You’ve just booked your trip to Iceland. Congrats! Iceland is one of most beautiful countries we’ve visited so far. With its grandoise waterfalls, stunning glaciers, and towering mountains, it’s not hard to fall in love with Iceland.
Now that you’ve booked your ticket you’re probably asking yourself, “What can I expect when visiting Iceland? What is the weather like in Iceland and what should I pack?! What about taking a road trip? Is it safe?” Well, we’re here to help you answer all of the commonly asked questions about Iceland and help you expect the unexpected. By the end of the guide, you’ll know everything we know.
Table of Content:
Below you will find answers to the most commonly asked questions when traveling to Iceland. You can read through all of them or click on the questions you want answers to. Either way, you will be 100% prepared when doing a road trip in Iceland!
This will mostly depend on what you want to see or do in Iceland. Each time of year offers a different experience, so it will be good to pin down your goals for your trip to help you decide which season is best for you. In general:
- Low Season (Oct – April): Mountain roads closed; some minor roads shut due to weather conditions. Winter activities are available, including skiing, snowshoeing, and visiting ice caves. Brief spurts of daylight followed by long nights with possible Northern Lights viewings.
- Shoulder (May & September): Breezier weather; occasional snows in the highlands (access via mountain roads are weather dependent). Optimal visiting conditions if you prefer fewer crowds and lower prices over cloudless days.
- High Season (June – August): Visitors descend en masse, especially to Reykjavík and the south. Prices peak; prebookings are essential. Endless daylight, plentiful festivals, busy activities. Highland mountain roads open to 4WDs, from mid-June or later; hikers welcome.
Generally speaking, summer time (June – August) is the best time to visit Iceland. The weather is warmer and the days are longer, especially in June when you get 24 hours of sunlight. However, it is not uncommon to see rain and strong winds during this time. Please be aware that summer time is peak season in Iceland so you will see larger crowds and increased lodging prices.
Below are specific trip goals and the best time of year to achieve them:
NORTHERN LIGHTS: WINTER
To see the Northern Lights, you will need clear skies and long nights. Peak aurora borealis viewing happens from October to March. However, I do know people who have seen the Northern Lights in August. Lucky bastards!
Because viewing the Northern Lights are all left up to chance of good weather and clear skies, you should not plan your trip to Iceland solely on seeing the Northern Lights. This is a good way to avoid any disappointment. However, if you do still plan on visiting Iceland during the winter and get lucky with clear skies, be sure to drive out to the countryside to avoid ambient light pollution.
GLACIER ADVENTURES: WINTER
There are a bunch of winter activities that you can do, such as ice climbing, glacier hiking, and ice caving. Some of these activities can be done year-round depending in the region you’re visiting in Iceland whereas some can only be done during the winter months. If you want to visit ice caves, visit Iceland in the winter. Ice cave tours are almost always guaranteed depending on the weather and the condition of the ice cave. You may be able to visit in early spring tours depending on the melting rate of the cave.
We highly recommend Extreme Iceland for any tours and activities. We booked a glacier hike and a lava cave tour with them and the guides were fantastic! They’re very knowledgable about Iceland and its sporadic weather.
HIKING, TREKKING, AND WATERFALLS: SUMMER
The winter snow in Iceland may linger until the end of April, so if hiking and trekking mountainous trails is your goal in Iceland, be sure to visit Iceland in the summer. During the summer months all the mountain roads are open and almost all of the popular trails are accessible. We went at the end of April and we were disappointed to find out that the Thórsmörk and Westfjords were not open during this time.
WHALES & PUFFIN SIGHTING: SPRING – SUMMER
The peak months for whale watching in Iceland are June and July. In the north of Iceland, you can enjoy visits from humpbacks, minkes, and dolphins from May to August. There are a few whale watching tours to choose from, depending on which region you’d like to visit. From May to August, you can also do some puffin watching during their nesting season.
Conclusion: If you hate the cold and don’t care for winter activities, we recommend visiting Iceland in late Spring to early Summer (May to mid-June) when the weather is the warmest and all mountain roads are opens. There is also a chance to see whales and puffins during this time if that’s your thing! Plus, springtime is shoulder season, meaning fewer crowds and cheaper accommodations.
- Iceland is the last land in Europe to be settled and populated.
- The most popular food in Iceland is hot dogs.
- Iceland only has about 334,000 inhabitants. In fact, the sheep population is more than double that of the human population!
- All names not previously accepted by the Icelandic government must go before the Icelandic Naming Committee for approval since the Icelandic people want to preserve the Icelandic language.
- Beer was illegal until 1989.
- Iceland does not have an army, navy, or air force. In fact, the Icelandic police do not carry guns.
- Mosquitoes do not exist in Iceland.
- Icelandic people are descendants from the Norwegian Vikings founders and native Celtic populations of Scotland and Ireland.
- The national sport of Iceland is handball.
- There is a penis museum in Iceland – The Icelandic Phallological Museum.
