What NOT to Do in Iceland (27 Important Suggestions)

Adventurous Kate comprises affiliate hyperlinks. Should you make a purchase order via these hyperlinks, I’ll earn a fee at no further value to you. Thanks!

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

And it may be REALLY simple to make a serious journey mistake in Iceland. A mistake that may value 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 might consider. Let’s have a look and what NOT to do in Iceland!

(And don’t neglect to take a look at my different Iceland journey planning posts, together with my Iceland Packing Listing. 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 all the pieces. In truth, 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.

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

So what’s going to you must pay for in money in Iceland? The general public buses in Reykjavík, if not utilizing the app. Often 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 totally 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 retailers or bars.

And they’re VERY strict about one rule specifically: you could bathe bare first. It’s a essential requirement. Icelandic swimming pools have restricted chemical compounds, so that they depend on folks preserving 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 is 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 limitations, fully bare. Icelanders will not be ashamed by nudity. Take part, scrub intensely, and get used to it!

Should you’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 any various to showering bare. Critically. As an apparent foreigner, I used to be continuously requested if I had showered bare earlier than coming into a swimming space. Icelanders take this very significantly.

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 have to see all the pieces.”

Please don’t attempt to see all the pieces. You gained’t be capable to see all the pieces you need to see. Make peace with that truth, early and sometimes, and plan an itinerary that leaves room for serendipity.

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

And don’t underestimate the worth of exploring one area of Iceland in depth versus attempting to do the entire nation. You’ll be extra relaxed consequently!

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 the planet.

It’s additionally one of the harmful locations in Iceland. However you wouldn’t understand 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 all the pieces of their path, pulling folks out to sea.

Tragically, vacationer deaths at Reynisfjara Seaside will not be unusual.

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

Lastly, know that loads of vacationers ignore these warning indicators and might 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 secure. Be good right here.

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

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

Packing for a visit to Iceland is critically essential. You want to be ready for all types of climate, it doesn’t matter what time of 12 months you go. And it’s going to be WET for a minimum of 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 high of an insulated jacket), rain pants, waterproof hiking boots, and a waterproof backpack cover.

(By the way, you’ll be able to depart your umbrella at house — the aforementioned gear will preserve you dry sufficient, and the fierce Icelandic winds usually destroy umbrellas.)

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

See my Iceland packing listing for extra data on what you actually have to pack — and what you’ll be able to depart at house.

A silhouetted person standing behind a falling waterfall.

Don’t purchase bottled water.

There’s zero motive to purchase bottled water in Iceland, ever. The faucet water in Iceland is secure to drink, in addition to scrumptious, and continually shopping for single-use plastic provides to the air pollution downside.

My suggestion? Convey 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 in all probability not be this fortunate. Through Shutterstock.

Don’t go whale watching in Reykjavík.

This is perhaps preventing phrases — however let me converse actually (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 disillusioned.

Iceland does have whales, however Reykjavík shouldn’t be top-of-the-line locations to see them.

As I used to be penning 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 had been on the boat for almost six hours. It was wet and chilly. [My friend] puked. We noticed one puffin, I believe.”

As a substitute, go whale watching in Húsavík, North Iceland. The whale watching right here is excellent — one million occasions 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 attractive whales!

In fact, that is solely an choice if you happen to’re planning to go to North Iceland. And if you happen to’re not going that far, ask your self if you wish to danger not seeing any whales in your tour. Particularly if you happen to’re solely visiting for a couple of days.

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

A lake next to a tiny mountain village.

Don’t harm the native surroundings.

Iceland is an awfully stunning nation with pure wonders that may stupefy you. Please take the time to maintain the surroundings 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 here are some issues to bear in mind:

Don’t disturb moss. Stick with marked pathways in Iceland, and the moss that you simply discover in some lava fields may be destroyed if you happen to 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 one 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 could be a nice metropolis for partying, offered you’re okay paying the sky-high drink costs. However if you happen to 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 house with buddies 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 a bit longer. Your night time’s about to begin!

Don’t velocity.

You’ll be tempted to hurry in Iceland — and I get it. Roads are sometimes empty in rural areas. You in all probability gained’t see a single site visitors cop in your complete nation. What’s fallacious with a bit rushing every so often?

Effectively, there will not be cops, however there are velocity cameras. A great deal of them. And if you happen to’re caught rushing, you may be fined. Typically the fantastic may be lots of of {dollars}.

