What NOT to Do in Iceland (27 Important Ideas)

Adventurous Kate accommodates affiliate hyperlinks. For those who make a purchase order via these hyperlinks, I’ll earn a fee at no additional price to you. Thanks!

Let me let you know about what to not do in Iceland! Iceland is a dream vacation spot for therefore many individuals. Even for me, 11 years after my first of 4 journeys, I’m nonetheless fantasizing in regards to the subsequent time I return to Iceland.

And it may be REALLY straightforward to make a serious journey mistake in Iceland. A mistake that may price you cash, time, or embarrassment, whether or not that is your first time in Iceland or your tenth.

I’ve taken the knowledge from my Iceland journeys and have thrown collectively each tip I may consider. Let’s have a look and what NOT to do in Iceland!

(And don’t overlook to take a look at my different Iceland journey planning posts, together with my Iceland Packing Checklist. Open that one in a brand new window!)

Kate sitting in a swimming pool holding a frozen red and blue drink.
Youngsters’ slushee? Paid for with a bank card!

Don’t take out a lot (if any) money.

Iceland is a rustic the place you should utilize bank cards for almost every little thing. In actual fact, on my most up-to-date journey, Amanda and I spent two weeks in Iceland, by no means took out money, and put each buy on bank cards. We didn’t want money as soon as.

For those who’re into factors, you possibly can earn an insane quantity of factors on an Iceland journey! (Although please don’t try journey hacking until you will have a behavior of paying your invoice off in full each month. If you have already got good habits and wish to begin journey hacking, I like to recommend getting began with the Chase Sapphire Preferred.)

So what is going to it is advisable pay for in money in Iceland? The general public buses in Reykjavík, if not utilizing the app. Sometimes you would possibly come throughout a donation-based scorching spring. That’s about it.

Locals swimming and bathing at Reykjavik's public swimming pool.
The Reykjavik Sundhöll, the place showering is completely required.

Don’t go right into a swimming pool with out showering bare first.

Icelanders love their swimming swimming pools. Nearly each city in Iceland has its personal heated out of doors swimming pool, and locals collect to soak and chat the best way different nations’ locals collect at espresso outlets or bars.

And they’re VERY strict about one rule particularly: it’s essential to bathe bare first. It’s a essential requirement. Icelandic swimming pools have restricted chemical compounds, so that they depend on folks holding squeaky clear to maintain the pool clear.

That is the case whether or not you go to an Icelandic swimming pool, a scorching tub someplace, or a geothermal spa just like the Blue Lagoon, Sky Lagoon, or my favourite, the Vök Baths.

It’s best to know that almost all geothermal swimming pools have open showers — as in a giant open area the place folks bathe subsequent to one another, no boundaries, utterly bare. Icelanders usually are not ashamed by nudity. Take part, scrub intensely, and get used to it!

For those who’re nervous about being bare in entrance of different folks, select a spa with personal showers. The Blue Lagoon, Sky Lagoon, and Vök Baths all have personal bathe stalls.

There isn’t a various to showering bare. Significantly. As an apparent foreigner, I used to be regularly requested if I had showered bare earlier than coming into a swimming space. Icelanders take this very critically.

Kate taking a photo on a rainbow striped street leading to a church.
Find time for aspect journeys, like Seyðisfjörður.

Don’t plan an excessive amount of journey in too little time.

That is the most important mistake I see folks making in each vacation spot — however significantly Individuals visiting Europe. The mindset is, “That is the one time I’ll be right here, so I must see every little thing.”

Please don’t attempt to see every little thing. You gained’t be capable of see every little thing you wish to see. Make peace with that truth, early and sometimes, and plan an itinerary that leaves room for serendipity.

For those who’re driving the Ring Highway in your Iceland street journey, I like to recommend a minimal of eight days to take action. (And even these eight days shall be packed stable.) If it’s much less time than that, you’re higher off basing in Reykjavík and perhaps one or two cities inside a number of hours’ drive.

And don’t underestimate the worth of exploring one area of Iceland in depth versus making an attempt to do the entire nation. You’ll be extra relaxed because of this!

A black sand beach with lots of people standing dangerously close to the water.
I can see so many individuals standing too shut.

