DETAILED Backpacking Iceland Travel Guide in 2019 (Pics, Maps, More)

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one of Iceland's many waterfalls, at sunset

It’s a magical place.

It is the land of sheep, northern lights, volcanoes with unpronounceable names (try Eyjafjallajökull), rugged landscapes, waterfalls, mountains, and natural hotsprings.

“How could such a tiny island have such a diverse and beautiful landscape?” you think to yourself.

Iceland quickly became one of my favorite countries in the world after my first visit. It’s such a beautiful country filled with warm and welcoming people (who are also beautiful).

It’s hard to backpack Iceland and travel here on a budget as the prices are just so high.

Iceland is going to blow your mind – and your wallet!

I created this Iceland guide to help you travel the country and see on the sights as well as provide some tips on how to save money!!

Top 5 Things to See and Do in Iceland

a steamy scene from the Mývatn Nature Baths; photo by nh53 (flickr:@nh53)

1. Visit the Mývatn Nature Baths

These were quieter and less expensive than the famous Blue Lagoon outside Reykjavik. I relaxed here by myself for over an hour mellowing out in the warm waters. The geothermal spa offers the most relaxing natural bathing and is the most tempting attraction. The water from the underground hot springs reaches 37–39 °C and is beneficial for health and skin. Grab some local geyser bread that they sell at the little cafe and relax! Admission is 4,000 ISK ($35 USD) during the peak season, and 3,500 ISK ($30 USD) during the low season.
the Northern Lights flickering over Reykjavik

2. Watch the Northern Lights

Seeing this wonderful natural phenomenon in person was one of the most awe-inspiring things I ever witnessed. The lights are best admired in the remote places away from city lights. The best time to catch them is from mid-September to mid-April. However, it’s a crapshoot! The longer you stay the north, the better your chances!
aerial view over Reykjavik from the tower of Hallgrimskirkja church

3. Spend some time in Reykjavik

Reykjavik is awash in thriving cafes, high-energy clubs, friendly pubs, and a brightly colored old town with rows of wooden houses clustered together. It’s super small, it’s worth a few days to really get a feel for the art and cafe culture of the city. If you’re a night owl, you’ll love the party life here (Icelanders know how to drink) but be warned that they don’t go out until about midnight!
iceberg pieces floating in the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon

4. Check out the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon

Located in the southeast of Iceland, this ice flow is one of the most popular attractions in the area country. I enjoyed just sitting down and listening to the ice crash into each other on its way out to sea. For an up-close look at the glaciers, consider exploring the lagoon by boat.
fast moving water pouring over Skógafoss waterfall in Iceland

5. See the waterfalls

Iceland is the king of waterfalls: Dettifoss, located in the north, is the most powerful waterfall in Europe; Gullfoss (found in the Golden Circle) is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland; Seljalandsfoss is beautiful and is set so you can walk behind it, and then there’s Skogafoss, Svartifoss, and Goðafoss. If you love waterfalls, you’ll love Iceland.

Other Things to See and Do in Iceland

1. Soak in the Blue Lagoon

While I found the Mývatn baths to be a more relaxing and less expensive option, you cannot deny that Iceland’s most famous geothermal pool is the country’s top tourist attraction. It might be crowded and expensive, but there’s nothing like it in the world. This huge, milky-blue spa is fed by mineral-rich heated seawater from the nearby geothermal plant. Add the silvery towers of the plant, rolling clouds of steam, and people covered in white mud, and you’ll think you’re in the twilight zone – in a good way! Admission starts at 5,200 ISK ($45 USD) during the low season and 6,400 ISK ($55 USD) during the peak season.

2. Take a Game of Thrones tour

The harsh climate north of the wall in HBO’s hit series was predominantly filmed in Iceland. Explore the film locations on a guided tour, with both single- and multi-day options available. If you’re a die-hard fan of the series this tour is for you!

