Progressive, peaceful and modern are the terms that define this island in the North Atlantic. Iceland houses some of the most active volcanoes in the world and also some of the largest glaciers.
As a result of this geological contrast, Iceland is fondly referred to as The Land of Fire and Ice. This little volcanic paradise is unique in itself and tops the bucket list of most nature lovers. Watch the northern lights dancing, chat with friendly locals, dine on delicious Icelandic cuisine washed down by the local beer. Zen out in a volcanic hot spring and for a few seconds close your eyes and forget that you’re just a few degrees south of the Arctic Circle.
Iceland Travel Info
Language: The official language of Iceland is Icelandic which is quite a tough language to learn. Luckily like most Scandinavian countries, English is the second most commonly spoken language.
Currency: Icelandic Kronur (ISK).
Visa: As a member of the Schengen Agreement, which provides a free visa to travel to any EU country including countries not a part of Schengen as well as those approved by Schengen like America, New Zealand and Australia for 90 days. Citizens of South Africa, Asia and Russia need to apply for Schengen Visa before visiting Iceland.
Electricity: Iceland operates on 230 V electricity supply. The power sockets are usually two-pronged and round. I recommend bringing a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each country you visit.
Iceland Festivals & Celebrations
Winter Light Festival: The Winter Light Festival takes place in February with a number of fun-filled and dazzling events. The aim of the festival is to lift the spirits and brighten the dark winter nights. Several light-art installations are placed on display throughout the city centre lighting up some of the most important public spaces and buildings.
Food and Fun: International culinary talents are blended with fresh local ingredients to prepare a recipe for fun. The finest restaurants in Reykjavik and world famous chefs come together to prepare an exclusive menu from ingredients from Iceland alone. People can taste the dishes and of course shake hands with the chefs.
Iceland National Day: On June 17th 1944, Iceland got independence from Denmark and since then this day is celebrated as a National Day and is among the most popular summer events in Iceland. In Reykjavik, a colorful parade takes place along with games for kids, street performances, free music concerts and much more fun and festivities.
Safety In Iceland
Iceland is considered one of the world’s safest countries with an admirably low crime rate. Despite this you do need to be cautious at all times due to Iceland being an active geothermal island with volcanoes, glaciers and rough seas. Do not explore any rugged terrain without professional advice, respect nature and stay safe. Based on my own travel experiences in Iceland I wouldn’t leave home without travel insurance no matter how safe the destination is. You can still miss flights, lose your luggage or break a leg, especially if you’re as accident prone as I am. For this reason I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks or months before you plan to visit Iceland.
Top Things To Do In Iceland
Soak in the atmosphere of Reykjavik
The small size of Reykjavik is compensated by a trendy and lively atmosphere that persists here. Reykjavik’s bustling pubs, hip cafes and high-energy clubs give you a lot to do while you are in the city. The nightlife of Reykjavik is just awesome with epic parties happening all across the city. The architecture of the city is a blend of old town buildings with a modern innovative twist. This naturally beautiful town is also rich in technology, design and is never out of touch with the world.
Bathe in the Blue Lagoon
This Geothermal spa is among the highlights of Iceland. It is huge, milky blue and is a sight you will take back home in your memories, never to be forgotten. The super hot water is rich in blue-green algae, fine silica mud and mineral salts which exfoliates and conditions your skin. Once in the waters, you will feel relaxed even amid lots of strangers. The experience is once in a lifetime and swimming in the blue lagoon must be on your bucket list when you visit Iceland.
The cold waters of the coast of Iceland are home to diverse marine life. The shores become the feeding grounds of several species of large marine mammals during the summer months. This gives the visitors an opportunity to closely observe these wonderful creatures in their natural environment. During summer about 20 species of whales including Minke, Orca, Blue Whale and Humpback can be seen in the Arctic and North Atlantic Ocean near the Island making Iceland the perfect place for whale watching.
Admire the beauty of Icelandic Waterfalls
Waterfalls are always a sight to behold. There is nothing more beautiful than crystal clear water cascading down a mountain and waterfalls in Iceland are spectacular with majestic beauty surrounding them. The three epic falls that you must visit while in Iceland are Gullfoss, the biggest and most terrible, Dettifoss, the most powerful in all Europe, and Skogafoss, the most beautiful, created out of two glaciers – Eyjafjallajokull and Myrdalsjokull.
Hike the Golden Circle Route
The Golden Circle Route is a famous hiking trail in Iceland that covers about 300 kilometers starting from Reykjavik and going up to the Southern uplands and back. This perfect hiking trail covers a large number of major tourist attractions like the Kerio Volcano crater, the Hellisheiði geothermal power plant and Hveragerði greenhouse village. The most unique experience during the hike is standing at the rift zone at the edge of the North American Plate and facing the Eurasian Plate.
The Northern Lights
The Aurora Borealis, commonly known as the Northern Lights is a natural phenomenon created when solar particles come in touch with the magnetic field of the Earth. The energy thus released causes bright green streaks across the sky. When the nights are clear, sightseeing trips are organized to witness this rare phenomenon. The guides or the leaders of the trips are skilled in finding spots from where you can best see them.
