Where To Stay In Iceland: Best Hotels In Reykjavik & Beyond

Where to Stay in Iceland
The Best Places to Stay in Iceland
Accommodation In Iceland

Iceland has become an incredibly popular travel destination over the last few years. Learn where to stay in Iceland for your vacation including the best hotels, budget hostels, and campgrounds.

As I’m sure you’re already aware by now, Iceland is an incredible holiday destination for all types of people, from families to adventurous solo travelers.

While flights have become increasingly cheap, food & lodging however are not.

There are tons of unique places to stay in Iceland due to its diverse scenery, and every time I visit I find something new to experience, which makes it one of my favorite countries.

Best Places To Stay In Iceland

When it comes to finding a place to stay in Iceland, hotels can be on the expensive side, and there aren’t a lot of options compared to other countries. Hotels can get booked up months in advance, especially during the high season.

It’s important to book Iceland accommodation early to get the best deals.

In this guide, I’ll cover everything from budget backpacker hostels to luxury Reykjavik hotels, family-owned farms, campgrounds, and even campervan rentals — you’ll learn exactly where to stay in Iceland to have a great time.

Also, if you prefer a local apartment, Airbnb is a great option for finding a cool place to stay in Iceland. Check out my Airbnb post for a $35 discount!

Best Reykjavik Hotels
Reykjavik Iceland Hotel Guide

Where To Stay In Reykjavik

Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland, and where most travelers base themselves from initially. The city welcomes guests with a cosmopolitan mix of restaurants, cafes, street-art, museums and tour company headquarters.

The busy heart of Reykjavik is the Miðborg neighborhood, especially Laugavegur Street, where you’ll find shopping, restaurants, nightlife and all sorts of fun things to do.

If you want to be where all the action is, stay close to Laugavegur Street. But there are some other great neighborhoods in Reykjavik too, which I share below.

Here are my suggestions for the top hotels, hostels, and campgrounds in Reykjavik depending on your budget.

Cheap Hostels In Reykjavik

Loft Hostel – With two Best Hostel awards, Loft is one of the best places to stay in Reykjavik when you’re traveling on a budget. Located in the heart of the city, it features a large balcony to admire the city from above. They often organize music and activities, have good wifi, and friendly staff.

Reykjavik Downtown HI HostelReykjavik Downtown HI Hostel is an eco-friendly hostel that even serves breakfast made of organically grown produce.  There’s parking on site, and the staff can help you rent a car. WiFi is free; if you don’t have a computer, use the one at the lobby to access the internet.

Budget Hotels In Reykjavik

Rey Apartments – Rey Apartments is located in between the main shopping area and the trendy district of Skolavordustigur in Reykjavik. The modern, fresh looking apartments feature free wifi and fully equipped kitchens and living rooms. The geothermal Sunhollin swimming pool is just 10 minutes away!

Hotel FrónStay in the heart of Reykjavik at this hotel on Laugavegur Shopping Street, walking distance from the bus stop. There’s parking on site. Whether you choose a room or an apartment, you’ll have a private bathroom and a furnished kitchen. There is a great restaurant is next door too!

Mid-Range Hotels In Reykjavik

Hotel Ódinsvé – Choose a room in this Iceland hotel with a window overlooking Reykjavik to enjoy magical views every day of your stay. Snaps Restaurant, within the hotel, offers tantalizing Danish cuisine. Additionally, the shoppers’ paradise, Laugavegur Shopping Street, is about two hundred meters from the hotel.

Alda Hotel Reykjavík – Alda is a great place to stay in Iceland for exploring Reykjavik. Indoors, there’s free internet access, a bar and a gym. Some rooms have balconies with either stunning views of the sea or Reykjavik. Outdoors, Reykjavik Art Museum is a short walking distance from the hotel. Lake Tjornin is also close by.

Skuggi Hotel Reykjavík – Park your rental car in the free underground parking space, step into a clean room with the right ambiance for a relaxing night. To enjoy a meal, head out to any of the restaurants near this boutique hotel. If you just want a drink, there’s a bar in the premise. Park of the Keahotels hotel chain.

Luxury Hotels In Reykjavik

Kvosin Downtown Hotel – When you want to be pampered, you can’t do much better than this Reykjavik hotel. Housed in a restored building from the 1900’s, this boutique hotel offers the largest rooms you can find in Reykjavik, decorated in modern Scandinavian style and featuring artworks by local artists.

Reykjavík Residence SuitesWith just 10 rooms, expect an intimate and quiet atmosphere. Each room has a balcony and a lounging area for guests who wish to spend more time indoors. Garden view rooms overlook a scenic garden. This property is just 3km from the city center, but if you want to enjoy a meal nearby, there’s a grill just 300m away.

Good Campgrounds Near Reykjavik

Reykjavik Campsite – Located in the Laugardalur area of Reykjavik, this modern campground features a kitchenette, self-service laundry and bathroom facilities. It is wheelchair accessible. Bring a canine friend too because dogs are welcome! Parking and wireless internet is free.

Hafnarfjörður Camping – Stay in Iceland on a budget inside Vídistaðatún, on grounds with lush lawns. Escape the bustle of the city for a quiet camping experience just half an hour away from Keflavik International Airport. This family-friendly campsite has modern amenities like a laundry machine. Internet access is available at the hostel located next door.

Reykjavik Neighborhood House
Cool Neighborhoods in Reykjavik

Best Neighborhoods In Reykjavik

Miðborg

Midborg is where all the action is in Reykjavik, and where to stay for the best nightlife in the city. Full of quirky shops, museums, restaruants, and the main walking district.

Vesturbær

Located just west of the city center, Vesturbær is a mix of residential neighborhood and little cafes. It’s a bit queiter than downtown.

Hlíðar

A local working-class residential area east of the city, with plenty of parks & playgrounds. The name means “the hills” and places out here are much cheaper than the city center.

Laugardalur

Laugardalur is kind of the sports and recreation hub of Reykjavik. Known as “the hot spring valley,” this is where you’ll find the local sports stadium as well as a campground.

Where to Stay on the Golden Circle
Golden Circle Hotel Guide

Where To Stay On The Golden Circle – Selfoss & Hveragerði

The Golden Circle is a circular 300km route that takes you from the capital city of Reykjavik towards the center of Iceland, and back again in a single day. It’s the perfect introduction to Iceland if you’re short on time or on a layover.

From ancient historical sites to beautiful natural landmarks, the Golden Circle has a bit of everything. You can join an organized tour of the Golden Circle or rent a car and self-drive at your own pace.

Most people base themselves from Reykjavik for this drive, however, you can also spend the night somewhere along the Golden Circle. The towns of Selfoss and Hveragerði are good options for this.

Here are my suggestions for the top hotels, hostels, and campgrounds on the Golden Circle depending on your budget.

Cheap Hostels On The Golden Circle

Selfoss Hostel – Everything you need to get a good night’s of sleep before you continue to explore Iceland. The clean, functional rooms have free wifi and a view over Ingolfsfjall mountain. There’s free parking, which is a big plus when you’re renting a car in Iceland. There’s a big common kitchen and a hot tub too.

Hot Springs Hostel – Splendid mountain views greet you when you look out of the window every morning. If you would like to relax within the hostel, there’s Wi-Fi, and you can also spend some time in the play area. However, the enchanting landscapes of Reykjafjall Mountain around the hostel invite you for a hiking expedition.

Budget Hotels On The Golden Circle

SKYR Guesthouse – This guesthouse has spacious rooms equipped with a television and a coffee/tea maker. Enjoy good coffee and a sumptuous meal on site as you plan whether to go hiking or to enjoy a shopping excursion at the market. There’s free wireless internet everywhere and free parking. If you don’t wish to drive, hire a bike at the guesthouse and explore the neighborhood.

Guesthouse IngaThe location of this guesthouse on the Golden Circle is excellent, with open skies bringing the beauty of the northern lights over the property. The rooms are spacious, neat, and some have great views of the scenic surroundings. The communal bathrooms are modern and clean. You’ll also love the communal lounge.

Mid-Range Hotels On The Golden Circle

Eldhestar – Located only half an hour from the capital, this Iceland eco-hotel provides everything you need to relax. You can have a cup of hot tea in the lounge next to the fireplace or enjoy a cocktail at the bar. Each room has a private entrance with nature-inspired décor. Eldhestar has an outdoor wooden hot tub and is located next to an Icelandic horse farm.

Guesthouse Bjarney – The rooms share a furnished kitchen, bathrooms and a laundry room. On the terrace, you can host a barbecue for your travel buddies or for the new friends you make while chatting at the communal lounge. To take the experience to another level, stay in the caravan instead of an ordinary room.

Luxury Hotels On The Golden Circle

Frost & Fire Hotel – This unique luxury hotel in Iceland is near a geothermal area, giving you the feeling of being in the middle of nature. Thingvellir National Park is only a 40-minute drive away. Relax at the spa-like facilities including two hot tubs, an outdoor pool, hot spring powered Jacuzzi and sauna. You can even cook an egg over a natural hot spring for breakfast!

Ion Adventure Hotel – View of the northern lights is a definite reason to stay at this hotel near Thingvellir National Park. The hotel sits on Mount Hengill and it has a restaurant, heated pool, spa and sauna. The communal lounge is where you share your stories as you meet other adventure-seekers.

Best Hotels in Vik Iceland
Where to Stay in Vik, South Iceland

Where To Stay On Iceland’s South Coast – Vik

Iceland’s South Coast is filled with natural wonders, making it perfect for an adventure outside the capital. If you’re driving around the entire Ring Road on Route 1, this is usually the next stop after a trip around the Golden Circle.

The South Coast is home to some of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls, like Seljalandfoss and Skogafoss. Reynisfjara Black Beach, Sólheimajökull Glacier, and the Eyjafjallajokull Volcano are other highlights.

One of the larger towns tourists stop at is called Vik [MAP], with many different lodging options, restaurants, and activities nearby. So it’s a great place to stay for a night or two.

Here are my suggestions for the top hotels, hostels, and campgrounds along Iceland’s South Coast depending on your budget.

Cheap Hostels On Iceland’s South Coast

Puffin Hostel – Located in the center of Vik, this hostel is only a 10-minute walk from the fabulous black beaches. It offers a fully equipped kitchen and a shared seating area. The functional rooms have shared facilities and bathrooms.

Budget Hotels On Iceland’s South Coast

Hotel Geirland – The rooms offer views of mountain ridges around the hotel. Some cabins are stand-alone units set on a pristine garden. The restaurant serves a la carte breakfast and dinner and it also pre-packs lunch on request ahead of expeditions. To catch up with family and friends online or to watch a television show, head to the hotel’s main building.

Guesthouse Reyir – This family-owned guesthouse is a short distance from the beach, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get a room with spectacular view of the sea. You share bathroom facilities with other guests, and the communal kitchen has everything you need to prepare a meal when you don’t want to dine outdoors.

Mid-Range Hotels On Iceland’s South Coast

The Barn – Located near Vik and provides a great base for exploring the South Coast of Iceland. It features parking and free wifi,  being great for travelers who tour the island by rental car. The rooms offer enough privacy, which makes this hostel a great option for couples. Some of the rooms have a view over the mountains and there are dormitory beds with drapes available.

Icelandair Hotel Vík – This hotel is less than 5km from major attractions like Reynisfjall Mountain, Vikura River and Lake Höfðabrekkulón. Situated just opposite the beach, and near restaurants and other amenities, this hotel in Iceland is a perfect place to stay. It has various room options such as family, twin and triple rooms.

Luxury Hotels On Iceland’s South Coast

Hotel Kria – For a luxurious stay near Vik this new hotel opened in 2018. The rooms have a modern design and all the facilities one can expect from a high-class hotel. During your stay at Kria you can enjoy amazing mountain views, a cocktail at their bar or a delicious meal at their restaurant, which serves Icelandic specialties. The breakfast buffet features food from local farms.

Black Beach Suites – For unparalleled view of the mountain and the sea, just step into the terrace at this property on Iceland’s South Coast. You can prepare food in your room; there’s a fridge, a microwave and a toaster. The black sand beach is just 4km from this property, and fun activities in the vicinity are outdoor dining, skiing and golfing.

Glacier Lagoon Hotels
Best Iceland Hotels Near the Glacier Lagoon and Hofn

Where To Stay Near The Glacier Lagoon – Höfn

Continuing your drive on Iceland’s Ring Road, you’ll eventually reach the fishing village of Höfn. Höfn means “harbor” because it sits on one of the few natural harbors found in Iceland. This is the next major town after Vik, about a 4-hour drive away.