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

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

The Northern Lights over Jökulsárlón.

Don’t anticipate the Northern Lights in summer time.

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

Moreover, darkish nights are finest for viewing the Aurora Borealis. You’ll need to keep away from reserving your journey throughout a full moon; as a substitute, purpose to reach a couple of days earlier than the brand new moon for a number of days of darkish night time skies.

Your finest wager at seeing the Northern Lights is to book a tour with an expert tour guide who will take you to the most effective spots for viewing. Remember the fact that that is solely as much as likelihood, although. You may’t predict the Northern Lights.

That being stated, if seeing the Northern Lights is super-important to you, I’d 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 manner, don’t neglect to convey a tripod (both a camera tripod or a smartphone tripod). You want to take lengthy exposures to get the colours to point out up correctly, and they’re going to end up blurry if you happen to don’t have a tripod.

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

Don’t take a taxi into Reykjavík.

What’s the easiest way to get into Reykjavík? Take the Flybus. This airport bus leaves frequently from the airport, you’ll be able to e-book your ticket prematurely, and you’ll select to both be dropped off on the central bus station or at your resort.

The everyday value 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 motive 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 canines rule.

Don’t splurge on meals.

I like splurging on meals once I journey. Virtually in every single 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 finest, and on high of that, restaurant meals have excessive costs.

(I’ll say that the most effective conventional meal I had was a couple 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 numerous scorching canines and soup-and-bread specials as a result of they had 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 suppose alcohol is value it in Iceland more often than not. Alcohol is eye-wateringly costly, marked up at an excellent greater charge than most different bills. I wish to strive an area craft beer every so often, 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. Should you don’t need to get via a visit with out alcohol, that’s in all probability your finest finances choice.

However my suggestion? Eat low cost and splurge on cool actions. That’s the place you’ll get greater 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 simple 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 positioned 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 suppose so, particularly in case your time in Iceland is proscribed. The South Coast has so many attractive pure wonders which are way more simply accessible.

What to do as a substitute? I like to recommend a glacier walking tour on the South Coast. This fashion 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 highway. Extra of a “Baaaa” highway.

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

While you hire a automobile in Iceland, you’ll need to make a number of choices. Handbook or computerized? (Don’t make the error I did as soon as and order handbook if you happen to 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 highway 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).

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

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

There was one highway 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 a substitute — which took an additional half-hour every manner however was the suitable choice.

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’ll be able to watch the Earth sizzle, plumes of steam making their manner via cracks.

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

That is one other place the place Iceland operates on the dignity 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.

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

Should you’re staying in lodging with shared bogs — which is the case at most finances lodging in Iceland — there might be a line of individuals ready to bathe within the morning. That is a lot worse in case your guesthouse has (gasp!) just one lavatory.

That, and you’ll wash all of your climbing grime off at night time. At all times good earlier than you sleep.

Moreover that, it’s a lot simpler to get out very first thing within the morning and hit the highway if you happen to roll away from bed, dress, wash your face and brush your tooth, and simply HIT THE ROAD. Profit from your daytime. And if you happen to 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 extremely popular factor to do. And why wouldn’t it’s? Journey the nation on a whim, cease the place you need to cease every night time.

The issue is that individuals suppose {that a} camper van is a less expensive choice than staying in finances inns. It’s not.

Should you worth 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 finances inns. Remember the fact that you additionally need to pay for campsites, as wild tenting shouldn’t be allowed in Iceland.

Rent a camper van if you need that form of Iceland journey, particularly. Don’t do it since you assume it can 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 preferred attraction in Iceland. Consequently, it books up in a short time, and sometimes sells out fully.

The Blue Lagoon is positioned near Keflavík Airport and a few 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 permit. It’s way more handy that manner.

I extremely advocate booking your slot at the Blue Lagoon a minimum of a month prematurely, if you happen to’re touring in the course of the summer time months. Should you’re visiting Iceland within the winter, you may get away with reserving nearer to the date.

Learn Extra: Issues Individuals Don’t Inform You In regards to the Blue Lagoon

A view over the roofs of colorful cottages in Reykjavik.
Reykjavík is enjoyable — however not all the pieces.

Don’t solely keep in Reykjavík.

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

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

This isn’t to pull individuals who e-book Reykjavík lodging for his or her complete keep — you are able to do that! I’ve carried out that 3 times! You do it by reserving a lot of cool day journeys, or by renting a automobile and driving your self.

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

Learn Extra: Finest 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?