Explore the Skaftafell Ice Cave
Iceland is full of glorious landscapes and among the most dramatic ones is the Vatnajökull National Park. Here you will find miles and miles of glaciers covered in snow and ice. The park also has ice caves, many of which are still waiting to be discovered. My favorite was the Skaftafell Ice cave, and you need to explore it to know why.
Visit the Maelifell Volcano
Mount Maelifell is a cone-shaped volcano formed by eruptions under the Myrdalsjokull Glacier. The volcano stands 200 meters above sea level and beautiful and unique moss covered sight can be witnessed during the warm months. The volcano is surrounded by other beautiful volcanoes, natural springs and adorned with the natural beauty of Iceland.
Visit Power Stations and learn about Renewable Energy
Due to its remarkable geology and geography that makes the country rich in both geo- and hydrothermal resources; Iceland has abundant clean, renewable energy. At power stations in the countryside, there are visitor centers where you can learn about how geo- or hydrothermal energy is converted into electricity and the way in which geothermal water aids in space heating. This will prove to be learning based fun activity for the entire family. These exhibitions are usually interactive and inform the visitors how the energy sector can thrive using modern technologies.
Since Iceland is located on the Atlantic Ridge, It is the most active volcanic region. It has a unique geographical condition resulting in impressive rock formation both above and below the surface. A number of tube caves are formed by the flowing magma which can be explored safely. Due to safety concerns, different caves are explored in different seasons. The most popular caves visited during the summers are the Gjábakkahellir Cave near Þingvellir National Park and the Leiðarendi Cave in the Bláfjöll area during winters.
Other than these top things to do in Iceland, there is so much more to see and experience in this amazing country. Be prepared to be flexible because sometimes other travelers that you meet on your travels will have the best suggestions for things to do in Iceland that are off the beaten path.
What To Eat In Iceland
The cuisine of Iceland is unique and is made by some homegrown ingredients which are highly unique. Some of the most famous dishes that you must try in Iceland are listed here.
Skyr: Technically speaking, skyr is cheese which resembles the Greek yoghurt. This delicacy is low in fat and high in protein and is served with some fruit and milk. This is available all over Iceland, at times in the form of smoothie as well.
Pylsur: Hot dogs in Iceland are among the most revered dishes and are among the hot favorites. Pylsur is made of pork or lamb, paired with crunchy, deep fried onions and ketchup or sweet brown mustard. You might need to wait for a while to get your dog as it is a popular choice, especially among the locals.
Local fish: A country surrounded by sea on all sides will surely have fish as one of its most common food choices. In Iceland, you will get a huge variety of fishes, cooked in different ways. The good part is that the fish are caught in the morning and are entirely fresh.
Rye Bread: Rye bread or rugbraud is a staple form of Icelandic cuisine and is eaten in a number of ways: chopped and blended in ice-cream, topped with smoked salmon and cream cheese, or served with crunchy lava salt and extra creamy butter.
Lamb Soup: This Icelandic delicacy using broth as its main ingredient served warm and is packed with root vegetables and potatoes. This flavorful soup is perfect for cold weather and is delicious.
Where To Stay In Iceland
Iceland can be quite an expensive place to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in Iceland is easy but finding affordable accommodation, if you’re on a tight budget, is the hard part. Luckily Icelandic hostels and dormitories make travel here more affordable for backpackers and any travelers on a shoe-string budget.
Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best accommodation options have already been snapped up. Iceland is a very popular year-round destination with business travelers and sight-seeing tourists alike.
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in Iceland.
If you’re backpacking in Iceland or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in Europe much more affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies.
Iceland Trip Planner
Best Time to Visit Iceland
The best time to visit Iceland is in the summer months when Iceland is at it’s warmest, this is in July and August. The month of June with its 24 hours of daylight, is another very popular time to visit Iceland and this month sees about as many tourists as the peak of summer. Still, even during the summer months, rain and strong winds are not uncommon.
Iceland Travel Budget
Iceland can be an expensive city but it’s still generally an affordable destination for travelers on a tight budget. The cost of your trip to Iceland really depends on the level of comfort you will want while here. If you’re backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating fast food then budget between 35 to 50 euros a day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between 50 to 100 euros per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants in places like Reykjavik then budget about 250 euros plus a day.
- Budget: €35 – €50
- Mid-range: €50 – €100
- Splurge: €150 +
Meal For One
- Budget: €8 – €25
- Mid-range: €25 – €60
- Splurge: €60 +
Iceland Packing Guide
Packing for a trip to Iceland, like most other places in Europe is easy, just remember to pack lightweight and breathable clothing for Summer trips and warm, waterproof clothing for trips during Spring, Autumn and Winter.
Be prepared for the weather to get extremely cold during the winter. You will need high quality thermal wear and scarves, woolly hats, gloves and a thick winter coat. If you forget to pack something you can buy anything you need while you’re in Iceland. Prices are generally higher in smaller boutiques than they would be online so expect to pay a premium if you don’t have the option of shopping around due to time restraints on your trip.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to Iceland include a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
For the full list of everything you need to pack for a trip to Iceland check out the Jetset Bunny Ultimate Europe Packing List For Female Travelers.