Plan Your Trip to Iceland Like a Pro
To name just a few of its natural attractions, Iceland is home to some 30 active volcanoes, steaming hot springs, and bubbling geysers, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations. There are some very well-known places in the Land of Fire and Ice, such as the largest glacier in Europe by volume and crystal-clear ice caves that can only be visited in the winter. Not to mention the dancing Northern Lights in the sky.
Although it would be difficult to arrange a vacation in Iceland that didn't turn out well, it's easy to get bogged down in the details. Refer to our all-inclusive guide as you plan your trip to Iceland for a hassle-free time spent exploring the country's wonders.
The time of year you visit Iceland will have a huge impact on what you're able to see and do.
From the end of October to the beginning of March, we experience winter, a season characterized by short days and heavy precipitation. However, the country of Iceland is not as frigid as its name suggests. Expect lows of about 32 degrees Fahrenheit, or freezing. Travelers venturing far from Reykjavik and the well-lit streets of the capital city may find the short days challenging (during the solstice, in December, daylight is limited to less than four hours). Aside from significant cost savings, the perpetual night provides ideal conditions for viewing the Northern Lights. During the off season, you can save up to 30 percent on airfare and even more on lodging, dining, and activities. Some of the most visited places in the country will also have much smaller crowds.
Summertime visitors may be able to enjoy nearly 21 hours of daylight, with sunrise times as early as 2:55 a.m. m late in the month of June, dipping below the horizon at around 11 p.m. You can relax in the 50s and 60s from May through September. Travelers flock to popular destinations in the summer months of July and August. Visitors to Iceland will appreciate the longer days, but the winter season also has a lot to offer.Thanks to Eleven Years of Experience
If you're looking for direct and reasonably priced flights to Iceland, your best bets are Icelandair and WOW Air, the two Icelandic airlines. A one-way ticket on WOW Air from most major U.S. S airports, though fares have dropped to as low as in recent years. Flights leave from SFO, LAX, CHICAGO, PIT, and WASHINGTON DC, making it convenient for US-based tourists. C and the Big Apple and Boston
Soft drinks, tea, and coffee are all free on Icelandair, as are checked bags, carry-ons, and personal items, and there is even in-flight entertainment provided at no extra cost. The airline is known for its free stopover program, which allows you to spend up to seven nights in Iceland at no additional cost, but tickets are more expensive than those offered by WOW. There is something called a "Stopover Buddy," a local who will show you the country's top attractions for no additional cost during your stopover.
U S as Iceland is a member of the Schengen Agreement (a group of 26 European countries with visa and passport-free borders), which means that U.S. citizens do not need a visa to visit. However, your passport's expiration date must be at least three months after your planned departure date.Pictures from Getty Images
Keflavk International Airport, where all international flights land, is a 40-minute drive from Reykjavik, the country's capital. For 2,500 Icelandic Krona (about $21), passengers can ride the Flybus airport shuttle to the Reykjavik Bus Terminal. 50), or for a little more money, you can take the Flybus, which will drop you off at your hotel or Airbnb. The fare for a taxi from Keflavik International Airport to the center of Reykjavik is approximately $130, and they run frequently along the route.
Keflavk Airport, which previously only served international flights, will begin offering domestic connections in February 2017. Flights to Akureyri, Iceland's northernmost city, depart three times a week, but getting there can be challenging in the winter when snow and ice close off the only road leading to Iceland's second-most populous region.
Driving is the most convenient way to get around Iceland outside of the capital city of Reykjavik. Green Motion, a European rental agency that specializes in eco-friendly vehicles, and Campervan Iceland are two alternatives to the likes of Hertz and Budget that can help you see the whole island without breaking the bank.
In Iceland, traffic moves on the right side of the road, but visitors should be aware that the speed limit is in kilometers and that gasoline is a very expensive import. The average price for a gallon is 194 ISK (about ). 50)
There's never a bad time to invest in a reliable four- or all-wheel-drive vehicle for a trip. In contrast to the ice and snow that require studded snow tires during the winter, sandstorms can occur during the summer. It's important for motorists to remember that strong winds can occur at any time of the year.
Regardless of when you're taking your trip, you should always pack as if you'll be experiencing all four seasons. Don't bother packing your finery if you're taking a cheap flight, as you'll need all the space you can get for your essentials. Pack a T-shirt, thermal underlayers, a rain jacket, hiking boots, a couple swimsuits, a hat, sunglasses, waterproof pants, gloves, and other jackets before you leave the house. Bring a headlamp if you plan on doing a lot of hiking, especially in the winter. Any summertime visitor to Iceland will benefit from packing an eye mask to help them nod off while the sun is still up.Photo: Getty Images/Lonely Planet
The drive around the Snfellsnes Peninsula in Iceland is an adventure in and of itself. It is one of the most out-of-the-way places in the country, with cliffs so high that the North Atlantic can lash them and lava fields so rugged that they are covered in moss and fog. Along the way, you can stop at Stykkisholmur, a small fishing village that's home to the Library of Water and the Norwegian House museum.
