No matter what time of year you’re looking to vacation, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a destination as adventure packed as Iceland. But, despite its surge in popularity over recent years, the tiny island nation is once again taking the forefront of travellers’ minds.
These days, the land of fire and ice is drawing attention because it’s an ideal destination for social distancing. For starters, Iceland’s population is a mere 360,000. Couple that with the country’s proactive pandemic planning and testing, and you have what may arguably be the perfect getaway.
But, if you’ve never been to Iceland, don’t fret. To make the most of your first trip, here are three things to consider:
Choose whether you’ll visit Iceland during summer or winter.
Deciding when to visit Iceland can be difficult because it’s one of few destinations that offers a variety of incredible experiences year-round, most of which are only offered during their respective season. Ultimately, choosing what time of year to visit will depend on a few different variables:
Are you comfortable driving in winter conditions? The best way to explore Iceland is on a road trip with you as the driver. It offers you the chance to take your time and sightsee as much as you’d like. Although driving in Iceland is easy (if you’re from North America, you’ll be driving on the same side of the road and the same side of the car), weather conditions can change in the blink of an eye, especially during winter. If you aren’t comfortable driving on snow/ice, consider visiting Iceland during the warmer months.
Would you rather have more daylight hours? During the winter, Iceland has approximately four-nine hours of daylight. While the winter months provide exceptional opportunities, such as potentially viewing the Northern Lights, if you’d rather have more time to explore during the day, you may want to visit during the summer (when Iceland has approximately 20-22 hours of daylight).
What are your preferred activities? Seeing the Northern Lights is never guaranteed; however, as mentioned above, if seeing the aurora borealis is on your bucket list, you’ll need to visit during the months of September-March. Additionally, anything ice-related, such as glacier hiking, will only be offered in the winter months. On the contrary, if activities such as campervanning, whale watching, or viewing the Midnight Sun are on your bucket list, you’ll want to visit during the summer months.
Decide how long you’ll visit.
The duration of your vacation may not be flexible, and that’s okay (there’s plenty to do in Iceland no matter how long you’re there). But if flexibility is an option, consider the following when choosing the length of your trip:
Seeing Iceland requires a lot of driving on winding roads with unpredictable weather and no passing lanes. This means getting from point A to point B can take more time than you expect. Also keep in mind the limited daylight hours if you’re traveling during winter months. Typically speaking, the more time you have in Iceland, the better.
How much do you want to see, and what do you want to see? If your main goal is to see the Golden Circle and/or the South Coast, anywhere from five-seven days is doable. But if your must-see places or must-do activities take you anywhere else, you’ll want to consider spending more time on the island (who could complain?).
Enjoy all Iceland has to offer (even if it’s touristy).
Simply put — Iceland’s hotspots are worth it. Would you visit New York City for the first time without catching a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building? No. Would you visit Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower? Probably not. So, when visiting Iceland, don’t miss out on the Blue Lagoon. However, the perk to visiting Iceland’s most popular attraction is that, contrary to many other famous attractions around the world, the Blue Lagoon is clean, relaxing, and utterly magical. As for Iceland’s other hotspots (the Golden Circle, Seljalandsfoss, Jokulsarlon Lagoon, etc.) — they’re worth it, too! So, make sure to visit as many places as you can. Additionally, don’t miss out on the following:
The food. It may seem weird to find puffin and reindeer (among other interesting items) on your menu, but Iceland’s thriving food scene is a welcome surprise.
The opportunity to splurge. Have you ever slept in a bubble underneath the stars? Soaked in a hot tub overlooking the Northern Lights? Swam between two continents? In Iceland, you can do all three!
As if Iceland could get any better, a bonus is that it’s the perfect stopover between North America’s northeast coast and Europe. So, even if you simply extend a Europe trip by just two or three days, visiting Iceland is always worth it.
By Alexa Wheeler