In this article I gathered all Iceland travel tips needed to plan your very own independent road trip through Iceland. Based on my experience traveling the ring road as well as the golden circle route and staying several days at the capital Reykjavik this Iceland guide provides all information needed.
I traveled Iceland together with my friend and fellow YouTuber Gareth Leonard from mid October until the beginning of November with the goal to produce a comprehensive video series about the country. Use the following navigation to jump to the iceland travel tips you are most interested in:
1) Why Iceland?
Iceland is the world’s largest volcanic island and a true dream destination for outdoor lovers and photographers. Located south of the Arctic the island is not only home to 30 volcanic systems, with the Vatnajökull glacier also the largest glacier of Europe can be found here. Therefore you’ll come across many impressive waterfalls (fed by glaciers), hot springs, active volcanoes, geyser’s, black beaches, glacier lagoons, ice caves, fjords and much more…
Through Movies, Social Media and world famous shows such as „Game of Thrones“ Iceland became a very popular hot spot for travelers from all around the globe. Over the past few years, tourism in Iceland tripled. Especially in the summer months the island is booming due to much longer days. But also in winter months Iceland is an attractive destination as it is perfectly located to see the northern lights (I saw them during my time in the north).
The best way to explore the island is, without any doubts, a proper road trip. While you get to see gigantic glaciers and the most spectacular waterfalls in the south, the central highlands are the perfect playground for hikers in summer. In the north you can witness the volcanic activity on the island, in contrast you can relax at the lesser popular fjords in the west and east.
To get an overview I put together a list of my favorite places in Iceland:
- My Top 10 Places to visit in Iceland – for short & long trips
2) Best Time to travel to Iceland
Regarding the weather, the daylight (up to 20 h!) and the chances of spotting whales, the summer months from June-August are the best time to travel to Iceland. Especially if you plan on hiking in the highlands you should focus on summer as this is the time when most roads are likely to be open. The biggest downside of traveling in summer are the masses of tourists you have to share the roads, accommodation and sights with. It can be overwhelming!
But no worries, also the shoulder season in May and September often offers stable weather but you can also come across the first road closures. If you want to gamble a bit more you even have the chance to have some sights all to yourself when you come in April or October – but in matters of weather conditions you need to be prepared for everything.
The winter months from November to March are the best time to go for ice cave tours and to spot the northern lights as the days are way shorter (only 4-5h of daylight in Dec/Jan). Be warned: the weather will be rough, even though it might be relatively mild. This is why many roads will be closed from December to February and you won’t meet many other tourists.
As stated I’ve been traveling in October and November and got quite lucky with the weather, didn’t have to deal with many other tourists and got to see northern lights. Therefore one of my first essential Iceland travel tips would be to go for the shoulder season!
3) Language & Communication
Icelandic is one of the most difficult languages existing. Just take the eruption of the volcano Eyjafjallajökull as an example which challenged news hosts worldwide. Luckily you can easily get around with English as most locals speak English fluently.
Nevertheless learning a few words in the local lingo can go a long way – here are a few words and phrases you should learn:
4) Budget & Prices
Unfortunately all the beauty of this island comes with a high price tag. Like in many Scandinavian countries also here you have to calculate with a bigger budget.
Even though I withdrew money I payed almost everything with my German credit card. (pictured) – in Iceland it is very rare to pay in cash.
Prices for Accommodation
Depending on the time of year a double room in a hotel/B&B will set you back 100€ – 200€, which means you should factor about 80€ per person on average. A good option to save money on accommodation is to rent an RV/campervan (read more about this in section 9).
Prices for Rental Cars & Flights to Iceland
You’ll most likely spend the next big part of your budget on renting a car and getting into Iceland. A Dacia Duster (most budget-friendly 4×4) with full insurance package and extra driver will cost you around 720€ per week with SADCars. Additionally, you need to calculate the costs for gas at about 1.60€ per liter. If you want to travel along the ring road for 2 weeks like we did this will sum up to roundabout 1,800€ (with many side trips on F-roads off the ring road).
In contrast to this flights to Iceland are fairly cheap – from Europe, you can get return flights including checked luggage for as little as 200€ (e.g. WOW air from Berlin).
Costs for Food & Drinks
Also for meals, you need to have a proper budget: a normal dish in a restaurant will cost you 40-60€, even fast food options such as burger combos at gas stations are priced 20€! The cheapest option if you want to eat out are Hot Dogs for 4-7€. Therefore we chose to go grocery shopping in the local supermarkets (Bonus & Krona are your best choices here) and only went to restaurants a few time to try the local cuisine.
Good news: almost all natural sights such as waterfalls are free of charge. This is, of course, different for tours & activities: a 4-6h ice cave tour is about 150€ (with Localguide), the famous blue lagoon is about 85€ including transfers (with Reykjavik Excursion).
To sum it all up you should calculate with a budget of 2,500€ – 3,500€ per Person if you plan on doing a 2 week lasting road trip in Iceland like we did (4×4, full insurance, combination of Hotels/B&Bs and apartment rentals, restaurant visits & grocery shopping, flights).
Of course you can have it much cheaper if you: go for the camper van option / travel in low season / travel shorter or if you travel with a group of people and share costs for apartments and rental cars. But I also want to tell you that this island is totally worth all the money – the stunning landscapes and experiences are simply priceless!