The Hallmundarhraun lava field, which is closer to Reykjavik, is home to a lava tube that visitors can explore. Vgelmir is the name of the cave and tours of its 5,250 feet of depth are available. Trip plans are available from guides for people of all ages and fitness levels.
More than 1,800 feet long, Into the Glacier is the longest man-made ice tunnel beneath Langjökull. Visitors can explore a large cave in the ice cap's interior and even a chapel made entirely of ice and snow.
Hotel Budir, a former trading post from the 17th century turned warm winter retreat, offers breathtaking panoramas of the Snfell Glacier and Atlantic Ocean. Relax with a drink in hand in front of the fireplace in the lounge, or take a trip to the nearby historic black church. You can rest easy knowing that if the Northern Lights start showing up during the night, your overnight concierge will wake you up.
Hotel Egilsen has only 10 rooms, so everyone can feel at home. Breakfasts (think locally sourced lox, skyr smoothies, freshly baked breads, and hand-crushed granola) and everything else are made entirely by hand. Loft rooms located in the upper part of the building are ideal for lone travelers.
Hotel Husafell, which opened in 2015 and is one of the country's more recent establishments, is conveniently located for visitors to the nearby Into the Glacier and Vgelmir Cave. A collection of paintings by Icelandic artist Páll Gudmundsson and geothermal baths make this hotel one of the most luxurious in the country. In addition to the excellent food, the restaurant also has a fantastic gin and tonic menu.World Imagery/Getty Images/Robert Harding
The eastern coast of Iceland is still relatively undiscovered, so visitors who make the trip there can expect to see few other tourists and perhaps even go on a reindeer safari. All 6,500 of Iceland's wild reindeer, descended from the initial 35 imported from Norway in 1781, continue to call East Iceland home. Tours leaving from Egilsstair in East Iceland with expert guides will help you find the elusive creature. Small Icelandic pastries known as kleinur and binoculars are included.
The Eastfjords of Iceland are a favorite among Icelanders for their remoteness and the thrill-packed kayaking they offer. Fossardalur (also known as Valley of the Waterfalls) and the dramatic cliffs of Berufjordur are two highlights. The sleepy town of Seydisfjordur can be found way up in the northeast. The town of Seydisfjordur is also notable as an artistic hub, with numerous small galleries and regular concerts held in the town's pastel blue church.
For a relaxing afternoon, charter a classic oak fishing boat from Breiddalsvik harbor. Fresh cod can be caught by anglers while they observe marine mammals like dolphins, seals, and puffins at play. In the evening, you can have your haul cooked up for supper.
The 46-room Hotel Blafell can be found in the picturesque East Icelandic village of Breidalsvk, close to the region's fjords and black sand beaches. The rooms are either simple and Scandinavian, or cozy and reminiscent of log cabins. A complimentary breakfast is provided daily, and guests can use the property's fireplace lounge and library at any time.Images by Getty
Lake Myvatn is a familiar sight to viewers of "Game of Thrones." A romantic scene between Jon and Ygritte was set against the breathtaking scenery of the snow-covered wetlands. Visitors who make the trip to the top of Iceland will be rewarded with the hot spring baths of Hverir and Krafla, as well as the azure waters of Myvatn Nature Baths.
Stonehenge-like structures in Iceland were actually constructed as recently as 1996, despite their seemingly ancient appearance. The monument is an ode to the region's Nordic past and an invitation for sightseers to venture off the beaten Ring Road. Take a trip there around the winter solstice to see the midnight sun set behind the angular towers.
Husavik, dubbed "the whale watching capital of the world," is the best place to see humpback whales during their summer migration. The town is home to both a whale museum and a biologist research station.
Hidden in a valley is Eleven Experience's extravagant mansion, the finest home in all of Iceland. Because there is neither a front desk nor a restaurant, you can think of your stay here more as a stay in someone's vacation home than at a hotel. Plan your trip to coincide with the region's short but incredible heliskiing season in March.Image Source: Getty Images
To witness the unbelievable blue of Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, where icebergs float and break up on the black-sand shores like glittering diamonds, travelers must travel all the way to the southeast. Vatnajokull National Park is home to some of Europe's largest glaciers, as well as world-famous ice caves. To visit the crystal cave with the waterfall, have the Ice Guides take you there.
Thingvellir is a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it was the location of the first parliament in the world. The Silfra Fissure is a place where intrepid tourists can go snorkeling in water only 35 degrees Fahrenheit deep, between two tectonic plates.
