Iceland. The Land of Fire and Ice. A funky little sparsely populated island set adrift in the north Atlantic. Crazy as it sounds, there have been few countries in recent years that have gotten as much attention from travelers.
After a financial crisis in the 2000s that simultaneously plunged the nation into bankruptcy and made it more affordable to visit than ever before, word started to spread about this otherworldly country perfect for the outdoor-lover or adventure seeker. Then movies (like Thor and Star Trek) and TV shows (like Game of Thrones) started to use Iceland's dramatic landscapes as fantastical backgrounds. And... well, you know what happened next.
Iceland is now on every Must-Visit list and is a destination for all types of travelers, from outdoor adventure seekers to folks who love short city breaks. And the best part? It's easier to get to than you might think: just a 4-hour flight from Boston.
If Iceland has landed on your travel list, here are a five helpful travel tips for you to keep in mind.
Decide on time of year to visit
You can visit Iceland year-round, but make a note that different seasons offer up different experiences. In the summer months, Iceland enjoys mild weather and very long days you could go golfing under the Midnight Sun or take a road trip around the island with hardly any darkness. Conversely, days are short during the winter and many roads close due to snow, but during those light-deprived months you have a great chance of catching sight of the Northern Lights dancing in the sky.
The good news? All of the popular things to do and see in Iceland are open year-round. You can snorkel in between tectonic plates or relax at the Blue Lagoon no matter what season you visit in.
Don't discount the touristy stuff
Since Iceland is still somewhat off-the-beaten-path as far as destinations go, you may assume that you need to be a tent-loving, outdoorsy type who shuns anything considered mildly touristy in order to enjoy it. But this isn't true at all.
The touristy stuff in Iceland is still amazingly epic. The popular Golden Circle tour includes stops at waterfalls and geysers, the Blue Lagoon is otherworldly yet relaxing, and anyone can enjoy activities like horseback riding around volcanoes, whale watching or exploring the food scene in Reykjavik.
For those who ARE more adventurous, you can go hiking on glaciers (including glaciers ON TOP OF volcanoes), waterfall-spotting in the wild and even scuba diving between two pieces of the earth's crust.
Pack for everything
One of the biggest tips to remember for Iceland is to prepare for any sort of weather situation. Rain, snow, wind, sun... expect them all sometimes all on the same day. Because of Iceland's location, weather can change drastically in a very short amount of time. In order to be prepared, never go anywhere in the country without (waterproof) layers.
Plan a stopover
If you really want to visit Iceland but don't have a lot of time, consider adding a visit to the country as a prolonged stopover on your way to or from Europe. IcelandAir (Iceland's main airline) wants people to experience Iceland so badly that they offer FREE stopovers for up to a week on most flights between the U.S. and Europe.
Reykjavik, Iceland's capital makes a great city break. With lots of cool shops and dining not to mention easy access to attractions like the Blue Lagoon and Golden Circle it is totally possible to visit Reykjavik over a long weekend.
Be smart about road trips
One of the more popular ways to experience Iceland during the warmer months is to rent a car and drive the highway that circles the country usually just referred to as the Ring Road. This is a great experience to shoot for if you have at least 10-14 days to spend in the country. But there are a few things to keep in mind when road tripping in a country like Iceland.
For starters, you probably want to get a 4-wheel-drive vehicle for all of the various road conditions you could encounter throughout the country. You'll also want to bring some toilet paper with you since pit stops can be few and far between. And, perhaps most importantly, be aware that many gas stations in Iceland are not manned, especially in remote areas. To deal with this, you are able to purchase gas cards loaded up with credit to use at stations where there will be no service counter.
When it comes to Iceland, you really can't go wrong. Whether it's an epic camping/off-roading adventure you're looking for or a more up-scale, relaxing city break, you can have it in Iceland.
Is Iceland on YOUR travel bucket list?