logo
1-800-590-1161ContactEarn free travel
logo1-800-590-1161
BlogDestinationsIceland travel guide: What to see, where to go, and more
Destinations

Iceland travel guide: What to see, where to go, and more

Jun 25, 2020 by Jamie Burke

Iceland is known for its natural wonders, and the country’s waterfalls, geysers, and impressive landscapes draw thousands of visitors each year. Is a tour to Iceland on your wish list? Check out our guide to Iceland and get all of our team’s best Iceland travel tips!

Img

Currency: Icelandic króna

Language: Icelandic

Best way to get around: The capital of Reykjavik is super walkable, but to see the rest of the country you’re going to want a car (or private coach on tour!)

Word to know: Álfar. That’s the Icelandic word for “elves.” Icelanders believe magical creatures inhabit the country (and once you see it, you will, too).

THE BEST TIME TO VISIT ICELAND

If you visit Iceland in the summer, you’ll find warmer temps and sunshine that lasts (almost) all night. “Even in early May, the sun stayed out until past 11pm!” says our staffer Jamie. That means if you want to go to Iceland to see the northern lights, your best bet is to visit in the fall or winter, when days are shorter.

Img

WHAT TO PACK FOR A TRIP TO ICELAND

Iceland is known for its incredible natural beauty, and you’ll want to be prepared with some simple outdoor gear so you can experience it best.

Boots

Even if you visit in summer, you’ll want a pair of hiking boots for visiting Iceland’s top attractions. Whether you’re exploring glaciers to getting up close to waterfalls, a good pair of boots will help you make the most of your experience.

A waterproof jacket

“Visiting waterfalls means you will get wet,” says our staffer Jamie. Having a waterproof coat is absolutely an essential for your trip to Iceland, so you can stay comfy and dry!

Img

THINGS TO DO IN ICELAND

Many people who visit Iceland begin their trip in Reykjavik, then head out to explore the country’s natural wonders on the Ring Road.

Explore Reykjavik

“Reykjavik is a small city—which makes it super easy to explore!” says our staffer Paula. “There are tons of great restaurants and shops, especially along Laugavegur Street.” Want more tips for exploring Iceland’s capital city? See more of Paula’s advice for what to do in Reyjkavik.

Go on a whale watch

Humpback whales, minke whales, orcas, and even blue whales all swim off the coast of Iceland at different points in the year.

Drive on the Ring Road

Along the Ring Road, you'll find many of Iceland's most popular attractions. But, even just looking out the window is an adventure, thanks to the otherworldly landscape. “Iceland is like Mars with grass,” says Lora.

See Iceland’s famous horses

“You can spot Icelandic horses on farms as you’re driving by,” says Paula. What’s special about these animals? They only live in Iceland, and many of them are no bigger than 5 feet tall! “They’re super cute,” adds Jamie.

Learn about Viking history

Some of the first people to visit Iceland may have been travelers from Ireland and Scotland, but larger numbers of Norse explorers began settling around 874. You can learn about the history of Iceland’s early civilizations at the Skogar Museum, a cultural heritage site where you can see traditional Icelandic turf houses, folk art, ships, and more.

Img

PLACES TO VISIT IN ICELAND

It's no surprise that Iceland’s top attractions are the country’s incredible natural wonders. Here are just a few must-sees on our list:

The Blue Lagoon

Iceland’s geothermal pools are great places to relax. While the Blue Lagoon isn’t a natural pool (it’s supplied by a nearby geothermal power plant!) it’s the country’s most famous one and one of the most-visited attractions in Iceland. The Blue Lagoon gets its name from the high concentration of salts, silica, and algae in the water, which is where the hue comes from.

You can choose to just hang out in the water, or opt to visit the spa, too. “It’s a fun way to unwind a bit, and you’ll stay warm even if the air is chilly!” says Jamie.

Waterfalls!

There are around 10,000 waterfalls in Iceland, and you can many of the most famous are along From Gulfoss (one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland) to Selajandfoss (a waterfall you can walk behind!).

Thingvellir National Park

This national park was the site of Iceland’s first parliamentary gathering and is also where you can spot the continental divide. Fun fact: If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, you might’ve already seen Thingvellir in the show!

Watch highlights from our Iceland tours

Vík (the black beach!)

Iceland’s beaches are definitely not for swimming—but that doesn’t make them any less of a must-visit. Volcanic rocks color the sand jet-black and dramatic geologic formations make this one of the world’s most unique shorelines.

Jökulsárlón

Jökulsárlón is a glacial lagoon located in the western part of the country, which is sometimes overlooked. “Be sure to check it out,” says Nic, “and if you have free time, visit the Secret Lagoon.”

Img

WHAT TO EAT & DRINK IN ICELAND

Traditional Icelandic cuisine relies on staples like lamb, fish, and dairy products—but you’ll find Icelanders cooking and eating everything from great ramen to delicious cinnamon rolls. Check out a few favorite dishes and restaurants below:

Skyr

You may have seen skyr in your local grocery store—the Icelandic-style yogurt is popular all over the world!

Hot dogs!

Everyone who visits Iceland raves about the hot dogs, especially from the famous stand Baejarins Beztu Pylsur. That roughly translates to “the best hot dog in town”—and it lives up to its name.

Frederiksen Ale House

This pub is right in the city center. “It’s known for having some of the best burgers in Reykjavik!” says Nic.

Brauð & Co.

Brauð & Co. in Reykjavik came recommended by Julianna, who suggests you eat “any kind of pastry!” Though, Eleanor had a clear favorite: “The cinnamon rolls are LIFE CHANGING!”

Bar Ananas

A tiki bar in Reykjavik is a long way from the tropics, but you might find yourself swept away to a different kind of island for just a bit. “It was especially fun being there after dinner, with the sun still up and shining at 10pm,” says Jamie.

Bar Ananas was just one of the restaurants in Reykjavik that Jamie and Paula loved most from their tour. Check out the rest of their Reykjavik recommendations for your trip to Iceland!

SOUVENIRS TO BUY IN ICELAND

Anything wool

Whether it's a cozy blanket, patterned sweater, nice pair of mittens, or even a cute little puffin toy, wool is the item to bring home from Iceland. Wool from Iceland is known the world over for being extra warm, and knitting is an ancient art here!

Have you visited Iceland on tour? Tell us your tips on Facebook!


Destination guides
About the author | Jamie Burke
Always on the lookout for the next best meal ever, Jamie loves exploring the world—and all the great food in it. When she's not working to inspire new travelers, you'll find her biking around Boston, eating at her favorite sushi place, or hanging out at home with her family (and cat).

Explore Iceland on tour

Iceland: Reykjavik & the Northern Lights
6 days | 8 days with West Iceland & Reykjavik extension
84
From 
$2,549*
 $2,199*
View tour
View tour

Get more Iceland travel tips

Travel tips
What to eat in Iceland: The best restaurants in Reykjavik