Considering… Iceland

Iceland is a beautiful country, known for its pristine landscapes, hot springs, glaciers, waterfalls, and spectacular aurora.  It’s a landscape photographer’s dream, and it has lots to offer the outdoorsfolk.  Rumored to be named to deter too many settlers, this island is beautiful, though it actually is home to quite a bit of ice.


Why do we want to go?

Photography, what else?

There’s plenty to draw us to this little island.  The scenery is attractive, sure, but it also has numerous hot springs, an interesting isolated culture, and of course the renowned northern lights.  There’s lots to explore, and plenty to photograph!


What are some bucket list contenders?

Country Profile

COUNTRY | Iceland
Best SeasonSummertime is the warmest, but winter provides ideal conditions for viewing the aurora; equinoxes give a little of both
Average Temp / Weather ConditionsTemperatures range from freezing in the winter to 15°C/60°F in the summer (depending on location)
Key AttractionsAmazingly beautiful landscapes, northern lights, hiking, wildlife
Entry / Visa RequirementsNo visa required for stays less than 90 days; adequate funds and a return ticket required. Two blank pages are required for entry stamp.
CURRENCY | Icelandic Króna (~105 ISK = $1 USD)
Daily Budget10,000 ISK/couple (~$95 USD)
Frugal TipsBring your own sheets/sleeping bag (many hostels charge for linens; some don’t permit use of your own sheets); alcohol is subject to expensive taxes, so stay sober to save money!; shop and cook at “home”; couchsurf; Samferda
THE STAY | Possible duration: a few weeks
Lodging TypesHotels, hostels (Iceland has many Hostelling International locations), camping
FoodSeafood, pylsur (lamb hot dogs), meats, skyr (fat-free, yogurt-like, soft cheese), whale, puffin
Transportation OptionsDriving, public transporation (buses, etc.), hitchhiking
Driving RequirementsMost roads (>2/3) are unpaved, and many are impassible in the winter and as late as July due to mud and flooding due to snowmelt; headlights are required at all times; it’s illegal to turn right at a red light
ConnectivityMost areas provide wifi, similar to the U.S.


CULTURE | Language: Icelandic
CustomsNo tipping, except for hotel housekeeping; shower before entering hot springs; people are reserved, so don’t be too obnoxious; remove your shoes indoors
Local LawsAny suspicions of child abuse must be reported; speeding and DUIs are serious offenses; don’t drive off-road
Local Holidays/FestivalsMany similar to the U.S.
12/24: Christmas is celebrated specifically at 6pm and lasts multiple days
1/6: Twelfth Night (last day of Christmas, fireworks)
Mid-January to Mid-February: Thorrablót (feasting during the ancient month of Thorri)
Two days before Lent: Bolludagur and Sprengidagur (“bun day” and “bursting day” – the feast before the fast)
Seasonal holidays on the solstices and equinoxes
English AvailabilityQuite common, especially in tourist areas
Attitudes Toward AmericansGenerally friendly and mostly tolerant
Photography ConcernsPrivacy is valued, so be wary of looking suspicious photographing individuals
General SafetyCrime is very low
Emergency Number112
Location of U.S. Embassy / PhoneReykjavik (Laufásvegur 21 101 Reykjavik, Phone +(354) 595-2200)
Medical FacilitiesModern facilities are readily available in urban areas; non-residents are not covered by Icelandic medical system and must pay for services at the time of treatment (most require cash); supplemental insurance for medical evacuation is highly recommended
Vaccinations NeededNone
Health ConcernsFrostbite, extreme weather conditions
Water QualityWater is quite clean and drinkable; bottled water is not necessary

Additional Resources

Have you been to Iceland?  What activities do we have to try out?  What other countries should we consider?

Photos by Eric Montfort (creative commons)

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