3. Thingvellir National Park

This national park and UNESCO World Heritage site is interesting for two reasons: it’s the original site of the longest-running parliament in the world, and it’s also where the North American and European continental shelf plates are being torn apart. Pretty cool, huh?

4. Maelifell Volcano

Found in Myrdalsjökull Glacier Park, Maelifell’s perfect cone makes it a classic looking volcano. During the warm season, snow uncovers a lavish green surface, covered with moss. There is plenty to do and see in the park, full of volcanoes, hot springs, and other beautiful sites. During the winter, a lot of the roads in the park will close, so the summer season is the best time to go if you want to see the volcano.

5. Check out the geysers

Due to the volcanic activities underneath the surface, a lot of geysers, underground springs, and thermal pools are scattered all around the country. To see a powerful hot stream shooting from the ground is definitely exciting. Strokkur, in the southwest of Iceland, beside the Hvítá River, is a popular fountain geyser. Many geysers are found in Haukadalur in the south of the country.

6. Hike the Golden Circle Tourist Trail

During the summer months, hiking in the highlands of Iceland becomes a popular pastime. If you want a truly breathtaking experience, stand at the rift zone on the edge of the North American Plate and look towards the rift at the Eurasian Plate in the distance – talk about a riveting experience! Other stops include Kerið volcano crater, Hveragerði greenhouse village, Skálholt church, and the Nesjavellir or Hellisheiði geothermal power plant.

7. Head out on the Laugavegur trail

This 55km trail that runs between Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk is as popular a destination for locals as it is for foreign visitors, and remains one of the most extraordinary walking trails in the world. It offers a great variety of landscapes, mountains in various colors, hot springs and glaciers, rivers, and lakes. Its well-worn treads, cozy huts, a steady stream of trekkers, and frequent wood marking posts make it a relatively safe and logistically easy venture. You can stay in huts for about 4,600 ISK ($40 USD) per night, or camp in the designated areas outside the huts for a mere 1,200 ISK ($10 USD) per night.

8. Hike the Fimmvörðuháls Trail

If 55km is too much, try your hand at the shorter (but equally as stunning) Fimmvorduhals trail. Stretching between Þórsmörk and Skógar, this trail can be done in a day or broken up into a two-day adventure. You can either camp or book one of the mountain huts located along the route. Just be aware: the huts sell out fast!

9. Go fishing

Everybody knows that Iceland is famous for its fish. With tons of salmon and trout fishing rivers and lakes, there are many options to check out if this floats your boat. The water is teeming with life, and tours are increasingly popular – especially in the Westfjords region, in the city of Suðureyri. You can join an actual fishing crew for the day.

10. Skaftafell Ice Cave

Aptly named the land of ice, this country is literally covered in ice and snow. The overwhelmingly beautiful ice caves in Vatnajökull National Park attract adventurers from around the globe. The travel agencies organize trips to the glaciers, from where the caves can be visited. Be sure to visit in winter, when the ice doesn’t melt and it is safe to enter.

11. Go whale watching

While this isn’t the most budget-friendly activity, it is definitely amazing to experience! Around Iceland, there are more than 20 different species of whales that frequent the waters, and you will often see dolphins and harbor porpoises on the trip as well. You can find a myriad of tours available, and most of them last about 3 hours. The prime whale-watching season is from April to September, with most tours leaving from the south (Reykjavik) or north (Akureyri).

12. Go to Landmannalaugar

The multicolored rhyolite mountains, lava fields, and the Hekla volcano make it a popular tourist destination. The striking landscapes look like a different planet. Hiking and horseback riding are among the most popular activities here. You can visit here anytime, although summer might be the best time to go.

13. See Kirkjufell Mountain

Near a small town of Grundarfjörður in western Iceland, the mountain beautifully sticks out in a plain landscape. Surrounding this striking mountain you can find a bunch of smaller waterfalls, and (hopefully) catch the Northern lights if you are lucky.