While four hours doesn’t seem like much, there’s so much to do in between these two Icelandic towns on the South Coast that you can easily spend a full day on activities, and may want to spend a night here.

Hofn is the town closest to Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and Vatnajokull National Park. Watching the sunrise from Jökulsárlón was one of the highlights of my trip, so you might want to sleep nearby.

Here are my suggestions for the top hotels, hostels, and campgrounds near Hofn and the glacier lagoon depending on your budget.

Cheap Hostels Around Höfn

Höfn Hostel – Living close to the harbor, with exceptional views of Vatnajökull Glacier, is one of the highlights of a stay at this hostel. Shared facilities include a television lounge and a bathroom. Hiking should top your list of adventures, and you could also play golf about 3km from the hostel. Parking is available, without prior reservation, and it’s free.

Lilja Guesthouse – This friendly guesthouse offers spacious rooms with a warm floor and private bathrooms. The quiet rooms are equipped with a coffee machine and free WiFi. The nearby mountains provide a great view for the guests, who can enjoy their coffee in the shared lounge.

Budget Hotels Around Hofn

Skyrhusid Guesthouse – How about a night right next to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon? The view of the mountain is enchanting. The rooms at this farm-house style guesthouse have a wash basin and the bathroom is communal. There are two restaurants on the property. For history lovers, Thorbergssetur Historical Museum is on site.

Höfn Guesthouse – The shared dining area is the spot to meet fellow travelers. All rooms, whether in the main building or in the annex, have either a double or twin beds. Bathrooms are communal, and there’s free wifi. A lazy stroll to the harbor is perfect when you don’t want to visit Höfn Swimming Pool a short distance from the guesthouse.

Mid-Range Hotels Around Höfn

Hotel Hofn – Most rooms have views of the nearby glaciers and the sea. The hotel has private parking, a great bonus if you are traveling by rental car. You can dine on the restaurant’s terrace to admire the view as you enjoy Icelandic specialties. Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon is one hour away, while the Silfurnes Golf Club and Hofn Harbour are only a 10-minute walk.

Hotel Jökull – A short drive from Höfn, you arrive at this hotel for an unforgettable vacation with amazing views of the northern lights. Vatnajökull, the largest glacier you’ll see in this country ought to convince you to stay longer. Some rooms have a private bathroom while others share a bathroom. There’s free parking, and a bar.

Luxury Hotels Around Hofn

Aurora Cabins – If you’re lucky, you might catch the magnificent aurora borealis from the cabin porch at this awesome Iceland hotel. There’s a small hill nearby with a bench on top, another nice spot to admire the lights. The cabins are spacious and feature free wifi, a kitchen with microwave and toaster, terrace and a seating area. Great romantic place for couples!

Where To Stay In East Iceland – Egilsstaðir

East Iceland is often overlooked by tourists, being so far from the capital of Reykjavik. But it has a lot to offer. The picturesque fishing villages which line the rugged landscape are dotted with waterfalls and glaciers, making the area perfect for hiking.

The main city people base themselves in East Iceland is called Egilsstaðir, one of Iceland’s youngest towns. It was built on the banks of the Lagarfljot River in a wide valley. It has good access to the Eastern Fjords too.

East Iceland is also rich in legends about the elves and other mythical creatures which were believed to populate the area. It’s a good place for wildlife spotting, including herds of wild reindeer, arctic foxes, and puffins.

Here are my suggestions for the top hotels, hostels, and campgrounds near Egilsstaðir and the East Fjords depending on your budget.

Cheap Hostels In Egilsstaðir

Tehusid Hostel – The rooms at this hostel in Egilsstaðir feature comfortable beds and shared bathrooms. Other communal facilities are a furnished kitchen and a lounge. Wake up to breakfast at the hostel before you explore the rivers, mountain and lake in the vicinity. The Stafdalur Ski Lift is 20km from the hostel.

Budget Hotels In Egilsstaðir

Laufás Guest House – A night on a comfortable bed prepares you for the range of adventures nearby such as skiing, swimming and hiking. This family-friendly guesthouse has simple but modern rooms with a communal bathroom, a kitchen and a lounge. There’s a play area for kids, and you could also take children to the geothermal swimming pool a short walk from the property.

Mid-Range Hotels In Egilsstaðir

Icelandair Hotel Herad – This hotel’s plush lounge is probably where you will spend your evenings after exploring attractions like Hengifoss waterfall. There’s a terrace bar, a restaurant that serves delicious steak, WiFi in rooms and satellite TV. This hotel belongs to Icelandic Hotels. The detail in the interior décor and room furnishings is exceptional.

Luxury Hotels In Egilsstaðir

Hótel Valaskjálf – Lush, scenic lawns set the mood for a quiet stay at this hotel. The rooms have WiFi access; they are en-suite, spacious and clean. Enjoy buffet breakfast at the restaurant before you head outdoors to explore the forests and rivers. Fun activities in the vicinity include hiking and boat rides.

Where To Stay In North Iceland – Akureyri

Akureyri is the largest and most important town in Iceland, after its capital. It is an old trading city and important fishing hub, it’s also a wonderful base for whale watching trips. The city has heated swimming pools too.

Travelers to Iceland generally end up staying in the city of Akureyri, or near Lake Myvatn, depending on where you end up after a long drive on Route 1.

Lake Myvatn is located in an active volcano area and is surrounded by amazing lava formations. There is a rich population of water birds living around the lake, making it great for bird watching.

Here are my suggestions for the top hotels, hostels, and campgrounds around Akureyri depending on your budget.

Cheap Hostels In North Iceland

Town Square Guesthouse – At Town Square Guesthouse you will find all the essentials for a decent stay. Some rooms offer views over the sea or the mountains, while all of them include access to a shared bathroom and free WiFi. Guests also have access to a fully equipped shared kitchen and a nice terrace.

Budget Hotels In North Iceland

Lónsá Guesthouse – This guesthouse is a family-owned property so expect a homely touch everywhere. The terrace yields awe-inspiring views of the surrounding. With free WiFi, and a desk in each room, you have all you need while traveling as a digital nomad. Guests share a bathroom, a living room and a kitchen. Close to the guesthouse is Akureyri Swimming Pool and Dalvik Fishing Village.

Mid-Range Hotels In North Iceland

Icelandair Hotel Akureyri – This Iceland hotel in Akureyri offers modern rooms with wooden floors and comfortable beds. They have a cozy bar with a fireplace, and the restaurant cooks delicious meals with Icelandic and Mediterranean influences. The Akureyri swimming pool and geothermal hot tubs are only a 2-minute walk away from the hotel.

Luxury Hotels In North Iceland

Hotel Kjarnalundur – Just 2km away from Akureyri Airport and 5km from the city center. The panoramic views of the surroundings and the amazing Aurora Borealis can be enjoyed from all over the property. There is a hot tub on the deck of the cottage, which also provides a great spot to admire the scenic landscapes Cozy, modern design with wooden finishes. You also get free access to their sauna!

Where To Stay On Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Snæfellsnes Peninsula is nicknamed “miniature Iceland”, thanks to its vast diversity of landscapes. This also makes it perfect for a quick weekend getaway, during which you can enjoy the best of Iceland.

Driving around this peninsula you’ll find waterfalls, hot-spring pools, lava tubes, black sand beaches, old churches, fields of wildflowers in the spring, and massive glaciers.

Driving around Snæfellsnes is another day-trip option if you don’t have a lot of time in Iceland, as it’s located only 2 hours north of Reykjavik city.

Here are my suggestions for the top hotels, hostels, and campgrounds on Snæfellsnes Peninsula depending on your budget.

Cheap Hostels On Snæfellsnes

North Star Guesthouse – North Star Guesthouse offers spacious rooms and free private parking on the main street of Olafsvik. There is a self check in/check out which makes everything easier for the traveler who wants to get some rest before heading to the restaurants in the area for a drink and a meal. Popular activities for guests are golfing, hiking and fishing.

Budget Hotels On Snæfellsnes

West Park Guesthouse – The view of the mountain and the ocean will make you fall in love with this location. The guesthouse sits in Snæfellsjökull National Park, offering eight houses with sea and mountain views. Each house has a spacious kitchen and living room so you won’t feel caged when there are other guests sharing a house with you.

Mid-Range Hotels On Snæfellsnes

Arnarstapi Hotel – Located only 200m from the Gatklettur rocks and offers views over the sea, which makes it ideal when you just want to relax and enjoy nature after a long day. The rooms are modern and feature private bathrooms. This new hotel also has an on-site restaurant where you can enjoy some of the most delicious Icelandic specialties.

Luxury Hotels On Snæfellsnes

Fell Holiday Home – This place has 6 separate bedrooms with 2 bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen and a living room. The apartment also has a garden, which makes a great place to admire the Northern Lights and the Gatklettur rocks. There is free WiFi all over the modern property.

Keflavik Airport Hotels & The Blue Lagoon

Budget Hotels Near Keflavik Airport

The Base Hostel At Keflavik Airport – Located near the airport, the hostel style units share a bathroom and a kitchen. Free WiFi is available, and there are shuttle services to and from the airport. If you have time before your flight, request the staff to organize a trip to the Blue Lagoon nearby.

Brimarsbrú Sleep Inn – If you love art as much as you love traveling, the collection in the sleeping area will grab your attention. This inn has a cozy homestay feeling with all the amenities you need away from home. Prepare your meals in the kitchen; you can even bake or microwave your meals. The nearest restaurant, Tjarnargrill, is less than a kilometer away.

Kef Guesthouse At Grænásvegur – This guesthouse’s location is excellent, just 4km from Keflavik International Airport. Accommodation options are units with communal bathrooms and others with private bathroom facilities. If you don’t want to dine out, there’s a furnished communal kitchen. The Blue Lagoon’s geothermal spa is about half an hour away.

Budget Hotels Near The Blue Lagoon

Geo Hótel Grindavík – This hotel checks you into a clean, spacious room with a relaxing ambiance. Each room has a TV and a private bathroom equipped with a hairdryer. There’s a communal lounge, free WiFi and parking at no charge. With the Blue Lagoon’s geothermal spa just 6km from the hotel, there’s something to do outdoors.

Luxury Hotels Near The Blue Lagoon

Northern Light Inn – This inn has spacious rooms with WiFi, a TV, and a hairdryer in the bathroom. Max’s Restaurant treats guests to enticing seafood and local cuisine on the buffet and a la carte set-up as they enjoy a panorama of the peninsula at the dining area. The Blue Lagoon is walking distance from the inn.

Campervan Tips for Iceland
Stay in a Campervan!

Renting A Campervan In Iceland

There are many ways to explore Iceland. Most people rent a car while staying in hotels, or rent a campervan while sleeping in the vehicle. Convenience is one of the main reasons people choose to rent a campervan.

Once you’ve rented the vehicle, you can start driving and exploring the country on your own terms. It’s a lot easier to find a campground with space for your van than it is to book a last minute hotel in Iceland.

Renting a campervan in Iceland can save you a lot of time and money. You can prepare your own food on the go and save money on accommodation. It also gives you a lot of flexibility to change your plans anytime you want.

But life on the road might take its toll, especially if you have small kids. Not all campervans will have a toilet and you might definitely miss showering on a regular basis.

The weather depends on luck and what time of year you visit Iceland. A worst case scenario is that you might have to cook in the rain, snow, or deal with high winds and cold temperatures.

I’ve traveled around Iceland both ways, and if you’d like to rent a campervan in Iceland, I highly recommend Happy Campers.

Travel Planning Resources For Iceland

Packing Guide

Check out my travel gear guide to help you start packing for your trip. Pick up a travel backpack, camera gear, and other useful travel accessories.

Book Your Flight

Find cheap flights on Skyscanner. This is my favorite search engine to find deals on airlines. Also make sure to read how I find the cheapest flights.

Rent A Car

RentalCars.com is a great site for comparing car prices to find the best deal. Also read my tips for driving in Iceland.

Book Accommodation

Booking.com is my favorite hotel search engine. Or rent apartments from locals on Airbnb. Read more about how I book cheap hotels online.

Protect Your Trip

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance.

Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Iceland
Suggested Reading: The Little Book Of Hidden People

Enjoy This Post? Pin It For Later!

Have any questions about where to stay in Iceland? Which hotels in Reykjavik have you stayed at? Drop me a message in the comments below!

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

25 Interesting (And Strange) Facts About Iceland

Facts About Iceland

Strange Facts About Iceland!

Iceland Facts

If you’re looking for cool facts about Iceland, you won’t believe some of this stuff! Did you know Icelanders leave their babies outside, they like to eat rotten sharks, and there’s an app to prevent dating your cousin?

