Trip Planner to Iceland | Tips before you travel to Iceland
This is a one-stop guide for Trip Planner Iceland, plus all the useful tips for your Iceland trip bucket list!
In this Trip Planner Iceland article, you will find all you need, from how to travel around Iceland, and how to stay safe, how much it cost, how to save money traveling to Iceland, what is the best time to travel to Iceland, and finding accommodation & transportation options. This guide has everything you need for planning your trip to Iceland and travels safely.
Iceland is an island in the North Atlantic; a country of extreme geological contrasts. Widely known as “The Land of Fire and Ice”, it is home to some of the largest glaciers in Europe, and some of the world’s most active volcanoes.
Iceland is also the land of light and darkness. Long summer days with near 24-hours of sunshine are offset by short winter days with only a few hours of daylight.
Iceland continuously ranks near the top for the quality of life, gender equality, and democracy, and is one of the highest-ranked countries in the world for health care, education, and internet availability.
You can explore Iceland in as short as 5 days, or if you have more time, take the 10-day Ring Road self-drive around the island.
I hope this trip planner to Iceland will help you to prepare for your next adventure!
In this Trip Planner Iceland + Tips to Iceland Guide you will find:
- Iceland + COVID-19
- Trip Planner Iceland Essentials
- Iceland Orientation & Map
- Iceland Visa
- Flights to Iceland
- How long you need to explore Iceland & Best Destinations
- Iceland Trip costs + how to travel on a budget
- Iceland Transportations & Getting Around
- Iceland Accommodations
- Best time to visit Iceland
- Iceland Weather
- Safety in Iceland
- Food in Iceland
- What to pack for Iceland
Iceland Travel & Covid-19
From April 2021, all travelers are welcome to visit Iceland. NOTE: You need to have a certificate of full vaccination against COVID. For the latest update, please visit COVID.is.
If you are fully vaccinated:
- You do NOT have to get tested before leaving the United States unless your destination requires it.
- You do NOT have to self-quarantine after you arrive in the United States.
If you are NOT fully vaccinated:
- Get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before your trip.
During Travel for both cases:
- Wear a mask over your nose and mouth when in public. Masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
- Avoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet/2 meters (about 2 arm lengths) from anyone who is not traveling with you.
- Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).
Trip Planner Iceland + Tips to Iceland Essentials
LANGUAGE: The official language in Iceland is Icelandic, as well as English in the touristy areas.
CURRENCY: The currency in Iceland is the Icelandic Krona (ISK) and the U.S. Dollar is not accepted. Check here for the latest conversion rate.
NOTE: Iceland can get VERY EXPENSIVE, so be sure to check out my Tips to Traveling to Iceland on a Budget!
TIPPING: It is not customary to tip in Iceland
CREDIT CARD & ATMs: In Iceland, you don’t need to carry much money with you, as Icelanders tend to pay for almost everything with a credit card. Note that you need a card that uses the chip and pin method.
Wi-Fi IN ICELAND: Wi-Fi is widely available in Iceland, and often for FREE at gas stations and the common areas at the hotel or Guesthouses.
CELL PHONE SERVICE: Service is very reliable in Iceland, especially around large cities and the Ring Road.
Iceland Trip Planner Orientation & Map
Iceland is an island country, located in the North Atlantic ocean.
Because of Iceland’s location, in the active geologic border between North America and Europe, it is a land of vivid contrasts of climate, geography, and culture.
Sparkling glaciers, such as Vatna Glacier, Europe’s largest, lie across its ruggedly beautiful mountain ranges; abundant hot geysers provide heat for many of the country’s homes and buildings and allow for hothouse agriculture year-round.
The offshore Gulf Stream provides a surprisingly mild climate for what is one of the northernmost inhabited places on the planet.
Iceland Trip Planner Visa
The first step for your trip, you need to understand the Iceland Visa requirements.
