LGBTQ+ Travel in Iceland: Complete Guide

5 minute read

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By Max Naylor

8 May 2024

Pride parade in Reykjavík

There’s been something of a boom in Iceland LGBTQ+ travel, and it makes sense why. Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world for queer people. And with its fantastic nature and culture, you’ll find endless reasons to visit.

Iceland has strong protections for LGBTQ+ individuals and a generally laid-back attitude. It tops the charts when it comes to acceptance of gay and transgender people. What’s more, in 2009, it became the first country in the world to have a gay head of government.

Let’s find out more about what it’s like to be queer in Iceland and as a visitor. You’ll also get the low-down on all the best things to see and do in the Land of Fire and Ice.

Iceland LGBTQ+ rights

Before we dive into all the reasons why Iceland should be at the top of your travel list, it's worth summing up the state of LGBT rights in Iceland. We know that this can often be a source of worry for queer travelers, but rest assured you’re welcome here.

Since 1996, Icelandic same-sex couples have been able to register their partnerships. In 2010, prime minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir introduced same-sex marriage. She and her fiancée became some of the first people to take advantage of the new law, getting married right after.

You’ll be glad to know that legal protections for LGBTQ+ people in Iceland are strong. It’s been illegal to discriminate in the provision of goods and services on the basis of sexual orientation since 1996. In 2014, discrimination based on gender identity was also outlawed.

Self-determination of gender identity has been legal since 2019. This means trans people can certify their gender themselves without the involvement of a medical professional. And Icelandic citizens can register their gender as ‘X’ on their official documents.

Most recently, in 2023, the Icelandic parliament outlawed conversion therapy.

Is Iceland LGBTQ-friendly?

Skólavörðustígur or the rainbow street in Reykjavik, Iceland

Icelanders are relaxed people in general, and have a live-and-let-live attitude that sets them apart from the other Nordic countries. This is also true when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity. Gay and trans people are highly visible in the media, and children are taught about LGBTQ+ people in schools.

All this means that you’re extremely unlikely to run into trouble or experience discrimination when visiting Iceland. Of course, no country is perfect, so there is never any guarantee. But Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world to be queer! In fact, it's one of the safest countries in the world in general.

One thing that’s worth knowing is that while Icelandic people are open-minded, they can be socially reserved. This means that you won’t necessarily see people holding hands and kissing in public, but that is true of everyone regardless of their orientation or gender expression. 

So if you get glances while holding your partner’s hand, it’s very unlikely to be because you’re queer, but simply because PDA is not a big part of Icelandic culture. That said, it is becoming more commonplace.

Traveling to rural areas

In some countries, you might be cautious about visiting rural areas as a queer person. In Iceland, people are generally accepting all over the country. Because the population is so small, ideas spread fast and attitudes change quickly.

Although people in the countryside can sometimes be more conservative, in Iceland, this isn’t really comparable to the extreme differences you might find elsewhere. All mainstream political parties in Iceland, left and right, support LGBTQ+ rights.

Queer culture in Iceland

The Laugavegur street in downtown Reykjavík on a summer day

For its small size, Iceland has a surprisingly lively trans and gay scene. Because Reykjavík is too small to have an LBGTQ+ district, you’ll find that it mostly revolves around casual events and meetups.

That said, the centerpiece of the trans and gay Iceland nightlife scene is the legendary bar and venue Kíkí. This is a Reykjavík institution that’s existed in the same location under different names for decades.

You’ll find that Kíkí is not an exclusive queer space. On busy nights though, they try to keep the balance right so the crowd is not dominated by non-LGBTQ+ people.

You may well have seen the ‘Rainbow Street’ (real name Bergstaðastræti) in photos of Reykjavík. Every year it’s repainted to show solidarity with and acceptance of queer people. The idea became so popular that you’ll find rainbow crossings, streets, and paths across the whole country!

rainbow pavement leading to light blue church

Reykjavík Pride

Every August, Reykjavík hosts the country’s biggest Pride festival. It started as a gay pride celebration in 1999, although its origins go back to protests first held in 1993.

Today, Reykjavík Pride has blossomed into a multi-day event, welcoming everyone under the rainbow. The whole thing culminates in the pride parade. This is a real family-friendly event, with kids and adults turning out in almost equal numbers.

After the parade, you’ll find street parties and events at bars and clubs all over the city, so you can continue the party!

What to see and do in Iceland


Now you know Iceland is a great place to visit, it’s time to dig into what there is to see and do when you’re there. Venture to Iceland, and you could:

For more inspiration and ideas, see this complete guide to Iceland. If you’re not sure where to get started or when and how to visit, check out this guide to planning a trip to Iceland.

Iceland’s bathing culture

A woman with her eyes closed relaxing in water with snowy hills in background

A great way to connect with Icelandic culture is through its countless hot springs, lagoons, and public pools. These are all heated using geothermal energy and are mostly outdoors, so you can be close to nature.

Most facilities cater to trans people, with private or gender-neutral changing rooms. The Blue Lagoon and Sky Lagoon, 2 of the country’s most popular spas, have fully private changing facilities available. If you choose Iceland Tours, we can help you book a spa experience with confidence.

What’s more, the swimming pools run by the city of Reykjavík have private on-site changing rooms. Their staff are also trained on how to accommodate people of all genders.

Good to know: Iceland does not have a gay bathhouse culture. The pools and hot springs are family-friendly spaces that welcome everyone.

Planning your Iceland trip with Iceland Tours

It can be daunting planning a trip abroad, but with itineraries designed by locals from Iceland Tours, you can save yourself time and hassle. Take the wheel on a self-drive trip, or explore by bus on a multi-day or guided group tour.

Why not start by figuring out the best time to visit Iceland? Go to Iceland in summer and you can bask in the midnight sun. Or travel in winter to experience pure-white snowscapes and chase the Northern Lights.

No matter how or when you choose to explore Iceland, rest assured that it’s one of the best places in the world to visit as an LGBTQ+ person. So knowing that you can relax and be yourself, you can just focus on putting together your must-see list.

With Iceland Tours, you’ll always get local transport, accommodation, and activities included. What’s more, these great-value vacation packages have been designed by local experts to help you get the most out of your trip!

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About the author

Max has been back and forth from Iceland since 2009. He lived and worked there for several years, and although he’s moved away, he left a piece of his heart there. When he’s in Iceland, he loves to relax in the ‘hot pot’, chow down on some local food, and catch up with friends. He speaks Icelandic fluently, so if you need to know how to pronounce ‘Fagradalsfjall’, he’s your guy.

View more posts by Max

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