Tourism has exploded recently, and the Nordic island country of Iceland now entertains more than 2 million visitors annually.

This is no surprise considering that Iceland’s diverse topography enables people to visit beaches, glaciers and waterfalls, along with going whale watching and a rare opportunity to see the mysterious Northern Lights.

But there are many other fascinating facts about Iceland to discover too. Here are 25 interesting things about the Land of Fire and Ice that you may not have known before! Plus some general information that can be useful for planning a trip.

Feel free to share these facts at your next cocktail party, to make you look smart.

Intriguing Facts About Iceland

1. There Aren’t Many People 

If you’re like me, you love traveling to places that aren’t overly crowded. Iceland can be good for this, compared to other parts of Europe, as long as you steer clear of the Reykjavik area. The population of Iceland is only 339,462, with more than a third of those people living in the capital city. Iceland is almost the size of Kentucky, which has 4.4 million residents. While tourism has boomed over the last 10 years, there are still plenty of places to explore where you’ll be mostly alone.

(Source: WorldOMeters)

2. Iceland Is An Eco-Friendly Country 

I was very impressed to learn that the vast majority of Iceland’s power supply comes from geothermal and hydro energy. In other words, this is a country that has clean power and a small carbon footprint. Iceland’s scientists are currently working on a way to harness more geothermal energy as part of a plan that could change the entire world.

(Source: Time Magazine)

Iceland Fact: Elves are Real

Tiny Elf Houses in Iceland

3. Icelanders Believe In Elves

Surveys indicate that 54.4 percent of the nation believes in the existence of huldufólk, invisible elves & trolls living in the countryside, with many others being at least open to the possibility. You can even see evidence of this belief during your trip to Iceland in the small wooden álfhól “elf houses” that some people build for the elves to live in. Iceland even has an official Elf School where you can learn about Icelandic elf history.

(Source: The Atlantic)

4. McDonald’s Doesn’t Exist In Iceland

Once upon a time, you could dine at one of Iceland’s few McDonald’s restaurants. This changed in 2009, and the Golden Arches don’t appear set to make a return at any point in the near future. I was pleased by this fact, but don’t worry; there are several other fast food chains in Iceland. Hotdogs are particularly popular there!

(Source: The Reykjavik Grapevine)

5. Iceland Is One Of The Safest Countries

Coming from the U.S., I was pleasantly surprised by how rare violent crimes are in Iceland. How rare, you ask? The country was completely rocked by an unprecedented number of murders in 2017: four. In a typical year, there’s an average of 1.6 murders and a very low instance of other violent or drug-related crimes.

(Source: The Guardian)

Facts About Iceland: They Used to Have Trees

Not Many Trees Left in Iceland Now…

6. It Was Once Covered In Trees

This interesting fact is also one of the few things about Iceland that’s not very idyllic. Before the Vikings plundered Iceland, 40 percent of the nation was covered in trees. However, they needed all the trees to build homes, boats, and to clear land for farming. Now, that number is only 2 percent, although reforestation efforts are underway.

(Source: Treehugger)

7. Iceland Is Mosquito-Free! 

Mosquitoes can make life miserable at times in the U.S., so I was thrilled to find out that Iceland is one of the world’s few mosquito-free environments. No matter what time of year you visit, you won’t have to worry about these pests. It’s surprising that the population of Iceland isn’t higher for this one reason alone.

(Source: The New York Times)

8. They Eat Some Nasty Stuff 

Iceland has some pretty disgusting food available to eat. Now, don’t get me wrong. They’re also known for some really good seafood and lamb. But their traditional dishes might produce a gag-reflex! The most famous has to be Hakarl, or fermented shark. This stuff is buried underground for 6-12 weeks, then hung out to dry in the sun. It tastes like ammonia (urine?) and is eaten with shots of unsweetened schnapps. Yum! Oh, and they sometimes enjoy a little smoked sheep’s head too (Svið).

(Source: CNN Travel)

9. There Are No Traditional Last Names

When a child is born in Iceland, they don’t get the same last name as either of their parents. Instead, their last name is derived from their father or mother’s first name. Musician Björk provides us with a good example. Her father’s first name is Guðmundur. Björk’s full name is Björk Guðmundsdottir, which means the daughter of Guðmundur.

(Source: Culture Trip)

Cool Facts about Iceland

Iceland is a Fascinating Place!

10. Iceland Had A Peaceful Revolution

It wasn’t reported on much in the international press, but Iceland had a successful (and peaceful) revolution. In 2008, the country’s banking system collapsed, unemployment skyrocketed, and citizens were worried supermarkets would run out of food. Iceland’s people took to the streets peacefully protesting with pots & pans, completely blocking all traffic around the capital. Eventually, the Prime Minister and former government were forced to resign, and the people wrote themselves a new constitution.

(Source: Collective Evolution)

11. Iceland Is An Egalitarian Society 

Iceland takes the idea of equality very seriously. It’s considered to be the most feminist country in the world and also has a long history of being very accepting of the LGBTQ community. Additionally, only 3 percent of the country falls outside the middle class.

(Source: The Guardian)

12. Temperatures Are Usually Mild 

Iceland is a perfect choice for summertime travel as the average high temperature is only 57 degrees Fahrenheit. The overnight average summer low is 44 degrees, so it never gets too cold, either. But, the winters in Iceland can get pretty wild with freezing winds and heavy snowstorms.

(Source: Weather Spark)

13. Babies Nap Outside Alone

You probably won’t have to worry about listening to a baby cry inside restaurants in Iceland. It shocks many people, but it’s a common practice to leave babies outside in their strollers. You’ll see this all over the country, including when the temperature drops as low as 20-30 degrees F (-5C).

(Source: The Reykjavik Grapevine)

14. People Swim In The Winter 

One thing that’s really useful about having geothermal volcanicly-heated water is that you can go swimming no matter how cold it is outside. There are countless hot-springs and heated pools that can maintain a temperature of at least 86 degrees Fahrenheit at all times.

(Source: Culture Trip)

Iceland Facts: So Many Volcanoes!

The 2014 Holuhraun Volcanic Eruption

15. There Are 30 Active Volcanoes 

I’m fascinated by volcanoes and was excited to see some of them during my trip to Iceland. Including flying over an active eruption of the Holuhraun lava field in 2014. It was so cool! There are approximately 130 total volcanoes, and 30 of them are active. None are currently erupting (but that can change). Scientists have gotten so good at predicting volcanic eruptions that the risk to residents and tourists is minimal.

(Source: Guide to Iceland)

16. You Can Visit A Very Weird Museum 

Before I went to Iceland, I’d never imagined that there would be an entire museum dedicated to penises. Even odder, the collection of 200 penises on display at the Phallological Museum supposedly includes specimens from mythological creatures such as trolls.

17. Iceland Elected The First Female President 

As previously mentioned, Iceland leads the world in feminism. Unsurprisingly, the country was also the first to elect a female president, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, who served from 1980 to 1996. Icelanders also elected an openly gay woman as their prime minister in 2009.

(Source: The Guardian)

18. Homemade Ice Cream Is Everywhere

Iceland’s unofficial national sweet treat is definitely ice cream. People wait in long lines for it daily, regardless of weather conditions. After trying some of their homemade ice cream, I can see why; it’s delicious!

19. Iceland Once Hunted Male Witches 

Iceland may seem idyllic in many ways, but the country does have a dark history. Just like the U.S. and many parts of Europe, Iceland went through a period of witch hunts from 1654 to 1690. Only one woman was prosecuted as a witch during this time though because men were the primary targets.

(Source: What’s On)

Iceland Super Jeep

Iceland has the Coolest 4X4s…

20. Super Jeeps Are A Thing

Iceland is full of remote and rugged landscapes, and to reach some of them, especially in the winter, some locals use “super jeeps”. A super jeep is a highly modified truck with a lifted suspension and oversized tires that allow it to cross deep rivers or drive through deep snow and ice. Most of Iceland’s roads are paved, but for the off-road trails that go into the central highlands, these jeeps make it possible to travel in the winter.

(Source: GT Planet)

21. Iceland Is Young 

In terms of landform, Iceland is the world’s youngest country. Going along with this fact, Iceland was also the last European nation to be settled. However, don’t be fooled by Iceland’s youthfulness as it’s still approximately 25 million years old.

(Source: Go Icelandic)

22. Most Of The Country Is Uninhabited 

Due to Iceland’s unique topography, only 20 percent of it is actually inhabited by humans. Many of the remote, uninhabited areas can be visited, but I highly recommend registering your plans with ICE-SAR first using the 112 Iceland App. This is the best way to get help if something goes wrong in the middle of nowhere…

23. Iceland Has No Military 

Iceland doesn’t have a military and has only fought in one conflict. The Cod Wars were a power struggle with Great Britain for exclusive fishing rights to the water within 200 miles of Iceland’s shoreline. Iceland won after attacking their enemy’s fishing nets with scissors.

(Source: Atlas Obscura)

24. Icelandic Students Learn Three Languages 

Icelandic students are taught their native language, along with English and Danish. It’s estimated that at least 80 percent of young students can understand basic English, and some people claim that as many as 98 percent of adults are fluent in multiple languages. I had no problems communicating with everyone I encountered in Iceland.

(Source: Statistics Iceland)

25. There’s An App To Prevent Dating Your Cousin

Because Iceland’s population is so small, there’s a slight issue with everyone being related. This can be a problem in the local dating scene. So there’s a smartphone app called Íslendinga-App that lets Icelanders check if they are related or not. The company’s slogan is “Bump the app before you bump in bed.” LOL!

(Source: MentalFloss)

Iceland is a very special travel destination. The stargazing is breathtaking, the local cuisine is unusual and locals are often happy to share one of the area’s entertaining legends and myths.

TRAVEL PLANNING INFORMATION FOR ICELAND
Book A Flight: Learn how I find the cheapest airline flights
Rent A Car: RentalCars.com is a great site for comparing car prices
Find A Hotel: My tips for booking affordable accommodation
Protect Your Stuff: WorldNomads.com can insure your trip & gear
Iceland Travel Guide: Lonely Planet Iceland
Suggested Reading: The Little Book Of Hidden People

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25 Interesting Facts About Iceland! Impress your friends at parties with these fun Iceland facts.

Are you planning a trip to Iceland? What do you think about these Iceland facts? Drop me a message in the comments below!

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Hiking Kerlingarfjöll Geothermal Area (Icelandic Highlands)

Kerlingarfjöll Iceland

Hiking Guide to Kerlingarfjöll in Iceland

Kerlingarfjöll, Iceland

Deep within Iceland’s central highlands, Kerlingarfjöll is a group of small geothermically active and rust-colored mountains capped with snow. Here’s how to organize your own self-drive adventure.

Kerlingarfjöll is a lesser-known day-hiking experience not too far away from Iceland’s famous Golden Circle route. It was one of my favorite stops in Iceland!

If you want to get off the beaten path a bit and extend your Golden Circle trip with something more adventurous, this strange geothermal area is the perfect place to stop for a half-day hiking trip (and maybe spend the night).

Surrounded by rocky green peaks and Iceland’s Tuya volcano system, Kerlingarfjoll itself stands out with red & orange hues. Hiking these colorful rhyolite hills will expose you to hot springs, geysers, steam vents, and boiling mud pots.

In this travel guide you’ll learn tips for visiting this unique and photogenic spot.

Kerlingarfjoll Map

How To Use This Map

Click on the top left of the map to find separate layers marking the route, points of interest, and other goodies. To hide and show different layers just click on the checkbox next to layer’s name. You can also click icons on the map to see the names of places I mention in this travel guide. “Star” the map to save it to your own Google Maps.

Exploring Iceland's Kerlingarfjoll Geothermal Area

Exploring Kerlingarfjöll Geothermal Area

Hiking the Strange Volcanic Formations

Hiking the Strange Volcanic Formations

Exploring Hveradalir Geothermal Area

Some of the summits in Kerlingarfjoll are covered in snow year-round, like Fannborg and Snækollur. In fact, at one time there was a ski-lift, but as global temperatures warmed they removed it due to lack of snow.

I spent about 4 hours hiking around and photographing the Hveradalir geothermal area of Kerlingarfjoll after camping out in their campground the night before.

Walking through thick steam clouds pouring from fumaroles, and hiking up its muddy orange slopes, I felt like an astronaut exploring another planet!

More visitors showed up later in the day, but I initially had it all to myself.

Travel Photography from Iceland

Travel Photography from Iceland

Kerlingarfjöll Hiking Trails

Kerlingarfjoll is crisscrossed with different marked and unmarked hiking trails. You can spend a few hours, or a few days trekking through this wild Icelandic landscape.