Iceland is not a member of the European Union (EU) but it is a Schengen Area Member State, which means it’s a zone that allows unrestricted movement without passport checks and border controls for those living in any of the member states.
If you are visiting from outside of the EU or the Schengen Area, you will only go through passport control at your first point of entry.
Citizens of many countries will not need a tourist or business Iceland visa for stays of less than 90 days in Iceland. There is a list of countries on their Directorate of Immigration site so check out those who do need a visa and those who don’t.
RETURN TICKET REQUIRED
Flights to Iceland
If you live in the US, take advantage of the proximity and the prices for flights. I flew from Florida and took a direct flight of only 7 hours.
There are many options for direct flights from the US to Iceland and some very cheap options, for example, leaving from NYC for approximately $600.
- Choose to fly during the low season (Iceland winter time)
- Compare prices leaving from different airports, instead of only consider a direct flight from your town. Sometimes a domestic connection is a good option and will save you some money.
There are several airlines for you to choose from, depending on your departure location. Your destination in Iceland will be at the Keflavik Internation Airport (KEF).
|Departure City||Flight Time||Connection/direct|
|New York||5h 40m||Direct|
|Los Angeles||9h 00m||Direct|
|San Francisco||9h 00m||Direct|
Tips for Iceland How long do I need to Explore Iceland?
You can have as short as a few days, or if you are lucky have a few weeks.
I drove the Ring Road in 10 days – it is possible to drive the whole circuit as short as 5 days, but it will be in a hurry. Or if you are lucky enough you can explore it at a slower pace in a couple of weeks.
Regardless of how long you decide to stay in Iceland, you can be sure to have a fantastic time and witness some of the world’s most breathtaking views. This Nordic island nation has something to offer for everyone, and there is no doubt that you will return home refreshed and content.
Best Destinations in Iceland
During your planning trip to Iceland, first, you will need to decide how many days you have to explore, and what are your main interested.
If you are planning to drive the Ring Road, you will be driving on Highway 1 as it goes around the whole country in a shape of a ring. You will follow this 882 miles (1,323-km) long route to be able to see a lot of the country. You also can get a venture off on other roads so you can explore areas like the Westfjords, Snaefelisnes peninsula, and Reykjanes.
Below you can have an overview of Iceland’s main regions and things to expect to explore in each area.
Here you can find some of the most visited attractions in Iceland, including waterfalls, icebergs and the landscape driving along the South Coast is incredible.
Known as “small Iceland”; this fascinating geological region offers the real taste of Iceland: Glacier, volcanoes, waterfalls, fjords and much more…
This is the most visited region in Iceland, the area around Reykjavik. Visit geothermal areas, geysers, waterfalls, and the famous Blue Lagoon
This area is less visited than South Iceland. With incredible volcanic features, especially around Lake Myvatn. This was my favorite region in Iceland
WEST/ EAST FJORDS
They are on opposite sides of the Island, but in both, you can find stunning fjords, wildlife, lagoons, and lush farmlands
In this area, you can explore by 4WD or hiking during summertime. Explore glaciers and wild mountains and volcanic desert
Take a Tour around Iceland in 3 minutes
Iceland Trip Cost
How much a trip to Iceland cost? Well…it depends.
But one thing we all know: Iceland is expensive….actually Iceland is the most expensive country in Europe.
But depending on your travel style, it’s possible to travel to Iceland on a budget.
- MID RANGE: If you are going to stay at Guest Houses, cook some of your meals, renting a 2WD car, and do not drink alcohol for the duration of your trip, it’s safe to assume that your Iceland trip cost will be about $150 – $200 per day/ per person.
- BUDGET: Assuming that you’re intending to camp and hitchhike your entire trip it’s safe to assume that your Iceland trip cost will be about $60 – 75 per day/per person.
I have a complete and very detailed guide on Iceland Trip Costs and how prices compare, in case you want to plan your finances before you travel to Iceland.
