Iceland is a Nordic Island nation located between Europe and North America. It is defined by its dramatic landscape with glaciers, volcanoes, geysers, hot springs and lava fields. It is a country of sharp contrasts where fire and ice co-exist and where dark winters are offset by the summer’s midnight sun. Despite its name, the climate is surprisingly mild, thanks to the warming effect of the Atlantic Gulf Stream. However, the rapidly changing weather has given rise to the local saying, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute!”

Iceland was the last country to be settled in Europe when immigrants from Scandinavia and the British Isles first came to live on the island in the 9th and 10th century. It remains the most sparsely populated country in the continent. The entire population of Iceland is just over 330,000 people, with most of the population living in the capital, Reykjavik, which runs on geothermal power and is home to the National and Saga museums, tracing Iceland’s Viking history.  The cornerstone of Icelandic culture is the Icelandic language, but English is widely spoken and understood.

Iceland’s unique environment is equally matched by its distinctive folklore which is rich in tales of aquatic monsters, ghosts, spirits, elves, and trolls. Since the dawn of history, Icelanders have told fantastic tales of their strange encounters with the many peculiar supernatural beings with which they share the land.

Iceland Tours

Discover South Iceland

7 nights/ 8 days Discover the unique beauty of Iceland. Discover geysers, caves, waterfalls, trek across the Vatnajokull glacier and tour the South Shore. We'll also hunt for the elusive Northern Lights!
per person

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Iceland Travel Information

iceland-weather-chartSpring and summer are considered the optimal times to visit Iceland. The early spring months bring warmer days, while summer offers long daylight hours with only brief nights. In the summer season, July and August are the warmest months and are the busiest tourist seasons. In March and September, tourism tends to be a bit slower as the weather is more unpredictable. However, this is the perfect time for witnessing the awe-inspiring Norther Lights. As to be expected, winters in Iceland can be challenging. During late December, there’s about four and a half hours of daylight and it’s usually cloudy. In January, there are on average three days of sunny days in Reykjavik, with temperatures hovering around freezing, often accompanied by chilling winds.

Although Iceland’s food is unlikely to be the highlight of your trip, things are changing with the increased tourism. The capital city of Reykjavik has seen a huge increase in high-quality restaurants with chefs flocking here to take advantage of its local seafood, meat, and game. The country’s low industrial output and high environmental consciousness mean that its meat, fish, and seafood are some of the healthiest in Europe, with hothouses providing a fair range of vegetables.

Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, Iceland possesses some of the world’s most unique and incredible landscapes. Home to a huge amount of volcanic activity, Iceland is full of bubbling geysers, enormous glaciers, vast ice fields, rugged mountains, dramatic waterfalls, glacier lakes and fjords – there really is no other place quite like it. Being located so close to the Arctic Circle, much of Iceland is uninhabitable, particularly the barren central regions.

The modern Icelander is a stylish, tech-savvy and well-informed individual. However, ties to the old traditions and superstitions are strong. Iceland is known for its literary heritage which began in the 12th century. The people of Iceland are famous for their prose and poetry, in particular, the sagas and Eddas. Other Icelandic traditional arts include weaving, silversmithing, and wood carving. Icelanders are proud of their Viking heritage and Icelandic language and take great care to preserve their traditions.

1. Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights)

The Northern Hemisphere’s Aurora Borealis has captivated and intrigued people for centuries. This stunning, natural light display that runs along magnetic fields brings hypnotic green, yellow and red shades to the night sky in Iceland from September to March. As one of nature’s most magnificent triumphs, this is one unforgettable spectacle.

2. Golden Falls (Gullfoss Waterfall)

This waterfall located in the Golden Circle is a three-tiered waterfall that drops suddenly into a deep cavern, creating a dramatic landscape like no other. Surrounded by lush, green countryside, the mist and spray create rainbows in the air providing brilliant photo opportunities.

3. Columnar Basalt

There’s nothing like a stretch of tall hexagonal columns of rock, so geometrically regular that you’d think they were hand-hewn, to really make you appreciate the grandeur of nature. There are cliffs of columnar basalt all over Iceland. If headed to Snaefellsness or the northeast, be sure to stop by Gerduberg or Hljodaklettar, respectively. In the south, head to Skaftafell in the Vatnajokull national park to see Svartifoss, a columnar basalt/waterfall combo that is truly spectacular. There’s a short hike to the waterfall from the visitor’s center, about 5.5km (3.4mi) round-trip.

