Iceland has become one of the top travel destinations over the last couple of years. The biggest question I was asked after my trip was: Is Iceland worth visiting? My short answer is: YES!
Keep scrolling to see my top 10 reasons to why Iceland is worth visiting, but why you might want to skip it.
Is Iceland Worth Visiting?
The majority of us have seen photos and videos of huge waterfalls, distinctive terrain, delicious food, and exciting tours pop up on social media. Let’s be honest, social media does a great job of targeting us. The more “Iceland” was in my feed…well, I caved and bought a flight.
While Iceland is an adventure seeker’s golden travel destination. It is ALSO an incredible destination for those who want to stay in glamorous Airbnbs.
Is Iceland Worth Visiting in Winter?
When I plan a trip, once I decide where I want to go, I decide what time of year I want to travel and what the pros and cons are for the different seasons. To be completely transparent, if you’re considering Iceland and you do not like the cold, I would only recommend traveling during the summer months. July and August will be the warmest, but there will still be a fair amount of wind.
If you visit Iceland in the winter, be advised that the F-roads may be closed. These will take you into higher areas in Iceland or more into the isolated areas. However, if you plan to drive the Ring Road or the Golden Circle, you shouldn’t have any problems!
During the winter, with the ice and snow covering the terrain, it will feel like you are looking into a shimmering crystal snow globe.
Tours: There are still plenty of tours to take part in during the winter months. You can choose anything from snorkeling between the tectonic plates to snowmobiling or skiing! There isn’t a bad time to visit Iceland, just a few things to decide on before planning!
3 big factors to consider for winter travels to Iceland:
❄️ Winter has shorter days and less sunlight.
❄️ Need warmer & waterproof clothing.
❄️ Northern lights are easier to see in the winter.
10 Reasons Why Iceland Is Worth Visiting
Limiting this list to only 10 reasons is tough because there are so many reasons that make Iceland a must-visit spot. At this time, here are my top 10.
1. Northern Lights
If the Northern Lights are something that you want to check off your bucket list in Iceland, I would recommend traveling in the winter. During these months Iceland has longer periods of darkness, making the lights easier to see. Glacier Lagoon and Vik on the south side of the island are two incredible places to watch the colorful night sky.
2. Clean Cities
I didn’t notice any garbage or waste on the roads while driving or walking around the cities/towns. Similar to Switzerland, Iceland is one of the cleanest countries I have ever been to. With tourism increasing, it’s important to be mindful of the impact that we can have. Bringing a fillable water bottle, reusable bags, and other eco-friendly items helps not only our environment but saves and protects the beauty of nature.
If you are reading this, please follow the rule of “if you packed it in, pack it out“. This applies to rural and city areas.
3. Welcoming Locals
Have you ever traveled somewhere and you just get the “ick” with people? Well, Iceland is NOT like that. The locals are very welcoming and kind to tourists. From the moment I stepped off the plane till the moment I departed Iceland, I was incredibly thankful for the local’s advice and tips for traveling throughout Iceland.
However, I am sure that we have all seen other tourists that give us the “ick”. With this being said…don’t be one of these “ick” people. Like we are taught at a young age, be courteous and kind. Traveling is a privilege and something that we should cherish and be grateful for.
4. Rugged Scenery
All I can say is WOW. Iceland was one of the locations I wanted to experience mainly because of the diverse landscapes and pure natural beauty. If nature fills you both heart and soul then Iceland is well worth the visit. There are mountains, endless waterfalls, glaciers, fjords, lagoons, islands, rivers, lakes, and SO much more.
If you have the time and choose to drive the Ring Road, there will be many moments that you will want to (or actually do) pull over just to embrace what lies before your eyes.
Renting a camper van from Happy Campers is an amazing way to see the island. The Happy Campers staff ensures that you are well taken care of from the moment you get there till you check out. I could not recommend them more!
5. Mouth Watering Food
Something that I was not exactly expecting: to have the best meal that I have ever had while visiting Iceland. If you have any dietary restrictions, Iceland is still a place to travel. As someone who personally deals with a lot of dietary limitations, I didn’t have many moments where I felt like I didn’t have options.
It can be helpful to do research before you travel, or during to find restaurants that have more options for certain types of restrictions. For example, a pizza place might not be the best option for someone gluten-free. Check out my Gluten-Free Iceland Guide here for my 5 favorite restaurants!
6. Bundling Up
For some people, this might be a negative if they enjoy warmer destinations. BUT, if you are like me and enjoy not being very warm on your trips, Iceland has a very comfortable climate. During the summer months, there were some days I would wear shorts and a T-shirt. On other days I would be wearing waterproof boots, pants, and a sweatshirt with a jacket on top.
Even in the summer, I suggest bringing a hat/beanie, light gloves, warm/waterproof shoes or boots, and a warm jacket. I always recommend checking the weather before you travel anywhere. Also understanding that weather can change quickly, and to be ready for the worst. That way you are always ready for any adventure.
7. Hot Springs
Natural hot springs are scattered throughout Iceland; some are more known, and some are fairly remote. Travel + Leisure Magazine has a stellar article that lists 7 of the best hot springs in Iceland. If you choose some of the desired lagoons, you may need to plan. For example, we reserved spots a day or two before to make sure that we could get in at the time that worked best for us. The hot springs are highly desirable and they do limit the amount of people in them at a time. If you are on a budget, the remote hot springs are typically free and less traveled.
8. Tours on Tours on Tours
Iceland has a little of everything for everyone, making it a desirable destination. It has everything from horseback riding, whale watching, snowmobiling, scuba diving, ATVs, spas, city walks…Iceland has it all!
