Iceland is a remote wilderness, designed to bring out your adventurous spirit. But this hostile environment needs some pre-planning. Here are our 11 Iceland travel tips to help you on your way.


Iceland is a unique destination with an intrepid streak. Quirky natural phenomenon, breath-taking scenery and a barren desolate landscape make Iceland an excellent choice for a road trip with plenty of opportunities to get off the beaten track.

As a bleak and at times inhospitable environment, Iceland has all the right ingredients for a quality dose of adventure travel. But, as a popular tourist destination its prone to over-crowding, putting stress on limited precious resources.

The good news is that Iceland has a core that is much less visited and – in our opinion – a much more enticing way to spend time in the country. Free from over-crowding, some of the more remote parts of Iceland have beautiful barren scenery, friendly helpful locals and experiences to help you recharge and unwind. But being a remote and vulnerable environment, planning is required to make sure you visit Iceland in a sustainable way.

With Iceland’s coronavirus strategies keeping the virus more contained than other countries, and a testing on arrival process for visitors, there’s never been a better time to enjoy the rejuvenating affects that only Iceland can deliver.

Here are our travel tips for Iceland to help you plan for an amazing adventure.

1 / TRAVELING TO ICELAND AND COVID-19

As of 15 June 2020, Iceland has opened its borders to foreign travellers once again. As one of the first countries offering COVID-19 testing on arrival, Iceland is taking practical steps to ensure public safety; allowing visitors to explore this barren island with some level of peace of mind.

All visitors will be required to take a COVID-19 test at the airport on arrival which will cost ISK15,000 ($100 / €97 / £87) for an individual test (free until 1 July). Once you’ve had your test you are free to progress on to your first stop in Iceland until you wait for your test results, which will take 24 hours. Arrivals who do not wish to get the COVID-19 test on arrival will be required to self-isolate for 2 weeks before they are allowed to travel freely around Iceland.

With arrival testing and contact tracing via an app, Iceland is well established to welcome back tourists in a responsible way. As always, frequent hand washing and social distance is still required but with so much beautiful open space to enjoy, that shouldn’t be too much of a chore. All information, including pre-registration requirements, are available on the Visit Iceland website.

2 / UNDERSTAND YOUR IMPACT ON ICELAND

Each year, Iceland’s 360,000 locals welcome over 2 million visitors. With such an overload of tourists, it’s important to tread lightly as you explore the island.

Some of the wild and remote attractions that make this such a magical place to visit were never established with the facilities required to support so many people. Therefore, car parks may seem small, rubbish bins may be non-existent and public toilets not where you’d hope they would be. This means extra care and planning is required to ensure you travel sustainably in Iceland.

Take all your rubbish with you, check parking in advance and understand what facilities are at a destination so you can plan accordingly. Always make sure you stick to designated tracks (when driving and hiking) as the flora in Iceland is delicate and can easily be damaged.

3 / BOOK ACCOMMODATION WELL IN ADVANCE ESPECIALLY IN THE SOUTH EAST

One of the blessings about Iceland and their approach to managing large tourist numbers is that they haven’t built lots of huge hotels, blighting the landscape. Accommodation has been added responsibly, in areas that can support it without harming the environment.

The downside to this is that accommodation in Iceland can get booked up very early. This is particularly the case in the South East which is very popular with overnight trippers from Reykjavik.

So if you’re venturing to the Jökulsárlón to witness Diamond Beach or the incredible canyon of Fjaðrárgljúfur, make sure you book your accommodation well in advance. We have recommendations for where to stay in each area on our 10-day Iceland Itinerary.

4 / GET OFF THE RING ROAD

One of the issues with over-tourism in Iceland is that many use it as a stop-over between the USA and Europe. This means Reykjavik can become very busy with people exploring for just a day or two.

A great way to overcome this, see more of the beautiful landscape and help to keep some social distance between you and your fellow travellers, is to get out into the highlands. A diversion from the popular Ring Road will take you into a wilderness area of steaming volcanic activity and rainbow coloured mountains. It’s a beautiful part of the country. You’ll also discover that there are thermal pools more enticing, more natural and more awesome than the Blue Lagoon.

We’ve covered all our favourite areas in the Iceland Highlands so you can start planning that perfect, remote experience.

5 / BE AWARE OF THE CONDITIONS

Even in summer, the weather in Iceland can be unpredictable. Icy blasts, torrential rain and snowstorms can appear out of even the sunniest of days. Travelling to the highlands can put you in a completely different weather system to the one you left just a few hours ago.

So, light sneakers and jackets are sometimes not a lot of use in Iceland. Even on the most straightforward of hikes, you probably want decent waterproof hiking boots and warm layers with a quality waterproof jacket. As the conditions can be volatile it’s also a good idea to pack layers so you can stay comfortable in different temperatures.

Over the summer months, it never really gets dark. Something local Icelanders seem to be used to as few of the places we stayed in had blackout curtains. If you’re a light sleeper, eye masks might be a good idea.

