Visiting Iceland? 13 tips for your trip to Iceland + offers
Iceland is a fascinating country. More and more people discover the land of fire and ice and move to the beautiful island for a few days or even weeks. The island's location in the North Atlantic Ocean, close to the Arctic Circle, creates beautiful icy scenes like glaciers and snowy mountains. This is then, strongly in contrast to the heat created by geothermal activities such as volcanoes, geysers and natural heat sources.
Do you want to visit this beautiful country? We listed all tips & info.
What is the best season to visit Iceland?
Iceland can be visited all year round, but every season has its advantages and disadvantages. In the summer months it is warmer and you will have longer daylight. on a downside, there is no chance to see the Northern Lights and it is very busy. For the winter months, it gets very cold and certain sights cannot be reached because of the weather conditions. on the other hand, the chance to see the Northern Lights is very high.
The best travel time depends on what you want to see and do in Iceland. We have listed the pros and cons based on the seasons.
In the spring, The Icelandic landscape slowly shifts from a snow-white to a bright green scenery. The snow melts and purple lupines and bright green moss takes over the white blanket. The days are getting longer and the temperature is rising.
Different bird species come to the island to mate and hatch their eggs. From April the puffins can be spotted. Most cetaceans also return to the waters around the spring.
You have the chance to see the Northern Lights in April and May. Along, since the spring is seen as an mid-season, the prices for accommodation and car rental are lower than during high season. However, the inland is often still closed in the spring, depending on how strong the winter was.
In the summer it stays longer light, because of this you can even enjoy the midnight sun at the end of June. However, that does mean that the chances of seeing the Northern Lights are rather non-existing in the summer. It does get warmer in summer, with temperatures between 10 and 20 ° C. Due to the rise in temperature, there is no snow and less rain, making the inland of Iceland more or completely accessible.
The island is covered by many species of birds and cetaceans who reside around Iceland in the summer. In addition, you can see the Icelandic sheep and horses everywhere.
Unfortunately, summer is high season for Iceland and therefore very busy at all sights. Prices for accommodation and rental cars are much higher.
Autumn is mid-season for Iceland. It is getting colder, rainier and windier again, making it a lot less busy in terms of tourists. However, the transition from summer to winter is only very short and it can already snow at the end of September. Until then, you can enjoy the autumn colors and blueberries.
Farmers drive their sheep away from the highlands in September, therefore many sheep can be seen around the roads. Sometimes you can even help drive the sheep to their winter enclosures.
Prices for accommodation and car rental are lowered during this period, and as the nights gets longer and darker, the chances of spotting the Northern Lights also increase.
In the winter there is a lot of snow, and temperature is around freezing point. Daylight is very limited. From the end of December to mid-January there is around 4 hours of daylight. The roads inland are closed, and parts of the ring road are often closed off during heavy snow. The weather can suddenly change to snowstorms, so make sure to be prepared for this.
There are way less tourists in this season, and prices are a lot lower than in the summer. Certain activities such as driving around with a snowmobile and visiting ice caves are only possible in winter, and the long and dark nights give you a greater chance of seeing the Northern Lights. The reindeer migrates from the highlands to the lower areas in winter, which gives you a better chance of spotting one.
How to get to Iceland?
De prijzen voor een vliegticket naar IJsland liggen ook niet hoog, en gemiddeld heb je voor €200 à €250 een retourticket inclusief bagage. Natuurlijk kan de vlucht nog goedkoper zijn als je mooi van tevoren boekt.
Due to its difficult location in the North Atlantic Ocean, Iceland can only be reached in two ways: by plane or by boat. The easiest and fastest way is to take a flight to Keflavik Airport. From several cities in US, UK and EU there are flights to Iceland for reasonable prices (depends on the season).
TIP: book your flight in advance to get a better deal.
It is possible to travel to Iceland by boat. There is a connection of the Smyril Line from Hirtshals in Denmark to Seyðisfjörður Iceland. You are on traveling for at least two days. An advantage of this boat trip is that there is a stop on the Faroe Islands which you can visit for a few days if you would like.
Nonetheless, the ferry is quite costly compared to going by plane, although it can be beneficial if you want to travel around Iceland for a longer time with your own car.
