The Ultimate Travel Guide to Iceland

travel guide to iceland

Iceland, a land of fire and ice, stark contrasts and harmonious natural wonders. No bucket list is complete without a visit to this remote island nation. Whether you’re simply looking to be inspired or wondering where to find the best serving of sheep’s head once you arrive.


travel guide to iceland travel guide will reveal new depths of this magnificent country to even the most seasoned traveller. So, are you ready to discover? Welcome, to Iceland. Let’s start with the basics. Iceland is 103,000 square kilometres big, making it slightly smaller than Cuba and slightly bigger than Hungary and Portugal.

Roughly 10% of its surface is covered by glaciers and there are 130 volcanoes spread throughout, 18 of which have erupted since the settlement of Iceland 1100 years ago. Iceland ranks number one on the Global Peace Index and also takes first prize in Gender Equality with their first female president having been elected in 1980.

Iceland is also one of the greenest nations in the world! 99% of its electricity is generated from renewable resources. So if you’re looking for a progressive and environmentally friendly place to call home, Iceland should be at the top of your list.

You’ll be a part of a very intimate club, only 323,002 are able to call Iceland their home and nearly 60% of the entire population lives in and around Reykjavik, the northernmost capital city in the world. With such a small populace, locals can find themselves talking to relatives they didn’t know they had, more often than they’d like.

Lucky for them, IslendingaApp has become a very popular mobile app which tells you whether you may be skating too close to the gene pool with that beautiful stranger. The Icelanders aren’t the only ones inhabiting the island of ice and fire though.

They share their home with 4 million puffins, 460,000 sheep & 80,000 horses. You may be wondering what language the people of Iceland speak. The answer? Icelandic, a North Germanic language derived from Old Norse.

However most Icelanders speak fluent English and they love to practice it – so never be shy about approaching the locals. The people are known to hold three defining characteristics. They’re exceptionally friendly, they’re highly educated – the nation boasts a literacy rate of 100% – and some would say down-right attractive – Iceland currently holds 3 miss world beauty pageant titles.

When you visit, you’ll be paying for your things with the Icelandic krona. Visa and MasterCard are accepted nearly everywhere and if you need some cash, expect to find ATMs easily. However be prepared: Iceland is a mostly cashless society.

You’ll risk sticking out like a sore thumb if you try to pay for your morning coffee with the change in your pocket. What Iceland lacks in size, it makes up for in endless options for any traveller’s itinerary. A 6 day tour travelling along Iceland’s Ring Road will cover most of the country’s hotspots.

For nature-lovers, Iceland is the perfect escape. You can go horseback riding on ancient highland trails and channel your inner Viking. Or if you prefer the sea, go kayaking between fjords in Ísafjörður. You can also go on a breathtaking snorkelling tour in the Silfra ravine, located in the heart of Thingvellir National Park.

Of course, there’s simply no better way to clear your mind then by zipping down hills on trails you won’t find anywhere else or by feeling the beat of your heart as you go river rafting down Hvítá River. Thrill-seekers will find themselves overwhelmed with options.

If you need to slow things down for a moment then whale watching in the town of Húsavík is a perfect activity. You should also pay a visit to Látrabjarg Cliffs to see one of the world’s largest colonies of puffins or try your hand at salmon fishing on Sogið River.

Iceland is also the unofficial winner when it comes to waterfalls. Some even completely freeze during the winter months. If you only have time to see a few, then put Skógafoss and Gullfoss at the top of your list. You should also take a hike through Thingvellir National Park, walk on glaciers in Skaftafell, and experience the pearl of the Icelandic Highlands, Landmannalaugar.

Be sure not to leave out a serene stroll along the country’s dreamy coastline or just take the plunge and surrender yourself to the surf. No journey around Iceland is complete without a soak in one of the country’s many hot springs.

Pay a visit to Hellulaug’s natural thermal pool, located on the coast near Flokalundur. Next, add Strokkur to your list of soakable locations and enjoy the added bonus of impressive geysers whose bursting flows of water will make you jump.

And of course, if you’re looking to truly treat yourself then you must visit Blue Lagoon, the ultimate geothermal spa in Iceland. The spa is located in a lava field in Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula. Enjoy the warm waters that are rich with minerals and will leave your skin feeling brand new.

Iceland is a hotspot of arts and culture with many of their most popular festivals and special events being held in and around the capital city of Reykjavík. Visit the Harpa Concert Hall, modelled after the basalt landscape of Iceland and enjoy impressive live performances from the country’s best performers.

You might not think it but Iceland is also a major player in the music festival game. Enjoy diverse sounds that will delight your ears throughout the year by attending the Airwaves Music Festival, Reykjavík Dance Festival and more. Nature will decide whether this next Icelandic sight is yours to behold or not.

The Northern Lights are surrounded by many myths and inspire stories from countless cultures. While in ancient China people believed the Northern Lights were a dragon’s fiery breath, soldiers in Medieval Europe thought that a red aurora borealis marked the outbreak of war.

Regardless of what you believe, witnessing the northern lights will surely give you goosebumps as there’s nothing like the bright dancing lights of the aurora. But when do you have the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights? Magnetic Midnight is the best time to spot the Northern Lights.

It usually occurs around an hour before midnight and is when the lucky traveller, the North Pole and the sun are all in alignment. The best seasons to see the Northern Lights are from September to mid-April, when the night skies are fully dark.

But what’s the weather like otherwise? Iceland isn’t nearly as cold as its name makes it sound. Temperatures remain moderate throughout the year, ranging from 0 degrees celsius in winter to 11 degrees celsius in summer, but things can change at a moment’s notice.

As Icelanders say, if you don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes and you’ll get something different. But there’s truly no bad time of year to visit, as there’s plenty to do throughout the year. Check out the Ice Caves from November to March, engage in a little whale watching from April to September, pay the puffins a visit from June to July and witness the magnificence of frozen waterfalls through the months of January and February.

Iceland’s temperamental weather can make it difficult for a rookie to know what to pack. So whenever you go, you’ll want to bring waterproof hiking boots, a waterproof rain jacket, a swimsuit, flip flops, thin gloves, hiking socks, sunglasses, and a camera, with extra batteries.

You should reward yourself for packing so well by sampling Iceland’s delicious cuisine. But be cautious, dining in Iceland can do a number on your bank account with a meal at a mid-range restaurant costing you and a guest more than $100 American dollars.

The country’s cold climate and long winters make the Icelandic people experts in fish, meat, and other preserved foods. You’ll want to try Hardifiskur, wind-dried haddock or cod that’s enjoyed by tearing off a piece and chewing away. Next enjoy lots of fresh lobster, pickled herring, salmon and char.

Be sure to also try a hangikjöt sandwich, which is made of hung, smoked lamb. Then sample some svið, which is boiled and singed sheep’s head before trying blóðmör or blood pudding. If you’re feeling especially adventurous then try súrmatur, a medley of sheep parts that are pressed into cakes and pickled in whey. One of the only native vegetables is called fjallagrös.

It’s a mostly tasteless Icelandic moss, that’s dried into black curls and eaten on raw or cooked with milk. Once your stomach is full you can get back to enjoying the country and everything it has to offer from its geysers to its hot-springs and more.

A land of epic vistas and endless adventures, Iceland is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s magic. It’s mystery. It’s an untameable force of nature. We hope these tips and insights make your trip a stellar one. And as they say in Iceland, bless and Góða ferð!

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