Visit Iceland is the official website of all tours across the island. You can choose what area of Iceland and what type of recreation that interests you.
9. Easy Van Life Traveling
For all of my nomad pals out there, renting a camper van was an incredible way to travel Iceland! From the moment the plane landed at the Reykjavik airport, Happy Campers – Camper Rental was there with a shuttle van to pick us up and take us to get our van.
In terms of camping, dispersed camping is no longer allowed in Iceland due to the influx of people. There are Camping Cards for sale that have select campsites around the island that are included. The Camping Card may also give deals at certain fuel pumps as well! I did not choose the camping card due to researching other camping sites that unfortunately were not on the card.
Camping can get fairly expensive depending on what sites are chosen. Here is a site with campsites all around Iceland, not all of these will be on the Camping Card! Tip: Check out the season availability of each one, not all are open all year.
Gas stations are scattered throughout Iceland, but I would recommend filling up even when you may not think you need to. There were some days we would see many gas stations, and others it would be more scarce. It was also common to not have a service employee at the stations to assist.
Gas isn’t necessarily cheap there, and will be more pricey closer to the cities. You will need to pay with a debit or credit card at the fuel machines on site as well. There are options to choose language on the machine to make it easier to understand. I would always recommend checking with the rental company about what type of fuel your rental takes and to confirm what color hose those are at the gas stations.
10. Diverse Wildlife
Iceland has a unique diversity of animals from puffins, humpback whales, reindeer, arctic foxes, horses, sheep, and much more! Wildlife is scattered all around the island, but here are the top places to see each of the listed animals:
⭐ Puffins: Látrabjarg cliffs, Westman Islands, Breiðafjörður bay
⭐ Humpback Whales: Husavik or Skjálfandi Bay
⭐ Reindeer: Seyðisfjörður and East Fjords
⭐ Arctic Foxes: Westfjords
⭐ Icelandic Horses: Skagafjörður
⭐ Sheep: Everywhere
Please be mindful of wildlife and don’t disrupt their natural behaviors. The general rule of thumb is: if you hold your arm out straight and put your thumb up, you should be able to cover your line of sight (animal) with your thumb. If you can see the animal with your thumb up, take a few steps back to respect the wildlife.
Why Iceland Isn’t Worth Visiting
Iceland can be an expensive trip with flights, accommodations, tours, food, and shopping. It is easy to want to do a multitude of different things while visiting. Unfortunately, if there are several tours you want to do, this will not be the cheapest.
Next up: Wind. One of the first things I noticed walking out of the airport was the wind. One of the locals mentioned that they have about 5 different kinds of wind, cold wind, dull wind, extreme wind, and more. If weather is a big factor for your travels, it is a bit cooler of a destination. As Led Zeppelin would say, a Whole Lotta Love, but in this case, a “Whole Lotta Wind”.
Lastly, the biggest tourist attractions seem to be all of the waterfalls. If nature isn’t your go-to or you don’t really have a desire to visit waterfalls, visiting Iceland may not be a top choice.
Best Time To Visit Iceland
This depends on a variety of factors:
👉 Cheapest: Off-season is winter, October through May
👉 Northern Lights: September through March due to more darkness
👉 Hiking: Not all hikes will be open throughout the winter, May through September
👉 Avoid crowds: May or September are the least visited times
👉 Outdoor recreation: June-August for warmest weather
How Many Days Should You Visit Iceland?
At a minimum, 5-7 days would satisfy touring half of the island. I drove the entire Ring Road in 8 days and would not recommend that. Did I still have a fun time? Absolutely! Would I choose to drive that much in that short of time? Absolutely not.
However, if there is only a certain section of Iceland that you want to spend time in a week would be a perfect amount of time.
If you want to drive the entire Ring Road, I would recommend a full 14 days. This way you can do the following:
🚗 Spend less time in the car each day (even though some of my favorite sites were from the car!)
🚗 More time in each destination to soak up all of the beauty and culture
🚗. Stop along the route to enjoy random hot springs
🚗 More time to embrace each special part of the island
Visiting Iceland: FAQs
Now that you hopefully have a clearer idea of when you might want to visit Iceland. What else is there to think about and consider?
Is Iceland touristy?
My honest answer here is that I was shocked positively. From all of the social media posts of Iceland that I have seen, I figured it would be extremely crowded. Yes, certain areas had more tourists, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed. The most crowded spots were the waterfalls though, so we tended to skip some of them.
Is Iceland very expensive to visit?
Iceland is comparable price-wise to visiting a city in the United States. It’s fairly similar to larger cities such as Seattle, Atlanta, or Denver!
Do you need a car for Iceland?
Short answer: it depends. I rented a 4×4 vehicle from Happy Campers for my entire stay and could not have been more pleased. There were SO many things that I wanted to do and see, that renting a vehicle was easier. If you don’t want to drive, there are many tour buses and shuttles that take travelers to their destinations or tours.
Conclusion: Is Iceland Worth Visiting?
Iceland is worth visiting. While I was still there I wanted to plan another trip. The natural beauty is jaw-dropping, the food is impressively good, the locals are kind, and there is an abundance of things to do.
I was a little concerned before visiting about the cost and ability to eat gluten-free. Buying flights in advance, limiting tours, and choosing free things to do made the trip more affordable. I didn’t struggle with eating at restaurants with my dietary restrictions. Check out my Gluten-Free Iceland Guide for restaurant recommendations!
They don’t call it the land of fire and ice for nothing! Trust me, you won’t want to leave.
Mindful PNW Travels