What NOT to Do in Iceland (27 Important Suggestions)

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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 overlook 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.
Children’ 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. The truth is, 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.

In the event you’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 have got 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’s going to you should 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 sizzling 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 outside 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 specifically: you could bathe bare first. It’s a essential requirement. Icelandic swimming pools have restricted chemical substances, in order that they depend on folks maintaining squeaky clear to maintain the pool clear.

That is the case whether or not you go to an Icelandic swimming pool, a sizzling 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 an enormous open area the place folks bathe subsequent to one another, no limitations, utterly bare. Icelanders will not be ashamed by nudity. Take part, scrub intensely, and get used to it!

In the event you’re nervous about being bare in entrance of different folks, select a spa with non-public showers. The Blue Lagoon, Sky Lagoon, and Vök Baths all have non-public bathe stalls.

There isn’t any various to showering bare. Severely. As an apparent foreigner, I used to be steadily 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 largest mistake I see folks making in each vacation spot — however notably Individuals visiting Europe. The mindset is, “That is the one time I’ll be right here, so I must see all the pieces.”

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

In the event you’re driving the Ring Street in your Iceland street journey, I like to recommend a minimal of eight days to take action. (And even these eight days might be packed stable.) If it’s much less time than that, you’re higher off basing in Reykjavík and possibly 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 in consequence!

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 Seashore.

Reynisfjara Seashore, in Vík alongside Iceland’s South Coast, is among the most well-known black sand seashores on this planet.

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

Reynisfjara Seashore is thought 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 Seashore will not be unusual.

To remain secure, native officers suggest maintaining a distance of 30 meters (100 toes) from the water. Regulate the water always. And when 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 persons are doing it, it doesn’t make it secure. 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 vital. You’ll want to be ready for all types of climate, it doesn’t matter what time of 12 months you go. And it will 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 high of an insulated jacket), rain pants, waterproof hiking boots, and a waterproof backpack cover.

(By the way, you possibly can go away your umbrella at house — the aforementioned gear will maintain 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 personally was depressing when a mountaineering path was muddy puddles and I started soaking into my non-waterproof mountaineering sneakers.

See my Iceland packing listing for extra info on what you actually must pack — and what you possibly can go away at house.

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 secure to drink, in addition to scrumptious, and always shopping for single-use plastic provides to the air pollution downside.

My suggestion? Deliver a reusable water bottle and replenish everytime you’re close to a faucet. I really 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. By way of Shutterstock.

Don’t go whale watching in Reykjavík.

This could be combating phrases — however let me converse truthfully (albeit anecdotally). Nearly each buddy I do know who has gone whale watching in Reykjavík hasn’t seen any whales. They’ve returned to shore dissatisfied.

Iceland does have whales, however Reykjavík is just not probably the greatest locations to see them.

As I used to be penning this, I texted a buddy who I do know went whale watching in Reykjavík. “Did you truly 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 an alternative, go whale watching in Húsavík, North Iceland. The whale watching right here is excellent — 1,000,000 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 beautiful whales!

After all, 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 threat not seeing any whales in your tour. Particularly if you happen to’re solely visiting for a number of days.

In the meantime, there are such a lot of higher issues to do in Reykjavík. In the event you’re an animal lover, I extremely suggest 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 setting.

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

It’s particularly vital as a result of outside sights are not often 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. Follow marked pathways in Iceland, and the moss that you simply discover in some lava fields might 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 Seashore 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 generally is 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 could be amongst a completely vacationer crowd in a vacationer bar.

As a result of alcohol is so costly in Iceland, most Icelanders pregame at house with mates earlier than heading out for the evening. (Yep, similar to we did in faculty.) 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 slightly longer. Your evening’s about to begin!

Don’t pace.

You may 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 visitors cop in the complete nation. What’s flawed with slightly dashing every so often?

Effectively, there will not be cops, however there are pace cameras. A great deal of them. And if you happen to’re caught dashing, you’ll be fined. Typically the high quality might 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 high quality. There’s no option 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. In the event you 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 time.

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 in the course of the winter months, from September by March, when the nights are their longest. You possibly can’t see them in the course of 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 a substitute, purpose to reach a number of days earlier than the brand new moon for a number of days of darkish evening 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. Needless to say that is solely as much as likelihood, although. You possibly can’t predict the Northern Lights.

That being mentioned, if seeing the Northern Lights is super-important to you, I’d suggest 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). You’ll want to take lengthy exposures to get the colours to point out up correctly, and they’ll prove 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 one of the best ways to get into Reykjavík? Take the Flybus. This airport bus leaves usually from the airport, you possibly can ebook your ticket upfront, 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 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 once 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 sizzling canine rule.

Don’t splurge on meals.

I really like splurging on meals after I journey. Nearly 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 high 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 lots of sizzling 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 an excellent greater charge than most different bills. I prefer to attempt 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. In the event you don’t wish to get by a visit with out alcohol, that’s in all probability your greatest 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 among the most lovely 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 far 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 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 choices. Guide or automated? (Don’t make the error I did as soon as and order guide if you happen to can’t drive stick.) Sedan or SUV? 4-wheel drive or two-wheel drive?

That final query is definitely fairly vital, as some roads in Iceland require a four-wheel-drive car. Driving them in a two-wheel-drive car is each unsafe and unlawful, because the street situations are notably gnarly.

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

In the event you’re driving the Ring Street, you don’t want to fret about this — the Ring Street is secure to drive with a two-wheel drive car in the summertime months, together with most simple detours. It’s best to get a four-wheel drive car 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 number of occasions (just like the gravel street to the east aspect of Dettifoss waterfall, and the very tough gravel street to Múlagljúfur Canyon). The secret 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 car: the drive to the second car 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 means however was the precise 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 possibly can watch the Earth sizzle, plumes of steam making their means by 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 dignity system, anticipating folks to observe the foundations. 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 rely as a bathe.

Don’t bathe within the morning.

Type of a bizarre one right here, however hear me out. I feel showering at evening is a good thought in Iceland.

In the event 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 toilet.

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

Apart from that, it’s a lot simpler to get out very first thing within the morning and hit the street if you happen to roll off the bed, dress, wash your face and brush your enamel, 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 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 evening.

The issue is that folks assume {that a} camper van is a less expensive choice than staying in finances accommodations. It’s not.

In the event you worth it out manually, hiring a camper van for, say, 10 days, will work out roughly the identical and even probably greater than a automobile rental and staying in finances accommodations. Needless to say you additionally need to pay for campsites, as wild tenting is just not allowed in Iceland.

Rent a camper van if you’d like that form of Iceland journey, particularly. Don’t do it since you assume it should 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 ebook 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 utterly.

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

I extremely suggest booking your slot at the Blue Lagoon at the least a month upfront, if you happen to’re touring in the course of the summer time months. In the event you’re visiting Iceland within the winter, you will get away with reserving nearer to the date.

Learn Extra: Issues Individuals Don’t Inform You Concerning 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 very best 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 setting. And a bonus — the pure websites are normally free to go to.

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

My high 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 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?