Skip to content

A Complete Iceland Travel Guide: Best Tips For Beginners

    My number one bucket list place to visit has always been Iceland!! From the culture and landscape Iceland is one of the most unique places in the world. A few months ago I finally decided to take the plunge and book myself a 5 day trip to explore the west of Iceland. Below I have detailed a complete Iceland travel guide and everything I got up to from the best activities and hotels you have to check out as well as the need to knows about Iceland.

    So lets get into it…

    A little bit about iceland…

    When organising your Iceland travel plans its good to know a little bit about Iceland and its history. Iceland is a nordic island located between the North Atlantic and Artic Oceans. Iceland was founded more than 1,000 years ago by the Vikings. It’s first settlers is said to have been hunting Walruses when they came across the island.

    Iceland is known for incredible landscape especially its powerful volcanoes and glaciers. Glacier ice and cooled lava cover almost one tenth of Iceland!

    What language do they speak in Iceland…

    In Iceland they speak both Icelandic and english. Icelandic is one of the most unique languges in the world as it has barley been changed since its beginning in the 9th century. As Iceland has been so remote throughout history it has never been influenced from other stratum languges. Even to this day they are very protective over their language and ensure they create new words that won’t affect the language, for example when the mobile phone was invented they named it sími which is the ancient Icelandic word for “Long Thread”.

    If you don’t speak Icelandic don’t be worried as almost everyone there if fluent in English.

    Useful phrases to know in icelandic…

    Again almost everyone in Iceland speaks english but if you are looking to impress the locals with some simple Icelandic phrases then i’ve got you covered!

    I have made below a list of some of the most common phrases you may use while in Iceland and also the easiest.

    Hello – hallo

    Thank you – takk

    Goodbye – Bless

    Help – Hjálp

    Sorry – afsakið

    What is the best month to go to iceland?…

    The best month to visit Iceland will always depend on the type of activities you would like to do, weather you want a warmer or more snowy holiday or when the cheapest time to travel to Iceland is. When deciding on the best time to travel over to Iceland I would advise doing some research on the type of activities you are looking to do while there. For example the Icelands famous hot springs will be open all year but spotting the northern lights would only be able to be seen during the winter months.

    The busiest months in Iceland are the months of June, July and August, when most of the attractions are open and the weather is warmer. So if you are planning on avoiding the crowds when traveling to Iceland I would recommend avoiding these months. The months September and October can be ideal as the weather will still be warm, the kids will all be back in school and the days are still bright.

    Below is a little breakdown on the tourist season in Iceland:

    High Seasons: June to August and December

    Shoulder Seasons: September, October and May

    Low Season: November to April

    I travelled over to Iceland in March as I it was in the middle of the low season. There were still areas that could be busy with tourists but definitely not as busy as it could get in the high season. Another great thing about traveling in the low season is you will get some great deals on hotels and prices as there wont be as a high of a demand on rooms.

    How many days in iceland is enough…

    Iceland has some of the most beautiful landscape. On the same day you could visit hot springs, glacier and a black sand beach so when deciding on how many days are enough there are a few things to think about.

    To be honest the more days the better! if you are planning on travelling around Iceland and seeing as much of the country as possible then you will definitely need more than a week to really see everything Iceland has to offer.

    Again staying less than 7 days is definitely doable. I spent 5 days in Iceland and broke it down into 2 areas. I spent the first and last night in Reykjavik and then the remaining nights around the Husafell area. It’s important to give yourself as much time as you need to explore all the areas and activities you have on your bucket list to visit.

    iceland travel on a budget…

    As well as being known as one of the most beautiful countries in the world Iceland is also known for being one of the most expensive. It is actually the eight most expensive country in the world!! As the country is pretty much isolated from the rest of the world, most of their food and supplies need to be imported which ups the cost of everything.

    On my first day we paid over €50 just for 2 small pizzas in the capital Reykavik which over time this can definitely add up to a hefty price tag on a 5 day trip. So below are a few ways which you can cut down on costs and get the most out of your trip.

    • If you are going to be a booking a rental car be sure to do this before your trip and try and get a company as far away from the airport as you can
    • Get all your travel snacks and need from a local Icelandic shop instead of eating out
    • Book a hotel which has breakfast included
    • Bring a refillable water bottle with you. Iceland has some of the purest water so you can fill up your bottles almost everywhere including your hotel bathroom sink!

    Iceland Travel…

    One thing Iceland is lacking is transportation. Due to their geological position they are prone to a lot of earthquakes and with this they have never actually built a rail system. The only proper way to get around is either to drive or by bus. If you are looking to avoid the busy busses full of tourists then I would highly recommend renting your own car.

    Ice Car

    Renting a car is really affordable in Iceland and there are lots of car rentals to choose from to suit your needs. We went with the car rental company Ice Car and let me tell you I do not regret it!! From the beginning they were so helpful in trying to find the right car to match our needs. They offer transportation to and from the airport and for us they actually met us with the car in the airport so we could get straight on the road.

    As the weather is very unpredictable in Iceland there are some roads where you can only use a certain type of vehicle so this is important to think about when renting a car. We went with a Kia 4×4 a it offered us both the space and vehicle to navigate the Icelandic weather. Our vehicle didn’t come with navigation so we had to use our phones which sometimes would loose signal so again if this is important to you then this is something to flag with the car rental company in advance.

    You can check out Ice car here for more information and if you use the code HAYLEYSYMS at checkout you will get 15% off your booking!!

    Where to stay…

    Reykjavik Konsulat Hotel

    Iceland is known for being very expensive so, when I was organising my Iceland travel plans I was a little worried. Luckily I came across the Reykjavik Konsulat Hotel which is apart of the Hilton Curio Collection. I was really surprised by the prices for this hotel which ranged from around €100 upwards for the night. The hotel itself is located right in the heart of city and under a 1 minute walk to the harbour.