Don’t get near the water at Reynisfjara Seaside.

Reynisfjara Seaside, in Vík alongside Iceland’s South Coast, is likely one of the most well-known black sand seashores on this planet.

It’s additionally some of the harmful locations in Iceland. However you wouldn’t realize it simply by it. It appears to be like like a traditional seaside with mild waves.

Reynisfjara Seaside is understood for its “sneaker waves.” These rogue waves can sneak in out of nowhere and destroy every little thing of their path, pulling folks out to sea.

Tragically, vacationer deaths at Reynisfjara Seaside usually are not unusual.

To remain protected, native officers advocate holding a distance of 30 meters (100 toes) from the water. Control the water always. And if in case you have youngsters, intently supervise them.

Lastly, know that loads of vacationers ignore these warning indicators and shall be strolling near the water’s edge on the day you go to. Simply because different individuals are doing it, it doesn’t make it protected. Be sensible right here.

Kate standing next to a thundering waterfall wearing a yellow hooded raincoat.
Getting soaked at Gljúfrabúi waterfall and LOVING it!

Don’t overlook your head-to-toe waterproof gear.

Packing for a visit to Iceland is critically essential. It’s essential to be ready for all types of climate, it doesn’t matter what time of yr you go. And it’ll be WET for at the least a part of your journey.

On the very least, it’s a good suggestion (if not a necessity) to pack a water-resistant jacket (both an insulated waterproof jacket, or a waterproof shell worn on prime of an insulated jacket), rain pants, waterproof hiking boots, and a waterproof backpack cover.

(By the way, you possibly can depart your umbrella at residence — the aforementioned gear will hold you dry sufficient, and the fierce Icelandic winds typically destroy umbrellas.)

I’ve seen depressing vacationers in Iceland carrying soaked-through sweatshirts after strolling behind my favourite Icelandic waterfall, Kvernufoss. Hell, I personally was depressing when a mountaineering path changed into muddy puddles and I started soaking into my non-waterproof mountaineering sneakers.

See my Iceland packing record for extra data on what you actually must pack — and what you possibly can depart at residence.

A silhouetted person standing behind a falling waterfall.

Don’t purchase bottled water.

There’s zero cause to purchase bottled water in Iceland, ever. The faucet water in Iceland is protected to drink, in addition to scrumptious, and consistently shopping for single-use plastic provides to the air pollution drawback.

My suggestion? Carry a reusable water bottle and refill everytime you’re close to a faucet. I like my BPA-free Blender Bottle, which is tremendous sturdy and is available in a number of colours.

A whale tale sticking out of the water, a tour group on a boat watching.
You’ll most likely not be this fortunate. By way of Shutterstock.

Don’t go whale watching in Reykjavík.

This is perhaps preventing phrases — however let me communicate truthfully (albeit anecdotally). Virtually each good friend I do know who has gone whale watching in Reykjavík hasn’t seen any whales. They’ve returned to shore upset.

Iceland does have whales, however Reykjavík just isn’t among the finest locations to see them.

As I used to be scripting this, I texted a good friend who I do know went whale watching in Reykjavík. “Did you really see whales in Reykjavík?” Her quote: “No, we didn’t. It was a horrible expertise. We have been on the boat for almost six hours. It was wet and chilly. [My friend] puked. We noticed one puffin, I feel.”

As a substitute, go whale watching in Húsavík, North Iceland. The whale watching right here is excellent — one million instances higher than Reykjavík. Sightings are nearly assured with 98% accuracy. I went on this Húsavík whale watch and had an exquisite time, seeing so many beautiful whales!

After all, that is solely an possibility in the event you’re planning to go to North Iceland. And in the event you’re not going that far, ask your self if you wish to danger not seeing any whales in your tour. Particularly in the event you’re solely visiting for a number of days.

In the meantime, there are such a lot of higher issues to do in Reykjavík. For those who’re an animal lover, I extremely advocate horseback riding in the lava fields near Reykjavík. Icelandic horses are a particular, lovely breed!

A lake next to a tiny mountain village.

Don’t harm the native setting.

Iceland is an awfully stunning nation with pure wonders that may stupefy you. Please take the time to maintain the setting protected.