Hringbrautin Ring Route – This is a full 3-day trek that takes you to every nook & cranny of Kerlingarfjoll. With two mountain huts along the way, there’s no need to pack a tent.

Austurfjoll Peaks – A tough 5-6 hour hike over all the highest mountains in Kerlingarfjoll, including the highest called Snaekollur at 1,428m.

Hveradalir Walk – The standard 2-3 hour walk through the geothermal area of Hveradalir. Steam vents and hot springs, with optional hikes up a few mountains.

Walking Into the Geothermal Steam

Walking Into the Geothermal Steam

Kerlingarfoll Iceland Photos

Can You Spot Me?

Boiling Mud Pots

Boiling Mud Pots

Myth Of The Troll Woman

The mountains of Kerlingarfjöll were once considered a refuge for outlaws and trolls. The weather here is notoriously bad — it can be very cloudy and windy.

The whole place is basically a big volcanic caldera, created by eruptions from a time when there were still glaciers of ice above it.

Icelandic legends tell the tale of Kerling, an old hag troll woman who was the daughter of the fire giant Surtur.

One day she didn’t make it home in time before the sunrise and was turned to stone by sunlight. If you look carefully, might spot her 30-meter tall stone pillar…

Driving Iceland's F-Roads

Driving Iceland’s F-Roads

Getting To Kerlingarfjöll

Because it’s located in the highlands, Kerlingarfjoll can only be reached by driving on Iceland’s notorious “F-Roads”. The F-Roads are essentially rough jeep trails that weave through the remote center of the country.

These gravel tracks aren’t really maintained and close down for the winter in late September or early October (after the first snow) until June. So hiking Kerlingarfjoll is a summer adventure.

Some F-Roads are more hardcore than others, requiring you to drive through rivers with no bridges. Luckily F-35 Kjölur, the road to reach Kerlingarfjoll, isn’t too difficult.

A 4X4 vehicle is required for all mountain roads in Iceland though, 2WD rental cars are not insured here because conditions are extreme (snow, ice, mud, sand, rivers, etc.)

For more tips about driving in Iceland, make sure to read this article first.

The 4X4 Road up to Hveradalir

The 4X4 Road up to Hveradalir

Golden Circle Extension

If you’re planning to self-drive Iceland’s famous Golden Circle Route, and you leave early enough in the morning, you can tack on Kerlingarfjöll to extend your trip.

From Gullfoss Waterfall the drive up F-35 to Kerlingarfjöll takes 2-3 hours, depending on how rugged your vehicle is. The road can get very rough in some spots. It’s also possible to get here from the town of Blönduós in the North.

Iceland’s highlands are no joke, and you need to be prepared with food, water, a full tank of gas, and warm clothing should you break down.

If you decide to add Kerlingarfjöll to the typical Golden Circle stops, you’ll need to spend the night there and drive back the next day. There’s no way you could do all of it and get back to Reykjavik the same day.

Kerlingarfjoll Mountain Resort & Camping

Kerlingarfjoll Mountain Resort & Camping

Where To Stay At Kerlingarfjöll

Kerlingarfjoll has a small resort with 20 double rooms and 10 smaller individual cabins and A-frames that you can rent out for the night.

This backcountry lodge has hot showers available (on a timer), bathrooms, a small shop, and a restaurant. There’s also a campground here, which is what I did. It costs 2000 ISK ($16 USD) per person to camp with your own tent.

From the cabins, you can follow a path beside the river leading to a nice little hot spring pool that’s safe to swim in. It takes about 30 minutes to get there on foot.

There’s also a remote backpacker hostel further up F-35 called Gíslaskáli Kjölur.

The Land of Trolls & Elves

The Land of Trolls & Elves

Kerlingarfjoll Travel Tips

  • Icelandic names can be confusing. Kerlingarfjöll is the mountain range, while Hveradalir is the actual geothermal area.
  • To reach the red hills and steam vents of Hveradalir, you can either hike from Kerlingarfjöll Mountain Resort (1.5 hours), or if you have a 4X4 vehicle, drive up a steep dirt road to save time.
  • Fill your gas tank before entering the highlands. There’s one gas pump at Kerlingarfjöll but it isn’t always working.
  • There are a few public buses that stop out here, the 610 and 610a, but you’d need to spend the night and take another bus back the next day.
  • The hiking trails can be very muddy, or even covered in snow depending on the time of year. Proper hiking boots are recommended.
  • The area is very sensitive to foot-traffic, so please stay on marked trails to avoid destroying the delicate landscape.

While many people travel Iceland’s famous Golden Circle, far less venture up into the rugged highlands. But as you can see, there’s a good reason why its worth the effort involved! ★

USEFUL TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR ICELAND
Iceland Map – Plan your trip around Kerlingarfjoll with this handy map
Book A Flight: Learn how I find cheap airline flights for travel
Rent A Car: RentalCars.com is a great site for comparing car prices
Find A Hotel: Check out my secret tips for booking cheap hotels
Protect Your Stuff: WorldNomads.com can insure your trip & gear
Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Iceland
Suggested Reading: The Little Book Of Hidden People

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Tips for Hiking Kerlingarfjoll in Iceland's Highlands.

Have any questions about hiking Kerlingarfjöll in Iceland? What about other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

17 Things To Know Before Driving In Iceland (Plus Car Rental Tips)

Tips for Driving in Iceland

Things You Should Know About Driving in Iceland

Iceland

Ready for an epic road trip driving in Iceland? Renting a car is the best way to experience this beautiful country. But there are a few things you should know before you start your adventure.

So you’ve embraced your inner Leif Erikson, and you’re finally planning a trip to Iceland! Welcome to the club.

Road tripping around Iceland’s Ring Road, and the Golden Circle, are some of my favorite travel adventures to date (after 8 years and 50+ countries!)

Iceland will always have a special place in my heart.

Renting a car and driving Iceland on your own is the best way to experience this stunning and diverse country, as it truly gives you the freedom to stop at each and every waterfall, volcano, hot-spring, and glacier along the way.

Here are some important tips for driving in Iceland, so you’re ready to hit the road and start exploring the land of fire and ice.

Useful Tips For Driving In Iceland

Iceland Car Rental Advice

Tips for Renting a Car in Iceland

Should You Rent A Car In Iceland?

Hey, if you’re a fan of bus tours, by all means go book one. It’s a wonderful way to see a country if you don’t have a lot of time. No planning, no driving, just sit back and let someone else do all the work.

But if you’re like me, you prefer the adventure and challenge of independent travel. True exploration, with no set schedule or timetable. The freedom to stop anywhere interesting you find along the way.

Maybe you want to capture an epic waterfall sunrise photo at 6am without 100 other tourists around. Maybe you want to drive off the beaten path, excited with anticipation of what you’ll discover around the next bend.

If that’s the kind of traveler you are, then renting a car and self-driving around Iceland is the way to go!

Where To Rent Your Car

Renting a car from Keflavík International Airport is the most obvious choice, however you can also rent them in Reykjavik later if you plan to spend a few days in the city first.

The airport is about 40 minutes away from Reykjavik city.

During my three weeks traveling in Iceland, I rented an SUV for two weeks, and a campervan for one week.

RentalCars.com searches all the big car rental companies and finds the best price. This is probably the easiest way to rent a car or truck in Iceland.

Happy Campers rents fully-equipped campervans with a bed, kitchen, space heater, and everything you’d need for your road trip. It was an awesome way to see the country!

Road Conditions in Iceland

Iceland’s Adventurous Back Roads

Iceland’s Different Road Types

With the variety of landforms and terrain in Iceland, you’ve got to think about the type of trip you want to have. Do you want to carve your way across the Icelandic highlands like a Nordic explorer? Or do you plan on having a more relaxed and comfortable drive around the island?

This will determine the roads you’ll encounter and the vehicle you’ll need.

Ring Road & Golden Circle (Paved)

You can see some of Iceland’s most popular destinations driving around the Ring Road (Route 1). This mostly paved road runs a giant circle around the outer rim of the island and through many towns, including the capital of Reykjavik.

There are some remote sections with gravel, but a 2-wheel-drive vehicle will still get the job done. Speed limits average 90 kilometers per hour (56 mph) on these roads.

You can choose a 2WD vehicle for the Golden Circle, too. This short route is a great day trip from Reykjavik if you’re short on time (like during a layover).

USEFUL TIP: Planning to drive the ring road? Stop at Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon to see the incredible icebergs!

Adventurous F-Roads (Gravel)

Did you know that 54% of Icelanders believe in elves or the possibility they exist? If you want to search for them, you’ll find them near the F-roads.

These special designated dirt and gravel mountain roads wind through Iceland’s rugged interior highlands. It is strongly advised that people travel in groups of 2 or more cars for safety should a breakdown occur, just like remote jeep trails in the United States.

The rocky, muddy conditions are more treacherous than other gravel roads. You can travel for miles without seeing any other cars.

Iceland’s F-roads require a 4-wheel-drive rental car. They also require your full attention. Some F-Roads can get quite rough, with glacial river crossings.

USEFUL TIP: F-Road doesn’t mean off-road. Driving completely off marked roads in Iceland is illegal and can damage your rental and the environment.

Local Access H-Roads (Gravel)

These are dirt roads that often lead to farms and private homes off the main paved roads in Iceland. They are better maintained than the F-Roads, don’t require a 4X4 in the summer, but aren’t plowed as frequently as paved roads in the winter time.

What Kind of Car to Rent in Iceland

Renting a Campervan in Iceland

What Kind Of Vehicle Do You Need?

If you can’t drive manual stick shifts, double check that you’re actually renting an automatic vehicle, because most rental cars in Iceland are manual.

The type of vehicle you’ll need depends largely on the season, weather conditions, and road type.

Two Wheel Drive

Small 2WD cars are the most affordable, and perfectly suitable for day trips around Reykjavik and the popular paved roads that run around Iceland (like the Golden Circle and Ring Road).

All 2WD rental cars in Iceland are equipped with studded tires during the winter season to help with traction on ice too.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST? – Renting a small car in Iceland is going to cost between $40 – $100 USD per day (4200 ISK to 10,600 ISK) depending on the model/season.

Check Prices For 2WD Car Rentals In Iceland

Four Wheel Drive

The affordable 4×4 Suzuki Jimny, or a more expensive Land Rover is perfect for Iceland’s rugged F-Roads. If you plan to explore Iceland’s back roads at any point, you’ll want one of these four-wheel drive bad boys.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST? – Renting a 4X4 SUV in Iceland is going to cost between $100 – $250 USD per day (10,600 ISK – 26,500 ISK). A fancy Land Rover or Super Jeep will set you back $400+ per day.

Check Prices For 4X4 Truck Rentals In Iceland

Campervan

Transportation? Check. Accommodation? Check. Home-cooked meals? Fire up the grill, baby! This is the way to attack a serious Icelandic road trip in comfort. Plus, you’ll avoid spending cash on Iceland’s notoriously expensive accommodation and restaurant meals. More money = more fuel = more adventures.

Campervans come in both 2WD and 4WD varieties, which is especially important for driving Iceland in the winter.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST? – Renting a campervan in Iceland is going to cost between $140 – $250 USD per day (14,800 ISK to 26,500 ISK) depending on the model/season.

Check Prices For Campervan Rentals In Iceland

Northern Lights in Iceland

Driving Under the Northern Lights

Car Rental Insurance In Iceland

Driving in Iceland can result in some pretty harsh conditions that many people aren’t prepared for — so I always recommend getting the extra car insurance options available to you.

Collision Damage Waiver

Car rental companies typically offer various levels of a Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), which isn’t exactly insurance. Instead, it means the rental company won’t charge you over a predetermined limit if you drop off the rental car with damage.

But this limit still tends to be upwards of $1750 for the basic CDW, and companies in Iceland are more likely to inspect every inch of your vehicle.

The basic CDW comes free with every rental. With most companies, an additional daily fee (about $10 and up) allows you to upgrade to Super CDW (SCDW), Grand CDW, and even Premium CDW. This lowers the amount you’ll be liable for in the end should damage occur to the vehicle.

These higher-level CDWs usually come with added protection like:

Gravel Protection – Gravel roads abound in Iceland. There’s a risk of other drivers spraying rocks at your vehicle as they drive by, so it makes sense to grab this one for a few extra bucks a day.

Sandstorm & Ash Protection – Yup, you read that correctly! High winds can blast your car with volcanic ash and sand, causing extensive damage to the rental vehicle.

Ice Protection – Ice. Land. It’s in the name! Get this add-on, especially if you’re traveling in the winter. Sliding off icy roads is a common occurrence in Iceland.

