WHY VISIT ICELAND?
For many people, the mention of Iceland evokes images of volcanoes with difficult names or maybe the hip Reykjavík music scene that spawned famous pop stars like Björk. Naturally, as Europe’s least densely populated country, and as an island long isolated from the rest of the world, Iceland may seem like a curious place for a travel destination.
But this land of hot springs, glaciers, lava fields and waterfalls is a nature lover’s paradise, with a largely unspoiled and surreal landscape that inspires countless artists and photographers. Travellers seeking an adventure won’t be disappointed, with miles of scenic roadway circling the entire country and endless opportunities for outdoor pursuits – from leisurely, family-friendly activities to more active excursions for thrill seekers.
And despite the country’s name, Icelandic summers are surprisingly mild and green, with nonstop daylight around the midsummer thanks to the phenomenon known as the midnight sun. Whereas during winter, the longer nights create ideal conditions for the northern lights – a fascinating experience on many travellers’ bucket lists.
- Check out these summer tours in Iceland
Of course, no matter the season, you can always count on the warm hospitality of the Icelanders, a people fiercely proud of their well-preserved language and heritage that stretches back over a thousand years ago to the Viking Age. From the lively Reykjavík city centre to the rural fishing villages, the unique Icelandic culture with its blend of old and new can be experienced at every turn.
See more travel information, such as currency, internet access and more, at our practical information section.
HOW TO GET TO ICELAND
The main gateway in Iceland is the Keflavík International Airport (KEF), about 50 minutes from Reykjavík. Flight times are approximately 3 hours from London and 5 hours from New York. Icelandair operates direct flights from numerous European and North American cities and there are many other international airlines with flights to Iceland.
Find more information, including entry requirements and airport transfers, at our Getting to Iceland section.
GETTING AROUND IN ICELAND
Route 1, or the “Ring Road”, is the main highway that circles the island and connects most communities. As there are no trains in Iceland, most visitors choose to explore the countryside by rental car or by bus as part of a guided tour. Icelandair and Eagle Air also provide domestic flights from the Reykjavík Domestic Airport to many towns around the country.
In the capital city, Reykjavík, you can easily do most of your sightseeing by foot. Reykjavík is also the starting point for many exciting day tours to the surrounding countryside, such as bus sightseeing tours, 4x4 jeep safaris, horse riding excursions, whale watching tours, glacier hikes and more.
Note: English is widely spoken in Iceland, so most visitors should have no problem getting around. See more about the Icelandic language and learn a few useful words for your stay.
WHEN TO VISIT ICELAND & ICELANDIC WEATHER
There really isn’t a bad time to visit Iceland — it’s just a question of what you are looking for!
Would you like maximum sunlight for driving and sightseeing? June, July and August are the months when you can expect the longest daylight hours, the mildest weather and best availability of outdoor activities. In late June you can even enjoy the peak of the midnight sun phenomenon, in which the sun doesn't fully set below the horizon. Just make sure to bring a sleep mask as it can be hard to fall asleep while it's still bright outside.
Do you like it a little quieter? May and September are ideal months if you want to enjoy decent weather but avoid large crowds. The temperatures are generally mild — although the weather can be a bit more unpredictable than in summer — and there are still ample daylight hours for sightseeing. There is also the possibility of seeing early northern lights in September as night-time darkness returns.
Do you prefer winter scenery and chances for seeing the northern lights? October to April are the best months for Icelandic northern lights tours, when the nighttime darkness is longer.
Alternatively, explore northern lights tours in all Nordic Visitor destinations for a bigger range of options.
Of course, the weather is at its coolest and unpredictable at this time of year, but the snowy and frosty conditions make for fabulous geothermal spa relaxation. For something that will truly blow your mind, consider joining the Icelandic New Year’s festivities!
And, as we say in Iceland, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”. Luckily our Iceland travel experts can offer suggestions of what to wear in Iceland to stay comfortable on your travels. See our list of what to pack for Iceland here.