14. Hike the Snaefellsnes peninsula

Stretching out from the west coast, this peninsula is topped by a large national park. It’s a great place to take a hike or a stroll along the windy and winding coast. There are numerous hills and mountains to climb, including Snæfellsjökull. If you’re feeling adventurous (and have the money!) book a glacier walking tour.

15. Search for puffins

Puffins can be spotted nesting all over Iceland between mid-April and mid-August. The larger populations can be found on the Westman Islands and in the West Fjords, as well as in certain parts of the East Fjords. While you can try and spot some yourself (ask locals for help!) you can also book a tour to see them up close.

16. Take a culinary tour

If you aren’t up for making your own food, get a taste of the cuisine by taking a culinary tour in Reykjavik. Take your taste buds on a journey and try different kinds of Icelandic dishes, washing them down with local micro-brews.

17. National Museum of Iceland

This museum in Reykjavik contains informative exhibits about the first settlers, Christianity in Iceland, the island under both Norwegian and Danish rule, and the independence movement. While not terribly large (you can probably get through it in a couple of hours at the most) it’s a great visit if you are interested in knowing more about the history and culture of the people. General admission is 1,500 ISK ($12 USD).

18. Take a course at the Icelandic Elf School

While not many people actually claim to believe in elves, trolls, and hidden people, there are similarly few people in Iceland who categorically do not believe in them. The Icelandic Elf School is a school in Iceland that teaches students and visitors about Icelandic folklore. The school teaches about the hidden people and the 13 different kinds of elves that the school believes inhabit the country of Iceland. This is probably one of the strangest things to check out while in Reykjavik, which makes it one of the best. While the 6,450 ISK ($55 USD) cost might be a little high, you also get a meal of pancakes and jam, teas, and chocolates to go along with the 3-4 hour lecture!

Iceland Travel Costs

Hostels – Hostel dorms cost between 3,500-7,500 ISK ($30-60 USD) per night and Hosteling International members get 650 ISK ($5 USD) off. Private rooms cost around 11,500 ISK ($95 USD) per night for HI members, and for non-members, it is 12,500 ISK ($102 USD). Most of the hostels in the country are HI hostels, though there are amazing hostels in Reykjavik that aren’t part of the HI network!

Hotels – Hotels are generally pricier than your hostels and guesthouses. One thing to keep in mind is that not all hotel rooms are going to have a private bathroom. You can expect to pay around 20,000 ISK ($165 USD) and up per night for a double room with a private bathroom, and about 13,000 ISK ($105 USD) for a basic room without a private bathroom. Since hotels are so expensive in Iceland, I much prefer to rent a room or apartment on Airbnb. Shared rooms can be found for around 6,500 ISK ($55 USD) and entire homes/apartments start at 12,000 ISK ($98 USD). If you’re traveling in a group, Airbnb is likely your most affordable choice — just be sure to book early as the cheapest accommodation will disappear first!

Food – Eating out, even on the cheap, costs about 1,300 ISK ($10 USD) or more per meal. At this price point, you’re looking at sandwiches, kebabs, soups, and other “quick meals.” You can find small sandwiches for around 1,000 ISK ($8 USD) at some of the outdoor kiosks. For main dishes from a sit-down restaurant with table service expect to pay at least 2,000 ISK ($15 USD). Happy hour beer is around 700 ISK ($6 USD), while non-happy prices range between 1,000-1,200 ISK ($8-10 USD). Groceries (basic pasta, eggs, skyr, rice, chicken, and some veggies) will cost 8,700 ISK ($70 USD) per week. For cheap meals, consider the hot dog vendors that line the streets of major cities. They cost 400-500 ISK ($3-4 USD) for a basic dog (without added toppings). Surprisingly, a decent place to eat cheaply in Iceland is at the gas stations. Most gas stations are stocked full of food, selling everything from deli sandwiches, pizzas, Icelandic soups, hot meals, fruit, and they have whole aisles of candy! It’s good-quality fast food and I highly recommend it if you want to save money!