It’s particularly essential as a result of out of doors sights are hardly ever staffed in Iceland. They anticipate folks to behave appropriately. I don’t have as a lot religion in different folks because the Icelanders do.

Listed below are some issues to remember:

Don’t disturb moss. Keep on with marked pathways in Iceland, and the moss that you simply discover in some lava fields could be destroyed in the event you stroll on it.

Don’t drive off-road. Off-road driving is prohibited in Iceland.

Don’t litter. This goes with out saying.

Don’t disturb pure habitats. I nearly punched this dude at Reynisfjara Seaside who was CLIMBING INTO THE PUFFIN HABITAT. And since there have been no employees there, no person was stopping him. Don’t be that asshole.

Two rows of gin bottles in a bar.

Don’t anticipate hopping nightlife earlier than midnight.

Reykjavík is usually a nice metropolis for partying, offered you’re okay paying the sky-high drink costs. However in the event you exit earlier than midnight, you is perhaps amongst a wholly vacationer crowd in a vacationer bar.

As a result of alcohol is so costly in Iceland, most Icelanders pregame at residence with mates earlier than heading out for the night time. (Yep, identical to we did in school.) And most frequently they gained’t present as much as a bar or membership till midnight or so.

If it’s 11:30 PM and also you’re beginning to flag a bit…simply maintain on just a little longer. Your night time’s about to start out!

Don’t pace.

You’ll be tempted to hurry in Iceland — and I get it. Roads are sometimes empty in rural areas. You most likely gained’t see a single visitors cop in the complete nation. What’s flawed with just a little rushing once in a while?

Properly, there is probably not cops, however there are pace cameras. A great deal of them. And in the event you’re caught rushing, you’ll be fined. Usually the tremendous could be a whole lot of {dollars}.

How will you discover out in the event you’re not an Iceland resident? They are going to alert your automobile rental firm, who will then cost you the tremendous. There’s no technique to get out of paying these tickets.

The pace restrict in Iceland is 90 km/hour in rural areas, 80 km/hour on gravel roads, and 30-50 km/hour in populated areas. For those who get a newish rental automobile like I did, it would use GPS to enter the pace restrict proper subsequent to your speedometer. Very cool!

The Northern Lights over Jökulsárlón.

Don’t anticipate the Northern Lights in summer season.

So many vacationers come to Iceland to see the Northern Lights. However lots of these vacationers don’t notice that the Northern Lights are seasonal. They’re primarily through the winter months, from September via March, when the nights are their longest. You possibly can’t see them through the midnight solar!

Moreover, darkish nights are greatest for viewing the Aurora Borealis. You’ll wish to keep away from reserving your journey throughout a full moon; as an alternative, intention to reach a number of days earlier than the brand new moon for a number of days of darkish night time skies.

Your greatest guess at seeing the Northern Lights is to book a tour with an expert tour guide who will take you to the very best spots for viewing. Remember the fact that that is totally as much as probability, although. You possibly can’t predict the Northern Lights.

That being stated, if seeing the Northern Lights is super-important to you, I might advocate selecting a extra dependable Northern Lights vacation spot north of the Arctic Circle — like Tromsø or Alta in far northern Norway, or Fairbanks, Alaska.

Both means, don’t overlook to convey a tripod (both a camera tripod or a smartphone tripod). It’s essential to take lengthy exposures to get the colours to point out up correctly, and they’re going to end up blurry in the event you don’t have a tripod.

Icelandic's metallic Viking ship-shaped Sun Voyager statue.

Don’t take a taxi into Reykjavík.

What’s one of the simplest ways to get into Reykjavík? Take the Flybus. This airport bus leaves usually from the airport, you possibly can e-book your ticket upfront, and you may select to both be dropped off on the central bus station or at your resort.

The everyday price of a taxi from the airport to Reykjavík is eighteen,000 to twenty,000 ISK ($126-140 USD), in comparison with beginning at 3,500 ISK ($24 USD) for the Flybus.

There’s no cause to take a taxi into Reykjavík. It’s one thing solely rich or unaware folks do. Even if you wish to go to the Blue Lagoon while you arrive, there are Flybuses that go from the airport to the Blue Lagoon.

