Iceland: 24 Tips From Our Travel Pros

Glaciers, mountains, volcanoes, rainbows, waterfalls, lava fields, rolling plains, fjords, open roads… this small nation has a wealth of beauty to share.  On March 12, a team of 6 of AAA’s travel experts traveled to Iceland, one of Europe’s most popular destinations. We asked them to come up with a few travel tips if you’re looking to visit Iceland any time soon. Here’s what they said:

  1. Appropriate clothing is so important! Icelanders say, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” Always having your rain jacket near is helpful.
  2. Do not bring an umbrella. Umbrellas are not typically very useful as it is too windy!
  3. Definitely invest in a pair or two of water-resistant pants. Get something lightweight that you can put on over your regular pants. They also make flannel or fleece lined rain pants which are nice to wear throughout the day. Everyone who had them on this trip was thankful and everyone who didn’t wished they did!
  4. Be aware you might need to use your keycard in your hotel room for the electricity to work (lights, outlets, etc.) This portal can typically be found near the door to your room. It is standard among many European hotels.
  5. Try it all! Do not pass up an opportunity to try something local when it comes to food and beverages. Some traditional dishes might seem odd to you, but it’s worth it to give it a try! The “ma and pa” places are sometimes willing to provide samples of dishes as well.
  6. Purchase an external battery with ample power supply to travel with. It is great to use on the go to keep your devices charged – like your phone or camera.
  7. Trying to figure out the USD equivalent of your purchase? Just drop the last two digits for a good estimate! For example, if an item is $3400 ISK, it would be roughly $34 USD. Always remember it is an estimate, exchange rates are fluid so it is not exact.
  8. If you are using your mobile device, screen shot the weather daily. This will provide you a reminder of where you were on which date and what the weather was like that day. It helps you put things together after the trip as you are going through pictures.
  9. Take pictures of the signs for your reference. It is a great tool to have pictures easily accessible at each destination so you can see the spelling and also maybe some quick information about the site to read later.
  10. Pack a small roll of duct tape. Duct tape is a wonderful tool to have available. For example, you can use it to repair a torn poncho!
  11. Add a pre-tour night to your trip – even if the weather in Ohio is lovely, the weather in Iceland may not be. One of our agents missed two days because planes couldn’t leave or get into the Iceland airport.
  12. Know what your priorities sightseeing are. If you want to see the Northern lights go Sept-March. If you want to see puffins go May-August.  Our agents wouldn’t recommend April as it’s the cuff season for northern lights, puffins, and whales.
  13. Bring a waterproof, floating phone case , usually available for less than $10. This would be great for the Blue Lagoon, a glacier lagoon cruise, beach visits, and waterfalls. Similar cases were sold at the Blue Lagoon for $30 USD.
  14. Bring waterproof shoes.  One agent wore Sperry duck boots the whole trip and had dry feet the whole trip!
  15. Go NOW. This isn’t the type of trip to put off, some of the best views and coolest experiences are a hike to get to or you’re walking on rocky uneven ground. Many people on our trip didn’t walk up the waterfall or go behind it, or walk up to the lighthouse because physically it wasn’t an option for them. Many attractions in Iceland are not easily accessible.
  16. Extreme temperatures (very hot or very cold) are really rare in Iceland as it’s fairly temperate. That being said, it’s critically important that you dress in layers which allow you to embrace the weather. For example, waterproof hiking style pants, fleece-lined wind-proof jackets, a scarf, gloves, and hat are all going to be very important, even in the summer.
  17. Traffic is basically non-existent which is wonderful when driving; tickets for speeding and other traffic violations are very high though, so please be mindful and safe.
  18. Iceland is only slightly smaller than the state of Ohio; one glacier – Vatnajokull – takes up 8% of the land-area of Iceland (3050 square miles). That’s a glacier the size of Franklin, Licking, Fairfield, Pickaway, Delaware, and Knox counties combined!
  19. The basalt columns and black sand of Reynisfjara Beach should not be missed. There are excellent photo opportunities and easy access through a paved parking lot.
  20. Make time to visit the Blue Lagoon!  The Blue Lagoon is an icon and relaxing stop, but be sure to leave your jewelry in the safe at the hotel. The silica and other minerals in the water can severely tarnish gold and silver, so it would be best not to bring it along.
  21. The Keflavik/Reykjavik Airport is about 45 minutes from downtown Reykjavik. You’ll want to be sure to sure to plan accordingly.
  22. Unlike some other travel destinations, popular stops often have unique items in their souvenir shops. If you see something you really like, you should buy it, as it’s likely that you won’t see it available elsewhere (this is especially true with wool crafts and sweaters).
  23. Iceland doesn’t have mosquitos! Hooray!
  24. Homes in Reykjavik are heated by pumping hot water from a local volcanic hot-spot through a huge pipe and dispersing it under the floors of homes. The electricity for the city is generated by taking steam from the same hot-spot and using it to power huge turbines. It’s entirely safe, reliable, and sustainable.

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