Activities – Fortunately for budget travelers, nearly all of Iceland’s natural attractions are FREE! You can admire the Northern Lights or any waterfall or geysir for zero dollars. All the parks are free to explore. If you’re having a nature based trip, you can spend very little on attractions. Museums cost from 1,650-2,000 ISK ($14-16 USD) while attending Elf School in Reykjavik is 6,500 ISK ($53 USD). A day at the Blue Lagoon starts from 9,990 ISK. Adventure activities are much more expensive. You can go ice-climbing for 16,000–25,000 ISK ($130-205 USD), or glacier hiking for 13,990 ISK ($115 USD).

Backpacking Iceland Suggested Budgets

It costs a lot to visit Iceland. On a bare bone, camping budget you can spend around $40 a day, assuming you’ve rented a car, are camping, not drinking, and cooking all your meals. If you’re camping or hitching around the country, Iceland doesn’t have to be expensive.

On a more reasonable, typical backpacking Iceland budget, you should expect to spend around 6,900–8,600 ISK ($60-75 USD) per day. This assumes you’ll be staying in hostel dorm rooms (or maybe the occasional Couchsurfing experience), cooking most of your meals, limiting your drinking, taking public transportation, and doing only a few paid activities.

For around 10,000-17,500 ISK ($75-165 USD) per day, you could eat out a bit, drink more, and take more organized tours and paid activities (if you go on the higher end(, and have your own room in an Airbnb once and awhile (though you’ll still need dorm rooms for most of the trip, unless you’re splitting the Airbnb). This is a more middle of the road budget traveler budget.

At 25,000+ ISK ($235+ USD) or more a day, you could stay in a budget hotel, eat out all the time, take any tours you want, hire private drivers, go to the Blue Lagoon, and really do anything you wanted here.

The table below can give you some average daily expenses. (Remember some days you’ll send more, some days a lot less!)

Average Daily Cost

Iceland Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips

Iceland is a very expensive country to visit. Almost everything is imported, taxes are high, and there’s not a lot of native industry. But that doesn’t mean the country has to break the bank. In fact, there are many ways to save money in Iceland! Here are a few hacks to cut down your costs:

