When it comes to a travel bucket list, Iceland tops my list. And there is no better time to start planning a trip to Iceland then now, especially since Icelandair will start flying from Cleveland in May and will be offering some pretty sweet deals.
In preparation for an upcoming trip, I’ve been scouring the internet and purchased a couple travel guides in search of Iceland travel tips. In the process, I’ve learned some fun facts. Do you know you can go diving in Iceland between the North American and Eurasian continents? That the entire country is about the size of my home state of Ohio? Or that more than 50% of Icelanders believe in elves? As though the landscape of Iceland wasn’t already magical enough, I now have another reason to keep my camera handy!
I’ve only started planning a trip to Iceland and I can already tell that one trip is not going to be enough!
Best Places to Visit in Iceland
There are so many incredible and beautiful places to visit in Iceland that one could never visit them all during a single trip. Of course, I want to see it all- the Northern Lights, the Icelandic Horses, even the largest puffin colony in the world but I must be realistic. I narrowed my list down to THREE things that I must visit in Iceland and hopefully, I can squeeze in a few more.
- The Blue Lagoon
Located only 40-miles from Reykjavik, the Blue Lagoon is one of the most visited attractions in Iceland. Not only is the milky blue water surrounded by the stark rocky landscape a beautiful contrast, the water is said to contain healing properties for certain skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
Tip: This man-made attraction is fed by the wastewater from a nearby geothermal power plant which may not sound too appealing but it’s so popular that it’s suggested that you make reservations for a time slot so you don’t run the risk of being turned away.
- The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is a 190-mile loop driving route in southern Iceland. The drive provides spectacular scenery and some of Iceland’s most photographed spots like the Gullfoss Waterfall, Haukadalur Geothermal Valley and Thingvellir National Park which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- The Westfjords
The Westfjords are not as popular with international guests but offer rich history, a stunning landscape, and an opportunity to see the elusive Arctic Fox. In addition to the natural beauty of the Westfjords such as the Raudasandur beach with red-hued sand, you’ll find a couple quirky spots to enjoy like the Icelandic Sea Monster Museum (you know I can’t resist) and Samuel Jonsson’s Open Air Art Museum. You can also sail on an old-fashioned Viking Boat.
Unusual Things to do in Reykjavik
A lover of all things roadside attractions and quirky, I couldn’t help but seek out some of the more unusual attractions in Reykjavik. And it doesn’t get any quirkier than the Icelandic Phallological Museum that houses the world’s largest display of penises and penile parts. This is one museum that my husband may decide to skip. There are 215 penises and penile parts on display belonging to nearly all the land animals in Iceland. There are even four samples from Homo Sapiens.
Remember the elves I mentioned at the beginning of the post? Tourists to Iceland can enroll in Elfschool. Not only will you learn about Elves, but also about trolls, gnomes, dwarves, fairies and mountain spirits. The Headmaster will share the history as well as some of the stories gathered from more than 900 people who believe they have encountered elves. Students will have an opportunity to take a guided walking tour to one of the main places of Elf significance in Iceland. And in case you’re wondering, the lecture is in English.
Growing up, my cousin was obsessed with the Sex Pistols so it’s only natural that The Icelandic Punk Museum caught my attention. Johnny Rotten, the lead singer, made an appearance for the grand opening of the museum that is housed in a former underground bathroom.
When to Visit Iceland
The best time to visit Iceland varies according to WHY you’re visiting Iceland, what you plan to see during your visit, and what your budget is.
The warmer temperatures and longer days with up to 21-hours of sunlight make mid-June through August a popular time to visit Iceland. But you can avoid the tourist season and higher prices if you opt to visit in the late winter/early spring (February/March) or early fall (September/October) when you’ll also have a higher probability of seeing the Northern Lights.
Travel & Leisure offers a more detailed answer to the question of when to visit Iceland on their website that you may find helpful.
What to Wear in Iceland
What you decide to pack to where in Iceland will depend on the time of year you visit but Iceland’s weather is extremely unpredictable. With this in mind, there are a few simple steps to take to ensure you have a pleasant experience.
- Dress in layers. During the summer months, you’ll want to be prepared with a base layer, a sweater, lightweight outdoor pants that will dry quickly, a weatherproof jacket, sturdy boots or walking shoes, hat, scarf, and mittens. For the winter months, you’ll need the same, but you may opt for long underwear made of fleece or wool, wool socks, and an extremely warm coat.
- Pack a few extra clothes in a backpack.
- Don’t forget your swimsuit if you plan to swim in the Blue Lagoon.
You’ll find a detailed guide here of what to pack and what to wear in Iceland.
Iceland Travel Tips
- Icelandic is one of the hardest languages for English-speaking people to learn, but lucky for you (and me) most Icelandic people speak very good English.
- Credit cards are widely accepted, and Visa and Master Card are commonly used in Iceland. However, it’s never a bad idea to carry some cash. Iceland’s currency is the krona which is can be exchanged at the airport, banks and currency exchanges.
- Dress appropriately- Icelandic people have a saying, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” Refer to the section above and leave your denim at home. Who wants to walk around in wet clothes, anyway?
- Be responsible and aware when taking selfies. Iceland is a wild and sometimes dangerous place to visit. When visiting any of the beaches in Iceland, make sure to keep an eye on the waves. Iceland is known for sneaker waves and strong currents.
- If you’re traveling during the summer, you’ll encounter nearly 24-hours of daylight which can pose a problem depending on your lodging choice. Pack an inexpensive eye mask to help block out the light so you can get some shut-eye.
- Avoid the crowds by visiting during the off-season or shoulder season. If you must visit during peak vacation time, plan to take advantage of the extended daylight hours so you can avoid many of the crowds.
Have you visited Iceland? What tips do you have for someone planning a trip to Iceland?