Fairy-tale Iceland is a wonderful destination to visit, but prepare your trip well. These are the things you should take into account before travelling to this northern island!
#1 The summer days are long, but in the winter the number of daylight hours is limited
Iceland is very northern, so the daylight hours change considerably in winter and summer. At the beginning of January, there are only 4.5 hours of daylight, but that will soon increase. In February it is already 7. On the longest day of the year it is does not get dark all over the country, so in the summer months the days are very long.
#2 The international airport is not in Reykjavik, but in Keflavik
Reykjavik may be the capital of Iceland, but the international airport is at the westernmost tip of the island in Kevlavik. You can rent cars in both Reykjavik and Kevlavik, so check closely where you book a car. Buses run regularly from Kevlavik to Reykjavik; it’s only a 45-minute ride. So don’t take an expensive taxi, but use the Flybus.
#3 In the winter, some parts of the country are difficult or impossible to access
The winter in Iceland must be wonderful. I have seen photos of beautiful waterfalls in an ice environment and a fairytale-like Reykjavik with snow. A wonderful time to visit the country, but also bear in mind that some parts of the country are difficult or impossible to access. I traveled to Iceland in April / May and even then there was a snowstorm in the north, making it unwise to visit that part of the country. So keep this in mind if you want to drive the Ring Road and explore the north.
#4 The northern lights can only be seen in the winter months
Is the northern lights on your don’t miss list for Iceland? Remember that you can only see the northern lights in the winter months. With a bit of luck you can enjoy this fairy-tale natural phenomenon from September to April, but you have the best chance in the deep winter months. And even then you won’t see them every night. There are of course all kinds of “Northern Lights Tours” offered, but a tour agency won’t have more or less luck than you to see the polar lights. The only thing you need is a clear sky, an unobstructed view without light pollution and happiness. Keep an eye on this site for the best aurora forecasts!
#5 The Ring Road and other main roads are of top quality
Main roads such as the Ring Road are of top quality. The asphalt is good and the roads are wide. You don’t need 4WD for these roads; you can easily handle a 2WD as long as you do not drive off road and avoid the F roads inland. So don’t be afraid to rent a car and explore the island at your own pace. The car routes are often beautiful and you have the chance to escape the larger masses.
#6 Iceland is not cheap
Iceland is unfortunately one of the more expensive destinations. The price level is high, so your overnight stays, meals and also supermarket visits will be expensive. On the other hand, you have many cheap flights to Iceland from Europe and most tourist attractions can be visited for free, as they are simply nature itself. Good ways to save your budget are to cook yourself – many guesthouses offer the possibility to prepare your own breakfast and dinner in the guest kitchen – and camp in a camper or tent. Read more budget tips in this blog (coming soon).
#7 The Ring Road is not the same as the Golden Circle
Do not confuse these roads with each other. The Ring Road is the most important road in Iceland and runs around the island. A road trip on the Ring Road is a great way to explore the island. The Golden Circle is a much smaller tour along highlights such as the geysers in Geysir, the place where two tectonic plates meet and the huge waterfalls of Gullfoss. It is near Reykjavik and is therefore a popular day trip from the capital, with organised tours or a rental car. It is not really a tour though; there is not just one main road. It is simply an indication of the day trip that you can make along the three major sights in this area.
#8 Whales and puffins mainly show themselves in the summer months
Whales can be spotted all year round in the waters around Iceland, but the best time is in the summer months from June to August. The same applies to the colonies of puffins. The birds migrate to Iceland around May and move away again around August.
#9 Icelanders believe in elves and magic folk
And that’s usually not a joke. You can go to the Icelandic Elf School in Reykjavik – guilty, we did a course – and most elves are said to live in Hafnarfjörður where you can buy a map with an elf tour at the tourist office. Okay, I’ll admit: I did that too. The people of Iceland will not easily tell you all about their belief in elves, but it is quite serious. In many gardens you will see little houses for the elves and it is not allowed to build in places where elves would live.
#10 You must book a visit to the Blue Lagoon in advance
The famous Blue Lagoon is one of the most popular attractions and we understand why. The steaming hot spring in the cold surroundings was breathtakingly beautiful. A wonderful moment to relax! But it is also very touristy, often busy and expensive. You have to book it in advance, so you cannot go here on a spontaneous visit. Tip: skip the Blue Lagoon and go to one of the less known hot springs! Less visited and more natural options than the Blue Lagoon are for example Hveragerði, Landmannalaugar and Mývatn.