Check the average Iceland Trip Cost – Per day for 2 people:
Average Prices per Day/ 2 People
CAR RENTAL + GAS $65
Trip Planner Iceland Transportation & Getting Around
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION IN ICELAND: Iceland is not comparable with the majority of European public transportation systems, therefore, the most effective way to get around the island nation is by car. Check here for public transportation.
CAMPER VAN IN ICELAND: If you have opted for the camper van route, the only other thing you’d need to factor into your Iceland transport costs would be fuel prices, which, are high. The average petrol price as of April 2021 is USD$1.88/ liter (or US$7.13/ Gallon). Here I explain in detail the price comparison between renting a car vs a camper van.
RENTAL CAR IN ICELAND: If renting a car is your option to self-drive Iceland, there are a number of rental companies to choose from. Also, keep in mind that cars with an automatic transmission often cost considerably more than a manual. So if you can drive a stick and want to save some money, by all means, make sure you’re renting a manual transmission. Make sure you compare prices and rent your car from a reliable source like this.
Trip Planning Iceland Accommodations
If you are traveling on a budget or opting for luxury, you will find accommodation to fit your needs in Iceland. The options you have are very diverse: Rent a camper van, hostel, farmhouse (B&B), cabin, mountain huts, or hotel.
Remember it is recommended to book your accommodations in Iceland in advance during the high season (summer) and that during summer the midnight sun may test your tolerance for sleep deprivation.
I traveled during the shoulder season (April) and used a combination of Guest Houses & Hotels, and I was able to pay an average of $80 – $100 per day for 2 people.
I found the best option to use farmhouses as they are pretty easy to find, are family-owned and operated, and provide an authentic experience to be able to interact with the lifestyle and farm animals.
Hostels in either of the 2 cities or large towns can be a good alternative where the cheapest dorm bed will set you back around $35 per night/person.
Another benefit of staying in a Farmhouse or Guest House is they often offer cooking areas so you can prepare your own meals and save money even further.
This is my favorite option. They are family-owned, and in general, are very well located around Iceland’s main visit points.
You can also rent your own cabin if you are looking to cook your meals, be well located and enjoy the local lifestyle.
Best Time to Visit Iceland
Maybe you have heard or seen somewhere that the best time to visit Iceland is during summer. But actually, any time is a good time to visit Iceland, it will only depend on your expectations.
BEST TIME FOR SIGHTSEEING: Iceland is renowned for its numerous spectacular waterfalls, geysers, and volcanoes. The best time to visit Iceland to see as much as you can, you’ll want to have longer days, fewer crowds to interrupt the view, and weather that doesn’t make roads impassable. That means going in the weeks that frame either end of the high season, around the last week of May through mid-June, or anytime in September.
BEST TIME TO AVOID CROWDS: If you’re hoping for a more relaxed experience without the crowds, avoid going to Iceland in the high season, from mid-June through August. By visiting in April or May, September or October, you’ll encounter fewer tourists, yet the days will be long enough to enjoy sightseeing and possibly decent weather (5 AM sunrise; 9:30 PM sunset). The fewest visitors come between November and March, but this is also when inclement weather and short, dark days can affect your plans.
BEST TIME TO SEE NORTHERN LIGHTS: The best time to visit Iceland if you want to see the Northern Lights is late fall when nights are most likely to be dark and clear. There are a number of conditions required for them to be visible, including guaranteed darkness, which is why the best time to see them is from late September through late March when there are full dark nights
BEST TIME FOR GOOD WEATHER: The best time to visit Iceland for optimal weather is during the high season, particularly July and August when average highs are around 13°C, though temps can reach as high as 15°C or even 20°C. If you’re hoping to avoid the rain, the lowest amount of rainfall occurs in May and June, and temperatures are often a pleasant 11°C.
