10 Things To Know Before Planning An Iceland Trip

From visa and documentation to local cultures and much more, find out the top ten thing to know before planning your Iceland trip
A beautiful view of Iceland waterfall Skogafoss
A beautiful view of Iceland waterfall SkogafossShutterstock

Iceland, a land of stunning natural beauty, features dramatic landscapes, including volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, and lava fields. Known for its unique geological activity, it offers breathtaking views of glaciers, fjords, and the Northern Lights. The capital, Reykjavik, is renowned for its vibrant culture, innovative cuisine, and historical landmarks, making Iceland a must-visit destination. Planning a trip to Iceland can be an unforgettable experience filled with stunning landscapes, unique cultural experiences, and thrilling adventures. To ensure your journey is as smooth and enjoyable as possible, here are ten essential things to know before you go.

Visa and Documentation

If you are a citizen of the Republic of India and hold a valid diplomatic or official passport, you can stay in Iceland for up to 90 days within any 180-day period without needing a visa. Your passport must be valid for at least three months beyond your planned stay in Iceland, issued within the last ten years, and have at least two blank pages. If you are under the Schengen visa regime, you will need a valid Schengen visa to enter Iceland, allowing you to access all 26 Schengen countries.

You may also need to provide additional documents at the port of entry to prove the purpose of your travel. These may include an invitation letter from an Icelandic host, proof of sufficient funds, a round-trip airline ticket, travel insurance, proof of civil status, a cover letter detailing your visit, and documents relevant to your employment status.

You must attend an interview with all the required documents for a tourist or visitor visa application. The interview typically lasts about 10 minutes and will include questions about you and your trip.

Volcanic Activity Awareness

Lava Flows on active volcano aerial view, Mount Fagradalsfjall, Iceland
Lava Flows on active volcano aerial view, Mount Fagradalsfjall, IcelandShutterstock

Iceland is known for its volcanic activity. Although eruptions are rare, they can still happen. Before you travel, it's important to check the latest updates from the Icelandic Met Office, which monitors volcanic and seismic activity. Understanding the potential risks and having an emergency plan can help ensure your safety during your visit.

Plan Ahead For Popular Attractions

Beautiful sunset sky shining on Hallgrimskirkja Lutheran Church
Beautiful sunset sky shining on Hallgrimskirkja Lutheran ChurchShutterstock

Iceland's most famous sites, such as the Blue Lagoon, Golden Circle, and various national parks, can get very crowded, especially during peak tourist season. It's important to make reservations and plan your itinerary well in advance to secure spots and make the most of your time.

Respect The Land

Wide view of Reynisdrangar rock formations on Reynisfjara Beach at sunrise, Halsanefhellir, Iceland
Wide view of Reynisdrangar rock formations on Reynisfjara Beach at sunrise, Halsanefhellir, IcelandShutterstock

Iceland's pristine environment is one of its main attractions. Visitors should adhere to the principle of "Leave No Trace." They should avoid stepping on moss, which can take decades to recover if damaged, and follow marked trails to prevent erosion and protect wildlife habitats.

Off-Road Driving Is Illegal

Driving off-road is strictly prohibited in Iceland to protect its delicate ecosystems. Stick to marked roads and paths. Off-road driving can cause significant damage to the environment and result in hefty fines. Always check local regulations and maps to ensure you stay on the right track.

Dress Appropriately For The Weather

Iceland's weather is highly unpredictable, with sudden changes common even in summer. It's important to dress in layers to stay comfortable. Be sure to bring waterproof and windproof outerwear, as well as warm hats, gloves, and sturdy footwear. Always be prepared for rain, wind, and cold temperatures, even if the forecast looks clear.

Bathing In Hot Springs

The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is one of the most visited attractions in Iceland
The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is one of the most visited attractions in IcelandShutterstock

Iceland is home to many natural hot springs and geothermal pools. Although the Blue Lagoon is the most well-known, numerous lesser-known hot springs provide a more private experience. It's important to remember to shower thoroughly before entering any hot spring to uphold cleanliness and show respect for local customs.

Pack Essential Outdoor Gear

If you are planning to hike, camp, or participate in other outdoor activities, make sure to bring the essential gear. This should include a high-quality backpack, thermal clothing, a reliable tent, a sleeping bag, and cooking equipment. While renting gear locally is an option, having your own ensures that it fits and functions as needed.

Familiarise Yourself With Driving Laws

Driving in Iceland can be challenging due to narrow roads, gravel paths, and unpredictable weather. It's important to familiarise yourself with local driving laws, such as mandatory use of headlights at all times and wearing seat belts. Renting a 4x4 vehicle is recommended for accessing remote areas and dealing with rough terrains.

Understand Cultural Etiquette

Facade of the farmhouse and ancient rural wheelbarrow in Iceland
Facade of the farmhouse and ancient rural wheelbarrow in IcelandShutterstock

Icelanders are generally friendly and welcoming. Learning a few basic Icelandic phrases, respecting local traditions, and being aware of cultural norms is a good idea. For example, tipping is not customary in Iceland, and many locals take pride in their country's nature and history. Therefore, showing appreciation and respect goes a long way.

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