Kate holding a hot dog in front of a tiny Icelandic hot dog stand.
Icelandic scorching canine rule.

Don’t splurge on meals.

I like splurging on meals once I journey. Virtually all over the place I am going, I attempt to have a pleasant meal to see what the vacation spot has to supply.

I don’t splurge on meals in Iceland. And I say this with kindness. After many journeys to Iceland, many tries of native specialties from fermented shark to smoked puffin to Höfn langoustine, I’ve discovered the outcomes nearly universally disappointing. More often than not it’s common seafood at greatest, and on prime of that, restaurant meals have excessive costs.

(I’ll say that the very best conventional meal I had was a number of seafood dishes at Naustið in Húsavík, and I had an honest fish & chips at Við Voginn in Djúpivogur. Past that? Nothing too memorable.)

So in Iceland, I ended up consuming loads of scorching canine and soup-and-bread specials as a result of they have been low-cost and filling, and since I wasn’t lacking a lot when it got here to the pricier dishes.

Moreover, I don’t assume alcohol is value it in Iceland more often than not. Alcohol is eye-wateringly costly, marked up at a good larger charge than most different bills. I wish to attempt a neighborhood craft beer once in a while, and luxuriate in an occasional cocktail, however it’s positively a rarity and never a norm.

I do know some folks like to purchase alcohol on the Responsibility Free on the airport for cheaper. For those who don’t wish to get via a visit with out alcohol, that’s most likely your greatest price range possibility.

However my advice? Eat low-cost and splurge on cool actions. That’s the place you’ll get larger worth.

A still lagoon filled with floating icebergs on a cloudy day.

Don’t day journey to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon from Reykjavík.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a excessive precedence for a lot of Iceland vacationers. And it’s straightforward to see why — this lagoon is likely one of the most stunning locations in Iceland, blue-and-white glaciers simply bobbing alongside within the water!

Jökulsárlón is situated in southeast Iceland, and certainly there are day trips to Jökulsárlón from Reykjavík. However folks don’t notice that Jökulsárlón is a five-hour drive from Reykjavík.

That’s 10 hours in a automobile in a single day.

Is Jökulsárlón value that a lot time in a automobile? I personally don’t assume so, particularly in case your time in Iceland is restricted. The South Coast has so many beautiful pure wonders which can be way more simply accessible.

What to do as an alternative? I like to recommend a glacier walking tour on the South Coast. This manner you’ll get to see cool ice, in addition to some waterfalls, with out spending your complete day in a van.

Three sheep standing in a road in Iceland, cars waiting for them to move.
Not an F street. Extra of a “Baaaa” street.

Don’t drive on F-roads in a two-wheel drive automobile.

Whenever you lease a automobile in Iceland, you’ll need to make a number of selections. Handbook or automated? (Don’t make the error I did as soon as and order guide in the event you can’t drive stick.) Sedan or SUV? 4-wheel drive or two-wheel drive?

That final query is definitely fairly essential, as some roads in Iceland require a four-wheel-drive automobile. Driving them in a two-wheel-drive automobile is each unsafe and unlawful, because the street circumstances are significantly gnarly.

These roads are referred to as F roads, or highland roads, and are primarily restricted to the Icelandic Highlands (mainly the middle of the nation).

For those who’re driving the Ring Highway, you don’t want to fret about this — the Ring Highway is protected to drive with a two-wheel drive automobile in the summertime months, together with most straightforward detours. It’s best to get a four-wheel drive automobile for winter journey, regardless of the place you’re going.

On prime of that, there are gravel roads. It’s authorized to drive them in a two-wheel drive automobile, and I did so a number of instances (just like the gravel street to the east aspect of Dettifoss waterfall, and the very tough gravel street to Múlagljúfur Canyon). The bottom line is to go slowly and look ahead to potholes.

There was one street that we determined shouldn’t be tried in our two-wheel drive automobile: the drive to the second parking zone on the east aspect of Studlagil Canyon. There have been so many potholes and uneven stretches that we determined to stroll as an alternative — which took an additional half-hour every means however was the best determination.

A brown moon-like landscape with lots of cracks emitting steam.
Keep on the trail in Hverir!