River Crossing Insurance – Read the terms carefully. If it only covers water up to half of the wheel-well, you’re not protected for deeper crossings (which you’ll find plenty of on F-roads).

You’ll also want to check if the rental company sets a mileage limit. Always try to get the unlimited milage option!

Beware Sheep on Roads

Dangerous Sheep in Iceland

Watch Out For Animals!

There are 3 types of large animals that may cross your path while driving in Iceland, and crashing into them will definitely ruin your trip.

Iceland has a lot of sheep. In the summer, they’re allowed to roam free through the countryside, often walking across the road.

Beautiful and funny Icelandic horses can sometimes be moved from one pasture to another via roadways too.

If you’re driving in the remote North East of Iceland, you may see some wild reindeer in the winter. Reindeer were brought over from Norway in the 18th century, but were never domesticated.

Remember to slow down and pass any animals near the road very carefully.

Iceland’s Speed Cameras

You won’t see too many police cars on the roads driving around Iceland. However Iceland does enforce its speed limit with camera traps.

These nondescript boxes on the side of the road record your speed and take a photo if you’re driving over the limit, resulting in a steep fine.

The speed limit in Iceland is 90km/h (55mph) on paved roads, 80km/h (50mph) per hour on dirt roads, and 50km/h (30mph) per hour in cities.

Also note that seatbelts are mandatory in Iceland, and just good common sense anyway.

Driving in Bad Weather

Emergency Roadside Weather Shelter

Be Prepared For Extreme Weather

Weather can get severe in Iceland from time to time, especially in the winter. So severe, that 70mph wind gusts have been known to blow open car doors backwards, bending the hinges or ripping them off completely!

To prevent wind damage try to park your car facing the wind, pushing the door closed, not open. Crack your window first, and stick your hand out to test wind strength, then slowly open the door with two hands.

Don’t assume you can handle driving through an Icelandic snow storm just because you grew up in New England, because the weather can be VERY different here.

Weather changes quickly in Iceland, and a sunny morning can easily turn into a snowstorm later that day. Iceland has a fantastic website to check real-time road conditions called Road.is. They even have a handy smartphone app.

Gas Stations & Fuel Advice

Gas stations in Iceland are scarce once you get further away from the cities, but spread out across the island. Be sure to fuel up before setting out, and re-fuel often — try not to let it fall below half a tank.

You’ll find plenty of gas stations on the Ring Road until you reach the more remote Eastern and Northern parts of the country, where they start to thin out. Fill up more frequently out there.

Iceland is a remote island, without a lot of people/cars. At about $2 USD per liter ($7.50 USD per gallon), gas for your road trip is going to be expensive. Diesel isn’t much better right now, so check the prices and plan accordingly.

USEFUL TIP: If you’re up in the highland’s driving Iceland’s F-roads, it’s wise to bring a spare gas can.
Waterfalls in Iceland

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Do You Need GPS?

Many car rental companies in Iceland will try to up-sell you a GPS device for your road trip. However this is not needed if you have international cell service, or pick up a local SIM card at the airport or in Reykjavik before you embark on your journey.

Maybe bring along a dashboard or windshield smartphone holder so you can use the GPS maps hands-free while driving.

Along with Google Maps, I’d also recommend downloading the Gaia GPS Hiking App, which will help you get around Iceland’s backcountry hiking trails, even if you don’t have cell service. Here’s a handy guide for using it.

Don’t Stop In The Middle Of The Road!

Many of Iceland’s roads lack breakdown lanes, or have small ones. However because the scenery in Iceland is so spectacular, tourists are constantly stopping on the edge of the road to take photos.

Don’t do this! It’s not safe, and you might cause an accident.

If you really have to get that amazing photo, keep driving until you find a proper turn-off, park, and walk back to that perfect spot. Even if it takes you an extra 10 minutes.

That photo opportunity can wait a little, it’s simply not worth the danger of stopping in the middle of the road when there’s traffic passing by. Please be respectful of everyone else driving in Iceland.

Road Trip Tips for Iceland

Be Prepared for Extreme Conditions

Pack Proper Gear For Iceland

Even though Iceland is becoming a very popular tourist destination, parts of it are still pretty remote. Between large towns, you could be driving for a while before you’ll find regular civilization.

With this in mind, it’s wise to pack extra food, snacks, and water for your road trip. I’d also make sure you have proper clothing for cold weather and stormy conditions, warm and waterproof layers. Sturdy shoes or hiking boots too.

A first aid kit is always a great idea, here’s the one I travel with on my frequent adventures around the world. You never know when it will come in handy.

Campervan Rules

You Can’t Just Camp Anywhere

Car Camping Restrictions

So, you’ve packed a tent in your car, or you’re driving a camper van. You assume it’s legal to camp anywhere you please on this beautiful island. But should you? Can you legally camp anywhere in Iceland?

According to the Environment Agency of Iceland (EAI):

“Camping with no more than three tents is allowed on uncultivated ground for a single night, unless the landowner has posted a notice to the contrary. However, campers should always use designated campsites where they do exist. Do not camp close to farms without permission. If a group of more than three tents is involved, these campers must seek permission from the landowner before setting up camp outside marked campsite areas.

It is illegal to spent the night in tent trailers, tent campers, caravans, camper van or similar outside organised campsites or urban areas unless the land owner or rightholder has given their permission.”

There are also protected areas in Iceland where you definitely may NOT camp. For a complete list of protected locations and descriptions of when to ask permission, visit the camping rules page.

Please use a designated campsite when it’s available. With more than three tents or driving a campervan, ask permission of the landowner. Avoid protected areas.

If you do choose to camp outside designated areas, please follow the rules above, and leave no trace of your presence behind — so Iceland stays beautiful for locals and future travelers.

Winter Driving Tips in Iceland

Driving Iceland in the Winter

Winter Driving In Iceland

Every year tons of unprepared tourists get stuck or slide off the road due to Iceland’s winter driving conditions. I was hit with 2 snow storms during my 3 week trip during October/November.

Part of the problem is many people don’t have any real winter driving experience, or they over-estimate their abilities.

Getting your rental car stuck in the snow or ice is a very real possibility during winter in Iceland. Do you know how to get yourself out?

  • Clear snow away from your tires, using a shovel or hands and feet.
  • Straighten your tires, rock the vehicle back and forth, shifting from drive to reverse.
  • Create traction under your tires using dirt, sand, branches, granola, floor mats, anything you can find.

Always fill your gas tank when possible, especially in the winter. Getting stuck in a snowstorm and spending the night in your vehicle is a remote possibility. Without gas to keep it running (and warm), things get dangerous quickly.

When driving through heavy snow, try to stay inside the tire tracks. Drive slowly, and carefully move over to the edge when passing oncoming traffic.

Driving in Iceland

Off-Road Driving Tips

F-Road Driving Tips

While driving Iceland’s remote & rugged F-Roads is not technically driving off-road, basically you need to think of them as exactly that.

These roads are extremely basic, and not really maintained. In the United States, they’d be called “jeep trails” or “fire roads”.

So the same kind of safety concerns apply. You are on your own out there. No gas stations, no towns, no tow trucks.

If you get a flat, get stuck in the mud, or your engine breaks down, it could be a while before someone passes by who can help.

  • It’s forbidden to drive Iceland’s F-Roads without a 4X4 vehicle due to the rough conditions.
  • Traveling in pairs with a second vehicle is highly recommended, in case one of you breaks down.
  • F-Roads are only open during the summer months, generally June – August (or first snow). Some don’t open until July.

How To Cross A River

If you’re driving the paved Ring Road or Golden Circle, you’ll have normal bridges (although some are one-lane). However if you’re traveling to Iceland’s interior highlands on the dirt F-Roads, you may encounter a few rivers without any.

Crossing a river in a 4X4 truck requires a bit of planning. If you’ve never done it before, here are some tips.

  • Know where your vehicle’s “water line” is (maximum depth). Going past it may result in damage.
  • Try to cross glacial rivers early in the morning, when the flow is lower. As the day heats up, the river gets more powerful/deeper.
  • Shift your vehicle into 4X4 “low” before you start to cross, not in the middle of the river.
  • Drive slow and steady through the current. Don’t drive too fast or “splash” into the water (it could kill the engine).
  • Drive diagonally downstream, so the current helps push you across.
  • Stick to the marked crossing points, and don’t assume it’s always safe to cross. Try to watch someone else go first.
Iceland Emergency Information

What to Do During an Emergency?

Accident & Breakdown Info

112 is the only emergency number in Iceland. This is what you’d call to report any bad accidents, fire, crime, search & rescue, or natural disasters. 112 can be reached from anywhere in Iceland, from any telephone, by voice or by SMS text message.

Another great resource is the 112 Iceland App, that lets you “check in” before going on a hike or doing anything risky, to help provide location information if something goes wrong later.

If it’s not a life-or-death emergency, like your car breaks down or you get a flat tire, then contact your rental car office for help.

If you break down and you’re not exactly sure where you are, please don’t leave your car. Stay with your vehicle until someone passes by who can help.

Iceland’s F-Roads are patrolled by search & rescue teams who check for stranded drivers on a semi-regular basis.

Have Fun Driving In Iceland!

I hope I didn’t scare you too much about driving in Iceland. It really is worth the extra effort to rent a car and drive yourself!

Regardless of which vehicle or road you choose, one thing’s for sure — renting a car in Iceland gives you the freedom to set your own path and reach stunning locations off-limits to the typical bus tourist.

It also lets you do it at your own pace and in a style that suits you. And besides, how do you expect to hunt for elves or the incredible northern lights from your hotel room in Reykjavik?

Get out there and drive around Iceland in your own rental car! ★

Bonus Video! Driving Tips For Iceland

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for new Adventure Travel Videos!

(Click to watch Dangers On Icelandic Roads? – Driving With Elfis on YouTube)

TRIP PLANNING INFORMATION
Location: Iceland
Car Rental: RentalCars.com or Happy Campers
Accommodation: Click Here For Deals in Iceland
Useful Notes: For road trips around Iceland’s popular Ring Road or Golden Circle, you really don’t need a 4X4 vehicle in the summer. In the winter, if you’re heading to the far North or East of Iceland, it will certainly help during snow-storms.
Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Iceland
Suggested Reading: The Little Book Of Hidden People

Pin This!

Important tips for driving in Iceland and renting a car. An essential road trip guide! More at ExpertVagabond.com
Important tips for driving in Iceland and renting a car. An essential road trip guide! More at ExpertVagabond.com

Are you planning a road trip in Iceland? Any questions about driving or renting a car there? Drop me a message in the comments below!

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

17 Things To Know Before Driving In Iceland!

Tips for Driving in Iceland

Things You Should Know About Driving in Iceland

Iceland

Ready for an epic road trip driving in Iceland? Renting a car is the best way to experience this beautiful country. But there are a few things you should know before you start your adventure.

So you’ve embraced your inner Leif Erikson, and you’re finally planning a trip to Iceland! Welcome to the club.

Road tripping around Iceland’s Ring Road, and the Golden Circle, are some of my favorite travel adventures to date (after 8 years and 50+ countries!)

Iceland will always have a special place in my heart.

Renting a car and driving Iceland on your own is the best way to experience this stunning and diverse country, as it truly gives you the freedom to stop at each and every waterfall, volcano, hot-spring, and glacier along the way.

Here are some important tips for driving in Iceland, so you’re ready to hit the road and start exploring the land of fire and ice.

Useful Tips For Driving In Iceland

Iceland Car Rental Advice

Tips for Renting a Car in Iceland

Should You Rent A Car In Iceland?

Hey, if you’re a fan of bus tours, by all means go book one. It’s a wonderful way to see a country if you don’t have a lot of time. No planning, no driving, just sit back and let someone else do all the work.

But if you’re like me, you prefer the adventure and challenge of independent travel. True exploration, with no set schedule or timetable. The freedom to stop anywhere interesting you find along the way.

Maybe you want to capture an epic waterfall sunrise photo at 6am without 100 other tourists around. Maybe you want to drive off the beaten path, excited with anticipation of what you’ll discover around the next bend.

If that’s the kind of traveler you are, then renting a car and self-driving around Iceland is the way to go!

Where To Rent Your Car

Renting a car from Keflavík International Airport is the most obvious choice, however you can also rent them in Reykjavik later if you plan to spend a few days in the city first.

The airport is about 40 minutes away from Reykjavik city.

During my three weeks traveling in Iceland, I rented an SUV for two weeks, and a campervan for one week.

RentalCars.com searches all the big car rental companies and finds the best price. This is probably the easiest way to rent a car or truck in Iceland.