** BE AWARE: Due to inclement weather, roads can be closed with little warning. One of the great resources is http://road.is. This site will let you know what is open or closed. If you get wireless or wifi service, check this site daily. I tried going to a waterfall in the Myvatn region only to find that the road was closed. This detour cost me about 1 hour. Had I checked road.is I would have known prior to heading in that direction.
Tips for Iceland Weather
Iceland enjoys a cool temperate maritime climate thanks to the Gulf Stream, but the weather is known to change quickly, and often.
Icelanders have a saying: “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” No matter the season, when you visit you should always have wind and water-resistant outerwear, as well as extra thermal layers on hand.
As for winter, Iceland is not all covered by ice and snow as its name would suggest. In fact, outside of the higher altitudes or parts of North Iceland, snowfall rarely stays on the ground longer than a few days.
Rain is more common, with October being the wettest month. Also, the cool northerly winds can be strong at times so we recommend an insulated or down jacket for winter visits.
|January||-0.6 (30.9)||-1.5 (29.3)|
|February||0.7 (33.3)||-2.1 (28.2)|
|March||2.2 (36.0)||2.0 (35.6)|
|April||5.2 (41.4)||4.9 (40.8)|
|May||6.0 (42.8)||4.5 (40.1)|
|June||10.7 (51.3)||10.7 (51.3)|
|July||12.8 (55)||10.7 (51.3)|
|August||11.0 (51.8)||10.0 (50.0)|
|September||7.9 (46.2)||7.2 (45.0)|
|October||5.8 (42.4)||5.1 (41.2)|
|November||3.1 (37.6)||1.2 (34.2)|
|December||1.3 (34.3)||0.8 (33.4)|
Planning an Iceland Trip Safety
When you are planning an Iceland trip, I am sure that safety comes into play.
So, great news here! Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world. The crime rate is extremely low.
It is one thing to think about safety related to crime, but it should also be related to our health during any physical activity, hiking, or driving around the country, for example.
In Iceland, it’s necessary to be cautious when traveling due to hazards caused by weather and nature, where conditions can change at a moment’s notice.
Nature is one of Iceland’s many attractions, and while beautiful, it can also be harsh and unpredictable. It is important to be prepared, and aware of possible dangers, and know-how to react in—or preferably prevent—difficult situations. The Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue operates a useful website for travel in Iceland.
During your Iceland Trip Planning, don’t forget to include Travel Insurance, as anything can go wrong. I use and recommend World Nomads, as they are the best option for travel insurance that fits any kind of adventure.
Planning Iceland Trip Food in Iceland
This is another important thing when you are planning your Iceland trip – Food!
I was pleasantly surprised by the food in Iceland. I didn’t have high expectations for the food, and I knew that options could be limited by the geography of the island.
However, I learned that the key elements of the Icelandic diet have changed very little since the country’s settlement over a thousand years ago, with the most popular dishes still being fish, lamb, and the Icelandic skyr (yogurt). Aside from lamb, you can also find traditional meats in grocery stores and restaurants like pork, beef, and chicken.
- Fish: You can find good options pretty much everywhere in Iceland. It is very popular to find a dish with the fish of the day, or fish and chips. Some of the popular fishes are haddock, Atlantic wolffish or cod, which has been caught by angling using live or artificial bait. Very fresh, and delicious!
- Lamb: Another very popular dish you will find pretty much in every restaurant. Along with the fish, sheep have been the lifeblood of this nation since its arrival with the Vikings. The meat thus requires little seasoning; it is tender and has a mild flavor.
- Skyr: You will see this yogurt taking a huge part of the shelves at the grocery stores, and I ate it everyday for breakfast. It is made by separating skim milk from cream, the milk is then pasteurized, and live cultures from previous batches of skyr are added. When the product has thickened, it is then filtered, and various flavors added, like vanilla or berries and more recently mango, coconut. Delicious and great protein source!
- FAST FOOD IS EVERYWHERE – Hot dog, hamburger, french fries, pizza, and fish and chips are EVERYWHERE! If you are looking for a quick fix for your hunger, you are covered and won’t have a hard time finding anything listed on this menu.