4. Lake Myvatn

This area in northern Iceland was birthed from volcanic eruptions millions of years ago and continues to be shaped by volcanic activity to this day. The combination of strange lava formations, thermal caves and a sprawling lake dotted with craters and rising rocks makes for an eerie yet beautiful landscape.

5. Glacier Lagoon

Also known as Jokulsarlon, this monumental glacier lake is the largest in Iceland. Featuring a parade of large and small blue icebergs floating on and under the pure, icy water, this lagoon is so exceptionally beautiful that it has been used as a backdrop for Hollywood films, a set for reality television shows and has even been featured on a postage stamp.

6. Geysers

Not only can you see geysers in Iceland, you can see the original one. Geysir in Haukadalur is the geyser that gave all the others name! Geysir used to be one of the tallest geysers in the world, but today its mostly dormant. However, Strokkur, a geyser that lies just a few meters away, is one of the few geysers in the world that erupts at regular intervals – every eight minutes or so!

Though Iceland’s calendar is essentially Christian, many official holidays and festivals have a secular theme and at least one dates from pagan times.

  1. Thorrablot is a midwinter celebration that is celebrated throughout Iceland in January to February when families get together and eat traditionally prepared food like boiled sheep’s head, pickled ram’s testicles, and fermented shark.
  2. February also brings Bolludagur (Bun Day), Sprengidagur (Shrove Tuesday) and Oskudagur (Ash Wednesday). Instead of Ash Wednesday being the start of Lent, in Iceland, it marks the end of a three-day feast where Icelander’s eat their weight in both sweet and savory goodies. Ash Wednesday is sort of like Icelandic Halloween, where children dress up in costumes and go into shops to sing for candy.
  3. Sjomannadagur, or Seamen’s Day (June 4), unsurprisingly, is one of the biggest holidays of the year, with communities organizing mock sea-rescue demonstrations, swimming races, and tug-of-war events. This is followed by another break for Independence Day (June 17), the day that the Icelandic state separated from Denmark in 1944.
  4. Verslunnarmannahelgi, the Labor Day Weekend, takes place around the country on the first weekend in August. Traditionally, everyone heads into the countryside, sets up camp, and spends the rest of the holiday drinking and partying themselves into oblivion.
  5. September and October are exciting months for farmers since that’s when the sheep round-ups take place. Icelandic sheep roam free during the summer, but since they are sheep and not migrant birds, they don’t know when the time has come to move to warmer places. Farmers, with the assistance of friends and family, round up all the sheep in the area into special corrals. Once all the sheep are safely in the corrals the sorting begins as each farmer seeks out his or her sheep. This is a lively event, with people cheering each other on and usually passing around a flask of some liquid courage.

Current Weather in Reykjavik

Current Weather in Akureyri

Things to See and Do in Iceland

big white church

Take the elevator to the top of the Hallgrimiskirkja

Get an amazing view of Reykjavik from the observation deck of Hallgrimskirkja, or “the big white church.” Hallgrimskirkja church is Reykjavik’s main landmark and its tower can be seen from almost everywhere in the city. At 74.5 meters high, it’s the largest church in Iceland and among the tallest structures in Iceland.

glacier lagoon

Check out the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon

In the southeast of Iceland, you’ll find a glacier lagoon filled with large chunks of ice. This is Iceland’s crown jewel, located next to Vatnajokull, Europe’s largest glacier. The lagoon is formed naturally, from melted glacial water coming from the glacier and is getting bigger each year, as big blocks of ice crumble from the ever-decreasing glacier into the lagoon. That makes the lagoon and nearby glacier tongue even more special, since it will look different each and every time you visit. The black stretch of sand gets covered in ice that’s thousands of years old and glistens in the sun like diamonds, hence its nickname Diamond Beach. In addition to lots of different birdlife, seals can also be seen swimming in the lagoon and by the coastline or relaxing on top of an iceberg floating in the lagoon.