Happy Campers rents fully-equipped campervans with a bed, kitchen, space heater, and everything you’d need for your road trip. It was an awesome way to see the country!

Road Conditions in Iceland

Iceland’s Adventurous Back Roads

Iceland’s Different Road Types

With the variety of landforms and terrain in Iceland, you’ve got to think about the type of trip you want to have.

Do you want to carve your way across the Icelandic highlands like a Nordic explorer? Or do you plan on having a more relaxed and comfortable drive around the island?

This will determine the roads you’ll encounter and the vehicle you’ll need.

Ring Road & Golden Circle (Paved)

You can see some of Iceland’s most popular destinations driving around the Ring Road (Route 1). This mostly paved road runs a giant circle around the outer rim of the island and through many towns, including the capital of Reykjavik.

There are some remote sections with gravel, but a 2-wheel-drive vehicle will still get the job done. Speed limits average 90 kilometers per hour (56 mph) on these roads.

You can choose a 2WD vehicle for the Golden Circle, too. This short route is a great day trip from Reykjavik if you’re short on time (like during a layover).

USEFUL TIP: Planning to drive the ring road? Stop at Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon to see the incredible icebergs!

Adventurous F-Roads (Gravel)

Did you know that 54% of Icelanders believe in elves or the possibility they exist? If you want to search for them, you’ll find them near the F-roads.

These special designated dirt and gravel mountain roads wind through Iceland’s rugged interior highlands. It is strongly advised that people travel in groups of 2 or more cars for safety should a breakdown occur, just like remote jeep trails in the United States.

The rocky, muddy conditions are more treacherous than other gravel roads. You can travel for miles without seeing any other cars.

Iceland’s F-roads require a 4-wheel-drive rental car. They also require your full attention. Some F-Roads can get quite rough, with glacial river crossings.

USEFUL TIP: F-Road doesn’t mean off-road. Driving completely off marked roads in Iceland is illegal and can damage your rental and the environment.

Local Access H-Roads (Gravel)

These are dirt roads that often lead to farms and private homes off the main paved roads in Iceland. They are better maintained than the F-Roads, don’t require a 4X4 in the summer, but aren’t plowed as frequently as paved roads in the winter time.

What Kind of Car to Rent in Iceland

Renting a Campervan in Iceland

What Kind Of Vehicle Do You Need?

If you can’t drive manual stick shifts, double check that you’re actually renting an automatic vehicle, because most rental cars in Iceland are manual.

The type of vehicle you’ll need depends largely on the season, weather conditions, and road type.

Two Wheel Drive

Small 2WD cars are the most affordable, and perfectly suitable for day trips around Reykjavik and the popular paved roads that run around Iceland (like the Golden Circle and Ring Road).

All 2WD rental cars in Iceland are equipped with studded tires during the winter season to help with traction on ice too.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST? – Renting a small car in Iceland is going to cost between $40 – $100 USD per day (4200 ISK to 10,600 ISK) depending on the model/season.

Check Prices For 2WD Car Rentals In Iceland

Four Wheel Drive

The affordable 4×4 Suzuki Jimny, or a more expensive Land Rover is perfect for Iceland’s rugged F-Roads. If you plan to explore Iceland’s back roads at any point, you’ll want one of these four-wheel drive bad boys.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST? – Renting a 4X4 SUV in Iceland is going to cost between $100 – $250 USD per day (10,600 ISK – 26,500 ISK). A fancy Land Rover or Super Jeep will set you back $400+ per day.

Check Prices For 4X4 Truck Rentals In Iceland

Campervan

Transportation? Check. Accommodation? Check. Home-cooked meals? Fire up the grill, baby! This is the way to attack a serious Icelandic road trip in comfort. Plus, you’ll avoid spending cash on Iceland’s notoriously expensive accommodation and restaurant meals. More money = more fuel = more adventures.

Campervans come in both 2WD and 4WD varieties, which is especially important for driving Iceland in the winter.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST? – Renting a campervan in Iceland is going to cost between $140 – $250 USD per day (14,800 ISK to 26,500 ISK) depending on the model/season.

Check Prices For Campervan Rentals In Iceland

Northern Lights in Iceland

Driving Under the Northern Lights

Car Rental Insurance In Iceland

Driving in Iceland can result in some pretty harsh conditions that many people aren’t prepared for — so I always recommend getting the extra car insurance options available to you.

Collision Damage Waiver

Car rental companies typically offer various levels of a Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), which isn’t exactly insurance. Instead, it means the rental company won’t charge you over a predetermined limit if you drop off the rental car with damage.

But this limit still tends to be upwards of $1750 for the basic CDW, and companies in Iceland are more likely to inspect every inch of your vehicle.

The basic CDW comes free with every rental. With most companies, an additional daily fee (about $10 and up) allows you to upgrade to Super CDW (SCDW), Grand CDW, and even Premium CDW. This lowers the amount you’ll be liable for in the end should damage occur to the vehicle.

These higher-level CDWs usually come with added protection like:

Gravel Protection – Gravel roads abound in Iceland. There’s a risk of other drivers spraying rocks at your vehicle as they drive by, so it makes sense to grab this one for a few extra bucks a day.

Sandstorm & Ash Protection – Yup, you read that correctly! High winds can blast your car with volcanic ash and sand, causing extensive damage to the rental vehicle.

Ice Protection – Ice. Land. It’s in the name! Get this add-on, especially if you’re traveling in the winter. Sliding off icy roads is a common occurrence in Iceland.

River Crossing Insurance – Read the terms carefully. If it only covers water up to half of the wheel-well, you’re not protected for deeper crossings (which you’ll find plenty of on F-roads).

You’ll also want to check if the rental company sets a mileage limit. Always try to get the unlimited milage option!

Beware Sheep on Roads

Dangerous Sheep in Iceland

Watch Out For Animals!

There are 3 types of large animals that may cross your path while driving in Iceland, and crashing into them will definitely ruin your trip.

Iceland has a lot of sheep. In the summer, they’re allowed to roam free through the countryside, often walking across the road.

Beautiful and funny Icelandic horses can sometimes be moved from one pasture to another via roadways too.

If you’re driving in the remote North East of Iceland, you may see some wild reindeer in the winter. Reindeer were brought over from Norway in the 18th century, but were never domesticated.

Remember to slow down and pass any animals near the road very carefully.

Speed Cameras on Route 1

Watch for Speed Traps

Iceland’s Speed Cameras

You won’t see too many police cars on the roads driving around Iceland. However Iceland does enforce its speed limit with camera traps.

These nondescript boxes on the side of the road record your speed and take a photo if you’re driving over the limit, resulting in a steep fine.

The speed limit in Iceland is 90km/h (55mph) on paved roads, 80km/h (50mph) per hour on dirt roads, and 50km/h (30mph) per hour in cities.

Also note that seatbelts are mandatory in Iceland, and just good common sense anyway.

Driving in Bad Weather

Emergency Roadside Weather Shelter

Be Prepared For Extreme Weather

Weather can get severe in Iceland from time to time, especially in the winter. So severe, that 70mph wind gusts have been known to blow open car doors backwards, bending the hinges or ripping them off completely!

To prevent wind damage try to park your car facing the wind, pushing the door closed, not open. Crack your window first, and stick your hand out to test wind strength, then slowly open the door with two hands.

Don’t assume you can handle driving through an Icelandic snow storm just because you grew up in New England, because the weather can be VERY different here.

Weather changes quickly in Iceland, and a sunny morning can easily turn into a snowstorm later that day. Iceland has a fantastic website to check real-time road conditions called Road.is. They even have a handy smartphone app.

Gas Stations & Fuel Advice

Gas stations in Iceland are scarce once you get further away from the cities, but spread out across the island. Be sure to fuel up before setting out, and re-fuel often — try not to let it fall below half a tank.

You’ll find plenty of gas stations on the Ring Road until you reach the more remote Eastern and Northern parts of the country, where they start to thin out. Fill up more frequently out there.

Iceland is a remote island, without a lot of people/cars. At about $2 USD per liter ($7.50 USD per gallon), gas for your road trip is going to be expensive. Diesel isn’t much better right now, so check the prices and plan accordingly.

USEFUL TIP: If you’re up in the highland’s driving Iceland’s F-roads, it’s wise to bring a spare gas can.
Waterfalls in Iceland

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Do You Need GPS?

Many car rental companies in Iceland will try to up-sell you a GPS device for your road trip. However this is not needed if you have international cell service, or pick up a local SIM card at the airport or in Reykjavik before you embark on your journey.

Maybe bring along a dashboard or windshield smartphone holder so you can use the GPS maps hands-free while driving.

Along with Google Maps, I’d also recommend downloading the Gaia GPS Hiking App, which will help you get around Iceland’s backcountry hiking trails, even if you don’t have cell service. Here’s a handy guide for using it.

Don’t Stop In The Middle Of The Road!

Many of Iceland’s roads lack breakdown lanes, or have small ones. However because the scenery in Iceland is so spectacular, tourists are constantly stopping on the edge of the road to take photos.

Don’t do this! It’s not safe, and you might cause an accident.

If you really have to get that amazing photo, keep driving until you find a proper turn-off, park, and walk back to that perfect spot. Even if it takes you an extra 10 minutes.

That photo opportunity can wait a little, it’s simply not worth the danger of stopping in the middle of the road when there’s traffic passing by. Please be respectful of everyone else driving in Iceland.

Road Trip Tips for Iceland

Be Prepared for Extreme Conditions

Pack Proper Gear For Iceland

Even though Iceland is becoming a very popular tourist destination, parts of it are still pretty remote. Between large towns, you could be driving for a while before you’ll find regular civilization.

With this in mind, it’s wise to pack extra food, snacks, and water for your road trip. I’d also make sure you have proper clothing for cold weather and stormy conditions, warm and waterproof layers. Sturdy shoes or hiking boots too.

A first aid kit is always a great idea, here’s the one I travel with on my frequent adventures around the world. You never know when it will come in handy.

Campervan Rules

You Can’t Just Camp Anywhere

Car Camping Restrictions

So, you’ve packed a tent in your car, or you’re driving a camper van. You assume it’s legal to camp anywhere you please on this beautiful island. But should you? Can you legally camp anywhere in Iceland?

According to the Environment Agency of Iceland (EAI):

“Camping with no more than three tents is allowed on uncultivated ground for a single night, unless the landowner has posted a notice to the contrary. However, campers should always use designated campsites where they do exist. Do not camp close to farms without permission. If a group of more than three tents is involved, these campers must seek permission from the landowner before setting up camp outside marked campsite areas.

It is illegal to spent the night in tent trailers, tent campers, caravans, camper van or similar outside organised campsites or urban areas unless the land owner or rightholder has given their permission.”

There are also protected areas in Iceland where you definitely may NOT camp. For a complete list of protected locations and descriptions of when to ask permission, visit the camping rules page.

Please use a designated campsite when it’s available. With more than three tents or driving a campervan, ask permission of the landowner. Avoid protected areas.

If you do choose to camp outside designated areas, please follow the rules above, and leave no trace of your presence behind — so Iceland stays beautiful for locals and future travelers.

Winter Driving Tips in Iceland

Driving Iceland in the Winter

Winter Driving In Iceland

Every year tons of unprepared tourists get stuck or slide off the road due to Iceland’s winter driving conditions. I was hit with 2 snow storms during my 3 week trip during October/November.

Part of the problem is many people don’t have any real winter driving experience, or they over-estimate their abilities.

Getting your rental car stuck in the snow or ice is a very real possibility during winter in Iceland. Do you know how to get yourself out?

  • Clear snow away from your tires, using a shovel or hands and feet.
  • Straighten your tires, rock the vehicle back and forth, shifting from drive to reverse.
  • Create traction under your tires using dirt, sand, branches, granola, floor mats, anything you can find.

Always fill your gas tank when possible, especially in the winter. Getting stuck in a snowstorm and spending the night in your vehicle is a remote possibility. Without gas to keep it running (and warm), things get dangerous quickly.

When driving through heavy snow, try to stay inside the tire tracks. Drive slowly, and carefully move over to the edge when passing oncoming traffic.

Driving in Iceland

Off-Road Driving Tips

F-Road Driving Tips

While driving Iceland’s remote & rugged F-Roads is not technically driving off-road, basically you need to think of them as exactly that.

These roads are extremely basic, and not really maintained. In the United States, they’d be called “jeep trails” or “fire roads”.

So the same kind of safety concerns apply. You are on your own out there. No gas stations, no towns, no tow trucks.

If you get a flat, get stuck in the mud, or your engine breaks down, it could be a while before someone passes by who can help.