Controversial Meat – DO NOT EAT!
In the past, struggling coastal communities in Iceland had to use all of the natural resources available for survival – Including eating horses, whales, and puffin meat. But nowadays thankfully we no longer live in a survival mode.
If the tourists stop this nonsense habit and do not sustain this type of behavior, we can stop restaurants and local shops from continuing this practice.
Be respectful, be ethical and be a conscious traveler in Iceland!
There is a Costco on the way from the airport. If you are a member, consider stopping to buy snacks and food before you continue your adventure.
You can also find the local Iceland grocery stores Netto and Bonus for your grocery needs throughout Iceland. In smaller towns, you can only find local stores with limited items to sell and also convenience stores. Make sure you stock up on snacks, gas, and water before you leave the town – you may drive for hours without seeing anything.
Trip Planning Iceland for Adventure Travelers
Iceland offers a huge variety of activities for all adventure travelers and fitness levels. You can stroll around a small town, hike up a crater or have an adventure such as ice climbing.
Iceland has endless possibilities in every corner of the island. Just make sure you book the activities you are planning to do in advance, especially during the high season. These are some of the most popular:
GLACIER HIKING & ICE CLIMBING: More than 10% of Iceland is covered with glaciers, so it is the perfect place for glacier hiking and ice climbing. Glacier hiking tours range from easy to extreme, which means there’s an adventure that is sure to fit your style.
HIKING: Iceland is filled with wonderful opportunities for hiking; there are hiking trails in every direction. No matter which way you turn, you will find a hiking trail, but make sure to stay on the trails so you don’t ruin the natural landscape.
WHITE WATER RAFTING: Iceland offers great options for a white water rafting adventure. Even though none of the rivers in Iceland offer Class 5 rapids, there are three rivers that offer adventurous rides down the river, one of which is categorized as a Class 4 river.
SNORKELING OR SCUBA AT SILFRA: One very popular activity in Iceland is snorkeling or scuba dive at the Silfra. Located in Thingvellir National Park, the Silfra rift is a fissure that lies between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. The water is fed from the meltwater of a nearby glacier and visibility is top-notch. Because the water is between 2–4°C, drysuits are necessary.
Planning an Iceland Trip What to Pack
When planning an Iceland Trip remember the packing rules number one: LAYERS, LAYERS, and more LAYERS!!!
It seems that in every country I write about, I say the same thing: “bring layers”.
But especially in Iceland, you can have pretty much all the seasons on the same day…oh well, not necessarily summer, but I am talking about a big variation of a sunny day, rain, snow, heavy winds, and then it will be sunny again.
The first thing is to check the weather of the season you are going to Iceland and pack accordingly. Here is a list with some essentials to pack:
- Rainproof/windproof jacket
- Rain pants
- Lightweight wool sweater
- Warm pants (leggings or hiking pants that you can layer)
- Fleece jacket and pants (for layers)
- Merino pants and long sleeve (for layers)
- The combo: Gloves, Scarves & Hat
- Warm socks
- Waterproof hiking boots
- Swimsuit and quick-dry towel (for visiting pools and hot springs – towels and swimsuits are available for rent at swimming facilities)
- Sunblock (yes, I got a sunburn in Iceland)
- Chargers – computer, camera, cell phone…
- Invest in a DC 12V to AC 110V car power inverter. They are not expensive and make a world of difference when driving. Charge your phones, camera, drone, laptop, tablet, etc. while on the road.
If you are doing activities such as horse riding or ice climbing, they provide all the gear so, no need to pack it with you.
PLANNING TRIP ICELAND Photography & Eletronic Equipments
We all know that Iceland is a very unique and magical place. It is impossible to not take many pictures and want to capture the amazing moments while traveling around Iceland.
