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In an average year, Iceland welcomes about two million tourists from around the globe. For a country with a population of less than 400,000, that’s quite a lot!
But it’s not surprising. Iceland boasts glaciers, erupting volcanoes, epic waterfalls, quaint buildings, and so much more! There are plenty of unique cultural experiences to enjoy in the Land of Fire and Ice.
And when you start planning a trip to Iceland, you will soon realize you have tons of options, and that can get overwhelming. How are you to know how long to stay in Iceland or when to go if you’ve never been before?!
Don’t worry, these tips will help you make all the key decisions so you can concentrate on having an amazing trip.
1. Decide on Your Iceland Trip Duration
If you want to travel to Iceland and start organizing transport and accommodation, this is the first decision you will need to make.
Your Iceland trip duration will depend on a few factors:
- How many days you can spare from commitments e.g. family and work
- How many days you can afford
- What there is to see and do in Iceland
In reality, there is no point in planning a trip to Iceland if you are only going to be there for two nights. So, you have three options:
- Long weekend (four/five days) = Reykjavik and one or two day-trips
- Seven days = Reykjavik and a whistle-stop tour of Iceland’s ring road
- 10 to 14 days = Reykjavik and Iceland’s ring road
Reykjavik is Iceland’s capital city and the ring road is the road that circumnavigates the entire country. You can drive the ring road in one week, but in an ideal world, you need longer to explore everything it has to offer.
2. Choose the Best Time to Travel to Iceland
Once you’ve decided how long you are going to spend in Iceland, you need to choose the best time of year to travel to Iceland. Here are some considerations.
You should 100% take into account when you can see the Northern Lights AKA Aurora Borealis. It is a natural light display that you can only see from certain countries (northern ones) at night during certain times of the year.
It’s an incredible sight and can often be the main reason why people want to visit.
In Iceland, the best time of year to see the Northern Lights runs from late September to late March. During the summer, Iceland experiences very little darkness. That’s a great time of year to visit if you want to see the sun at midnight, but not to see the Northern Lights.
Iceland’s weather conditions and temperatures are other factors. June, July, and August are Iceland’s hottest, driest months with highs of 56°F.
The coldest, snowiest months are from November to April where the highs are under 40°F.
It snows in Iceland from October to April. Since snow is so common there, if you want to drive the ring road during this period then it’s very possible. But if you are not used to driving in snow, avoid traveling to Iceland in December and January when the snowfall is at its heaviest.
The last thing to consider is annual events. Christmastime in Reykjavik is very festive and the city boasts beautiful decorations.
Iceland is a proud supporter of the LGBTQ+ community and they host a massive Pride celebration every second week in August. There are lots of other cool festivals and celebrations throughout the year, too.
3. Public Transport or Car Rental?
Now you know how long and what time of year you are traveling to Iceland, you likely have a rough idea of whether you will use public transport or rent a car.
Driving the ring road around Iceland? There are several car rental firms both at Keflavík International Airport and in the city.
If the road conditions and the prospect of driving in another country make you feel anxious, this quick guide should ease your concerns.
For those who are taking a long weekend in Reykjavik, tour groups are the way to go. Reykjavik is such a small capital city that, unless you have accessibility needs, you can walk everywhere.
There are several airport buses to the city you can take, too. Don’t hop in a taxi unless you have the dosh! Remember, Iceland is a pricey country.
4. Plan Your Iceland Trip Itinerary
You could live in Iceland for years and still not see everything there is to do in this amazing country.
But here are some suggestions of what you should put on your itinerary when planning a trip to Iceland:
- Explore Iceland’s capital city Reykjavik
- Join a whale watching tour
- Relax in the Blue Lagoon Thermal Spa
- Chase waterfalls in Southern Iceland
- Visit a lava field (if you can!)
- Take a Golden Circle day tour
- Witness the Northern Lights
- Hike glaciers or go ice climbing
- Learn about Icelandic elves and knitwear
- Snorkel between the tectonic plates
Whatever you decide, sprinkle your personality into your schedule.
Are you a bookworm? Research independent bookshops in Iceland! And if you love donuts or cocktails, include a visit to a top bakery or a nice bar.
It will help your trip to Iceland feel more special.
5. Organize Your Paperwork and Visas
Aside from booking your flights, the most important thing you need to do before you travel to Iceland is to organize your travel documents!
Check your passport is valid and if you are renting a car in Iceland, don’t forget to bring your driver’s license.
Planning a Trip to Iceland Is Half the Fun
It won’t take long for it to sink in that you are planning a trip to Iceland of all places. One of the most stunning, unbelievable, and Instagrammable places on earth!
Now you have these tips, you can enjoy the process of preparing and getting excited before your trip. It will make your vacation all the more magical.
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