snaefellsness whale watching

Go whale watching on the Snaefellsness Peninsula

The Snaefellsness Peninsula in the West of Iceland is one of the best places in the world to see orcas (killer whales). The best times to visit are in winter and early summer. For the past years, herring have chosen the fjords around Grundarfjordur as their wintering grounds. This has attracted the orcas as well as the white-beaked dolphins. In the summer, chances to see orcas are good, but not as regularly as during the winter months. Other species that live or feed in this area during the summer are minke whales, humpback whales, white-beaked dolphins, and harbor purpoises.

museum of sorcery and witchcraft

Learn About Witchcraft in Iceland at the Museum of Sorcery & Witchcraft

This museum takes visitors on a tour into the mystical world of the supernatural. Here, you’ll discover the history of witch-hunting in 17th century Iceland as well as various aspects of magic from recent sources. While witches are traditionally thought of as female, those accused of witchcraft in Iceland were traditionally male, but during a superstitious time in the country’s past, they were executed just the same. The museum focuses on the elaborate and esoteric spells and rituals that the regional magic called for which would provide such effects to steal goat’s milk or making someone invisible. The collection features a number of artfully displayed artifacts such as rune-carved pieces of wood, animal skulls, and a number of Icelandic magical staves. However, the most shocking and remarkable piece is easily the dried skin of a man from the waist down. These horrifying leggings were used in a spell that would supposedly bring the caster more money.

swimming pools of Iceland

Explore the Swimming Pools of Iceland

Swimming is serious business in Iceland. In fact, learning to swim is even a mandatory requirement in Icelandic education. Nearly every town has a public swimming pool, otherwise known as a sundlaug, and if you don’t have one, you’re not even really considered a town. The pools are almost all geothermically heated and located outdoors and are open year-round. The pools are a place to socialize and are the communal heart of Iceland.

northern lights

Watch the Northern Lights

Seeing this wonderful, natural phenomenon in person is one of the most awe-inspiring things you’ll ever witness. The bright dancing lights of the aurora can appear in pink, green, yellow, blue, violet, and occasionally orange and white. Typically, when the particles collide with oxygen, yellow and green are produced. Interactions with nitrogen produce red, violet, and occasionally blue colors. The lights are best seen in the countryside, outside of the city.

nature baths

Visit the Myvatn Nature Baths

Located in the heart of Northeast Iceland about 105 KM (65 miles) south of the Arctic Circle, Lake Myvatn is one of Europe’s greatest natural treasures with its unique nature and rich birdlife. The water supplies for the lagoon run straight from the National Power Company’s borehole in Bjarnarflag. The water has a temperature of about 130°C when it arrives at the huge basin beside the lagoon itself. Geothermal water in Iceland usually contains some sulfur. In this area, the strength of the chemical is greater than others.

westfjords kayaking

Explore the Westfjords by Kayak

Paddle through majestic fjords below towering mountains as you spot seals, whales, and birds along the way. Isafjordur has earned its reputation as the sea kayaking center of Iceland. For those wanting to see some of the country’s most remote nature, this is an adventure that should not be missed!

adventure people

Visit the Blue Lagoon

In the South of Iceland, the mineral-rich, azure waters of the Blue Lagoon are a magnificent sight to behold and are even better to soak in. Recognized as one of the wonders of the world, bathing in the waters at the lagoon and applying the silica mud to your skin have proven to be beneficial to those with psoriasis and other skin conditions.

Exploring Waterfalls

Seljalandsfoss waterfall

Seljalandsfoss waterfall is located along Iceland’s southern coast and is fed by melting water from the famed glacier-capped Eyjafjallajokull volcano. This powerfull waterfall cascades into a pretty meadow, but it is best known for the walking path that runs behind the curtain of water where visitors can enjoy a truly unique viewpoint from this angle. It’s the only known waterfall in the world that it is possible to walk behind!

gulfoss waterfall

Gullfoss waterfall is an iconic waterfall offering a spectacular view of the forces and beauty of untouched nature. Located in South Iceland on the Hvita (White) river which is fed by Iceland’s second biggest glacier, the Langjokull, the water plummets down 32 meters in two stages into a rugged canyon which walls reach up to 70 meters in height. On a sunny day, a shimmering rainbow can be seen over the falls.

