How To Visit Iceland – Things You MUST Know Before You Go!
Coming from Australia, when I tell people about my trip to Iceland in the midst of winter, I’m more often greeted with shock and statements like “why on EARTH would you go to Iceland in winter?! What’s even there?!”
But to me, that’s the point of going to new countries – seeing new things that you don’t have in your home country! Snow storms, blizzards and ice are definitely something we don’t get back home in Australia. Even though the weather might seem like a struggle to some, this all just contributed to why Iceland was my favourite destination on my adventures around Europe so far.
For those of us from the Southern Hemisphere or other warmer parts of the world, going to Iceland (or any part of Europe in the winter) can be a shock in terms of adjusting to the temperature – or lack-thereof!
So, from my fantastic experience, I’ve decided to share a few tips for anyone who is about to visit the beautiful land of ice… or planning to!
1 – EXPENSES
Iceland is known to be quite an expensive country. If you’ve ever been to the U.K, use that as a guide. Basically everything is double to what you are used to paying. Coffee costs an average of $5.50 for a small cup and expect to pay about $25-$30 for an average meal. The positive is that literally everywhere accepts all credit cards (even phone booths) as well as cash. So this is something to keep in mind when planning your adventures and length of stay.
2 – WEATHER & CLOTHING
It’s called Iceland for a reason – it’s absolutely FREEZING in the winter! You will need layers and definitely thermals. You can buy a lot of your clothes from Uniqlo before you arrive in Iceland if you want warm and reasonably priced clothes (be sure to get things from the Heattech range).
I absolutely hate down jackets, but unfortunately there isn’t any other type of jacket or coat that will do the job and I was actually so thankful to have my little ‘fat suit’. A quality scarf, pair of proper gloves and snow boots (or at least boots that can handle snowy weather) are also essential.
As for what type of bags are suitable – backpacks all the way. I carried my Fjallraven Kanken all throughout my trip.
3 – ACCOMODATION
If you are going to be in Iceland for any longer than 1 day, you really should stay around Reykjavik. Some places around Keflavik (near the airport) might offer cheaper accommodation options, but unless you can drive and have experience driving in the snow, staying anywhere other than Reykjavik is just inconvenient as tour buses won’t drop you back at your accommodation and it can be a serious pain in the ass when you have to figure out your means of transport in the freezing cold snow and where to get food if/when you are hungry.
4 – TOURS
I’m not big into tours as some people are but I noticed in Iceland it’s kind of ‘the thing to do’ if you’re a tourist/traveler. The tour companies are really well organised with fantastic activities for all age groups and interests.
Pretty much all guesthouses and hotels will have tour information and I really recommend taking advantage if these tours because they enable you to see the best parts of Iceland with expert guidance. You don’t have to worry about getting lost, transport, how to plan your day etc because it’s all done for you. Additionally, if you are traveling solo, this is a nice opportunity to meet others!
The tours I did were:
- The Golden Circle – a popular full day tour where you visit geysers, Gulfoss Falls and other heritage sites – you really have to be super warm for this one!
- A Northern Lights ‘hunt’ – as the title suggests, an interesting tour where the tour takes place on a night with clear weather to hunt for the beautiful Northern Lights.
- Horse riding Icelandic horses at Eldhestar Ranch
I also visited the Blue Lagoon but as it was the main attraction I wanted to see, I decided not to go with a tour group because I wanted to have as much time as I liked there and all the tour packages were for set amounts of time. It’s essential you book in advance online as if you wait until you arrive in Iceland, all your preferred dates might be sold out.
Make Sure You Pack…
- A thick down jacket
- Gloves are a must!
- Thermal leggings/underwear/pants
- Heatpacks/heat stickers for the body
- Boots which you don’t mind getting dirty
- Swimwear for hot springs
- BYO towel/robe for Blue Lagoon if you don’t want to pay for the VIP package – trust me you will need your own towel/robe if you don’t get this option
- Snacks for day trips
- Moisturisers and creams – cold weather is very harsh
- Your camera!