  1. Hitchhike – Iceland is one of the easiest and safest countries in the world for hitchhikers (in fact, it’s THE safest country in the world!). You can find rides throughout the country, though it’s especially easy in the southern part of Iceland. While harder, it’s also not impossible to find a ride in the off-season or in the less populated northern regions. One way to find rides is asking around in hostels — people are usually driving the main Ring Road (M1) that circles the country and there are only two ways to go on that! That’s how I found my rides.
  2. Bring a water bottle – The water in Iceland is incredibly clean and drinkable. A plastic bottle of water costs about 350 ISK ($3 USD). There’s no reason to buy water here.
  3. Camp – Camping is available everywhere in Iceland. You can camp in designated campgrounds for about 1,600 ISK ($13 USD) per night and some hostels allow you to put up tents too. You’ll need to have your own gear and sleeping bag. If you plan on camping often, consider purchasing the Campingcard as it can save you quite a bit of money. If you really want to reduce your costs, you can wild camp and not pay any fees (i.e. just sleep anywhere you want!). It’s legal as long as there’s not a sign posted to the contrary or provided it’s not in a protected wildlife area (or the ancient moss). The locals are beginning to frown on this, so be sure to be respectful!
  4. Bring your own sheets or sleeping bag – Like in other Scandinavian countries, many hostels in Iceland charge you a fee for bed sheets if you don’t have your own or a sleeping bag (pillows are free!). Linen fees begin at 1,350 ISK ($11 USD), however, be sure to review your hostels thoroughly as some will not allow you to bring your own sheets/sleeping bag.
  5. Don’t drink – Due to high taxes, it’s very expensive to drink in Iceland. Save money, don’t drink. Ok, maybe once in Reykjavik since its nightlife is world famous. But other than that, don’t. You’ll save a bundle and feel a lot better. No one wants to hike a volcano with a hangover.
  6. Cook your own food – With dining out being a pricey option in Iceland, I found the best thing to do is go grocery shopping. Buy everything you need (such as eggs, cereal, pre-made sandwiches, and pasta) and cook it yourself. All hostels, guesthouses, and campsites have kitchens. Make sure to shop at BONUS food stores as they have the cheapest prices.
  7. Eat the hotdogs – If you are going to eat out, eat at the sandwich and hotdog stalls you find throughout the cities. They offer the cheapest (although, not the healthiest) food in the country. A hotdog costs about 400-500 ISK ($3-4 USD) and a sandwich will run you about 940 ISK/$10 USD (with a drink is about 1,350 ISK/$10 USD). You can also find cheap hotdogs at many gas stations, too.
  8. Couchsurf – Iceland has a very active Couchsurfing community. I stayed with hosts in Reykjavik and Akureyri. Getting involved with the community here is a sure-fire way to save money, get local insights, meet wonderful people, and get a free place to stay.
  9. Rent a car – If you are coming in the off months, staying for a week or less, traveling in a group, or don’t want to hitchhike, I suggest renting a car. Rentals start at 5,350 ISK ($45 USD) per day, and you can split the costs with traveling companions to help lower your expenses. You’ll get a lot more flexibility than if you take the bus, and it will be cheaper, too. The best of Iceland isn’t found along its main highway! SADcars and Car Rental Iceland offer the cheapest car rentals in the country.
  10. Use Samferda – This website is very popular and you’ll find a lot of listings on it, especially between some of the big cities. (Note: You can also use this website to find rides. Even if you have to pay the driver, prices are about 50% of the cost of the bus.)

Where To Stay in Iceland

Most of the hostels in the country are HI hostels, though there are amazing hostels in Reykjavik that aren’t part of the HI network! My preferred places to stay in Iceland are:

  • KEX (Reykjavik)
  • Hlemmur Square (Reykjavik)
  • Hafnarstræti Hostel (Akureyri)
  • Akureyri HI Hostel (Akureyri)
  • Start Hostel (Keflavik)
  • Borganes HI Hostel (Borganes)
  • Ljosafossskoli Hostel (Selfoss)

How to Get Around Iceland

Public Transportation – The larger cities of Reykjavik and Akureyri both have a reliable public bus network, although both cities are big enough for you to walk just about everywhere. Strætó is the public bus network and you can plot your route on there website. Bus fare is 460 ISK.

Taxis in Iceland are reliable, but not cheap. Prices begin around 650 ISK ($5 USD), and each additional kilometer will cost another 300 ISK ($2 USD).

Air Travel – The two main domestic airlines within Iceland are Air Iceland Connect, and Eagle Air. Destinations covered include Reykjavík, Akureyri, Grímsey, Ísafjörður, and Egilsstaðir (among others). The biggest airport outside of Reykjavík is in Akureyri. A flight here would allow you to cross the entire country in about 30 minutes. If you’re short on time but still want to visit the north, flying is your best option. Expect to pay around 15,000 ISK ($123 USD) for a one-way ticket.

Hitchhike — Iceland is one of the easiest and safest countries in the world for hitchhikers. You can find rides throughout the country. It’s especially easy in the southern part of Iceland. One way to find rides is ask around in hostels — people are usually driving the main ring road (M1) that circles the country, and there are only two ways to go on that! HitchWiki has a lot of information on hitchhiking in Iceland.

Bus – Using regular buses to travel around the country is the best option to get around. The Strætó bus network goes all around the country. During the summer months, you can purchase a countrywide bus pass for 39,490 ISK ($325 USD). If you don’t want to hitchhike, this will be your next cheapest option for getting around Iceland on a budget, especially if you are traveling for a couple of weeks or more.