    Like the other Hilton Curio hotels it has a lovely vintage charm, with oak furniture and a welcoming ambiance. The hotels amenities include a restaurant and bar, breakfast (for an extra cost) and a gym and spa located in the basement which access is included with you room.

    We stayed here for two separate nights and each night we stayed in one of their “King Classic Rooms”. Now depending on where you are in the building these can be either very spacious or a little more on the small side. On our first night we were given a lovely room on the 3rd floor with big rooms and windows. On our second night we were up in what seemed to be the attic which was spacious but has some very low ceilings in parts of the room.

    The rooms where lovely and clean and they all included a TV, mini fridge, safe, huge shower and lots of luggage space in the wardrobes. The beds where so comfy and fit both me and partner with still lots of space. We went in during the winter and they were so nice and cosy. They do offer extra blankets just incase you need them though!

    For more booking information check out here

    Iceland Travel Hotel Room
    Iceland Travel Hotel Room
    Iceland Travel Hotel Room
    Iceland Travel Hotel Room

    Husafell Hotel

    To see Iceland properly I would highly advise travelling out of Reykjavik!! One of the most incredible hotels I’ve have stayed in is the Husafell Hotel, located in the Husafell estate in Icelandic highlands. If you are looking to escape the touristic parts of Iceland then this is exactly the place the go. About a 90 minute drive from Reykjavik, Husafell is located among an ancient volcano, lava field and glaciers!!

    The hotel offers some incredible amenities including thermal pools, bar and restaurant, a small onsite shop as well as an activity centre. Some of the activities they have our Lava tunnel tours, canyon baths, glacier hikes and many more!!

    The rooms are very simple but spacious. They have a lovely big open shower, double bed, open closet, safe as well as a TV but there aren’t really many channels. The beds are really nice and cosy as well as being quite spacious.

    Now on to one of the main reason on why you should stay here!! As Husafell is located in the Icelandic highlands the chances of seeing northern lights are extremely high especially during the peak months. As part of your room booking you can sign up to their northern lights wake up calls where they will call you each time the northern lights are spotted. When we were staying here we were lucky to see them every night and just WOW. Be prepared though the wake up calls go on throughout the night so if you are tired and want to sleep be sure to let them know at the reception.

    Hotel beds
    Husafell outside image
    Husafell image of the restaurant
    artwork in hotel
    Image of the northern lights

    Iceland travel What to see & do…

    There are so many incredible activities for your to organise Iceland travel plans including whale watching to spotting the northern lights. When you are only traveling for a short amount of time it may be hard to choose from the long list of things to do so, below I have outlined some of the activities I got up to and everything you need to know.

    Northern lIGHTS TOUR

    One of the most popular tours in Iceland and for a good reason is the northern lights tour. Almost everyone who travels over to Iceland is hoping to catch a glimpse of this incredible natural phenomenon. There are so many tour guides that offer this but one I really found goes that extra mile to make it special is offered by Arctic Adventures. They will guide you to the best spot to see the northern lights with professional pictures and warm drinks included in your ticket. If unfortunately the tour gets canceled due to bad weather then they will allow you to reschedule your tour for free!!

    Powered by GetYourGuide

    Into the glacier

    This is by far one of the most unique activities I have ever been on! You will be taken up to one of the second largest glaciers in Iceland, Langjokull. To get there you will be driven up in a huge glacier truck which was used by NATO as missile carriers. You will get to explore the incredible man made tunnel for around an hour stopping at the built in chapel and glacier crevaces. The tour itself takes around 4-5 hours depending on the season and weather.

    When you reach the initial entrance to the glacier it can be extremely windy and snowy so be prepared with lots of layers and waterproof clothing.

    Powered by GetYourGuide

    Husafell Canyon Baths

    As mentioned above the Husafell hotel offers some incredible on site activities and this is one of them. The Husafell canyon baths are located between an ancient volcano and glacier. You will be guided up to the baths on a bus before embarking a small hike down the mountain. There are 2 natural geo thermal pools for you to relax in ranging from 39-41 degrees. Now I can’t even begin to describe how incredible this experience is because it is just beautiful!! They have 2 tours a day but I would recommend the tour at 5pm as you can watch the sunset from inside the pools.

    Powered by GetYourGuide

    Viking horses

    Did you know Iceland has one of the oldest breads of horses in the world? As they have been so isolated throughout history their horses are the only horses in the world which has gone through very little crossbreeding. One of the best ways to get up and close with the unique horses is trying out a horse riding tour. We went on a morning tour with Viking Horses which is located in Reykjavik. Here you will get the chance to ride one of their beautiful horses as you explore the incredible local landscape. No worries if you’ve never had any horse riding experience before as the tour guides are really helpful and will show you everything you need to know before taking off.

    Thingvellir National Park

    Located about a 40 minute drive from Reykjavik is another popular tour in Iceland. If you’re thinking of taking the popular Golden Circle tour than you will definitely take a drive through Thingvellir National Park. Here you will find the most incredible landscape from snowy mountains, lakes and even tectonic plates!! This would be an activity I would advise renting a car for as there is just so much to see when driving around and you will definitely want to stop along the way.

    Powered by GetYourGuide

    Barnfafoss

    Located just a short drive from Husafell you will find Barnafoss, A rapid waterfall. In english Barnafoss is called “The Children Falls” named after the dark folklore surrounding the waterfall. This incredible waterfall is a must see, with its crystal blue water and windy streams it feels like something out of a movie!! It is completely free to enter and their is a small onsite restaurant located beside it.

    Image of the northern lights

    For more unique destinations check out my page here.

    This post includes affiliate links which when purchased through I will earn a small commission.