godafoss waterfall

Godafoss waterfall is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland. It is located in the Bardardalur district of the Northeast region begging at the Sprengisandur highland road. The water of the river Skjalfandafljot falls from a height of 12 meters (40 ft) over a width of 30 meters.

haifoss waterfall

Haifoss waterfall, located on the edge of the highlands in South Iceland, is the second highest waterfall in Iceland. It is 122 meters high and is situated on the Fossa river, which is a spring water tributary of the glacier river Thjorsa, Iceland’s longest river.

selfoss waterfall

Selfoss waterfall is located on the river Jokulsa a Fjollum in the north of Iceland. The river drops over a number of waterfalls over about 30 km before flowing into Oxarfjordur, a bay of the Arctic Sea.

Skogafoss waterfall

Skogafoss is a waterfall situated on the Skoga River in the south of Iceland at the cliff of the former coastline. Skogafoss is unique because the waterfall comes directly from two glaciers, Eyjafjallajokull and Myrdalsjokull. Climbing the 370 steps to the top of the waterfall rewards visitors with an awe-inspiring view out over southern Iceland’s coastline.

dettifoss waterfall

Dettifoss waterfall is with the greatest volume of any waterfall in Europe. Located in Northern Iceland, it’s 500 cubic meters of water per second plunges over the edge. The waterfall is 45 meters high and 100 meters wide and features a nice hiking trail that goes along the canyon from Dettifoss to Asbyrgi.

Svartifoss waterfall

Svartifoss waterfall is one of the more unique waterfalls in South Iceland. It is situated in Skaftafell, which belongs to Vatnajokull National Park. The waterfall is fed by ice-cold meltwater from the Svinafellsjokull glacier and tumbles down 20 meters (80 ft) over a cliff which is bordered on both sides by tall black basalt columns, resembling pipes of a giant organ, which is where the waterfall gets its name.

Hraunfossar waterfall

Hraunfossar is a series of waterfalls in West Iceland formed by rivulets streaming over a distance of about 900 meters out of the Hallmundarhraun, a lava field which flowed from an eruption of on of the volcanoes lying under the Langjokull glacier.

Barnafoss waterfall

Barnafoss waterfall is really more of a series of rapids on the Hvita River, located above Hraunfossar waterfall. It means “Children’s waterfall,” and according to legend, Barnafoss waterfall takes its name from a saga about two children who fell into the waterfall.

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Responsible Travel

Our philosophy of travel is one of respect towards the local people we encounter, their culture, local economies and the environment. It’s important to remember that what may be acceptable behavior, dress, and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while traveling.

Top Responsible Travel Tips

  • Be considerate of the customs, traditions, religion, and culture.
  • Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.
  • Learn some local language and don’t be afraid to use it – simple greetings will help break the ice.
  • Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive.
  • Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals.
  • Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.
  • Refrain from touching or interfering with ancient monuments, relics or historic sites.

FAQ

All countries require a valid passport (valid for a minimum of 6 months after the date of departure), but few require a visa. Contact your local embassy or consulate for the most up-to-date visa requirements. It’s your responsibility to have the correct travel documentation. Please visit our travel resources page https://adventurepeople.net/travel-resources/ for links to helpful websites.

It is your responsibility to consult with your physician or a travel clinic for up-to-date medical travel information well before departure to find out what vaccinations might be required or recommended for Iceland.

We recommend that you carry a First-Aid kit and hand sanitizers/ antibacterial wipes as well as any personal medical requirements. Please be aware that sometimes we are in remote areas and away from medical facilities, and for legal reasons, our guides are prohibited from administering any type of drug.

Please visit https://adventurepeople.net/travel-resources/ for links to helpful websites.

Iceland is considered among one of the safest countries in the world with a very low crime rate, but we recommend that you check your government’s advice for the latest travel information before departure. You should also enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so you are kept up to date with important safety and security announcements.

Adventure activities and water-based activities have an element of danger and excitement built into them. We recommend only participating in activities when accompanied by guide(s). We make every reasonable effort to ensure the fun and adventurous element of any of our planned activities, and we take all prudent measures in relation to your safety, but please use your own good judgement. Participating in adventurous activities is always at your own risk. Please note that any optional activities you undertake that are not part of the itinerary, are at your own risk. We offer no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them.