Icelandair and WOW Air, two Iceland-based air carriers, are the best options of getting you a direct flight to Iceland. WOW is a budget airline that recently launched cheap air fares from major U.S. hubs to Iceland, with fares starting as low as $99. U.S. citizens can catch flights from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Chicago, New York, Boston, Miami, and Pittsburgh. Please keep in mind that WOW Air is a budget airline, meaning you will get very limited service and restrictive luggage requirements.
Iceland continues to be the world’s safest countries according to the Global Peace Index. Crime is almost non-existent in Iceland, both in Reykjavik and the rural areas. Even petty crimes are basically non-existent though they do happen from time to time. The only thing to worry about in terms of “safety” is the weather since it can change quickly. Always check the road conditions before heading out on each journey. Iceland felt like one of the safest countries we’ve ever traveled to, and even though we were scared for the drastic changes in weather, we got around safely. Just use common sense, check the road conditions, and don’t drive recklessly 🙂
No, you will not need a tourist visa to visit Iceland but you must have a valid passport when visiting Iceland with an expiration date of 6 months or greater from when you enter the country.
The currency is Icelandic króna (ISK).
If you didn’t already know, Iceland is an expensive country to visit. The ten days we spent in Iceland was equivalent to the amount we spent for ten days in Japan, so be prepared for this. To see how much everything costs in Iceland, check our our cost breakdown for 10 days in Iceland. This breakdown also includes tips on to save money in Iceland.
Renting a car will give you the most freedom to explore all the nooks and crannies of Iceland. It will also be the most cost efficient since tours can be extremely pricey and add up quickly. Just be sure you’re comfortable driving in all kinds of weather conditions. Simon is originally from sunny Southern California weather where it’s sunny almost all time of the year, and he was totally able to drive through the changing conditions of Iceland – rain, hail, snow, fog, strong winds – you name it.
Another great and popular option to save money in Iceland is to rent a camper van. You don’t have to worry about accommodations, giving you added flexibility. A popular option that we’ve seen throughout Iceland is Happy Camper.
Pack layers and pack for all four seasons in Iceland. When we visited in April, we experienced rain, hail, and snow in the south and sunny, hot weather in the north. Don’t be surprised if it rains in the summer. TL;DR you can’t predict weather in Iceland! To make sure you’re packing the essentials, check out our Iceland packing list.
Planning a road trip in Iceland is super time-consuming. We know because we planned one! The most time consuming park is research things to do in Iceland, efficiently mapping all the highlights, and planning meals in between. Luckily for you we have an itinerary that plans all of this out for ya! Check out our 10-day Iceland Road Trip Itinerary for all the details.
- Higher-end restaurants
- Tour guides
- Service professionals (hotel staff, spa staff, bar staff, etc.)
- Cheaper restaurants
- Taxi drivers
- Treat nature with respect. This is a BIGGIE. Iceland is an beautiful country so let’s preserve and treat it with respect. This means leaving the place as you found it.
- Tipping is not expected nor is it customary. Many bills already include gratuity or a service charge.
- Shower with soap prior to entering a pool. Icelandic people take their hygiene very seriously, so respect this and shower your body with soap before entering a thermal spa.
- Don’t trespass on private land. This includes camping on private land unless you have consent from the owners.
- Do not call their horses ponies.
- Plan early! During peak season, hotels and tours book quickly.
- Bring very little cash with you. Credit card was accepted nearly everywhere we went but it’s always smart to have some on you whenever traveling.
- Budget wisely. Iceland is not cheap. Lodging accommodations, food, gas, and car rental are expensive. We spent around $3,100 for two people for 10 days. Check out our cost breakdown for some money saving tips in Iceland.
- Camp to save money. Lodging accommodations, both hotel and Airbnb, are expensive and they can add up quickly if you’re staying for many nights. Happy Camper is a popular camper van we saw throughout Iceland.
- Bring a reusable water bottle. Don’t buy bottled water. It just comes from their tap water. I bring my Hydroflask everywhere with me because it keeps my water cold for a long period of time.
- Always check the road conditions before heading out. Weather conditions change rapidly in Iceland, so remember to check the conditions before starting your engine. If the weather is bad, just wait it out.
- Pack layers. Icelandic weather changes quickly and frequently. We’ve definitely experience all four seasons in the same hour, so you will need to be prepared for all season. Check out our guide on how to pack for Iceland.
- T-Mobile works everywhere in Iceland. This was a surprise to us! For all your T-Mobile users you can free international data, so take advantage of this in Iceland! It was decently fast. In most other countries we’ve visited, T-Mobile was slow and unreliable.
- Bring a sleeping mask in the summer. In the spring and summer, the sun stays up to 11pm or later. Unless you know for certain that your lodging accommodation has blackout curtains, bring a sleeping mask just in case.
- Book early for Blue Lagoon and book the first time slot. You’ve heard of the Blue Lagoon and for good reason. It is the most popular geothermal spas in Iceland. Tickets sell out quick so book your tickets at least a couple of months in advance if possible. Book sooner than that if traveling during peak season. The best time to go is the first time slot in the morning (8am) since you will get a nearly empty pool for all your photography needs.
Have any other questions about road tripping in Iceland?
Just drop us a note in the comment section below and we’ll respond with an answer! If we don’t know the answers ourselves, we’ll do our best to find the answer for you.