Iceland: The Land of Fire and Ice

Iceland is a country of contrasts, where you can find glaciers and volcanoes, black sand beaches and turquoise waters, and bustling cities and remote villages. It’s a place where you can experience the power of nature and the beauty of the Arctic Circle. It’s also a place you won’t want to visit just once. I’ve been a couple times now and want to share my Iceland travel tips with you.

If you’re planning a trip to Iceland, there are a few things you need to know to prepare. Here are a few tips:

  • When to go: The best time to visit Iceland depends on what you want to do. For example, if you want to see the Northern Lights, the best time to go is between September and April. If you want to hike, the best time to go is during the summer months of June-August.
  • Getting around: The best way to get around Iceland is by car. This will give you the flexibility to explore the country at your own pace. However, it is important to note that some roads in Iceland are closed in the winter due to snow and ice and/or may require a specific type of vehicle to access. Think of the type of trip you want and your comfort level! That said, renting a car is my highest recommendation.
  • Where to stay: There are a variety of accommodation options available in Iceland, from budget hostels to luxury hotels. You can also rent a camper van or tent camp in designated areas. Choose the option that best suits your budget and interests.

What to Pack for Iceland

What to pack: Iceland is a country of extremes, so you need to be prepared for all types of weather (yes, even within the same day!). Pack warm clothes, rain gear, and sturdy shoes. You may also want to pack a swimsuit for the geothermal pools and hot springs. In other words, packing layers, no matter the season, will be your best bet for comfort. Here is an Iceland packing list to get you started:

  • Waterproof clothing and footwear: The weather in Iceland can change quickly, so it’s important to be prepared for all types of conditions. Waterproof clothing and footwear will help you stay dry and comfortable, even if the weather takes a turn for the worse.
  • Warm layers: The weather in Iceland can also be quite cold, even in the summer/spring months. It’s important to pack warm layers of clothing that you can add or remove as needed. Some good options include a warm base layer, a fleece jacket, and a waterproof and windproof outer layer.
  • Hat, gloves, and scarf: Iceland can be quite windy, so it’s important to have a hat, gloves, and scarf to keep your head, neck, and hands warm. The temperatures change drastically from day to night, so it’s best to be prepared.
  • Hiking boots or shoes: If you’re planning on doing any hiking in Iceland, it’s important to have sturdy and comfortable hiking boots or shoes. If you’re visiting in the early spring, late fall, or winter, pack crampons as well.
  • Swimsuit: Iceland has many geothermal pools and hot springs, so you may want to pack a swimsuit so you can enjoy them, no matter which season you’re visiting in.
  • Sunglasses: The sun can be quite bright in Iceland, even on cloudy days. It’s important to pack sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
  • Sunscreen: The sun’s UV rays are stronger in Iceland than in many other parts of the world, so it’s important to wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Insect repellent: Iceland has a variety of biting insects, especially during the summer months. It’s important to pack insect repellent to keep these pests at bay.
  • Camera: Iceland is a beautiful country with stunning scenery. Don’t forget to pack your camera to capture all of your memories. This includes memory cards, tripods, chargers, etc.
  • Adapter: Iceland uses type F electrical plugs, so you’ll need an adapter if you’re coming from a country with a different type of plug.
  • Snacks and drinks: Food and drinks can be expensive in Iceland, so it’s a good idea to pack some snacks and drinks to save money. Think: flavored water packets, dehydrated meals, protein/snack bars.
  • Travel insurance: It’s always a good idea to have travel insurance when traveling to any new country, especially one as remote as Iceland.