Getting around in Iceland
On Iceland there are mainly 4 different ways to get around:
In the summer public transportation is well organized. From May to September it is possible to take the bus to most big attractions. You can buy a buspass whereby unlimited access is applied between June and early September. Outside this period, however, buses do not drive everywhere and as frequent. Nonetheless, it is possible to take a domestic flight to another part of Iceland all year round.
Go on tour
A second option is to travel around the island with a guided tour. Many day-tours depart from Reykjavik to the major sights, but for attractions further away you have to travel quite far. However, there are also multi-day tours around the island that visit multiple attractions, including overnight stays. These types of tours are often cheaper than the separate day tours.
A disadvantage with this form of transport is that the tours offer little freedom are tied to a certain schedule.
A third option is hitchhiking. This is commonly done in Iceland and people are standing along the side of the road with signs indicating where they would like to go. However, you are dependent on others and you will not be able to take a lot of luggage with you. We would like to address that hitchhiking can be dangerous so always make sure you're in a safe environment.
Rent a car
The easiest way to get around in Iceland is to rent a car yourself. Many lenders can be found at Keflavik Airport and in Reykjavik making it always possible to arrange a car. You can go wherever you would like with your rental car and stop in between for sights and viewpoint along the way. In addition, the ring road is located around the island where you will find most sights right along this road, making them easily accessible by car.
However, there are certain routes, mainly inland, that are not accessible by regular transport. These F-roads, as marked, are not paved and only accessible with a 4x4. If you end up on these roads with a normal car, the chance that you get stuck is high, and any damage to the car is not covered by the lenders.
In addition, when renting a car you have to take into account the weather conditions of the island. It can be quite windy in Iceland and this can be very tiring when you are riding. Also, in the late autumn and winter months, the weather can turn into a blizzard which can be dangerous.
Do you want to drive inland and rent a 4x4? Keep in mind that you will have to drive through water and that most F-roads are sandy or muddy.
Which car to rent? And how?
If you would like to rent a car in Iceland, with most lenders, you have to be 20 years or older. For a 4x4 you have to be 23 or even 25 to rent it. Along, you must have had your driving license for at least one year.
Creditcard with high spending limit.
Keep in mind you always need a credit card to rent a car, and you must be able to reserve a certain amount as a deposit. For some lenders, you need to reserve a € 1300 deposit on the card, so make sure your spending limit is over € 1000.
Find out your for what you are insured and whether you need an extra insurance. Sometimes this extra insurance also lowers the risk of major costs in case of damage, as well as the deposit that is reserved on your card. Please note that damage to the underside of the car and to the tires can never be insured and is always at your own expense. The damage from off-road driving, which is incidentally illegal, and damage from driving through rivers cannot be insured.
The rental prices of cars vary considerably per model and per season, but also per lender. Assume an average of € 350 per week, with additional costs, such as insurance of € 7 - € 8 per day. There may also be a surcharge if you are under 25 years old or if you would like the possibility to have a second driver. Furthermore, an average of € 200 in petrol costs to travel around the entire island. Parking is free almost everywhere, except for a few parking spaces near the major attractions.
Money in Iceland
Króna is the Icelandic currency. Converted 130 ISK is approximately € 1, $ 0,96 (American) or £ 0,77, however, this might fluctuate depending on the exchange rate. Iceland became largely cash-free throughout the years, therefore you can pay almost anywhere with your bankcard. Nevertheless, it is still advisable to have a little cash in your pocket for emergencies or on the road, small, markets.
Iceland is not a cheap country. Like the Scandinavian countries, prices are rather high. Since many products have to be imported, therefore, the prices are higher, due to the high importation costs. Along, the fresh products that are produced in Iceland aren't much cheaper either. Eating out is also fairly pricey, so it's cheapest if you cook yourself.
When you do your shopping it is best to go to Krónan or the Bonus supermarket. These are cheaper than the 10-11 supermarkets. Try to already take dry products from home, such as rice and pasta, so you only have to buy the fresh products which will save you some money.
You can drink tap water in Iceland, so it is not necessary to stock up on bottled water. Most of the water comes from the glaciers and is filtered through the lava stones from the bottom of the rivers. It is therefore possible to drink the natural water, as long as you can see the bottom of the river or the lake.
Alcoholic drinks are very expensive. Alcohol is strictly regulated by the government, which means that there is a high tax on these drinks. A beer quickly costs five to six euros. Along, alcohol is not available in supermarkets, only in government-regulated alcohol shops.