TOP THINGS TO SEE IN ICELAND
There are countless things to see all around Iceland, including these most popular highlights:
See more Icelandic attractions by region.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN ICELAND
Iceland offers a wide range of activities to suit all tastes, from family-friendly recreation to more adventurous pursuits. Why not try one of these popular activities below?
- Food & culture
- Relaxation & nature
Our itineraries are designed to be flexible, allowing you to add optional activities and day tours, either at the time of your booking or on location during your stay. Your dedicated travel consultant will be able to advise you about available activities or you can browse our selection of day tours in Iceland for ideas.
If you would like to include more activities into your Iceland holiday, we recommend booking a package that includes more time at each overnight location (e.g. two or more nights at the same accommodation). You can also send a us a request to customise a tour.
POPULAR ITINERARIES IN ICELAND
An average stay in Iceland is about 12 days in summer and 5 days in winter, but there is so much you can do in Iceland that you could spend months travelling around and still not cover it all! The capital city, Reykjavik, is a great starting point for any journey or makes a wonderful destination on its own for short breaks and stopovers.
To help you make the most of your time in Iceland, see our helpful itinerary suggestions below. Underneath each suggestion are travel themes that include holidays with similar itineraries.
FROM MAY TO SEPTEMBER
3–4 days: Stay in Reykjavík. Join some day tours to the south coast and/or highlands. A visit to the Blue Lagoon and a Golden Circle tour is also highly recommended. Other popular activities include snowmobiling, horse riding, whale watching, ATV tours and glacier hikes.
City Break / Relaxation & Spa / Luxury and Lifestyle
5–7 days: Start in Reykjavík. Visit the south coast and/or West Iceland, including the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. With 7 days, you can do an express self drive tour around the Ring Road.
Self Drive Tours / Honeymoon / City Break / 4x4 Rental / Relaxation & Spa / Luxury and Lifestyle
8–13 days: Start in Reykjavík. Travel around the Ring Road. With 10 days or more, you can also include Snæfellsnes Peninsula or, if travelling by 4x4, a visit to the Icelandic Highlands.
Self Drive Tours / Honeymoon / Family Travel / 4x4 Rentals / Guided Small Groups / Luxury and Lifestyle
14–20 days: Start in Reykjavík. Add the West Fjords to your Ring Road tour, or enjoy more planned activities along your journey. You can also add a trip to Greenland, with a flight from the Reykjavík Domestic Airport.
Self Drive Tours / Honeymoon / Family Travel / 4x4 Rentals
20 days+: Start in Reykjavík. Do the Ring Road journey and include some detours to more remote areas like Borgarfjörður Eystri, the West Fjords, Snæfellsnes Peninsula or, if travelling by 4x4 vehicle, into the Highlands.
Self Drive Tours
FROM OCTOBER TO APRIL
3–4 days: Stay in Reykjavík. Join some day tours to the south coast and/or Highlands. A visit to the Blue Lagoon and a Golden Circle tour is a good idea. Many activities offered in summer are also available in winter, and if conditions are right, we suggest a northern lights tour.
City Break / Relaxation & Spa / Luxury and Lifestyle / Northern lights
5–9 days: Visit the south coast and/or West Iceland, including the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, or fly to Akureyri and go on guided tours in the Lake Myvatn or Eyjafjörður areas.
Self Drive Tours / Honeymoon / City Break / Luxury and Lifestyle / Northern lights
10 days+: Start in Reykjavík. Visit the south coast and/or West Iceland, including the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. With at least 10 days, you can drive the Ring Road (though we strongly recommend a 4x4 rental vehicle). Another good option is to base your stay at a comfortable self-catering holiday cottage.
Self Drive Tours / Honeymoon / City Break / Luxury and Lifestyle / Northern lights
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Iceland is already an “off the beaten path” destination on its own, but if you want an experience further from the ordinary then consider including the West Fjords region and/or the Highlands as part of your holiday. These are the least-travelled parts of the country, making them ideal for nature lovers and active travellers. Keep in mind, of course, that the roads in these parts of the country can be challenging and require experienced drivers.
Need more help with your Iceland itinerary? Get in touch with us to start planning your trip.