ICELAND

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WHY GO TO ICELAND?

There are a million reasons to visit Iceland. Visit to gawk at nature – there are majestic waterfalls, wide lava fields, black sand beaches, frosty glaciers, warm geothermal springs, deep canyons and blue lagoons. Visit to experience the hip culture of the Nordics, see up and coming bands in Reykjavik, buy wool sweaters, drink artisanal coffee and guzzle craft beer. Visit, because getting there is easy! Iceland is a 3 hour flight from Boston and a great stopover when flying to Europe. The country is also famous for its Northern Lights, glimmers in the night sky which appear during the fall and winter months.   

See what it looks like: ICELAND PHOTO GALLERY. 

Check out our ICELAND ITINERARIES for amazing activities,  great places to stay, eat and drink.

WHERE TO GO BY INTEREST

Check out our suggestions for Iceland based on your travel style or interest.  Or scroll below if you want to learn about Iceland by region.

⭐ First Timers Wanting to Hit the Must-Sees. Do at least a night in Reykjavik and visit the Blue Lagoon. Most first timers, especially if they’re only doing a long weekend, also do a day trip to the Golden Circle. See the Travel Honey Iceland Itinerary for the best plan of action.

⛰ For the Love of the Outdoors.  You’ll have amazing outdoor activities no matter where you are in Iceland. Even if you’re based in Reykjavik, you can do great day trips, but if you want to get little more hardcore go north, west or inland. See John’s outdoorsy Iceland Itinerary here. 

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Viti Crater Lake in North Iceland; Kirkjafell Mountain in West Iceland

🍽 Calling All Foodies.  You’ll have to pay for it, but Iceland has amazing food.  You’ll definitely want to spend a couple days in Reykjavik. 

⬄ Combining With a Neighboring Country.  Both Icelandair and WOW airlines make it really easy to do short layovers in Iceland on the way to Europe, usually at no extra charge.  

WHERE TO GO BY REGION

Iceland is a bit bigger than the state of Maine and is circled by the aptly named Ring Road. It’s 828 miles to drive the entire Ring Road, or a little under 3 hours a day for 7 days.  Although not noted in every region, just know that wherever you go, you’ll find  awesome hiking.

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Map of Iceland’s Regions

Reykjavik and the Golden Circle. The capital, Reykjavik, is the center of it all. The city can be explore by foot within a day and is filled with hip museums, tasty restaurants, fabulous nightlife and a plenty of places to sleep.  The capital is also the best place to sort all logistics, book tours and stock up on food if you plan to travel around the island. The Golden Circle is a 200 mile driving route east and south of Reykjavik which has three famous geographic points: Þingvellir National Park, the Geyser geothermal area and the Gullfoss waterfall. All three are best seen as part of a day trip out of Reykjavik.

South/Southeast to the Glacier Lagoon. To the South, the Ring Road runs close to shore, and the journey is dominated by glaciers and waterfalls. Inland from the South Coast, the Laugavegur trail offers offers spectacular hiking. It’s the next most popular region after Reykjavik and the Golden Circle.

East to Northeast. East of the Glacier Lagoon, you’ll find quiet harbor towns starting with Hofn, then dotting the East Fjords.  Visitors also head east to see puffins and wild reindeer herds. The farther northeast you go, the less touristy it gets.

Across the North.  As you head west from the East Fjords, the Ring Road is becomes more inland and dotted with lakes.  Most popular is Lake Myvatn which includes the Myvatn Nature Bath, a cheaper alternative to the Blue Lagoon.  North Iceland is also popular for whale watching

West/West Fjords. The remote and dramatic cliffs of the West Fjords dominate northwest Iceland.  The most popular destination in the west is Mount Kirkjufell in the Snaefellsjokull Peninsula.  

WHEN’S THE BEST TIME TO VISIT ICELAND? 

Iceland is a great year-round destination. During the summer months, the weather is warmer, the vegetation is green, and the roads are best for driving. The winter is colder, but you’re able to see the Northern Lights and visit ice caves.  It’s also less crowded and lodging is cheaper. The weather is usually mild during the fall and spring which makes an excellent time for sightseeing. You may still be able to see the Northern Lights, which typically appear from September through April.  The temperatures don’t differ drastically, the average high in February is 36F and in July it’s 55F, but there’s snow in the winter and about twice as much precipitation as in the summer.

PASSPORT & VISA REQUIREMENTS

If you’ll be in Iceland for under 90 days, a visa is not required for U.S. and most European citizens.  From the U.S, your passport must be valid for at least three months beyond your planned date of departure and you must have two pages for each entry stamp.

Additional information from the U.S. State Department about Iceland, including travel requirements, is located at travel.state.gov.

Find visa and passport requirements for other countries here.

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Sjonarnipa lookout in the Vatnajökull (Skaftafell) National Park in the South East; Ring Road on the South Coast

HOW DO I PAY FOR STUFF?

Currency: The official currency is the Icelandic krona. At the moment, the exchange rate is about 112 krona for every dollar.

ATMs/Credit Cards: Iceland is as close as you can get to cashless society. Cards are accepted everywhere. ATMs are plentiful in Reykjavik and generally available over the rest of the island.

Tipping: Tipping is neither expected nor common.

Food and drink is very expensive in Iceland, so here are some money saving tips: 

  • Buy alcohol in the duty free shop at the airport.
  • Order pizza, burgers and fish stew, which is filling and usually comes with homemade bread.
  • Get hot dogs. Iceland is famous for them.
  • Tap water in Iceland is tasty, clean and safe to drink. No need to purchase bottled water.

EATING & DRINKING

Most of Iceland’s traditional food is either dried, fermented or pickled. Again, hog dogs are famous and gas stations have shockingly great food. There is a ton of seafood from the ocean, so feast on haddock, cod, herring, salmon and lobster. The arctic char and fish soups are outstanding. Thirsty? Pour a glass of Brennivín, also known as the Icelandic schnapps. Other traditional foods include:*

  • Hákarl – Shark is buried in the ground, fermented and then dried for months. The result has a soft cheese-like texture shark and pungent smell.
  • Dark Rye Bread – Commonly eaten with butter or smoked fish.
  • Whale – Served in steak or in kebab form.
  • Puffin – The meat of this bird is smoked, chewy and tastes like pastrami.

*Shark, puffin and whale are threatened species, so eating them is a point of controversy.

HOW DO I USE MY CELL PHONE IN ICELAND?

Cell phone service is generally good in Iceland except for remote areas.  Check your U.S. carrier for their international rates. T-Mobile and Sprint both other some version of free international data; AT&T and Verizon both offer a $10/day plan.  SIM cards in Iceland are pricier than other European countries and you’ll likely pay at least $30. So if you’re only going for a long weekend, it may make sense to keep your U.S. plan.  Read the Ultimate Guide to Using Your Cell Phone Abroad for more information to make your decision.  

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Diamond Beach, South East Iceland; Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, South Iceland; Church in Vik, South Coast, Iceland

WHAT SHOULD I READ, WATCH AND LISTEN TO BEFORE THE TRIP?

Read any Icelandic saga, also known as a medieval historical novel. Watch “Rams”, the award-winning story of two brothers in Iceland who try to save their sheep. Listen to the music icon Björk.

MORE ICELAND TIPS?

  • There is a general lack of signage but Icelanders are friendly and helpful to tourists so just ask!
  • Things do not open early, especially on the weekends.
  • When calculating driving times, factor in that you’ll be stopping to take photos at the beautiful scenery.
  • The Icelandic language has letters not in the English language, so you’ll see different spellings of the same word depending on the translation.

HAVE AN AMAZING TIME + SAFE TRAVELS.