The sulfur hot springs of Geysir (the Stokkur geyser erupts with a 90-foot plume like clockwork), the glacier-fed waterfall of Gullfoss, and the volcanic crater of Kerid can all be seen on this 160-mile tourist route. which is best seen in the summer, when the snow melts to reveal the red volcanic rock beneath the water's surface.
You can take a tour of this breathtaking hiking area with Midgard Adventure and their unbreakable super jeeps. Skogafoss and Eyjafjallajökul are two other interesting places to visit en route. The Landmannalaugar hike, which traverses the multicolored rhyolite mountains, begins and ends in Thorsmork. In fact, guests of Midgard's brand-new hostelGift from the Hotel Rangá
If you're interested in seeing the Northern Lights, I highly recommend the luxurious Hotel Ranga, which was designed to evoke a cozy log cabin. After what could be the best meal of your trip (or at least one of the best) in the restaurant, relax in the geothermal hot tubs and take in the light show.
Another well-known location for seeing the Northern Lights is the ION Adventure Hotel, a dramatic structure perched on stilts above the rugged landscape. The 45 rooms are modern and comfortable, but the sulfurous air from the nearby geothermal plant makes it difficult to relax.
No, a trip to Iceland is not complete without a soak in the Blue Lagoon. However, for only $5, tourists can soak in the same mineral-rich pools that the locals love. There are many options, but the water temperature is consistently 108 degrees.
You can see all of Reykjavik from the top of the church's elevator, as it was built on the city's highest point. It's widely regarded as the earliest manifestation of what would become the Icelandic style, and variations on it can be found in churches all over the country.
Explore the island's fascinating past at this compact but informative museum, where exhibits cover everything from the arrival of the Vikings to the present day. Visit the Valthjófsstadur Door, a medieval artifact engraved with scenes from the knight's tale, Le Chevalier Au Lion.Credit: Canopy Reykjavik
Hilton's new lifestyle brand, Canopy, debuted on Hverfisgata Street, a prime location in the heart of the city. Free wine and beer tastings are offered every night, and the breakfast buffet in the morning is so extensive that it borders on being too much food. Decorated in soothing blues and grays, the rooms are contemporary and comfortable. Play the Reykjavik Music Box before you turn in for the night.
The Alda Hotel is stylish and reasonably priced, decorated primarily in white and gray with colorful accents. Inquire about a room that opens onto a balcony and has a view of the ocean. Everyone staying at the hotel is welcome to use the fitness center and sauna.
Identical, right? Because Icelandair does much more than just run an airline. Iceland's national airline also owns a number of hotels. With a fun nautical theme and a great bar, Slippbarinn, this old harbor hotel is highly regarded.Dill Facebook Restaurant
Reserve in advance to eat at this tiny restaurant in Reykjavik, and do not miss out on the seven-course meal. Icelandic specialties include dung-smoked trout, pear with almonds and birch, and Arctic char with fennel.
Chef lfar Eysteinsson has been bringing Reykjavik's foodies some of Iceland's most interesting dishes since 1989. Smoked puffin breast, Icelandic shark, horse tenderloin with potato wedges, and pepper sauce are just some of the dishes on the menu.
Stop at Fridheimar on your way around the Golden Circle for unlimited tomato soup and fresh bread. Herbs for guests' lunches can be picked from the adjacent greenhouse.
Kaffibarinn, a coffee shop by day and a nightclub, has its entrance directly beneath the London Underground sign. Even if you're not in the mood to listen to a house music set or check out the hottest DJs in Reykjavik, this is still a must-see location for any vacationers who are interested in popping open a can of Viking lager.
New extended hours: now through 10:00 p.m. m Bergsson Mathus is a warm restaurant that serves all three meals of the day. The daily menu features a variety of dishes, some of which include: avocado toast with smoked salmon; lentil cream soup; and a hearty spinach lasagna.Photos by Getty Images/AWL Images RM
South Iceland's Westman Islands are accessible via ferry or a quick flight from Reykjavik. If you want to see the island's famous puffin colonies in action, the best time to visit is in the spring or summer. Stórhöfi, the windiest place on the planet, is a favorite among these people. Day trips can also include stops to take pictures at Elephant Rock and the summit of Eldfell Volcano.
Even among Icelanders, this mile-long rocky outpost in Breiafjörur Bay is something of a hidden gem. It is the largest of roughly three thousand similar rocky outcroppings in the bay. The Hotel Flatey will be open for business and Arctic flowers will be in bloom if you take the ferry over in the summer. Guests or passers-by can break up the 21-hour day with a visit to the downstairs restaurant and the nightly live music performances even if they aren't staying the night.
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