Where to stay?
Iceland has a very wide range of accommodation. The options range from hotels to guesthouses or mountain cabines.
Hotels are mostly located in and around the cities of Reykjavik and Akureyri and beyond. There are a number of chain hotels that you can find all over Iceland, but also authentic and summer hotels that use the empty buildings of schools in the summer to build it into an accommodation. However, hotels can be quite expensive, so you quickly pay € 80 to € 120 per night.
If you want the luxury of having own accommodation, but slightly cheaper, guest houses are a good solution. These are often smaller and sometimes in a local's home. You can also stay in a farm or in a cottage in the countryside or one that is adjacent to a farm.
Iceland has several hostels where you can stay overnight for a small price. You often have the choice to stay in shared rooms or to rent a private room for a slightly higher price. Nonetheless, you do share the sanitary facilities. You pay around € 30 to € 40 per night for this.
In summer it is possible to camp at one of the many campsites. You can come with a tent or a camper. Mountain cabines are also only available in summer, and you often have to bring your own sleeping bag. For a camping or mountain cabine, you are saving the most money out of all the accommodation options.
The most beautiful highlights?
The Golden Circle
Iceland has many beautiful waterfalls, special rock formations, volcanoes that you can climb and much more to explore. Iceland's main attractions are located on the Golden Circle, a route of approximately 300 kilometers that is easily drivable and starts in the main capital Reykjavik.
Here you will find the Thingvellir National Park, a special geological area and an important place in the history of Iceland. On the route you will also pass by Geysir, the geyser to which all geysers owe their name. However, this geyser is not very active, but the adjacent geyser Stokkur sprays boiling water into the air approximately every five minutes. The third attraction on the Golden Circle is Gullfoss, Iceland's most famous waterfall.
Black beaches and gletsjers
Het Jokulsárlón meer, gelegen in het zuiden van IJsland, is ook een grote bezienswaardigheid. Op dit meer drijven grote ijsschotsen die van de nabijgelegen gletsjer afbreken en naar zee getrokken worden. Aan de kust blijven delen van de ijsschotsen op het zwarte zandstrand liggen.
Jokulsárlón Lake, located in the south of Iceland, is a major attraction. Large ice floes float on the lake, which come from the nearby glacier and are drawn to the sea. On the coast, you can sometimes find remaining ice floes.
Healing thermal baths or icy caves
In IJsland zijn de natuurlijke thermen, zoals de Blue Lagoon, ook een bezoek waard. Deze baden worden verwarmd door de vulkanische activiteiten onder de grond. Wil je juist de kou in, dan kan je in de winter de ijsgrotten bezoeken die jaarlijks opnieuw ontstaan, of een wandeling maken over één van de gletsjers van IJsland.
Iceland has a beautiful wildlife. Many whales and dolphins live in the waters around the island. From Reykjavik, Akureyri or Húsavík you can go on a whale-watching trip to spot whale fins, whale tails and, with a bit of luck, even the head of a whale.
The Northern lights
Of course, the Northern Lights cannot be missed as Iceland's most beautiful sight. This natural phenomenon can only be seen on clear and cold nights. Along, the color and intensity of the Northern Lights also depends on the dose of charged particles in our atmosphere that are emitted by the sun. The higher the dose and the less light pollution, the more intense the Northern Lights get.
Book everything in advance. Due to the rapid growth in tourism, Iceland is not well prepared for the high demand, as a result of which hotels fill up quickly and the cheaper cars are rented out first. Book at least three months in advance if you want a wider range to choose from for accommodation and rental cars.
Icelandic is spoken language in Iceland, a lineage of ancient Norwegian that has barely evolved due to its isolated location. It therefore resembles more to the old Scandinavian languages and the old English of a thousand years ago than to the current forms of these languages. Fortunately, most Icelanders also speak English.
Always stock up on extra food when shopping or refueling. In some parts of Iceland you cannot find a shop or gas station. It is also advisable to do your shopping in advance and take it with you in the car.
Always be well prepared for the unpredictable Icelandic weather. The weather can suddenly change from a sunny day to pouring rain. It can even snow in the summer! Leave your umbrella at home and bring a rain jacket instead. Because of the strong winds it can rain horizontally.
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