  • It’s forbidden to drive Iceland’s F-Roads without a 4X4 vehicle due to the rough conditions.
  • Traveling in pairs with a second vehicle is highly recommended, in case one of you breaks down.
  • F-Roads are only open during the summer months, generally June – September (or first snow). Some don’t open until July.
Driving in the Highlands

Highland River Crossings

How To Cross A River

If you’re driving the paved Ring Road or Golden Circle, you’ll have normal bridges (although some are one-lane). However if you’re traveling to Iceland’s interior highlands on the dirt F-Roads, you may encounter a few rivers without any.

Crossing a river in a 4X4 truck requires a bit of planning. If you’ve never done it before, here are some tips.

  • Know where your vehicle’s “water line” is (maximum depth). Going past it may result in damage.
  • Try to cross glacial rivers early in the morning, when the flow is lower. As the day heats up, the river gets more powerful/deeper.
  • Shift your vehicle into 4X4 “low” before you start to cross, not in the middle of the river.
  • Drive slow and steady through the current. Don’t drive too fast or “splash” into the water (it could kill the engine).
  • Drive diagonally downstream, so the current helps push you across.
  • Stick to the marked crossing points, and don’t assume it’s always safe to cross. Try to watch someone else go first.
Iceland Emergency Information

What to Do During an Emergency?

Accident & Breakdown Info

112 is the only emergency number in Iceland. This is what you’d call to report any bad accidents, fire, crime, search & rescue, or natural disasters. 112 can be reached from anywhere in Iceland, from any telephone, by voice or by SMS text message.

Another great resource is the 112 Iceland App, that lets you “check in” before going on a hike or doing anything risky, to help provide location information if something goes wrong later.

If it’s not a life-or-death emergency, like your car breaks down or you get a flat tire, then contact your rental car office for help.

If you break down and you’re not exactly sure where you are, please don’t leave your car. Stay with your vehicle until someone passes by who can help.

Iceland’s F-Roads are patrolled by search & rescue teams who check for stranded drivers on a semi-regular basis.

Have Fun Driving In Iceland!

I hope I didn’t scare you too much about driving in Iceland. It really is worth the extra effort to rent a car and drive yourself!

Regardless of which vehicle or road you choose, one thing’s for sure — renting a car in Iceland gives you the freedom to set your own path and reach stunning locations off-limits to the typical bus tourist.

It also lets you do it at your own pace and in a style that suits you. And besides, how do you expect to hunt for elves or the incredible northern lights from your hotel room in Reykjavik?

Get out there and drive around Iceland in your own rental car! ★

Bonus Video! Driving Tips For Iceland

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for new Adventure Travel Videos!

(Click to watch Dangers On Icelandic Roads? – Driving With Elfis on YouTube)

USEFUL TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR ICELAND
Iceland Map – Plan your trip around Iceland with this handy map
RentalCars.com – Great site for comparing rental car prices
HappyCampers.is – Campervan rentals in Iceland
Skyscanner.net – My favorite place to book cheap airline flights
Booking.com – Book affordable accommodation in Iceland
Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Iceland
Suggested Reading: The Little Book Of Hidden People

Pin This!

Important tips for driving in Iceland and renting a car. An essential road trip guide! More at ExpertVagabond.com
Important tips for driving in Iceland and renting a car. An essential road trip guide! More at ExpertVagabond.com

READ MORE FROM ICELAND

Driving Iceland’s Golden Circle
How To Photograph The Northern Lights
Iceland’s Best Photography Locations
Road Trip Guide To Iceland’s Ring Road

Are you planning a road trip in Iceland? Any questions about driving or renting a car there? Drop me a message in the comments below!

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Iceland’s Amazing Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Iceland

How to Visit Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Jokulsarlon, Iceland

The landscape is full of broken icebergs, streaked blue and black, floating with the tide, occasionally breaking apart in a mighty crash. This is Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon in Iceland.

Jokulsarlon iceberg lagoon is Iceland’s deepest and most spectacular glacial lake, beloved by tourists, photographers, adventurers – even world-famous Hollywood super-spies.

If you visited this frozen landscape a hundred years ago, all you would have seen was ice. But then, the world started to heat up… thanks global warming!

Because of this increase in the world’s climate starting around 1920, the icebound edge of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier started to melt. The Icelandic word Jökulsárlón actually means “glacier’s river lagoon”.

Jokulsarlon lagoon forms part of Vatnajökull National Park, and has become one of Iceland’s most popular attractions.

Jokulsarlon Lagoon Selfie

King of the Ice!

Icebergs At Jokulsarlon

In less than a century, this vast frozen landscape collapsed into a mess of shattered ice & liquid that we see now — Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon.

A river soon formed, and found its way to the sea, pulling broken icebergs into the North Atlantic and sculpting unearthly shapes along its black-sand banks.

Every year, this fledgling glacier lagoon is made larger as icebergs break off Vatnajökull glacier, float around in the lagoon, and eventually drift out to sea in the summer months.

Jokulsarlon doubled in size between 1975 and 1998. It now covers 7 square miles – and is growing every year.

Jokulsarlon Lagoon Sunrise

Colorful Sunrise at Jokulsarlon

Iceland At Its Most Beautiful

Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon is a photographer’s paradise. I was in heaven during my visit in November. First and most obviously, the ice is jaw-droppingly beautiful.

Compressed glacial ice often turns glassy and a deep, luminous blue, and that’s best seen when the icebergs break and flip over.

You’ll see plenty of broken blue icebergs at Jökulsárlón – and the contrast against the white backdrop of the distant glacier and the black sand of the lagoon’s beach is truly other-worldly.

You may even see seals too. Thanks to that small river leading to the ocean, the lagoon is filled with fish, and seals regularly gather at the river mouth to feed, along with huge numbers of seabirds.

Jokulsarlon Lagoon Bridge

Bridge Over the Glacial River

Jokulsarlon Iceland boat tours

Boat Tours on the Lagoon

Glacier Lagoon Boat Tours

A tour company called Glacier Lagoon has been running boat rides at Jokulsarlon for nearly 30 years, ever since the world’s most famous super-spy James Bond himself made an appearance.

In the opening scenes of Roger Moore’s A View To A Kill (1985), the iceberg lagoon was used as a stand-in for Northern Siberia – and when news got out, tourists started arriving, as did boat tour services.

(In 2001, Jökulsárlón again doubled as Siberia for scenes in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – and in the same year, the James Bond crew returned to film parts of Pierce Brosnan’s Die Another Day.)

There are two types of tours to choose from. There is an amphibious boat ride (ISK 5500 / $55 USD) for a relaxing tour round the biggest icebergs, accompanied by guided commentary.

For the more adventurous, get fitted with a flotation suit and lifejacket and take a Zodiac (ISK 9500 / $95 USD) for much closer views of the ice, including right under the glacier’s edge if conditions permit.

Jokulsarlon Glacier Black Sand Beach

Ice Scattered over the Black Sand

When To Visit The Lagoon

Jokulsarlon’s boat tours only run between May and October, and outside of those months, Icelandic weather can get fierce – although bad weather can hit at any time, so it’s wise to always be prepared for white-out conditions.

The best months for good weather (and clear-sky photography) at the lagoon are July and August – but September/October can be a better time to visit Iceland because the tourist season has ended, prices are lower and there will be be less people around.

You’ll also have a better chance of seeing Iceland’s incredible northern lights!

Getting To Jokulsarlon

The Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon is hard to miss off the side of Iceland’s famous ring road (Route 1) – but it requires some planning to get out here. Rather than try to cram it into a single day, you should really plan for two days.

Rental Car

I visited while driving around Iceland’s Ring Road in a campervan from Happy Campers – it helps to have your own transportation because Jökulsárlón is pretty far away from major towns.

The trip takes about 5 hours from Reykjavík, provided you don’t stop along the way (which is almost impossible in Iceland, there’s so much to see!). Another service I’ve used in the past is called Sad Cars.

By Bus

Strætó Bus: Route 51 from Mjódd bus terminal (Reykjavík) to Jökulsárlón. It’s a 6 hour trip that starts at 1pm – and the next bus back is usually at 12:55pm the next day.

If you visit Jokulsarlon by bus, you won’t be returning the same day – and since accommodation at the lagoon is non-existent (see later), you’d have to be pretty adventurous to pick this option.

Hitchhiking

Another adventurous option, but hitchhiking in Iceland is pretty common and safe. How long it will take you to hitchhike here from Reykjavík just depends on your hitchhiking skills, luck, and how many stops you make.

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon Camping

Overnight at Jökulsárlón in my Camper Van

Best Places To Stay

I spent the night camped out at the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon parking lot in my Happy Campers van. There are no hotels, hostels or guesthouses at the lagoon itself. Höfn is the closest large town, about an hour away.

If you’re wondering where to stay in Iceland near Jokulsarlon, here are my recommendations:

Budget Accommodation

Vagnsstaðir Hostel – This is the closest hostel to Jokulsarlon, about 13 miles to the northeast.

Höfn Hostel – An environmentally friendly hostel with sea views, located an hour away in the village of Höfn.

Mid-Range Accommodation

Hali Country Hotel – This small hotel is a 15-minute drive from the lagoon, offering double & triple rooms and apartments plus a restaurant.

Hotel Höfn – Located in Höfn about an hour away, this hotel offers modern rooms with glacier & sea views.

Ice at Jokulsarlon Lagoon

Shiny Diamonds of Ice on the Beach

Jökulsárlón Travel Tips & Advice

  • Iceland in the summer can be surprisingly warm, but icebergs at Jokulsarlon lagoon give off waves of cold air you can feel on your face. Take a hat and a warm gloves, even if it looks sunny.
  • Watch out for the fiercely territorial skua seabirds that live in the area – if you get close to their nests, they’ll dive at you noisily until you back off!
  • Sunrise is the best time to photograph the glacier lagoon icebergs, not only because of great lighting conditions, but also because there are less tourists. Sunset is also good, but more crowded than sunrise.
  • During the tourist season, there’s a small café that serves a limited amount of snacks. But that’s about it.
  • Iceland’s incredible crystal ice caves are not far away from Jokulsarlon, so if you happen to be visiting in the winter, I highly recommend exploring them with a guide!

No trip to Iceland is complete without a stop at Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, as you can see, there’s a good reason why it’s one of Iceland’s most popular natural attractions! ★

Traveling To Iceland Soon?

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance here.

Watch Video: Adventures In Iceland

(Click to watch Iceland Adventures with LifeProof on YouTube)

More Information

Location: Jökulsárlón, Iceland
Useful Notes: While Jokulsarlon is open year-round, the lagoon is often frozen over in the winter. Due to the summer heat, you’ll see the most icebergs in the summer months as ice calves into the lagoon from the glacier and floats out to sea.
Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Iceland
Suggested Reading: The Little Book Of Hidden People

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Tips for visiting Jokulsarlon lagoon Iceland. More at ExpertVagabond.com
Tips for visiting Jokulsarlon lagoon Iceland. More at ExpertVagabond.com

Have any questions about Jokulsarlon Lagoon in Iceland? What about other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission, at no extra cost to you. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

How To See (And Photograph) Northern Lights In Iceland

Northern Lights in Iceland

How To See The Northern Lights in Iceland

Photography Tips

Iceland is one of the best places in the world to see colorful lights dancing in the night sky. Learn how to find & photograph the amazing Northern Lights in Iceland.

Northern Lights In Iceland

Before I visited Iceland, I’d only witnessed the northern lights one other time back in college. The northern lights transfixed me for hours, watching this mysterious green glow of the magical aurora borealis dance over a high mountain range in Montana.

So trying to locate and take amazing photos of the northern lights in Iceland was a top priority for me — as it often is for many visitors to the country.

However many people don’t realize that this incredible phenomenon is elusive and unpredictable. Yes, even in a famous northern lights country like Iceland.

So to help you improve your chances for finding the northern lights, I wanted to share a few tips and photography techniques from my recent adventure in Iceland — and show you how I managed to get some great photos of this incredible natural phenomenon.

The Aurora Borealis

Northern Lights Iceland

Light Trails – 13 Seconds, f/4.0, ISO2000

How To Find The Northern Lights In Iceland

So why are the northern lights so difficult to see, even in Iceland? Well, it’s because there are many different factors involved.

For a perfect northern lights experience, you need a combination of dark skies, clear weather, and strong aurora activity. Ensuring that all these requirements come together takes some planning.

Find Some Dark Skies

For the same reason star-gazing is better when it’s dark out, viewing the northern lights is best in the dark too. Light pollution from cities & towns hinders the experience. Yes, you can sometimes see the lights from Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik. However you’ll have more luck in the countryside away from man-made light sources.