6 / KNOW WHERE YOUR NEXT MEAL IS COMING FROM

There are many great excursions you can take in Iceland to appreciate the usual beauty of the country. If you like to travel independently like us, this means awesome road trips to spectacular natural wonders in very remote areas. But, you do need to plan ahead, especially if you want to eat.

In some remote regions, restaurants are limited to hotels and other accommodation providers that may only cater to guests. Similarly, if you’re self-catering it’s a good idea to know where you’re getting your supplies from. In some areas of the highlands, shops are few and far between. Where they do exist, it’s hard to imagine you could rustle up a decent meal with the minimal stock they carry.

When travelling around Iceland, keep a backup of some staples such as bread with you. If you come across a well-stocked shop, think a few days ahead rather than just buying for today’s meals.

7 / PACK CAREFULLY FOR ICELAND

It wouldn’t be a list of travel tips for Iceland without a few words on packing.

The volatile weather conditions and remote locations mean there are different scenarios that you need to be prepared for when travelling in Iceland. Firstly, you’ll undoubtedly encounter a variety of different temperatures throughout the day. This means packing layers, including a waterproof, fleece and a substantial jacket for when the temperature really drops. Sturdy walking shoes with a good grip will help navigate the unique volcanic surface, but make sure they’re waterproof as well.

To really take advantage of the social distancing available in Iceland, you’ll want to travel to some of the stunning remote areas. Your own cutlery will come in handy in the highlands, as will a water bottle. The water in Iceland is delicious so there’s no reason to buy bottled water.

Finally, there are plenty of fantastic wild swimming options dotted throughout the country, so swimming gear is essential.

8 / BOOK YOUR TRANSPORT AHEAD OF TIME

There are good public transport options in Iceland, even if you intend on travelling to some of the remote areas in the highlands. However, travelling on public transport takes time, so it’s important to plan your journeys in advance so you know how much you’ll be able to fit in. Also, as transport is in high demand, you should book it in advance as early as possible.

We found that hiring your own car in Iceland is actually one of the more cost-effective purchases you can make. It’s no more expensive than taking public transport but the amount of time you can save and the range of destinations you can get to make it very worthwhile.

Driving in Iceland is relatively easy providing you stick to some important rules. The most important are: never go off-road, it’s damaging to the environment and your car; know the roads you plan to take and understand current conditions; make sure you calculate fuel stops.

More information is available in our driving in Iceland article.

9 / IT’S GENERALLY EXPENSIVE

Make no mistake, Iceland is an expensive country. On our 10-day itinerary, we spent around Kr 700,600 ($6,400 / £5,000 / €5,650) and we’re not exactly extravagant travellers. Most days we made our own lunch and we still spent Kr100,000 on food and booze alone.

Despite what you might read online, it’s not that easy to save money in Iceland. This is particularly the case if you want to get off the beaten track and explore remote areas with few accommodation options.

Hotels are expensive so hiring a campervan will help, however adding in nightly camping fees means your accommodation budget will not shrink as dramatically as you might think. The ability to cook your own meals in your van will help with food costs and taking your own lunch out on day trips is also a good idea.

10 / GET TRAVEL INSURANCE IF YOU ARE NOT IN THE EU

If you live in the EU, you should get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving for Iceland. This will entitle you to free medical care should you need it while you’re away. However, the EHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance which you will still need if you require non-urgent treatment, on-going care or repatriation.

In this current time, it’s very important to check your health insurance for COVID-19 cover. Many old policies generally cover you but anything purchased after March 2020 may not. So, check with your insurance provider to see what this means for you personally.

Unfortunately, car insurance in Iceland can really push up the price, however, with lots of natural opportunities to damage a vehicle, it’s necessary. While your car will have to endure the elements in Iceland, it probably won’t come under any unnatural threats. Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world. Theft protection is often an additional extra when purchasing car insurance in Iceland for a good reason. It’s unlikely this is something you would need.

11 / ENJOY THE ICELANDIC PEOPLE

The Iceland people have a delightful dry sense of humour that’s a treat to enjoy. However, they can tire of hearing the same old complaints about the weather and how expensive it is. As one local pointed out to us, there isn’t a separate queue for Icelandic people to purchase products at a much cheaper rate.

You’ll also find that there’s more than a stoic disposition and cracking sense of humour in Icelandic people. After chatting to a few you’ll discover that everyone seems to have written a book, played in a band, met Yoko Ono or achieved some other kind of artistic greatness.

The other benefit of getting to know the locals is that they know the country. This is a fragile and at times inhospitable landscape so it’s good to get advice from people who understand its quirks.

WHERE NEXT?

If you found this guide useful, please head over to Instagram and follow us to stay up to date with our adventures.

To see the most amazing places, you’ll want to understand how to navigate the F-roads of Iceland – mountain roads for the adventurous road trippers.

Once you venture off the Ring Road there’s a host of quirky and interesting locations to be seen in Iceland. From towering waterfalls to weird bubbling mud pools. Here are some more of our Icelandic adventures.

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BEST BLOG NOMINEE

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BEST UK TRAVEL BLOG

UK BLOG AWARDS, 2019

TRAVEL BLOG OF THE YEAR

LUXLIFE MAGAZINE, 2020