A bus from Reykjavik to Akureyri will cost from 6,680 ISK ($55 USD), while Akureyri to Husavik is around 2,429 ISK ($20 USD). Reykjavik to Vik (in the Golden Circle) is from 4,252 ISK ($35 USD). Keep in mind though that these are public buses that will get you from point A to point B – there are no stops at attractions. You can look up routes and schedules on the Strætó website, or download their handy app.

There are other bus companies geared specifically towers travelers in Iceland, however, including:

  • Reykjavík Excursions
  • SBA-Norðurleið
  • Sterna
  • Trex Hiker

Reykjavík Excursions departs from Reykjavík and offers tours and day trips, but they also have an “Iceland On Your Own” deal where you can buy passes and be more flexible with your route (prices depend on where you’re going). SBA-Norðurleið runs between Reykjavik and Akureyri with stops at attractions along the way, or you can hop off at any of those locations. The prices depend on where you end up, but the full trip from Reykjavik to Akureyri is 17,900 ISK ($153 USD). Sterna has a hop on hop off pass to give you greater flexibility with your travels, with prices starting at 14,000 ISK ($120 USD). Trex Hiker is catered specifically for hikers and runs people between Reykjavik and popular hiking routes like Landmannalauga and Þórsmörk.

Car Rental – If you are coming in the off months, staying for a week or less, or don’t want to hitchhike, I would rent a car. They cost between 4,860-8,500 ISK ($40-70 USD) per day but you can split the costs with traveling companions (or by picking up travelers on the road!) and you’ll get a lot more flexibility than if you take the bus. SADcars offers the cheapest car rentals in the country.

If you rent a car, pick up hitchhikers along the way. They can help pay for gas and lower your expenses. Moreover, you can use the website Samferda to find passengers.

When to Go to Iceland

Your experience in Iceland will be largely influenced by the time of year you visit. June to September is the most pleasant time to visit, as temperatures are warm (averaging between 60-80°F/15-30°C) and the summer days are long. The sun only sets for a few hours and the nights are never truly dark. Do as the locals do, and enjoy the midnight sun! This is also when tourism is at its busiest.

The spring and fall months (shoulder season) are both excellent times to visit. The crowds have thinned out, and although temperatures are chilly, there’s still a lot of sunshine. You’ll also get way cheaper prices for everything tourist related too.

Winter (from October to April) can be harsh, but still an interesting time to visit. The days are short, which December having very little daylight per day. The average temperature countrywide is 32 °F (0 °C), but it can be a lot colder than that. Technically you can still see all the major outdoor attractions but you should avoid driving if you’re not used to winter conditions. Bonus: there’s plenty of opportunity to see the Northern Lights!

How to Stay Safe in Iceland

Iceland is the safest country in the world and nothing bad will happen to you here. The country made headlines back in 2013 when police shot and killed a person (he was mentally ill and running around with a weapon) for the first time in history. It caused a national crisis conscious it was such a shock!

For all of Iceland’s natural beauty, your biggest concern is the elements. Iceland’s environment can be harsh and unpredictable, especially in the winter months. The Iceland Meteorological Office and the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration are two valuable websites to check in with as you’re traveling.

The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:

Iceland Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources

Below are my favorite companies to use when I travel around Iceland. They are included here because they consistently turn up the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors.

  • Momondo – This is my favorite booking site. I never book a flight without checking here first.
  • Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engline which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
  • Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments. (If you’re new to Airbnb, get $35 off your first stay!)
  • Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
  • Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
  • – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all bookers.
  • STA Travel – A good company for those under 30 or for students, STA Travel offers discounted airfare as well as travel passes that help you save on attractions.
  • Vayable – I enjoy this site because it allows you to experience niche, offbeat, and interesting tours that bigger tour companies might not run. Plus, the groups tend to be very small, making for a more intimate experience.
  • Rome 2 Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
  • World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!