Don’t step off path in geothermal areas.

There are locations in Iceland the place the geothermal exercise is off the charts. Hverir, within the Lake Myvatn area, is a spot the place you possibly can watch the Earth sizzle, plumes of steam making their means via cracks.

You do not need to step off the marked paths in locations like these. Plenty of what appears to be like like stable floor is definitely a skinny layer over boiling water. You possibly can scald your self or worse.

That is one other place the place Iceland operates on the glory system, anticipating folks to observe the principles. Be a rule-follower right here!

Kate standing facing a waterfall in a yellow rain jacket, holding her hand up in a peace sign.
This doesn’t depend as a bathe.

Don’t bathe within the morning.

Sort of a bizarre one right here, however hear me out. I feel showering at night time is a good concept in Iceland.

For those who’re staying in lodging with shared loos — which is the case at most price range lodging in Iceland — there shall be a line of individuals ready to bathe within the morning. That is a lot worse in case your guesthouse has (gasp!) just one rest room.

That, and you may wash all of your mountaineering grime off at night time. All the time good earlier than you sleep.

In addition to that, it’s a lot simpler to get out very first thing within the morning and hit the street in the event you roll away from bed, dress, wash your face and brush your enamel, and simply HIT THE ROAD. Take advantage of your sunlight hours. And in the event you head out early, you’ll see locations earlier than they get crowded!

A white camper van with "Don't stink and drive!" stamped on the side.

Don’t assume a camper van will prevent cash.

Touring Iceland by camper van is a very fashionable factor to do. And why wouldn’t or not it’s? Journey the nation on a whim, cease the place you wish to cease every night time.

The issue is that folks assume {that a} camper van is a less expensive possibility than staying in price range inns. It’s not.

For those who value it out manually, hiring a camper van for, say, 10 days, will work out roughly the identical and even presumably greater than a automobile rental and staying in price range inns. Remember the fact that you additionally need to pay for campsites, as wild tenting just isn’t allowed in Iceland.

Rent a camper van if you would like that sort of Iceland journey, particularly. Don’t do it since you assume it’s going to prevent cash.

In Iceland, the Blue Lagoon -- pale turquoise milky water with people swimming in it, underneath a bright blue sky with clouds.

Don’t e-book the Blue Lagoon last-minute.

The Blue Lagoon is the most well-liked attraction in Iceland. In consequence, it books up in a short time, and sometimes sells out utterly.

The Blue Lagoon is situated near Keflavík Airport and a couple of 45-minute drive from Reykjavík metropolis, so I like to recommend visiting the Blue Lagoon both proper while you arrive or proper earlier than you allow. It’s way more handy that means.

I extremely advocate booking your slot at the Blue Lagoon at the least a month upfront, in the event you’re touring through the summer season months. For those who’re visiting Iceland within the winter, you may get away with reserving nearer to the date.

Learn Extra: Issues Folks Don’t Inform You Concerning the Blue Lagoon

A view over the roofs of colorful cottages in Reykjavik.
Reykjavík is enjoyable — however not every little thing.

Don’t solely keep in Reykjavík.

True story — I dated a man who instructed me he had been to Iceland too, and had the very best time. He went for 2 nights, partied his ass off in Reykjavík, and flew again to New York with out leaving town limits.

Reykjavík is a enjoyable metropolis. Belief me on that. However it’s not what makes Iceland particular. What makes Iceland particular is the pure setting. And a bonus — the pure websites are normally free to go to.

This isn’t to tug individuals who e-book Reykjavík lodging for his or her complete keep — you are able to do that! I’ve performed that thrice! You do it by reserving plenty of cool day journeys, or by renting a automobile and driving your self.

My prime suggestions for day journeys from Reykjavik embody the South Coast, the Golden Circle, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, and one thing else that catches your curiosity. I personally cherished snorkeling between the tectonic plates at Silfra in Thingvellir National Park; horseback riding is enjoyable, too.

Learn Extra: Greatest Issues to Do in Reykjavík, Iceland

Extra on What NOT to Do:

Planning a Journey to Iceland:

Cool Locations to Go to in Iceland:

Have you ever been to Iceland? What are your ideas?