Things to do in Iceland:

Iceland has a lot to offer visitors, from natural wonders to cultural attractions. Here are a few of the most popular things to do:

  • Visit the Golden Circle: The Golden Circle is a popular tourist route that takes you to three of Iceland’s most iconic natural attractions: Þingvellir National Park, Geysir geothermal area, and Gullfoss waterfall.
  • See the Northern Lights: If you’re visiting Iceland during the winter months, be sure to keep an eye out for the Northern Lights. This natural phenomenon is caused by charged particles from the sun interacting with Earth’s atmosphere. The best places to see the Northern Lights are in remote areas away from light pollution.
  • Go hiking: Iceland has a variety of hiking trails for all levels of experience. Some of the most popular hikes include the Laugavegur Trail, the Fimmvörðuháls Trail, and the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve.
  • Visit the geothermal pools and hot springs: Iceland is home to a number of geothermal pools and hot springs, which are the perfect place to relax and soak up the natural beauty of the country. Some of the most popular geothermal pools include the Blue Lagoon, Mývatn Nature Baths, and Laugarvatn Fontana.
  • Explore the culture: Iceland has a rich culture and history. Be sure to visit some of the country’s
    museums and historical sites, such as the National Museum of Iceland, the Settlement Exhibition, and the Perlan Museum.

Take a look at my other Iceland posts for more inspiration and Iceland travel tips, for example my 10 day road trip itinerary and my post about Reasons to Visit Iceland.

No matter what you’re interested in, you’re sure to find something to love in Iceland! With its stunning scenery, unique culture, and abundance of activities, Iceland is a country that has truly something to offer everyone.

Iceland Travel Tips: Helpful Websites and Info

Website to check road conditions in Iceland which is very necessary during early spring, late fall, and winter.

Parking App for Iceland and this Helpful parking website. Unfortunately, free parking in Iceland is very rare. Prepare to spend between $2 – $10 for most parking lots. Most parking fees can be paid online and/or with credit cards at kiosks/machines.

Iceland weather website that will be much more accurate than your cell phone’s default.

Emergency number 112

Currency (as of November 2023): 1000 ISK is approximately equal to $6.97 or €6.53.

Almost everywhere accepts credit cards/Apple pay, even food trucks. If possible, have this feature set up on your SmartPhone for ease of payment.

Daylight hours: Sometimes, Iceland has up to 20 hours of sunlight, others, it’s in darkness for most of the day. Hence why it is so important that you check the daylight hours before planing when to take your trip!  

Iceland Tours to Take

Car Rental Companies In Iceland

  • Rental Car: Typically Discover Cars is the most affordable rental company I have found in Iceland and I had a great experience with them renting an SUV for a summer road trip.
  • Rental Camper Van: We got a great deal on a camper van with Indie Campers and the van itself was perfect for our winter road trip.

Find the Northern Lights

The famous Northern Lights in Iceland are typically seen between September & April. They’re a natural phenomenon that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. Here are my best tips for finding a place to see the lights and for taking pictures of them!

  • Use this SmartPhone App to check for cloud cover to ensure you will have the visibility necessary to see the Northern Lights – MeteoEarth.
  • Use this SmartPhone App to check the KP index, which equates to how high of a chance you have to see the Northern Lights – KP index. Anything over 4 suggests a good chance.
  • Use this SmartPhone App that predicts where and when the Northern Lights will be visibile. It is super accurate – My Aurora Forecast Pro.  

Photograph the Northern Lights

If you are using a real camera, you will need to shoot a long-exposure photo (20 seconds or more). Set your aperture between F4.0 and F2.8. Ensure your shutter speed is between 2 – 13 seconds (the faster the lights, the shorter the speed). Finally, set your ISO to 1000 – 4000. Finally, you will need a tripod to hold the camera steady! Here is a more in depth and helpful article.

If you plan to capture photos on your iPhone, follow these steps:

  1. Open Camera. In low-light situations, Night mode turns on automatically.
  2. Next, tap the Night mode button at the top of the screen to turn Night mode off and on.
  3. To experiment with Night mode, tap the Camera Controls button, tap the Night mode button in the row of options at the bottom of the screen, then use the slider to choose between the Auto and Max timers. With Auto, the time is determined automatically; Max uses the longest exposure time. The setting you choose is saved for your next Night mode shot.
  4. Tap the Shutter button, then hold the camera still to take your shot.
  5. Crosshairs appear in the frame if your iPhone detects movement during capture—align the crosshairs to help you reduce motion and improve the shot.
  6. To stop taking a Night mode shot mid-capture, tap the Stop button below the slider.

I hope these Iceland travel tips make your trip extra enjoyable! Let me know in the comments what the most helpful information was!