Welcome to ICELAND!
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
PASSPORT, NO VISA
ICELANDIC KRÓNA (IKR)
PASSPORT AND VISA REGULATIONS
Iceland is an associate member of the Schengen Agreement, which exempts travelers from personal border controls between 26 EU countries. Residents of a Schengen country traveling to Iceland can stay in the country for 90 days without a visa. For residents outside the Schengen area, a valid passport is required for at least three months beyond the date of entry. For information on passport and visa requirements as well as the Schengen area regulations, visit the
Velkomin á Íslandi!
Icelandic is the national language. English is spoken widely and Danish is the third language taught in schools in Iceland.
WHEN TO VISIT
NORTHERN LIGHTS: SEP-JAN
MIDNIGHT SUN: JUN
Learn everything you need to know about viewing the northern lights in this comprehensive guide: Northern Lights in Iceland – When & Where To See the Aurora, by Guide to Iceland.
Read this guide to find out everything you need to know about Iceland’s glorious Midnight Sun: The Complete Guide to the Midnight Sun in Iceland, by Guide to Iceland.
Photo credit: pixabay/Michelle_Raponi
WHERE TO GO
LET’S HAVE A LOOK AT ICELAND’S REGIONS
Iceland is typically divided into seven different geographical regions, including the Reykjavík capital area. Each region differs slightly with respect to both culture and landscape, but all are uniquely Icelandic.
- Reykjavík: The capital city
- The West: Authentic, untouched lands, blessed with colors of nature
- Westfjords: Discover the biggest birds cliffs and glaciers
- North-West: Boundless landscapes to get closer to nature and wildlife
- North-East: Forgotten lands, this verdant region has a lot to see
- East: Mysterious Icelandic region, the East has a few treasures yet to be discovered
- South: Volcanoes, glaciers and spectacular ice faults are waiting for you
- Southern Peninsula: Fishing ports and small villages are promising spots for relaxing walks
Eldhraun Lava Field in South Iceland. Photo credit: pixabay/JimboChan
TOP CITIES AND TOWNS
Iceland is more than just gorgeous landscapes, scenic waterfalls and black-sand beaches – it’s home to some of the most beautiful cities and towns in the Nordic countries, ready for you to explore.
- Vík í Mýrdal
Visit the page of The Culture Trip and read their article Top Beautiful Cities and Towns in Iceland for more detailled description of each city and town.
Iceland’s largest city has a captivating colour and charm. Located right on the coastline, Reykjavík is thought to be the first permanent settlement in Iceland. The city has been the capital since the 19th century when Iceland began to move towards independence from Denmark, which it received in 1918. Nowadays, Reykjavík is known for being exceptionally lively, especially during the long summer nights when the sun doesn’t set. It’s also the best place to come if you want to check out Iceland’s thrilling music scene.
Reykjavík, the capital city of Iceland. Photo credit: pixabay/pbat34
THE NATIONAL PARKS OF ICELAND
Iceland has established three national parks, each with its unique nature and history.
- Þingvellir National Park
- Snæfellsjökull National Park
- Vatnajökull National Park
ÞINGVELLIR NATIONAL PARK
Þingvellir National Park and UNESCO world heritage site is located in South Iceland and is only about 45 minutes drive from Reykjavík city. At Þingvellir, the continental rift zone between the North-American and Eurasian tectonic place manifests in large lava gorges and a 10 km wide rift valley holding Iceland’s largest natural lake, Þingvallavatn. The Icelandic parliament was founded there in 930, making it the oldest still operating parliament globally.
SNAEFELLSJÖKULL NATIONAL PARK
Snæfellsjökull National Park is at the edge of the Snæfellsnes peninsula in the West part of the country. It is named after its crowning glacier and volcano, famous for being the entrance to the center of the Earth in Jules Verne’s story. It is the only park that reaches the shoreline and holds the maritime history of Iceland since the time of settlement in Medieval times.
“Iceland in Miniature”
Kirkjufell & Kirkjufellsfoss on Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Photo credit: pixabay/12019
VATNAJÖKULL NATIONAL PARK
Vatnajökull National Park and UNESCO world heritage site covers over 12,000 square kilometers or 13% of Iceland, making it one of the largest national parks in Europe. It envelopes Europe’s largest glacier Vatnajökull, where the interplay of volcanoes and glaciers has created otherworldly landscapes with black sand beaches, outlet glaciers and iceberg-filled filled glacier lagoons.