Therefore, do not forget to bring your camera equipment with you:
- This is the camera I use and love – Sony Mirrorless a7III
- Bring a couple of good lenses for different pictures – I always carry this lens with me
- Extra memory cards
- I recommend bringing some filters
- Tripod to photograph the waterfalls and depending on the time of the year, the Aurora Borealis.
- If you want to capture amazing videos, I use and recommend a Gimble Smartphone Stabilizer
- I also recommend a GoPro HERO9 for some action images videos and pictures.
- You can also capture incredible Drone images in Iceland. I use DJI Mavic Air 2
** BE AWARE that the extreme weather in Iceland may damage your photography electronics. My camera stopped working in the middle of my trip, and I had to rely on my cell phone for pictures. The rain, mist from the waterfalls, sand from the beach, and strong winds are not the electronic best friends. I recommend using a plastic bag to evolve your camera.
PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO ICELAND Travel Responsibly
To preserve one of the world’s most fragile environments, it is incredibly important that every Iceland traveler is conscious of their social and environmental footprint. Iceland is ahead of much of the world in terms of ecotourism.
You will notice that there aren’t many signs, fences, or other barriers around the natural wonders in Iceland. Please use your common sense.
- Do not step over ropes that are blocking an area – Hot springs can be dangerously hot and rocks near waterfalls can be slippery. One of the wonderful things about Iceland is that there are no imposed regulations about where you can and cannot walk. Everything is wild, and it is up to the traveler to take their own personal responsibility.
- Don’t Vandalize the Moss – they are incredibly delicate and it takes decades to recover
- Treat Wildlife with Respect – they roam freely so it is important to treat any animal you may encounter with respect. This includes the horses! And be careful with bird colonies!
- Support the Whale-Watching Industry – Whale hunting has been a historically significant part of Icelandic culture, and you can still find whales served in restaurants and supermarkets throughout the country. Whale hunting is still conducted in Iceland today, but supporting the whale watching industry is the best way to help end this ancient practice permanently.
PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO ICELAND final thougths
During planning your trip to Iceland, make sure you do some preplanning, research, and understanding what you are looking for will help make your travels far more successful and safe.
Make sure you have the places you want to visit highlighted. Iceland offers amazing things to do and explore. You can visit my Travel Planning and print the easy 10-steps to plan an international trip.
Below are the 8 ESSENTIAL STEPS for planning your trip to Iceland:
- DECIDE HOW MANY DAYS YOU HAVE AND WHAT YOU WANT TO VISIT: Depend on how many days you have to explore Iceland, you can visit the Golden Circle (5 days), the Ring Road (10-days) or if you have more time, you can include other locations. Check my Iceland Travel Guide for amazing ideas and itineraries.
- BUY A GUIDE BOOK: During planning your trip to Iceland, an excellent resource is to buy an IcelandTravel guidebook. They have tons of great information on main attractions, places to stay, and many curiosities about Iceland’s culture.
- BOOK YOUR FLIGHT: There are great options to fly direct to Iceland. Book in advance to try to get a better deal. The flights are approx. 6-8 hours. I recommend you browse through Skyscanner to find the best options for flights.
- BOOK YOUR ACCOMMODATION IN ADVANCE: Iceland has great options for accommodations, but make sure you book in advance to take advantage of the best prices and best options. I recommend Booking.com as it has a great policy of free cancelation.
- BUY TRAVEL INSURANCE: Wherever you go or do during your travels, don’t travel anywhere in the world without travel insurance; the unexpected can, and often does, happen. I strongly recommend reliable travel insurance through World Nomads
- START PACKING: It will depend on when you go to Iceland to pack accordingly. Check my recommended packing list. Don’t forget your bathing suit
- BE A RESPONSIBLE TRAVELER: Responsible and Ethical traveling is REALLY IMPORTANT. Check my complete guide
- BOOK ANY TOUR IN ADVANCE: There are great options for group or VIP tours in Iceland, just make sure you check the many options and book in advance. Check here for options or check some options for you below: