Iceland: It seems like everyone is going there! It’s not hard to see why. It took a financial crash and a concerted effort on the part of Iceland’s government to kick off the modern Icelandic tourism boom, but once those efforts were made, it didn’t take much to transform the trickle of tourists headed to Iceland into a certifiable tourism boom. The secret was out: Iceland is a place of unparalleled natural beauty, and it is full of incredible things to do outside and around its wonderful small towns and cities.
For around a half-decade now, Iceland has played host to a thriving tourism scene that has welcomed folks from all over the world, including people right here in the United States. Perhaps, now, it’s your turn. You’re finally ready to join the throngs of tourists headed to this Nordic isle.
That means that you’ve got some planning to do. There’s a lot to do and see in Iceland, and if you want your vacation to go right, you’ll have to figure out where you’re staying, what you’re going to be seeing, and how long you’ll be spending in Iceland — not to mention how you’ll get there, what you’ll pack, and a whole host of other concerns. We’ll trust you with the basics, but we have a few suggestions. Follow our advice, and you’ll do your Icelandic vacation right.
Trust in tour guides
Iceland is full of natural wonders. Its landscapes feature the sorts of vast and spectacular natural spaces that can make you feel beautiful, small and profoundly isolated. But while you’re getting lost in the landscape, you probably don’t want to actually get lost; and while it’s great to feel tiny and isolated in front of nature’s majesty, the right kind of company can ensure that you get a whole lot more out of the experience.
That’s why you should consider taking some tours while you’re in Iceland. Some convenient tours will take you out to iconic places near Reykjavík — be sure to check out the iconic Golden Circle.
Other tours are great for checking out the hidden places and spectacular natural formations that you might not find on your own. Take an ice cave tour Iceland, or head on a guided hike or backpacking excursion in Iceland, and you’re sure to see things that you wouldn’t see if you were to act as your own tour guide.
Stay in Reykjavik...
A huge portion of the people who come to Iceland head straight for Reykjavik, the country’s capital and largest city. Should you go off the beaten path to avoid the crowds?
Not necessarily. While it’s a great idea to spend a portion of your trip elsewhere, Reykjavik makes an excellent base of operations. Despite being Iceland’s largest city, it’s still quite small and easy to navigate. It’s close to great natural attractions, has wonderful places to stay, and has its fair share of urban appeal in the form of its museums, architecture, and — of course — its bars and nightclubs (just be prepared to pay a fair bit for a beer — Iceland has to import virtually everything, and things are quite pricey there).
If you’re still not sold, just take it from the Icelanders themselves. More than half of all residents of Iceland live in Reykjavik, and many more living the surrounding areas. Much of the rest of the nation is rural or uninhabited.
...but get out of there, too!
Reykjavik makes a great base of operations, but be sure to get out of town and enjoy the natural beauty of the island. And don’t be afraid to drive, experts say — while gas is pricey, traffic is light and drives are downright gorgeous. Skipping the big tour buses could allow you to reach smaller tourism operations, and it will of course afford you the freedom to set off in any direction that you choose.
Iceland’s stunning natural parks make great destinations, and some are close enough to Reykjavik to make a suitable day trip. Snæfellsjökull National Park is a great example. Take off for the day to check it out, and you’ll still be able to return to Reykjavik for the night.