Traveling to Iceland will be a unique experience, a chance to see extraordinary landscapes that have both winter and summer charm. Icelandic nature offers incredible diversity, and travelers are often quoted saying they couldn't believe their eyes.
That said, a trip to Iceland is not something you improvise if you want to make the most of it. How long you stay, where you go, how you get there, and many other variables will depend on your desires and your budget. A visit to this island is something of an expedition, so here are some things to decide when organizing your trip:
Your travel dates will be decisive for so many aspects of your trip to Iceland. It all depends on what you are looking for: most tourists prefer summer, but then winter in Iceland has a charm you won't find outside of this season. As in all northern countries, you must be aware of local daylight hours, average temperatures, and weather, as these can really make or break your holiday.
Check out our dedicated article for details:
Being an island, there are two ways to get to Iceland: by plane and by boat. The vast majority of travelers will fly there, and the international airport is located in Keflavik, less than 1 hour from the capital Reykjavík.
Check out our dedicated page:
There are no train services in Iceland due to the unforgiving and unpredictable geology. The 3 means of transport are by car, bus and hitchhiking.
Driving is the preferred mode of transport for visitors. While car rentals represent a substantial budget in Iceland, this remains the most practical means of transport that will provide the most freedom.
Check out our dedicated articles on driving and choosing the right rental vehicle:
The bus network is very reliable in Iceland and the vast majority of tourist sites have stops nearby.
Our dedicated page will provide all the information you need:
In summer, you will commonly see hitchhikers along road number 1 and near tourist sites. Given the wide expanses and limited transport options, hitchhiking around the ring road can be a great way of getting around. Of course, any time you leave the beaten path of Road 1 and try to hitchhike on off-road trails and smaller roads, the traffic will be sparse, sometimes waiting an hour or more to see a single vehicle.
The choice of accommodation will depend on your budget. From camping to hotels to B&B farms and guesthouses, Iceland has a wide range of options for all budgets. Most tourists book their accommodation via booking.com, but some choose to skip the hotel and instead sleep on the road by opting for camper rentals.
All the necessary information can be found on our pages:
There is so much to see in Iceland that newcomers will often feel a bit lost, not really knowing where to start. But your itinerary will be greatly determined limited by the number of days in your trip, while the season will limit access to certain sites. Broadly speaking, the inland regions of the island are almost inaccessible in winter.
Iceland is an expensive country, so the length of your stay is usually a budget issue. We recommend a 2-week trip or longer if you can if you want to really see the best of Iceland. A week is simply too short and will require you limit yourself to a specific region or two.
Some suggested itineraries:
All the necessary information on our page:
To figure out which points of interest pique your interest, browse our dedicated articles, or simply consult our interactive map of tourist sites by region.
For a handy selection of top attractions: What to see and do in Iceland.
Iceland is part of the Schengen area, so there is no border control for European Union nationals as is the case for France, Belgium, or Switzerland (which is part of Schengen). A valid passport or identity card is sufficient to travel to Iceland. However, pay attention to the validity, which must be greater than 3 months from the end date of the rest.
Non-Schengen nationals simply must have a valid passport issued within the last 10 years and with at least 3 months left before expiry, a return ticket and sufficient funds for the trip in order to stay up to 90 days within a 180-day period.
However, in the event of a stay over 3 months, you'll need to apply for a visa.
The local language is Icelandic, however English is understood and spoken by the vast majority of Icelanders. In fact, 95% of Icelanders are fluent in English.
Iceland's time zone is UTC (GMT+0). This means for example that Eastern Standard Time or EST is 5 hours behind Iceland.
Iceland is in line with European electrical outlet standards (current at 220 volts) so if you are coming from North America, Canada, the UK, or Australia for example you will need an adapter.
There are 3 major telephone operators in Iceland with excellent coverage: Síminn, Vodafone, and Nova. There are certain areas with no coverage, such as the Hornstrandir Peninsula and some remote areas in central Iceland.
To make calls:
The currency in Iceland is the Icelandic króna (ISK), however you can't change euros or dollars to ISK outside of Iceland, so plan to do so at Keflavik airport or at another currency exchange center.
Depending on your bank, your payments abroad may incur additional fees, so many prefer to withdraw their budget in cash at the airport or ATMs rather than putting everything on the credit card. But Iceland has a modern banking system, and you can pay for almost everything with a credit card, even the smallest amounts.
Few people actually use cash, so if you have a credit card with no extra fees on payments abroad, this will be the easiest solution.
There is no average budget for a trip to Iceland because there are many different types of holidays, but here are some average prices:
Whether it's summer or winter, Iceland remains near the latitudes of the Arctic Circle, so what to wear is kind of critical. Our dedicated weather article lays it out, so you can plan ahead: winter temperatures are around 0 °C but in summer it ranges from 7 °C to 13 °C on average, so dress for success (as in avoiding hypothermia).
Ideally, you need to layer properly and pack a few essentials such as a waterproof/windproof jacket because if there's one thing you can be sure about on the island it's rain and wind, and this is almost arctic wind so perceived temperature makes a huge difference.
Even in summer you'll need a winter hat and gloves, and if you're hiking, bring your best boots.