If you’re going to Iceland try and see the Northern Lights or experience the marvel of the Geysers then you’ll want to make the most of your trip. We’ve come up with our top 7 tips for travelling to Iceland.
The Blue Lagoon (and other hot springs)
One of the biggest Icelandic traditions which date back to the Viking era when they settled here is public bathing in warm pools. In Iceland, a trip to a hot spring or public bathing location is much more, they’re community centres where people of all ages gather with friends, relax and recover after long nights of excessive indulgence.
No trip to Iceland is complete without a trip to a public bath or swimming pool, however, nothing comes close to finding a natural hot spring in the wilderness much like the famous Blue Lagoon. If you’re staying in the Reykjavik area there are several hot springs and plenty of guided hot spring tours. The two best include the Reykjadalur hot spring tour and the Landmannalaugar hiking and hot spring tour.
Day trip to Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
Explore Iceland and see the diverse landscapes and features with a day trip to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Affectionately nicknamed ‘Iceland in Miniature’ due to the variety of different landscapes you can see on the peninsula. These, however, have nothing on the crowning glory of this part of Iceland, the Snæfellsjökull glacier.
This is a twin-peaked glacier which sits over a volcano on the peninsula’s tip. Snæfellsjökull is surrounded by a dramatic coastline on three sides and jagged lava fields. You are able to see the glacier from a couple of the area’s other top attractions, such as the all-but-abandoned hamlet of Búðir and the Lóndrangar sea stacks.
Go whale watching
Did you know that over 20 species of whale, dolphin and porpoise can be found in Iceland’s waters? This makes it an incredible place to go for a spot of whale-watching.
There are plenty of boat tours that head out from the ports, in particular Reykjavík, however, you can catch sight of whales from the shores of Westfjords. If you are looking for the most successful tours then it has been said that Húsavik is the best place for this. The small Northern town is often referred to as the whale watching capital of Europe, Húsavik sits by Skjálfandi Bay, which teems with aquatic life throughout the summer. Spot harbour porpoises, white-beaked dolphins and humpback whales almost every day.
Plan your Golden Circle route
One of the most popular sightseeing routes in Iceland is the Golden Circle route. It only takes approximately five hours for you to complete and it takes you to the most spectacular features in Southwest Iceland: Thingvellir National Park (or Þingvellir is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site on Iceland’s mainland.
Thingvellir is located in an incredible valley situated between both the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Which means that it boasts a spectacular landscape of lava fields and forests, which are interrupted with crystal clear streams.
The Geysir Geothermal Area, in contrast, is home to explosive geysers that the name of the largest became ‘The Great Geysir’. Although sadly, The Great Geysir is now virtually dormant, its neighbour Strokkur impressively erupts around every five minutes and reaches heights of over twenty metres.
You can drink the water
Many tourists fall foul to a bottled water scam in Iceland. With fresh, clean water available in abundance, many hotels, bars and restaurants claim the water is unsafe to drink and try and sell exorbitantly priced bottled water, which the majority of the time has come from the tap in these locations. This is an additional money-making trap for tourists. Take your own bottle and fill it up wherever you go, the water is perfectly safe to drink everywhere.
Beer consumption in Iceland
As prohibition occurred in Iceland for the greater part of the 20th century the drinking culture in Iceland is still in its infancy. Many Icelanders maintain a strange and premature relationship with most forms of alcohol which is exclusively sold in state-run stores called Vinbudin (The Wine Store).
You may see Supermarket shelves however that are stocked with what looks like beer, but is, in fact, non-alcoholic beer. As this isn’t a widely known fact often visitors stock their shopping trolleys with this ‘beer’ and are often disappointed once they realise that the beer contains no alcohol.
Avoid “puffin shops”
Specifically tailored to travellers these souvenir boutiques in the capital have in recent years become a distinguishing feature. Driving out small local businesses, galleries and cafes.
These puffin shops supposedly sell authentic souvenirs and memorabilia to remind you of your trip, these ‘authentic’ Icelandic pieces are in fact mass-produced from China and in no way authentic.
If you’re looking for authentic Icelandic pieces from your trip avoid these shops and buy directly from the gift shop in the National Museum or visit the Kolaportið flea market, located downtown by the Reykjavik harbour and is open on weekends.
Have you been to Iceland? Have you got any other tips for first-time travellers to make the most out of their Icelandic trip? Leave your tips in the comments below. As always if you thought this article was of value, we’d love you to share it across social media.