Vatnajökull National Park includes also:
JÖKULSÁRLÓN GLACIER LAGOON
If there is one place that you really don’t want to miss in Iceland, then it’s Jökulsárlón. The glacier lagoon is just amazing and the scenery changes all the time. You can see the lagoon from ashore, or take a boat tour (May-Oct) between the icebergs. It’s essential to book in advance.
DIAMOND BEACH (Breiðamerkursandur)
In addition to the lagoon itself, you should also visit the Diamond Beach, a spectacular black-sand beach just across the road. When the weather conditions are favorable, you can see the most extraordinary ice formations scattered all over the beach. Shining in the sunlight like huge diamond!
For us, this beach is even more special than the lagoon itself. Especially on a sunny winter day or at sunset. Magical!
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. Photo credit: pixabay/photovicky
Diamond Beach near Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. Photo credit: pixabay/Herm
BEST (NATURAL) HOT SPRINGS
laug = pool
- Blue Lagoon in Grindavik -it was actually created by a mistake made by humans, so it’s not exactly natural
- Geosea Geothermal Sea Spa in Husavik
- Myvatn Nature Bath, one of Iceland’s most commercial natural hot springs
- Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Spa
- Gamla Laugin, which is also known as “The Secret Lagoon,” is iconic in Icelandic history and one of the oldest swimming spots in Iceland
- Grettislaug Hot Spring
- Hrunalaug Hot Spring near Flúðir – very small and private owned hot spring
- Seljavallalaug near the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano – Iceland’s oldest man-made pool and heated by a natural hot spring
The following guide will let you know the ins and outs of the country’s most beautiful geothermal lagoons: Top 10 Natural Hot Springs In Iceland, by HEKLA.com.
LAUGARVATN FONTANA GEOTHERMAL BATHS
Laugarvatn Fontana is a must experience en route to the Golden Circle, located within 80 km from Reykjavik. The Spa rests on the shores of the beautiful Lake Laugarvatn, which can be admired from the baths.
Laugarvatn Fontana is a reinvigorating site where you can enjoy the healing powers of the geothermal water; soak in a natural pool, listen to the bubbling hot spring in the steam rooms, or for the venturesome, take a dip in the refreshing lake. The warm pools and hot pots vary in depth, size, and temperature just like the three traditional steam rooms.
For updated information visit the official website of Laugarvatn Fontana.
BLUE LAGOON ICELAND (Bláa Lónið)
Going to the Blue Lagoon is a must for anyone traveling to Iceland! It’s the most popular tourist attraction; it seems like nearly everyone who visits Iceland works a trip to the famous Blue Lagoon into their itinerary.
Before you go to the Blue Lagoon, here’s what you should know: What No One Tells You About the Blue Lagoon, Iceland, by Adventurous Kate.
For updated information also visit the official website of Blue Lagoon Iceland.
Wonderful Blue Lagoon. Photo credit: pixabay/rstefano12
One thing you should know about Iceland is there are waterfalls EVERYWHERE. Literally everywhere. There are around 10.000 in the country (say what?!), and they all have names. So if you see a sign with “foss” on it, know it is most likely a waterfall, and you should drive to it. You’ll find some incredible waterfalls by following those signs.
Read also this article: 7 Beautiful Waterfalls in Iceland, by Nichole The Nomad.
Skógafoss is a really majestic waterfall. It’s so photogenic that if you ever see pictures of a waterfall in Iceland, it’s most likely to be Skogafoss. You can also climb the stairs all the way to the top of the waterfall for some great views of the area.
Impressive Skógafoss. Photo credit: pixabay/gabmarjan
Seljalandsfoss is the only Icelandic waterfall that we know of where you can walk behind the falling water. In the winter, the waterfall is partially frozen and the whole area around it looks like an ice skating rink, so the walk behind it is usually closed. It’s still nice to see and worth a short stop. But it’s most magical when you can walk behind this waterfall and experience how special this place is. Prepare to get wet!
View from behind the Seljalandsfoss. Photo credit: pixabay/nicos_fotowelt
EXPLORE THE ICELANDIC HIGHLANDS
While most of the tourists that come to Iceland only drive on the Ring Road, you’ll have to traverse the F-roads of Iceland’s Highlands if you want to see this area. These roads usually close in the winter due to snow and ice, and even during the summer, you’ll need a 4×4 since most of the roads aren’t paved. You’ll also find yourself wading through rivers, so a vehicle with four-wheel drive is essential.
- Landmannalaugar with the volcanos Brennisteinsalda and Hekla
- Þórsmörk with the glacial tongue Gígjökull, Eyjafjallajökull volcano and Stakkholtsgjá gorge
- Askja Caldera and Viti Crater
- Ljótipollur, a crater in the Veiðavötn volcanic area, specifically within the Fjallabak Nature Reserve
- Fagrifoss and Fjadrargljufur Canyon
Off the road: Landmannalaugar. Photo credit: pixabay/jackmac34
Read also this article: 10 Best Places in the Higlands of Iceland, by Capture The Atlas.
MORE AMAZING PLACES NOT TO MISS
GEYSIR GEOTHERMAL AREA
If you’re wondering what to do in Iceland‘s Golden Circle, check out the geothermal area of the Haukadalur Valley. Also known as the Valley of Geysers, this is where you’ll find Geysir, the first geyser discovered in the world. This impressive natural phenomenon expels hot steam, gases, and water from inside the earth, making it an awesome place to go in Iceland.
Strokkur errupts every 4-8 min. Photo credit: pixabay/Hans
The black beach of Stokksnes is in the southeast part of the island and stands out for its black dunes covered with golden straw and the impressive views of the Vestrahorn mountain in the distance. It’s no wonder why such an idyllic place is one of the top attractions in Iceland.
Stokksnes. Photo credit: pixabay/Michael_Luenen
WATCHING WILDLIFE IN ICELAND
Iceland boasts not just the best whale watching in Europe but is also one of the best places to whale watch in the world. The country’s unique position between two ocean currents in the North Atlantic means that its waters are filled with krill and fish – the perfect attraction for hungry whales and dolphins. Boat tours in Iceland have an amazing success rate and whales often swim right beside the tour boats.
Season: There is no perfect time of year to enjoy whale watching. Wether you choose to book your tour in summer or winter, you’ll find advantages to both.
Tour Operator: Gentle Giants Whale Watching in Husavik
Photo credit: pixabay/julesrufenacht
Read this article to get an overview: Whale Watching in Iceland, by Artic Adventures.
WHERE TO SPOT PUFFINS
- Vestmannaeyjar, where you find the largest Atlantic Puffin colony in the world
- Tjornes Peninsula
Adorable Puffin. Photo credit: pixabay/KonradJanik
Discover all you need to know about Iceland’s most adorable animal here: Where to Find Puffins in Iceland, by Guide to Iceland.
WHERE TO FIND THE ARTIC-FOX
- Hornstrandir Natural Reserve
Read on to discover all there is to know about the Arctic Fox: The Arctic Fox | A Tale of Iceland’s Only Native Mammal, by Guide to Iceland.
Photo credit: pixabay/dclobes
CIRCLES TO DRIVE
The Golden Circle Tour brings you to three of Iceland’s most beautiful and famous natural attractions. The entire loop is around 250 km and starts in Reykjavik.
- Þingvellir National Park
- Geysir Geothermal Area
Read more: Golden Circle Iceland | The Complete Guide, by Northbound.
The Diamond Circle can be described as a magnificent circuit of 250km in the Northeast of Iceland, which includes some of the most stunning sights and spots for unearthly landscapes. This loop has 5 key destinations:
- The historical and picturesque Godafoss
- The crescent-shaped wonder of Asbyrgi Canyon
- Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall of Europe
- The unearthly blue and green landscapes of Lake Mývatn
Goðafoss, the „Waterfall of Gods“. Photo credit: pixabay/susnpics
FOODS & DRINKS TO TRY
- Fish of the day – chef’s choice. You can’t get it any fresher than in Iceland.
- Skyr with wild bilberries and cream. The perfect dessert.
- Lamb meat soup – also full of veggies. Perfect on a cold day.
- Langoustine, the Icelandic “lobster.” A real treat for your tastebuds.