Iceland Gear and Packing Guide

If you’re heading to Iceland, knowing what to pack and the kind of backpack to get can be a little daunting. There are a lot of backpacks to choose from. In this section, I’ll give you my suggestion for the best travel backpack and tips on what to pack.

The Best Backpack for Iceland

REI Flash 45 Pack
What’s the best backpack for traveling around Iceland? I recommend the REI Flash 45 Pack. It’s light and comfy, front loading, and fits perfectly in an airplane’s overhead bin.
Size: 45-47L
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt

If you want something smaller, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for more.

What to Pack for Iceland


  • 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 1 bathing suit
  • 6 T-shirts
  • 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
  • 1 pair of hiking shoes (optional)
  • 1 pair of sneakers
  • 8 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
  • 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
  • 1 toothbrush
  • 1 tube of toothpaste
  • 1 razor
  • 1 package of dental floss
  • 1 small bottle of shampoo
  • 1 small bottle of shower gel
  • 1 towel
  • Deodorant

Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)

  • Band-Aids
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Antibacterial cream
  • Earplugs
  • Tylenol
  • Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)


  • A key or combination lock (safety first)
  • Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
  • Plastic bags (great for laundry)
  • Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
  • LifeStraw (a water bottle with a purifier)

Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:


  • 1 swimsuit
  • 1 sarong
  • 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
  • 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
  • 2-3 long-sleeve tops
  • 2-3 T-shirts
  • 3-4 spaghetti tops
  • 1 light cardigan


  • 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease free in between washes)
  • 1 hairbrush
  • Makeup you use
  • Hair bands & hair clips
  • Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)

For more on packing, check out these posts:

  • What I Pack For My Travels
  • The Ultimate List For Female Travelers
  • How to Choose and Buy the Right Backpack

Iceland Travel Guide: Suggested Reading

Independent People by Halldor LaxnessIndependent People, by Halldor Laxness
Halldor Laxness is a Nobel Prize-winning Icelandic author, and this book is one of his finest works. It’s set in the early 20th century and follows the life of Bjartur of Summerhouses, a sheep farmer who longs to achieve his independence. He separates himself from society but finds his spirited daughter wants to live separate from him, and the ensuing struggle is both comical and dark. It’s considered a classic, and a must-read for Iceland.
The Sagas of Icelanders
The Sagas of Icelanders, by authors unknown
The Sagas of Icelanders is a prolific collection of medieval literature reminiscent of some of the world’s other great sagas, like Homer’s Odyssey. It’s set at the turn of the last millennium, with stories showcasing the lives and actions of the Norse men and women who first settled Iceland (as well as their descendants who ventured to Greenland and on to North America). It’s a dense piece of literature, but don’t let that discourage you.
The History of Iceland, by Gunnar KarlssonThe History of Iceland, by Gunnar Karlsson
This isn’t a boring history textbook! Gunnar Karlsson is Iceland’s best known historian, and in this book he details the country’s far-reaching history – from the age of the Sagas, the Dark Ages of Europe, the poverty of the early Modern Age, and then the successful struggle for independence. It’s a excellent, well-written book about Iceland’s journey to catch up economically with the rest of Europe.
The Little Book of the Icelanders, by Alda Sigmundsdottir
The Little Book of the Icelanders, by Alda Sigmundsdottir
Alda Sigmundsdottir returns to her native home of Iceland after 20 years away, and finds herself to be a foreigner in a foreign land. With this unique perspective, Sigmundsdottir attempts to unravel the national psyche of the Icelanders in a collection of 50 short essays. It’s all about the quirks and pitfalls of the Icelandic folks, including why they somehow manage to make social interactions really complicated. It’s funny, tongue-in-cheek, and makes for some light reading!

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Iceland Travel Guide: Related Articles

Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on Iceland travel and continue planning your trip:

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