chances to spot the Northern Lights. There are also good chances of snow fall the later it gets in the season.
At this time of year, you could still take on a road trip around the country. Or it’s the perfect time to discover the Golden Circle and south coast in more depth.
Visit Iceland in winter – December to February
The winter months are the coldest of the year, as you would expect for a northern country. But don’t let the winter weather in Iceland put you off.
From mid-October, it can be cold, dark, and windy, but thankfully the climate is tempered by the ocean and the Gulf Stream. That’s why it won’t be as cold as you may expect from the ice-land. Between December and February, average temperatures hover around -2°C (28°F).
At this time of year however, the weather becomes less stable. It means you may encounter all seasons in one day. Always be prepared for it all when visiting Iceland in winter: storms, snow, rain, and wind.
During this snowy season, you may prefer a city break with guided activities from Reykjavík. It’ll allow you to settle into one location, but still see the highlights of the surrounding regions.
If you feel adventurous or want to test your winter driving skills, opt for a self-drive adventure. Take the wheel to see specific regions or tour around the country.
Photograph the glittering waterfalls, admire the snowy mountains, and hopefully catch sight of the colorful Northern Lights in the night sky.
Visit Iceland in spring – March to May
Did you know that the country celebrates the “First day of summer” in April? That’s because it’s an exciting time of revival and reawakening.
The spring season is the most varied time of the year, transitioning between snowy winter weather to bright and sunny days. From March, the temperature in Iceland starts to climb back up and so does the number of daylight hours.
This is another ideal time to visit if you’re looking to get away from the crowds and enjoy Iceland in a bit more peace. Relax in the hot springs or heated pools after days of exploring around the south coast. This is a great time for birdwatching as well.
Best time to visit Iceland for the Northern Lights
The Northern Lights, also called Aurora Borealis, are a natural phenomenon that occur all year long. However, in summer they are rarely seen, thanks to the midnight sun in the northern region where they occur.
From late August, you could catch a glimpse of them as the nights start to lengthen. For the best sightings, travel to Iceland in winter, between October and March.
Auroras are one of the world’s most beautiful natural sights to behold.
The best way to see them is standing under a clear dark sky, free from city light pollution. This location would preferably be somewhere between the 65th and 72nd parallel north. That area is called the “Northern Lights Belt” because it has some of the strongest solar activity necessary to see the beautiful dancing lights.
- Browse our best tours to spot the Aurora Borealis in Iceland
- Related: Read our Northern Lights guide to Iceland
Best time to visit Iceland for a road trip
Dreaming of taking on the Ring Road, the affectionate name for Route 1 and the highway that circles Iceland? Just imagine putting on your favourite playlist and then seeing the glaciers and mountains ahead of you…
The summer is the best time to go on a road trip in Iceland, and there are many reasons for that.
Thanks to the long daylight hours of summer, you could spend more time exploring or driving each day. Wake up early if you want to set off and see a popular attraction in relative quiet or drive until the evening to reach your destination.
There is simply more time to do outdoor activities in summer!
The other bonus of this season is that more remote routes and areas of Iceland are accessible at this time of year. This includes the stunning Westfjords, which are often cut off during the winter.
If you’re keen to visit the highlands, this is the ideal time as mountain roads are shut the rest of the year.
- You can view all our Ring Road tours for your Iceland road trip.
Best time to visit Iceland on a city break
You can enjoy a stay in Reykjavík for a short city break all year long. The capital city is buzzing and thriving whatever the season, with fun events, excellent restaurants, and plenty of attractions to visit.
Although we do recommend booking excursions to see more of the surroundings in the Reykjanes, west and south coast regions. All within a day or two’s drive, you could discover some of Iceland’s biggest highlights and jaw-dropping scenery.
What you want to do on your city break will influence when you visit Iceland.
To go on walks on the beach and maybe even dip your toes in the sea, come in summer. Want to witness the Imagine Peace Tower in honor of John Lennon? Visit Reykjavík in the autumn. Many museums, like the Perlan’s Wonders of Iceland exhibition, are open all year long.
For the northern lights, always visit the capital (and book a tour outside the city!) between October and March for the best sighting opportunities.
Best time to visit Iceland to go camping
Camping in Iceland will be something you remember for a long time. Wake up in the quiet of the stunning Icelandic countryside. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Most camping sites (and you should only camp in designated areas) are open between May and September. In more remote regions, you may find they have restricted times between June and August. That may be due to roads not being accessible to reach them until the summer.
Best time to visit Iceland for hiking
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that summer is the best time to travel to Iceland if you want to take on its rugged mountains by foot.
Hiking on his volcanic island will be unforgettable, so if you’re a keen mountaineer, don’t forget your gear at home. Come between late May and September for the best weather and most accessible mountain trails. You’ll also enjoy long days to take advantage of the paths and gorgeous views.
You may find that if you come earlier or later in the year, mountains will have snow on the top and make hiking more perilous. Activities such as hiking in Iceland are extremely dependent on weather after all. Always make sure to keep yourself safe!
Perhaps you also have your eye on Landmannalaugar in the highlands. Hiking in the highlands is an incredible experience! However, visiting this remote region is limited by the opening of the road leading into it. Usually, it opens around mid-June.
- Check out these Iceland tours that are ideal for hiking enthusiasts.
Best time to visit Iceland for wildlife watching
It’s not just the landscape that is awe-inspiring in Iceland, but also the wildlife! The spring and summer are the best time of the year to spot two of the most famous animals that visit our shores.
The cute puffins and mighty whales.
Nearly 60% of the entire Atlantic puffin population spend their summers in Iceland. That’s 8 to 10 million puffins!
These adorable and clumsy birds start arriving in late April and head back to sea around early August. You’ll find them in largest quantities in the Westman Islands in South Iceland, Grímsey island in North Iceland and the beautiful Westfjords.
Whales on the other hand are present all year long. But the summer is the best time to see them. This is when you’re most likely to spot minke, humpback and sperm whales.
The waters are also usually less choppy at this time of year, making the experience better if you don’t have strong sea legs.
And even if you’re only in Reykjavík for a short city break, you could go whale watch from the capital.
Best time to visit Iceland for music festivals
Icelandic music is recognised worldwide and it’s no wonder! Some amazing bands come from this small nation, including Björk, Kaleo, Sigur Ros, and Of Monsters and Men, among many others.
Not only that, but it attracts talented acts from around the globe for its fun (and scenic!) music festivals. Look out for:
Do you feel ready to pick which season or month is best for you now? We hope so! Your next vacation could be one of “fire and ice”.
Iceland Tours has a selection of summer or winter packages to take you to specific areas or around the country if you want to. You can browse depending on your preferred season or interests. Or get in touch if you have more questions!