- A hot dog with everything (Pylsur). No explanation offered, just try it!
- Icelandic pancake with rhubarb jam and cream (Pönnukökur). Tastes like a sunny Sunday afternoon.
- Ástarpungar (Love balls). Fried dough balls with raisins and love from the past.
- Harðfiskur dried fish. Perfect as a snack and a great source of protein while backpacking.
- Fish stew with rye bread (Plokkfiscur). Everyday traditional delight.
- Fermented shark (Hákarl) with a shot of Brennivín (aquavit). The peculiar pick.
ARRIVING IN ICELAND BY PLANE
Keflavík International Airport (IATA: KEF)
Iceland’s primary international airport is 48km southwest of Reykjavík. The most common method of transport to the capital from the airport is bus (journey time 45 to 60 minutes). Flybus and Airport Express will deliver you to their terminals or to your city accommodation (a bus change at the terminal is usually required). Flybus can also deliver you to the domestic airport, in Reykavík. Taxis from Keflavík are possible, but pricey. Car rental from the airport is also popular.
Keflavík Airport is operated by Isavia, a government enterprise.
Icelandair, the national carrier of Iceland, offers travelers direct routes to 26 cities in Europe from 18 North American gateways via their hub and capital city, Reykjavik. Those traveling to Europe can enjoy a stopover in Iceland for up to 7-days, at no extra charge.
Icelandair. Photo credit: pixabay/corgaasbeek
ARRIVING IN ICELAND BY FERRY
Seyðisfjörður ferry port
The weekly Smyril Line car ferry that connects Denmark with Iceland via the Faroe Islands arrives in the pretty town of Seyðisfjörður in East Iceland. Buses run year-round between Seyðisfjörður and Egilsstaðir, and from Egilsstaðir northwest to Akureyri and on to Reykjavík.
MS Norröna. Photo credit: Smyril Line / Andri_Gerdisa
TIPPING IN ICELAND, DOES IT EXIST?
The short answer to the question in the headline is no. Tipping is not customary in Iceland. In restaurants, prices on the menu are all-inclusive, and the same goes for taxis and other services.
However with some tourists leaving tips, some members of the travel industry in Iceland now expect to get tipped. But no Icelander would tip, and no one would expect them to.
So, to be absolutely clear, you don’t need to tip while traveling in Iceland. But please keep in mind that we are not discouraging tipping. If you want to tip to reward for exceptional service, go ahead, just keep in mind that it’s never an obligation.
COOL FACTS ABOUT ICELAND
ARE THERE ELVES IN ICELAND?
Do you believe in elves? According to a report published by National Geographic in 2017, over 50 percent of Icelanders do!
Considering the country’s mystical landscape, with its lava fields and mist-covered peaks, not to mention the Northern Lights, it’s not hard to understand why the Icelandic people would assume creatures like elves are present.
Where to find elves?
There are lots of places throughout the country where elves are said to reside, including the following:
- Hafnarfjörður is considered one of the country’s most enchanted places. It’s built in a lava field and is home to a wide range of rocks that are believed to serve as elven homes.
- ÁsbyrgiCanyon: This huge, horseshoe-shaped rock wall is full of hiding spots for elves.
- Borgarfjörður Eystri, a beautiful and quiet fjord, is home to a little more than 100 people and is known as a hotbed for elven activity.
- Bjartmarssteinn is considered one of the country’s most enchanted, and it’s believed to be the place where elves hold their market.
Even if you don’t find any elves, exploring these magical locations in Iceland is still a worthwhile adventure for any world traveler.
DOES ICELAND HAVE MOSQUITOES?
According to the Icelandic Web of Science, Iceland is home to 1,600 species of dryland animals. Despite this diversity, there is one species missing – the mosquito! Yes, Iceland is one of the few countries in the world that is mosquito-free.
Why no mosquitos in Iceland?
The answer lies with our rugged climate. In nearby Greenland and Northern Scandinavia, the mosquito lives happily, as these countries have more stable weather and continuous, predictable winters. In Iceland, however, we can experience four seasons throughout one winter’s day, with the temperature rising and falling very rapidly. The poor mosquito can’t keep up. It will wake up thinking it’s spring, but then will be frozen to death when the cold returns a few hours later.
TRAVELERS MEET LOCALS
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