Iceland is a country of tremendous geological contrasts. Widely known as `The land of fire and ice` Iceland is home to some of the largest glaciers in Europe, and some of the world`s most active volcanoes. Iceland is also the land of light and darkness. Long summer days with near 24-hour of sunshine are offset by short winter days with only a few hours of daylight.
The season that you decide to come to Iceland may greatly determine your itinerary. Certain tours, such as many glacier hiking, snowmobiling and whale-watching excursions, run throughout the year, yet even these different in terms of how they are conducted and what experience you will have for each season.
Iceland`s most popular attractions are the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon, and these are accessible throughout the year. Also, activities such as whale watching, horseback riding or snowmobiling can usually be enjoyed throughout the year as well, although your experience can vary greatly depending on the season.
The South Coast is another of the country`s most beloved regions, which is accessible the year round. It is renowned for its gorgeous waterfalls, such as Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, the black sandy beach Reynisfjara, the volcano Eyjafjallajökull, and incredible glacier views.
At its far end is the Vatnajökull National Park, which includes stunning sites such as the Skaftafell Nature Reserve, the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, and the nearby Diamond Beach.
Iceland only really considers itself to have two season: summer and winter. There is a huge difference between the two seasons. Summer is considered to go from the mid May until the Mid September, and winter consumes the rest of the year.
The best weather in Iceland is during these summer months when you can expect pleasant temperatures and long days. But this is also high season and hotels, tours, and flights should be booked many months in advance. April and September are reasonable alternatives with decent weather, shorter days, smaller crowds, and cheaper prices.
If you are coming to see the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, the best time to see them is from late September through late March, when there are full dark nights. Another important factor is the weather, as cold, clear nights are best for aurora views, because warmer nights often bring precipitation or cloud cover. As there is less precipitation in October and November along with full dark, chilly nights, these months tend to bring the highest odds for viewing.
For more information, check out: Best Time to Visit Iceland.
Generally, we advise to visit for not less than 7-8 days as you will then have sufficient time to explore much of the tours and attractions in Iceland and Reykjavik. We offer flexible vacation packages so you can select your number of nights in each city, desired hotel and activities. We suggest a minimum of 3 nights in larger cities.
Getting around the capital city is fairly easy, with options such as taxi, bus, walking or biking to get you from point A to B. For more information, check out Getting Around Reykjavik.
By Car:A car offers the most flexibility for travel around Iceland. Numerous agencies rent vehicles, and ferries allow individuals to bring their own car with them. Rental prices are high - expect to pay around kr 4000 per day for a two wheel drive vehicle, and upwards of about kr 12,000 per day for a four-wheel-drive vehicle; these prices include basic car insurance.
A four-wheel-drive car is needed only in the interior, which is open only in the summer. Renting cars in advance is often cheaper than doing so on-location. Off-road driving is strictly forbidden in Iceland and punishable with fines in the range of kr 300,000 to 500,000. Icelandic nature is sensitive and does not recover easily from tire tracks.
Driving in Iceland is on the right side of the road. Headlights and seat belts for all passengers must be on at all times. There is a single main highway, Route 1-Ring Road, which encircles the country.
Most mountain roads are closed until the end of June, or even longer because of wet and muddy conditions which make them totally impassable. When these roads are opened for traffic, many of them can be passed only by four-wheel-drive vehicles. The roads requiring four-wheel-drive (and possibly snow tires) are route numbers with an `F`. Some roads that were previously signed with an F have since been upgraded and assigned a number without an F. In general you can trust those designations in both cases.
The Route 1 road that encircles the island nation is a staple for tourists who wishes to see the diverse geological features of Iceland, from waterfalls, icebergs, fjords, to volcanoes.
Scheduled trips between Icelandic towns are operated by Strætó bs. Tours to attractions are provided by scheduled buses from various companies, including Reykjavík Excursions (who also operate the FlyBus), Trex, Sterna, NetBus and SBA-NORÐURLEIÐ. Long distance bus travel can cost several thousand kronur and is sometimes more expensive than flying. For example, a one way trip from Reykjavík to Akureyri costs kr 10,340, while flying costs kr 8,925 ISK (as of May 2019). It is possible to go from the eastern part of the country to the western one via bus in one day, but only a few trips are served every day.
Golden Circle day tours are available from Reykjavík from many tour operators which will take you round the Gulfoss waterfall, geysers, the crater and the Mid-Atlantic rift/place of Iceland's first Parliament. Although you don`t get much time at each stop. The capital area bus system, run by Strætó bs., is an inefficient and expensive mess that cannot be relied on. A single fare costs kr 470 (as of May 2019). Bus drivers do not give back change, so if all you have on you is a kr 500 bill, do not expect to get the difference back. You can also buy a set of twenty tickets for kr 9,100 from major bus stops, also from the driver (as of September 2016). Once you have paid to the driver, you will not get a ticket, unless you ask for one. If you get a ticket, it is valid for any other buses you take within 75 minutes.
By Bicycle: Cycling is a good way to experience Iceland, and provides a very different experience to other means of transport. You should bring your own touring bike, as buying a bike locally can be expensive. Traffic in and out of Reykjavík is heavy, otherwise, it's OK. You can cycle safely on the Ring Road, or take the bike on the buses (which are equipped with bicycle racks) serving the Ring Road and do side trips. However, if going self-supported, considering the weather and conditions, it is strongly advisable to have a previous touring experience.
When cycling in the winter use studded tyres and dress yourself up in lightweight but warm layers. Bicycle maintenance is typically not a concern, brake pads for example tend to last for 12 months or more, depending on the quality of the brakes.
For trips outside of a town or a city, bring food with you. Icelandic towns can be 100-200 km apart. Food that cooks within 10-15 minutes is preferred. Foraging blueberries and herbs is possible, but do not rely solely on that as a food source.
The currency in Iceland is called Icelandic króna, written ISK. Once you`re in Iceland you`ll have to use Icelandic krónur in most places. Icelanders are not big on carrying money though so the preferred payment method is either debit or credit cards. There are not a lot of banks outside of Iceland that carry the Icelandic krónur, but there is a bank and an ATM at the Keflavik Airport where you can exchange your currency.
Tipping in Iceland is not customary, but it`s not illegal or rude either. For more detailed information, consult our guide: Tipping in Iceland.
The country`s written and spoken language is Icelandic, an Old Norse language that has changed little since Iceland`s first settlers and is the one of the oldest living languages in Europe. However, English is widely spoken and understood throughout. We suggest you get a good guidebook and familiarize yourself with common phrases such as hello, goodbye, please, thank you, excuse me and numbers 1-10.