4 Things to Know Before Visiting Iceland

Iceland nature

Iceland is increasingly becoming a hot spot for travelers, and with good reason: The nature and landscape are absolutely breathtaking, the people are welcoming and warm, the culture is interesting and unique, and the seafood, amongst other delicious Icelandic treats, is fresh and excellent.

My husband and I recently traveled to Iceland and we can’t recommend this adventure enough (we’re already plotting our inevitable return). Here are four tips for planning your trip.

1. Look into IcelandAir’s stopover program.

Iceland’s number one industry is tourism, and the country’s most popular airline, IcelandAir, has helped continually shuttle visitors into the capital of Reykjavik through the promotion of their stopover program. Travelers book tickets on the airline to the destination of their choice (Paris, Amsterdam, London, Barcelona, Milan) and, by using the stopover program, they can elect to enjoy a free layover in Iceland that can last up to seven days. This essentially allows tourists to visit two countries (Iceland + their ultimate destination) by purchasing one ticket.

My husband and I went on to Paris after visiting Iceland for three days, and we thought it was such a stellar deal to be able to spend time in two amazing places without the hassle of buying multiple airplane tickets. Of course, travelers can prefer to fly IcelandAir directly to Reykjavik and back, and with good fares like the ones the airline offers, they won’t be disappointed in the price.

2. Spend time researching your dining options.

Many travelers have complained about the lack of good food in Iceland, but my husband and I found a plethora of delicious restaurants during our trip, and since we’ve been home we’ve been craving many of the outstanding dishes we enjoyed while we were there (in particular, a langoustine + pork belly appetizer will live on into eternity for its greatness).

We traveled with another couple and they helped us do copious amounts of research prior to our trip to pinpoint some really great spots to eat. We got lists from friends who had been to Iceland before and we scoured travel websites. We were so happy that we came prepared with a food agenda because we loved every restaurant experience that we had researched in advance.

Here are some recommendations based on our travels:

Reykjavik Roasters – the best coffee! We stopped here a few times a day while we were in Reykjavik, warming up with cappuccinos and lattes with dollops of fresh, unsweetened whipped cream. Such a treat!

The Laundromat Café – good brunch & great coffee. I had a delicious quiche here and the rest of the crew ate some fabulous pancakes.

Sjavargrillio (aka Seafood Grill) – our absolute favorite restaurant of the trip. We would have eaten here 1,000 times if we could. This is where the aforementioned langoustine + pork belly was served, and I had a seafood pasta in a creamy tomato sauce that was out of this world. The wine list was wonderful, too.

Sandholt Bakery – the yummiest treats live here! They served a lemon tart that I would fly back to Iceland for.

Snaps Bistro – delicious French food & great cocktails with a great interior. We sat at the bar and enjoyed appetizers before moving to a table for dinner, and we loved the whole experience.

Kex Hostel – imagine if Anthropologie designed the interior of a hostel, and you’ve got the vision of the Kex. Here we ate delicious carrot soup with hunks of fresh bread and loads of butter, Parmesan crisps, burgers, and local beer. Just, yum.

Iceland blue lagoon

3. Book your excursions in advance.

There are so many amazing adventures to take in Iceland – you can spend an afternoon at the Blue Lagoon (so, so highly recommend this!), tour the Golden Circle (it’s worth the splurge to book a private vehicle), stay up late to see the Northern Lights, rent a car to drive around Iceland in its entirety, visit waterfalls and geysers and ice beaches…the list goes on and on and on. But these excursions book up very quickly, and to get your pick of the litter, it’s best to plan far in advance, booking tickets and reservations online at least a month before your departure.

4. Pack your best winter clothes.

Surely you’ve realized this: Iceland is cold. No matter what the time of year is, chances are you’ll feel a bit chilled while you’re exploring this breathtaking country. However, it’s easy to ignore the cold and enjoy your adventures when you’ve packed properly. Do not underestimate the value of a great, warm jacket, and invest in your choice of mittens or gloves. The most important garment, in our experience? A cute earband (for me) or a good hat (for him). Keeping our ears/heads covered was a total game-changer.

Have you been to Iceland? What recommendations or planning tips would you share?

Images via Rachel Brown



Rachel is the Development Director for the Touch A Life Foundation, a non-profit organization committed to the rescue and rehabilitation of exploited and trafficked children in West Africa and Southeast Asia. She currently lives in Dallas, TX, with her husband, their baby girl Ruby, and their cuddly English mastiff.

3 COMMENTS
  • Darcy December 3, 2015

    This is an awesome giveaway.

  • Sarah November 24, 2015

    Iceland is the most beautiful country I have ever visited. I was astonished by all of the natural phenomenons (mud flaps, ice lagoon, fault lines, geysers, etc.). Most things I saw, I had no clue existed. My number one tip would to be to bring a great camera– you will want to have it. Also, the best things to see are the least populated. Hverir for example, there were no people there, but it was the most amazing place in the country, boasting numerous mud flaps and hot pots. It is also important to understand how awful many of the sites of interest smell! In the more seismic areas, sulfur reeks out of every pore.
    I highly recommend driving around the entire country on the ring road. This is how you get the true experience. The best spots I believe are around Lake Myvatan. The most beautiful volcanic creations are here, and massive craters speckle the land.
    Lastly, it is very challenging to find gluten free food in Iceland. I have celiacs, and I recommend researching a lot before you take your trip. For each mean, I ended up eating either lamb soup, or arctic char. I’m not complaining, these are both delicious. But after eating each several times during my two weeks, I was wishing that I brought food along with me!
    Everyone needs to put Iceland on their bucket lists right now! Prepare to be amazed!

POST A COMMENT