Five Things First Time Travellers To Iceland Should Know
- Prepare yourself for long summer days. From May to August, the sun only sets for three hours. While this is great for sightseeing, it's disorientating for tourists. Luckily, most hotels and guesthouses will have light block shades.
- The locals speak English. While the official language is Icelandic, almost everyone speaks English. This means you don't have to worry about learning Icelandic although a few basic phrases will go a long way with the locals.
- You don't need to tip. Iceland doesn't have a tipping culture as a service charge is included with every meal. Taxi drivers also add a tip to your total.
- Pack your own sheets or sleeping bag. If you don't, you'll have to cough up ISK 1,350 for bed sheets. With Iceland already being an expensive destination, bring your own and avoid any unnecessary costs.
- Keep your receipts in a safe place. If you spend more than ISK 6,000, you'll qualify for a VAT refund at the airport. All you need to do is go to the counter, hand over your proof of purchase and you'll get a refund back on your credit card.
Best Time To Visit Iceland
While Iceland is a destination that can be visited all year round, it shines in its summer months. From late May to September, all its museums and attractions are open and its long daylight hours mean you'll have more than enough time to explore.
But it is also the height of tourist season. Expect Iceland to be busier than usual with inflated hotel rates. Flights will also be more expensive and you'll need to book everything well in advance.
But if you're visiting the island for the Aurora Lights, you'll want to plan your holiday around Iceland's autumn and winter months. October to March is when temperatures start to drop and the daylight hours are short, making it easy to see them from anywhere in the country.
It's also a great time to visit if you're a fan of the arts. During autumn, there are plenty of film, art and music festivals to enjoy, including the famous Iceland Airwaves.
Reykjavik is Iceland's capital and largest city. Located near the coastline, fewer than 200,000 people call it home.
Thought to be the first permanent settlement in Iceland, the city is full of historical and modern treasures. Learn about the role it played in the country's Viking history, visit the interesting museums or enjoy its lively Icelandic music scene.
Located in a sheltered cove, the small village of Husavik is famous for its whale watching. Book your tour and get up close with these magnificent creatures. The most common species that call Husavik waters home are the minke, humpback and blue whales.
Back on shore, the town has a wealth of information on displays about the creatures as well as beautiful church built in 1907 that's well worth a visit.
Akureyri is a popular destination for lovers of the arts and the great outdoors. In the city centre, you'll find a church from the 1940's displaying Icelandic Christian history. There is also a bevy of art and history museums, but the town's real star is its botanical garden. It's home to almost every plant found on the island.
Top Attractions in Iceland
The Blue Lagoon
Located 40 minutes from Reykjavik is one of Iceland's most iconic attractions. Created by accident, the geothermal spas of the Blue Lagoon attract hundreds of visitors each year.
With shuttle buses available from the Lagoon to the airport or Reykjavik, there is no excuse not to tick this experience off your Iceland bucket list.
The water in the lagoon is full of minerals like algae and silica, which means bathing here is highly beneficial for your health and skin. The spa also sells a range of skincare products and has an onsite cafe.
There is also a range of different ticket prices to choose from, and due to its popularity, you need to pre-book your visit.
The Northern Lights
The Northern Lights or the Aurora Borealis is a must-see natural phenomenon. It occurs when solar particles enter the earth's magnetic field and ionise creating a spectacular light show.
The auroras are also steeped in folklore. The Old Norse believed the lights were the glinting of the armour of the Valkyries and the native Americans believed they were the spirits of the dead.
The best time to see the lights is usually in the winter, but it's not always a given. This is because the atmospheric and weather conditions need to be just right for the phenomena to occur. However, late September to the beginning of April is the best time to try your luck.
Located in Vatnajokull National Park, Askja Caldera is home to a geothermal pool inside an active volcano. Created by an eruption that caused the roof of the central magma chamber to collapse, a trip here is not for the faint of heart.
A popular day trip, it takes about 14 hours to complete, and you'll have to travel through Iceland's biggest desert. But once there, you can climb down into the crater and swim in its milky blue water.
Temperatures inside Viti are on average 30°C, but you'll need to take care. The banks are known to be slippery especially if it's been raining.
Exploring Iceland's glaciers is without a doubt one of the most unique attractions the country has to offer.
Spend a day hiking to one of Iceland's most famous ice caps like the Jokulmorder and admire its natural beauty. Or you can take the experience a step further and climb over them or underneath into their icy caverns.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure you have a guide with you. The tour operators will know where the best glaciers are and come with a wealth of knowledge that could save your life if anything goes wrong.
Major International Airports in Iceland
- Keflavík International Airport