Wait For Clear Weather

If the weather is overly cloudy, you won’t be able to find the northern lights. So pay attention to the weather forecast, especially cloud cover (infrared satellite maps help a lot). While you might still see some aurora lights if it’s only partly cloudy, you’ll have the best chance when there are no clouds at all.

Check out cloud cover conditions around the world on MeteoStar.

Aurora Forecast

Because aurora activity comes down from the sun in space, scientists are able to predict how strong it will be by looking at our sun’s solar wind, and the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field. The KP-Index ranges from 0-9 with ratings of 5 or greater considered solar storms. There are a few websites that specifically track it.

Iceland has a great site that predicts both cloud cover & aurora activity.

For worldwide aurora predictions, check out Space Weather Ovation.

Self-Drive vs. Group Tour

You should be able to go hunting for the northern lights on your own by renting a car in Iceland. Another option is renting a camper van, which allows you to camp out away from towns with light pollution.

Experience driving in snow is helpful if you’re visiting Iceland in the winter, as conditions can sometimes be very harsh. Big snowstorms are common.

I prefer exploring on my own, as it gives me the freedom to stay out all night or move locations on a whim.

However if you don’t feel comfortable driving in Iceland at night, there are plenty of organized northern lights tours available too.

Northern Lights Over Iceland

Iceland Plane Crash – 15 Seconds, f/4.0, ISO2500

Best Time To See Northern Lights

The best season to see the northern lights in Iceland is the fall/winter months from September to April. The absolute darkest months in Iceland are between November & February, but these months can also have the worst weather.

Remember that you need a combination of darkness away from towns, clear skies, and strong aurora activity to see the northern lights.

Witnessing Iceland’s northern lights during summer months is pretty rare, due to almost 20 hours of sunlight per day near the arctic circle.

The more time you spend in Iceland, the better your chances are of spotting the lights. If you’re only visiting on a 2 day stopover, you’ll need a LOT of luck to see them. I recommend spending at least 7 days in Iceland if you want to find the northern lights.

Even then it can be difficult. As an example, my photographer friend Ken Kaminesky has visited Iceland 5 times now and has still never seen them!

You also won’t see the northern lights if you’re bar hopping in Reykjavik. A primary reason why I was able to capture such great photos of the aurora borealis is because I stayed outside all night, for multiple nights, driving around searching for them. It takes some dedication.

What To Look For

Ok, a few more tips for finding the northern lights. While it may seem obvious, remember to look North! The lights dance along the magnetic bands of the arctic circle, so you need to keep your eyes North to see them.

Often the lights start off weak at first, slowly increasing in intensity. Weak aurora activity will look grey to the naked eye. Much like wispy clouds or fog moving in the wind. They can be easy to miss.

Aim your camera at the grey stuff and shoot a long-exposure photo (20 seconds or so). If those “clouds” come out green in your image, they aren’t clouds! You’re witnessing a weaker version of the northern lights.

The stronger the aurora activity, the brighter the colors will be.

The most common northern lights color you’ll see is green. However if you’re lucky, they can also be blue, red, and orange depending on which atmospheric gasses happen to be prevalent.

Northern Lights Iceland

Driving the Ring Road – 13 Seconds, f/4.0, ISO2000

Northern Lights Photography

Once you find the aurora, capturing decent images of it is a whole new challenge. Here are some tips to help you photograph the northern lights in Iceland.

Photography Gear

In most photography situations, the quality of your gear doesn’t matter too much. However for northern lights & star photography it does. Here’s a list of recommended gear you’ll want to produce some great low-light shots.

  • Full Frame DSLR with Manual Mode & High ISO capability
  • Wide Angle Lens (24mm or wider) with Fast Aperture (2.8 – 4.0 minimum)
  • Sturdy Tripod
  • 2-3 Extra Batteries

Check Out My Travel Photography Gear Here »

You’ll want a quality camera (brand doesn’t matter) with a large sensor for minimal noise at high ISO settings. A wide angle lens aids in photographing large landscapes with the night sky. A fast aperture allows the maximum amount of ambient light to enter your lens.

A sturdy tripod lets you shoot long exposures without producing camera shake. Extra batteries give you flexibility to stay out all night waiting for peak activity — plus cold weather drains them faster.

Focusing Your Camera At Night

Even with the best camera gear and knowledge of the optimal settings, without proper focus, your northern lights photos won’t come out crisp/clear.

There are a few different methods to for focusing your camera at night, but my favorite is to focus on a distant landmark (like mountains) on the horizon.

This is easier to do around sunset or blue hour with some daylight left in the sky.

Most cameras have an infinity focus setting (∞), but it’s not always accurate. Zoom in as much as possible and adjust the focus manually. Once you have it locked in, remember to keep “auto focus” off and don’t touch the focus ring.

Northern Lights Camera Settings

I’ve included my northern lights camera settings under each photo in this post to give you some examples. But generally, because the intensity of the light and amount of movement is constantly changing, you’ll have to experiment with settings throughout the night.

Your camera should be set in Manual Mode, giving you the power to change each particular setting on it’s own.

IMAGE FORMAT
Most professional photographers shoot in RAW format rather than JPG, as it provides the maximum amount of information allowing for greater flexibility with post processing later.

APERTURE (F-STOP)
You want to capture as much light as possible, so use the widest (fastest) aperture your lens has. I used F4.0 in these photos, but F2.8 is even better if you have it. To learn more about aperture, click here.

SHUTTER SPEED
Depending on how fast the lights are moving, or how bright they are, you’ll want to adjust your shutter speed (exposure) accordingly. Anything from 10 seconds to 25 seconds is a good guess. The faster the lights are moving, the shorter the shutter speed should be.

ISO
The last setting you should adjust for northern lights photos is ISO. Increasing ISO allows your sensor to capture more light. The downside is that the higher your ISO is, the more sensor noise you’ll get, resulting in a grainy image. Settings around 2000 – 4000 should work best.

Northern Lights

Before Processing

Northern Lights

After Processing

Post Processing

Once you have a decent image, you can enhance your Iceland northern lights photos with post processing software. I personally use Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop, but there are others.

They all basically do the same things. How much processing you do is a matter of preference. Remember, art is subjective! You and I may not like the same things.

Post processing is a huge topic though, so I’ll just give you a super quick overview of what I did to enhance my northern lights images to really make them pop.

  • Adjust White Balance
  • Increase Exposure
  • Brighten Shadows
  • Brighten Whites
  • Darken Highlights
  • Increase Clarity, Vibrance, and Saturation
  • Adjust Curves
  • Noise Reduction
  • Sharpening

Happy Aurora Hunting!

My Iceland northern lights photography in this post was captured during late November over a 3 day window of clear skies and strong aurora activity as I drove around Iceland’s famous Ring Road.

The lights would usually start off weak, increasing in intensity over the course of a few hours.

The best shots were captured at peak aurora activity, which usually only lasted for about 10-15 minutes. Patience & dedication is soooo important for northern lights photography… you need to stick around long enough for the good stuff to present itself.

With a little planning, a lot of waiting, and a dash of luck, you too can witness this amazing natural phenomenon in Iceland called the northern lights.

Seeing them in person is a magical experience — there’s nothing like it! ★

Traveling To Iceland Soon?

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance here.

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Northern Lights in Iceland. More at ExpertVagabond.com
Northern Lights in Iceland. More at ExpertVagabond.com

READ MORE FROM ICELAND

Driving Iceland’s Ring Road
How To Find Iceland’s Famous Plane Crash
Epic Iceland Photography Locations

Have any questions about the northern lights in Iceland? What about other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Fortress Of Solitude: Unbelievable Crystal Ice Caves In Iceland

Iceland Ice Caves

Crystal Ice Caves in Iceland

Vatnajokull Glacier, Iceland

We crawl slowly on hands & knees into a long frozen chamber, under a brilliant cathedral of crystal blue waves. Superman would feel right at home in this ice cave.

When the Man of Steel wants to get away from the hustle & bustle of Metropolis, he flies to his “Fortress of Solitude” hidden in the Arctic. A magnificent crystal castle built using Krypton alien technology.

What if I told you Superman’s crystal fortress is real?

Deep under Iceland’s massive Vatnajökull Glacier, beautiful caves of ice are formed by rivers of meltwater.

Too dangerous to visit in the spring & summer due to a threat of collapse, cold winter temperatures strengthen the ice and make exploration possible.

A fellow photographer convinced me to go during my Iceland road trip.

Need a place to stay in Iceland? Click here for accommodation deals.
Driving to Glacier

Traveling to the Glacier

Iceland Glacier

Massive Walls of Ice

Ice Cave Photography Tour

Iceland’s incredible glacier ice caves move or completely disappear with the shifting ice sheet each year. However one man seeks them out and guides people to their location.

Expert local guide Einar Sigurðsson has been running photography tours into these icy caverns for the past 20 years, and knows the glacier better than most. His family has a long history here.

Driving over rugged Icelandic terrain and through small rivers in Einar’s 4×4 van, snow covered Vatnajökull glacier appears in the distance. The ice has retreated a lot over the past few years, so it takes longer to reach the edge.

We begin our ice cave adventure by strapping on helmets and ducking into a small entrance, forced to crawl on the cold, black volcanic dirt.

Once inside though, the views are absolutely breathtaking.

Iceland Ice Caves

Dazzling Blue Support Pillar

Ice Cave Tour

Exploring Glacial Ice Formations

Amazing Blue Ice Caverns

A long tunnel of ice boasting many different shades of translucent blue, white, and inky black stretches out before us. Thousands of years of snowfall compressed into frozen sculpted waves over our heads.

Gradually the tunnel grows large enough with room to stand up.

This densely packed glacial ice glows blue due to a lack of air bubbles which normally scatter colors of the spectrum as sunlight filters down from above. Layers of black volcanic ash are trapped in these ice formations, a remnant from previous eruptions.

We spent a few hours exploring the cave, setting up our tripods for the perfect shot. It was nice to be in here with a group of fellow photographers who understand the importance of patience & attention to detail.

When Einar discovers a new ice cave, he names it. This happened to be called the “Northern Lights Cave”, named after ribbons of deep blue frozen water surrounded by black ash.

It looked very similar to Iceland’s aurora borealis dancing in the night sky.

Iceland Ice Caves

Magic Ice Caves in Iceland

Ice Caves in Iceland

Northern Lights Ice Cave

Vatnajökull Glacier

Covering 8100 square kilometers (5000 square miles) Vatnajökull Glacier is the largest icecap in Europe by volume. The ice is up to 1000 meters thick in some places.

Located in the South East, Vatnajokull covers over 8% of Iceland.

There are seven different volcanoes hidden underneath the glacier. I actually flew over one of them while it was erupting, called Bardarbunga Volcano. This unique combination of fiery volcanoes & icy glaciers is why Iceland is called The Land of Fire & Ice

Superman sure picked a great spot for his vacation home!

Exploring and photographing Iceland’s crystal ice caves was an incredible experience. If you’re traveling through Iceland in the winter, you really should’t miss them.

Nature’s phenomenal beauty never ceases to amaze me. ★

Where To Stay

The closest town to the ice caves is Höfn, about an hour away. If you’re wondering where to stay in Iceland for a trip to the caves, here are my recommendations:

Budget Accommodation

H̦fn Hostel РAn environmentally friendly hostel with sea views, located an hour away in the village of H̦fn.

Loft Hostel – Located in Reykjavik near the bus station, these luxury dorms have en-suite bathrooms and excellent wifi.

Mid-Range Accommodation

Hotel H̦fn РLocated in H̦fn about an hour away, this hotel offers modern rooms with glacier & sea views.

Rey Apartments – Modern and affordable apartment in the heart of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik.

I also enjoy using AirBnB from time to time. Make sure to read my article about how to find cheap hotels too.

Traveling To Iceland Soon?

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance here.

More Information

Location: Hof, Iceland
Company: Local Guide Of Vatnajokull
Cost: 18,900 ISK (about $165 USD)
Useful Notes: Iceland’s ice caves are only safe to visit from November until March. Some years they are better than others, as the glacier is always changing. Einar chooses which cave to explore depending on conditions that day.
Recommended Guidebook: Lonely Planet Iceland
Suggested Reading: The Little Book Of Hidden People

READ MORE FROM ICELAND

My Complete Iceland Road Trip Guide
How To Find The Northern Lights In Iceland
Epic Iceland Photography Locations

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Visiting the crystal ice caves in Iceland. More at ExpertVagabond.com

Have any questions about Iceland’s ice caves? What about other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.