Iceland Travel Guide

Iceland Travel Guide

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Iceland exercises the imagination like no other destination. Waterfalls seem to pour over every cliff edge and mountain face, mud pots pop, volcanoes... Read More

Iceland exercises the imagination like no other destination. Waterfalls seem to pour over every cliff edge and mountain face, mud pots pop, volcanoes smoke and fume, and a bitter Arctic wind howls across the otherworldly lava fields and fjords. Iceland’s built world, too, is a reflection of the island’s wild landscapes. Hipster cafés sell bread baked by geothermal heat, designer boutiques are filled with Scandinavian prints and natural fabrics, and public pools spill over with mineral-rich waters.

While Iceland looks like it’s floating at the edge of the Earth, it’s actually more accessible than ever. It’s a short nonstop flight from the East Coast of the United States, and European travelers can even reach its rugged shores by ferry. Depending on when you visit, the Land of Fire and Ice might be drenched in a deep-red midnight sun—or lit by the flickering aurora borealis during otherwise dark winter days.

Whether you’re seeking out Iceland’s greatest hits (the hot springs at Geysir, Skógafoss, the weathered hull of the plane wreck at Sólheimasandur) or eager to retreat deep into Iceland’s glaciers, lava fields, and national parks, let Travel + Leisure’s guide to Iceland inspire and inform your travels.

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Best Time To Go

Travel between June and August tends to be the most popular with visitors. June offers 24 hours of Arctic daylight, while July and August are the warmest months, offering the best chances for good weather. Travel between mid-September and mid-October is perhaps the most ideal, as you’ll miss the swell of high-season tourist traffic, sneak in before snowfall blankets the trails, and have a solid chance of seeing the northern lights. Although winter weather can be an impediment, and the narrow window of daylight can shorten your sightseeing, excellent deals can be scored during the off-season.

Transportation

Bargain airfare prices have undercut the major transatlantic players, with Icelandair and Wow Air servicing Keflavík International Airport (about a 50-minute drive from Reykjavík) directly from dozens of major U.S. cities. Car rentals are the most convenient way to explore the island, although mountain roads and general off-roading should be left to experienced guides. There’s one ribbon of road—Route 1—that travelers can follow for a complete loop around Iceland.

Weather

Iceland is continuously subjected to the fickle weather of the North Atlantic, and travelers should pack for all four seasons no matter the time of year. Summertime can reach levels of T-shirt comfort, while many visitors are surprised to discover that winter temperatures may be milder than America’s northeast. But don’t underestimate the wind factor: it’s the key element that can transform a sunny day into a bitterly cold one. Weather patterns are always changing—a beautiful day on the western coast of the island could mean ravaging storms in the east. That’s why Icelanders are famous for saying, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” The country’s winds can transform the weather more than a dozen times in a single day.

Know Before You Go

Iceland’s postcrash reputation as a budget-friendly destination is very much a thing of the past. The depression on the currency has lifted and prices have inflated considerably—liquor and food are particularly expensive. With the veritable avalanche of tourism over the last five years, we recommend limiting the amount of time you spend in Reykjavík (a city with the population of New York City’s SoHo neighborhood). Instead, venture out to explore the smaller towns and villages scattered around Iceland’s coast.

Language

Icelandic

Electric

Type F (two-prong plug)

Currency

Krónur

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