Top Tips for Travelling in Iceland

Ready to tackle Iceland? Heres everything you need to know.
Ready to tackle Iceland? Here's everything you need to know. | Jon Flobrant / Unsplash
Gethin Morgan

Content Editor

Planning a trip to the Land of Fire and Ice? Whether you’re visiting in summer or winter, going solo or on a family holiday, these are our top tips for visiting Iceland.

Plan your itinerary

Iceland isn’t like some European countries, where you can kind of just turn up and take it from there. The things worth seeing and doing here are spread vastly across the island, and the harsh icy landscapes means getting from A to B isn’t always easy. Turning up without a plan leaves you stranded in Reykjavik – a nice enough city but not the reason you come to Iceland – and sends you straight to the willing arms of tourist trap day tours more interested in your money than offering a good experience.

This is where Culture Trip comes in. Our Travel Experts have created an itinerary that truly gets the best out of Iceland, from its geothermal hot springs to thundering waterfalls, black sand beaches and icy glaciers. No need to worry about how to get from north to south, no need to spend hours trying to decide which geysers to go visit, and with everything but flights booked as one package, you know what kind of budget you need from the get go.

Choose what time of year to visit

Iceland changes drastically throughout the year. In the peak of summer, daylight lasts almost all day long, so the white blankets tends to melt away, along with your chances of seeing the Northern Lights. The heart of winter can be brutal in different ways, with extreme weather and almost no sunlight at all – but, worth noting that it’s your best chance of seeing aurora borealis. October-November or January-March tends to be a popular time to visit, since shoulder seasons offer a kinder balance. Enough sunlight to get around and see the sights, but still a decent chance of seeing a natural light show, and enough snow to make it feel like a winter wonderland without being totally overwhelmed by the weather. Ultimately, when you want to travel depends on what your priorities are, whether that’s the climate, the activities you’re interested in or even the aesthetics you want to plaster over your Instagram!

Dress appropriately

The clue is in the name for goodness sake – this place is cold! Don’t underestimate that fact either, especially if you’re just trying to save on paying for extra luggage on your flight. You’re going to need layers whatever time of year you visit, while waterproofs and wind-proofs are essential. Our top tip is to invest in a really good set of thermals. That way you won’t have to pack so much bulky clothes, and you can layer on top depending on the weather on any given day. A really good pair of hiking boots are crucial – ideally ones tall enough to avoid snow-wet feet – and never, ever forget the importance of really good gloves and hats. It’s just as important keeping your ears and fingers toasty too, you know. The easiest thing to forget when packing for Iceland though, with all this warm weather clothing and hiking gear, is your swimsuit! Coming here and not dipping in the Blue Lagoon or any of the island’s countless hot springs would be a crying shame, so don’t forget your trunks or your one-piece either.

Explore beyond the Golden Circle

There’s a reason this triumvirate – Gullfoss Waterfall, Geysir Geothermal Area, and Thingvellir National Park – has the monopoly on Icelandic tourism, alongside the Blue Lagoon, of course. All four are absolutely worth seeing and doing, even if the occasional horde of tourist coaches feels strange, but there really is so much more to Iceland. The variety of landscapes feels truly endless, and finding a good guide to show you the lesser-trodden places is so worthwhile. That’s where our Local Insider comes in, with a lifetime of lived-in knowledge and experience, they know all of the hidden caves, lesser-known waterfalls and epic hiking routes.

The Golden Circle is just the tip of the Iceland, trust us.

Try local delicacies

For far too long Iceland was given a bad rap for having one of the worst culinary cultures in Europe. It’s unique, don’t get us wrong, but there is some seriously amazing food to be eaten here. You just need to be a bit adventurous! Arctic char is a delicious fish caught in abundance, and seafood lovers will be equally enamoured with Icelandic lobster. There are plenty of amazing restaurants doing great things with locally reared beef and lamb, while Icelandic hot dogs are an iconic local favourite. The real intrepid diners can take it a step further by chewing on the infamous fermented shark – even we’ll admit that doing this is as much for the story as it is for the taste. Whether you like it or not, you can always wash things down with a refreshing glass of locally brewed beer – they love the stuff here – or, for something a little stronger, how about a soul-warming shot of Brennivín?

Speak to the locals

Icelanders are amongst the friendliest people on the planet, and getting into conversation with them in a cosy tavern could well end up being your favourite part of the entire trip. You’re bound to meet some characters along the way, but you’ll always get a friendly smile, a laugh and a joke, not to mention local tips and recommendations. Icelandic culture is so unique and fascinating that you won’t run out of questions to ask, whether you’re chatting to a fisherman, an engineer or a schoolteacher! The best part is the people here speak exceptional English, so there won’t even be too much of a language barrier.

Travel with Culture Trip!

Yep, we had to say it, but we genuinely believe that booking a spot on our adventurous five-day trip in Iceland is the best way to see this country at its most beautiful. We’ve perfectly blended outdoor adventure with spotlights on the island’s unique geography and culture, as well as hearty dash of local cuisine. All to be led by the warm guidance of our wonderful Local Insider.

We start the trip with a traditional welcome dinner in Reykjavik before heading out to Borgarfjörður to soak in natural hot springs and learn about Icelandic sagas. Then it’s on to the Golden Circle, stopping off at a geothermal bakery to sample some uniquely made rye bread, before hopping on snowmobiles to traverse the icy expanse of a glacier at speed. On day four we’ll head to the south coast to explore Reynisfjara black-sand beach and several jaw-dropping waterfalls, before embarking on a challenging glacial hike across Sólheimajökull – capped off with a well-earned whisky and a hearty Icelandic dinner. Before we fly our separate ways, the group will head to the Blue Lagoon in the morning for a thoroughly deserved soak in the island’s iconic, mineral-rich milky blue waters. What a way to end the adventure of a lifetime.

Want to hear more about the trip? Read Cassam’s diary of his experience on the trip, or read a customer review of a departure in early 2022.

Sold on Iceland? Read our full itinerary and book your spot on our five-day adventure in this otherworldly arctic landscape.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

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