Planning an Iceland vacation may be tricky as there are many nuances you need to keep in mind if you consider going to this northern European destination. In our previous post, we discussed the benefits of winter travel to Iceland as well as shared handy tips on Northern Lights seeking. Below, we answer most often asked questions on what you need to know before setting off on an Iceland holiday.
Why visit Iceland?
Most people in the world who think of Iceland have the image of a desolate, frozen wild corner of the planet. But it is this country's feature of "the land untouched by man" is what magnets travelers.
Despite rather drastic weather conditions, Iceland's rich wildlife and extraterrestrial beauty are what make it so appealing.
Powerful geysers, growling massive waterfalls, sky-blue glaciers, hot thermal lagoons, and even "diamond" beaches: the opportunities to discover something new are endless.
What is more, the rich wildlife of Iceland is another reason to pay a visit. Did you know that it is actually one of the best places in the world for whale watching? Sounds exciting, huh?
When is the best time to visit Iceland?
The choice of when to go to Iceland differs on the reason for travel you are pursuing. If the main aim of your Iceland adventure is catching the colorful natural light show of the Northern Lights, the trip should definitely fall on the winter months. But if you'd like to explore the country from a non-winter fairytale perspective, you won't go wrong by choosing in favor of the warmer part of the year.
The summer months are when most people prefer to travel to Iceland. July and August are popular due to rather mild weather, but what you should therefore understand is that the demand for everything from hotels to tickets to activities is much higher, meaning extra crowds and extra cash.
Thus, planning a visit to Iceland in may May, June, and September are a great middle ground of when to visit Iceland in terms of both weather and everything else.
What Iceland weather to expect?
Keeping in mind that Iceland is a northern country, it's pretty obvious that the temperatures there are generally low. But the question that arises most often is exactly how cold is it in Iceland?
Without a doubt, the coldest time of the year is winter, and the temperatures are lowest in Iceland in December, November and from January to early March. As the days become longer in spring, the weather gradually becomes warmer.
The weather in the summertime is the most pleasant with the best Iceland weather in being July. Thermometer marks can go up as high as 11°C (around 52°F), but don't take it for granted. The country is very close to the Arctic Circle and has strong piercing winds.
What's for the fall months, September is the mildest autumn month preferable for a trip as the Iceland October weather tends to drastically get colder with quickly dropping outside temperatures.
Where to go in Iceland?
The most popular of all Iceland destinations is, without a doubt, the capital city, Reykjavik. This is the city with the major international airport in the country and home to many top-notch Iceland hotels. The capital has many renown Iceland sights and has much to offer travelers, thus, is a "must" inclusion to any Iceland sightseeing tours.
Those who wish to see geysers set off to the Golden Circle, this is one of the best places to go in Iceland to enjoy nature. The thermal hot waters of the Blue Lagoon is, of course, among other major Iceland points of interest near the capital, attracting thousands of tourists annually.
The list doesn't end at that as this is a country of gorgeous waterfalls, plus such places as the Iceland black sand beach and diamond beach are unique spots to place on your agenda. You can read more here about Iceland Top 10 Experiences.
Things to do in Iceland in summer
Certainly, the number one of all things to do in Iceland in June, July or August is going whale watching. These months are considered to be the ones with the highest chance to see these beautiful huge creatures. Not to mention the adorable puffin birds (real heartthrobs) which you may catch a glimpse of along the way!
Although you can visit glaciers any time of the year, many believe that glacier hikes are more thrilling in the warmer months. Outdoor activities like visits to the waterfalls from Gulfuss to Seljalandsfoss and Svartifoss, trips to one-of-a-kind beaches, boat rides, fishing trips, cave explorations, rafting, horseback riding, are among other popular pastimes.
If winter boasts the Aurora lights, summer has the Midnight Sun, when it's light for almost 24-hours a day. This unique phenomenon adds a spice to Iceland trips, not to mention the lucky ones who get to see traditional Summer Solstice celebrations in June.
What to pack for an Iceland trip?
As mentioned previously, the weather conditions are rather chilly all year round, plus the country is quite windy.
For this reason, the general rule for packing your bags is to bring enough warm clothes which are water and windproof. Hats, scarves, gloves are other things which you should take. Warm comfortable walking shoes are a must also.
To be on the safe side, have a small medical aid kit with you with all the medication you take on a regular, plus some "basic need" meds, band-aids, and etc.
If you'd like to travel to the wilder parts of Iceland, make sure to pack a power bank for charging your devices. By the way, speaking of Iceland electricity, the plugs are 220V for round pins so you might need a power adapter.
Do I need an Iceland visa?
Iceland is a Schengen country, meaning that if you're a passport holder of one of the Schengen countries as well as Canada, the USA, Mexico, Brazil, Australia, (among about 20 others) you don't need to have a visa if you plan to stay for no more than 90 days. As for other countries, it's best to check whether citizens of your country need an Iceland travel visa. If yes, you'll most likely need to obtain one in the official consulate back at home before your trip, not upon arrival.
In any case, a valid passport for at least 6 months after your planned date of arrival and a minimum of 2 empty passport pages for stamps are some of the major Iceland visa requirements, applicable to everyone.
What's for other documents, it is wise to take care of your travel insurance beforehand to safeguard yourself from possible unpleasant circumstances while you're abroad.
Currency of Iceland: Making payments
Not sure what currency does Iceland use? The answer is Iceland krona or Icelandic krona.
You may convert cash Iceland money to USD or vice versa on the spot in one of the exchange offices or banks. Usually, the average rate is 100 ISK to 0.85 USD.
Plus, most places accept debit cards (credit cards are not so widely used) so you can easily make payments.
Nevertheless, mind the possible conversion fees, so check with your bank regarding its policies for payments in foreign countries prior to the start of your trip.
In any case, most of the time it is more beneficial to pay with a card than to convert cash.
Iceland language tips
A little effort always pays off, especially when it comes to learning a couple of words in the language of the country you're planning to travel to.
The locals will surely appreciate it and give you a smile.
Words of the Icelandic language may seem difficult to pronounce but here are some you can give a try.
"Halló" is a greeting similar to the one used in English, "Bless" stands for "Bye-bye".
"Takk" is the word used to say "thank you" and "vinsamlegast" means "please".
Not that hard, right?
All in all when it comes to Iceland travel the first rule is "be prepared". We hope that you've found these tips useful! And if you have more questions about the destination and planning a trip, don't hesitate to contact our travel specialists..