Iceland exercises the imagination like no other destination. Waterfalls seem to pour over every cliff edge and mountain face, mud pots pop, volcanoes…
Take a Tour of Iceland
Best Time To Go
Travel between June and August tends to be the most popular with visitors. June offers 24 hours of Arctic daylight, while July and August are the warmest months, offering the best chances for good weather. Travel between mid-September and mid-October is perhaps the most ideal, as you’ll miss the swell of high-season tourist traffic, sneak in before snowfall blankets the trails, and have a solid chance of seeing the northern lights. Although winter weather can be an impediment, and the narrow window of daylight can shorten your sightseeing, excellent deals can be scored during the off-season.
Know Before You Go
Iceland’s postcrash reputation as a budget-friendly destination is very much a thing of the past. The depression on the currency has lifted and prices have inflated considerably—liquor and food are particularly expensive. With the veritable avalanche of tourism over the last five years, we recommend limiting the amount of time you spend in Reykjavík (a city with the population of New York City’s SoHo neighborhood). Instead, venture out to explore the smaller towns and villages scattered around Iceland’s coast.
Bargain airfare prices have undercut the major transatlantic players, with Icelandair and Wow Air servicing Keflavík International Airport (about a 50-minute drive from Reykjavík) directly from dozens of major U.S. cities. Car rentals are the most convenient way to explore the island, although mountain roads and general off-roading should be left to experienced guides. There’s one ribbon of road—Route 1—that travelers can follow for a complete loop around Iceland.
Iceland is continuously subjected to the fickle weather of the North Atlantic, and travelers should pack for all four seasons no matter the time of year. Summertime can reach levels of T-shirt comfort, while many visitors are surprised to discover that winter temperatures may be milder than America’s northeast. But don’t underestimate the wind factor: it’s the key element that can transform a sunny day into a bitterly cold one. Weather patterns are always changing—a beautiful day on the western coast of the island could mean ravaging storms in the east. That’s why Icelanders are famous for saying, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” The country’s winds can transform the weather more than a dozen times in a single day.
Do you have any tips for visitors traveling through Iceland?
When you arrive, check the weather forecast every day and be flexible. There are so many beautiful parts of the country and you don’t want to underestimate how long it might take you to see something. In three days, it is impossible to see the whole country. Focus instead on one area and try to see it well. Like in most places, learn how to say hello (halló [ha-low]) or thank you (Þakka þér fyrir [thah-ka thyer fi-rir]) in the local language. Be sensitive to the natural surroundings as well. Off-road driving is illegal, and try to not trample on moss. Pay attention to the signs. There are a lot of hot springs and hot areas that they might be warning you about or other natural wonders that are safer to be seen from afar.
Can you describe Iceland in one sentence?
Unique nature and inspiring culture within easy reach.