1. The tap water is probably the absolute best you can find anywhere.
If you have anxiety about bathing in and/or drinking the local water in Iceland, don’t. Their water is sourced from the rivers and streams which come from the melting glaciers. And it tastes amazing, very clean.
2. You’ll probably spend a lot of time in the car.
Iceland is not a large country. It’s only about 103,000 sq km, a little smaller than New York State. They have very stablished highways. But it may take you a little while to travel from one tourist attraction to the next. Case in point, you’ll likely be staying in Reykjavík. Well to get from Reykjavík to the popular black sand beach, Reynisfjara, is about a two and a half our drive, one way. Sure you’ll enjoy some breathtaking scenery on the way. But this is something to considering when planning out your itinerary.
3. You may spend a lot of time in the dark, no pun intended.
We went to Iceland Christmas week. While we lucked out and experienced unseasonably warm weather, we could not escape the limited daylight. Sunrise was around 11:00am and sunset was around 3:30pm each day. Our tours were planned around the daylight. So even though 4-ish hours of light doesn’t seem like a lot, we were still were able to enjoy our outdoor activities. If this would be an issue for you, try planning your trip in May – August, where you’ll experience about 20 hours of daylight each day.
4. Icelanders speak English quite well.
Don’t worry about taking classes to learn Icelandic. Everyone we encountered spoke English. Even the night we grabbed Dominos Pizza at 11pm, the staff took our order in English. A lot of the signs were in English as well.
5. Be prepared to be naked at some point during your visit to The Blue Lagoon.
Yes, you read that correctly. Changing rooms have no privacy, but the showers do. You have to disrobe in front of complete strangers, shower privately, and put on your bathing suit all before you can enter the lagoon. In all fairness, there are a couple private changing rooms. But as you can imagine there is a long line to enter them. You can try to cover yourself with a towel while trying to change though.
6. There’s no guarantee you’ll see the Northern Lights.
For our very first night in Reykjavík, we scheduled a Northern Lights tour. We made our way to the harbor, and boarded a three story yacht with a bunch of other tourists. The tour was 2.5 hours long. We drove quite far away from the glowing lights of the city into the darkness of the northern Atlantic Ocean. But to no avail. The lights were blocked by an overcast of clouds. If you’re a fan of boat rides, you’ll at least get to enjoy that. The crew was friendly and knowledgeable. Overall we enjoyed ourselves but were disappointed that we didn’t get to marvel in the wonder of the Northern Lights.
7. Icelandic Krona are beautiful, but you don’t need them.
As a general rule, I always convert some US dollars to the local currency of the country that I’m traveling to. Iceland uses the Krona. Everywhere we went, even the snack bar on the yacht, accepted major credit cards. So the cash wasn’t at all necessary. But it certainly was beautiful to look at. And no worries, you can always convert whatever you don’t use back to US dollars once you’re home.
8. No special visa needed for US passport holders.
Just in case you were wondering, you don’t need a visa for a short visit. This is something I always research when planning a trip to a new part of the world.
9. Yes Iceland is expensive.
Everyone asked me if Iceland was expensive. Yes, actually it was. I’d say a little more expensive than mainland Europe. For example our 3 star hotel was about $124 a night. To put it in perspective, an average 3 star hotel in the US is anywhere from $67-$105 per night. The food was expensive too. We were spending around $20-30 per entree. But think about it logically. Iceland is pretty much a secluded island. Most of their items are imported. Plan accordingly.
10. Iceland will have you exercising!
If you love the outdoors, Iceland needs to be on your travel list. I was definitely sore for half the trip. Between swimming at the Blue Lagoon, hiking Vatnajökull, exploring ice caves, and going underneath a waterfall, I got a great workout almost every day. Wearing multiple layers of clothes didn’t help the sweat factor. But my Apple Watch was cheering me on the whole time! Condition yourself beforehand.
In case you were wondering, I would highly recommend Iceland as a destination for couples and families. I witnessed a proposal on a black sand beach. I saw many couples hugged up in the Blue Lagoon. I hiked the world’s largest glacier with a family from Australia. There’s something fun for everyone.