Iceland 101: Planning Tips for Travelers visiting Iceland | Icelandair
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2020-11-15 | 12:00 AM

Iceland 101: Planning tips for travelers

Welcome to Iceland! Looking for the basics on Iceland before your visit? Here are a few essentials about our North Atlantic paradise. There's more excellent practical information on the Visit Iceland website.

Best time to visit

There's never a bad time to visit Iceland. We've put together a post to help you make the tough decisions on when to come and say hi.

Highway 1

We call it the Ring Road because it is shaped like a ring around the whole island, and covers 1323km or 822 miles. Many travelers like to follow this route when they want to see a lot of the country, but don’t forget to venture off on other roads so you can explore areas like the Westfjords, Snæfellsnes Peninsula and Reykjanes. Check road conditions on the website road.is.

Reykjavík

The name of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík, means “smoky bay.” About two-thirds of our population of 360,000 live in the Capital Region. Dig deeper on city life with Visit Reykjavik.

An overhead view of Reykjavik city on a bright day with a rainbow overhead that circles across the city

Language

The national language is Icelandic, and while you’ll have no problem getting by using English, we’re grateful anytime a visitor tries to use góðan daginn (good day) or takk (thank you). 

What to pack

It doesn't get as cold in winter as you might think, but our weather can be quite unpredictable. Bring lots of clothes to wear in layers—even in summer— and a good quality windproof jacket. Most importantly, don’t forget your bathing suit! Visiting our geothermal pools is a highlight of most trips. 

Weather

Thanks to the Gulf Stream, winter temperatures are milder here than you’ll find in New York or Toronto. When the thermometer creeps above 68°F (20°C) in summer, Icelanders bask in the sun at cafés and beaches. The best resource for official weather information is the website vedur.is; there's also an app called Vedur.

Wind

There aren’t a lot of trees in Iceland. It can be windy here. Remember to hold your car door when you open it. Trust us; your rental company will thank you.

Light

Photographers love Iceland for its incredible, ever-changing light. It never gets fully dark between about mid-May and early August, while in December a muted light shines over the island for a few short hours each day. See our post on the best time to visit Iceland for more on how much daylight you'll see each season.

Safe travel

You probably already know that Iceland is a volcanic land. We also have many glaciers and countless other natural wonders. Remember to stay safe on your travels, and check out safetravel.is for lots of important information, including driving and hiking tips. 

Water

There’s no need to buy bottled water when you’re here. What comes out of the tap is pure, clean, tasty—and free. You may notice the hot water has a slightly sulfurous smell, but it’s plentiful; we even use it to heat our homes! 

Seljalandsfoss waterfall in the South of Iceland, pictured on a bright summers day

Electricity

Electricity in Iceland is 220 volts, the same as in Europe. If you bring electronics from the US or Canada, you’ll need an adapter for both plugs and current. 

Currency

The local currency is the Icelandic króna (plural krónur), which is written ISK. Iceland is almost a cashless society – most locals pay for everything by card, even for a coffee.

Time zone

Iceland is on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) all year round, meaning it's in the same time zone as London, an hour behind western Europe. In Iceland, the clocks don't move for summer (daylight saving) time.

Reynisfjara black sand beach viewed from a hilltop, with the view looking out on to the sea stacks and basalt black columns

Protecting nature

Many of you will be visiting our country to enjoy our unique nature, of which we are very proud. Please remember, though, that Iceland’s delicate landscapes can take decades, or even centuries, to recover from misuse. Please don’t collect stones, tread on or pick up sensitive moss, or drive off road—even in what may appear to be barren, sandy territory.

Landscapes

Speaking of our landscapes, you’ll notice that there aren’t many signs, fences or other barriers around our natural wonders. We trust your common sense. So when you see or hear a warning, please heed it: Do not step over ropes that are blocking an area. Hot springs can be dangerously hot. Rocks near waterfalls can be slippery. And the sea can be deceptively calm. Follow local advice.