Travel insurance is mandatory to participate on any of our trips. You will not be permitted to join a trip until evidence of travel insurance has been presented. The minimum requirement must provide coverage of $200,000USD for medical expenses including repatriation and emergency rescue. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. Some credit card companies offer travel insurance, but proof of coverage will be required. Contact your provider for details.

Laundry facilities are offered by some of our hotels for a fee. There will be times when you may want to or have to do your own laundry, so we also suggest you bring a biodegradable laundry soap.

Iceland is on GMT all year and does not observe daylight savings. The time difference is eight hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time in the United States.

The country calling code is +354. To call Iceland from the US, dial 011 354 + area code and phone #.  To dial the US from Iceland, dial 001 + area code and phone #.

In Iceland, the local currency is the krona, abbreviated as ISK. As currency exchange rates do fluctuate, we ask that you refer to the following website for the most up to date daily exchange rates, http://www.xe.com/. Coins come in denominations of 1, 10, 50, and 100 ISK denominations. Banknotes come in denominations of 2500, 1000, 2,000, and 5,000 ISK. Major credit cards and debit cards are accepted at most hotels, airlines, restaurants and upscale merchants, but you should advise your card issuer of your travel plans in advance. Banks and credit card companies are safe, convenient, and generally offer good exchange rates, but will charge a fee for overseas transactions. You should check with your bank before departure.

Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are found in most villages around Iceland, though not all ATM’s are accessible 24 hours a day. Icelandic ATM’s generally accept all major debit, credit, and cash-only cards. Cirrus and PLUS are most accepted. Foreign debit and credit card withdrawals from an ATM usually incur a fee levied by the local ATM owner, in addition to any fees added by your financial institution. Note, however, that many banks now assess a 1% to 3% foreign transaction fee on all charges you incur abroad.

plug outlets

Iceland uses the standard European non-grounded type C outlet and the voltage is 220 volts/ 50Hz. In the US, we use types A and B, 120 volts/ 60Hz. For using your electronics in Iceland, you will need a voltage converter in addition to a plug adapter. Most electronics come with a built-in voltage converter, but please refer to the manufacturer for specifics for your device. We recommend getting a universal adapter and converter kit. For more information, visit our blog post for Essential Travel Gear.

Our trips bring together people of all ages. It is important that you are aware that, as a minimum, an average level of fitness and mobility is required to undertake any of our trips. Travelers must be able to walk without the aid of another person, climb 3-4 flights of stairs, step on and off small boats, and carry their own luggage. You must inform us at the time of booking if anyone in your party has a disability, medical or behavioral condition which could affect their participation in the trip or other people on the trip.

Travelers with pre-existing medical conditions are required to complete a short medical questionnaire, which must be signed by their physician. This is to ensure that travelers have the necessary fitness and mobility to comfortably complete their chosen adventure. While your group leader and guides work hard to make sure that all our travelers are catered for equally, it is not their responsibility to help individuals who cannot complete the day’s activities unaided.

Unlike in the US, tipping service providers such as waiters, is not a widespread custom in Iceland. The tax and gratuity are already included in your bill. We do recommend tipping your guide at the end of the trip, as a gesture of appreciation for their efforts on your adventure. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline the equivalent of $5-10 USD/day per person can be used.

Iceland’s cities and towns have internet access available in restaurants and hotels. Internet access is less available in rural and remote areas.

Mobile phone coverage is generally good in Costa Rica’s cities and metropolitan areas, although expect limited coverage in remote or mountainous areas. Ensure you have global roaming activated with your carrier if you wish to use your phone while in Costa Rica.

Daylight hours in Iceland decrease greatly in the winter months and increase during the summer months. Please visit http://www.timeanddate.com/sun/iceland/reykjavik to find out sunrise and sunset hours for your dates of travel. Iceland is on GMT all year and does not observe daylight saving. The time difference is eight hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time in the United States.

Iceland has some of the best tap water on the planet. It is considered safe to drink in Iceland unless marked otherwise.