Why visit Iceland?
This island nation, sitting in the midst of the North Atlantic, straddles two continental plates (Europe and North America).
What does this mean? The rugged landscape is dotted with volcanoes and crevices, and its subarctic climate lends to glaciers and mountains.
It’s easy to see and understand the best reasons to visit Iceland.
Nature, multi-season destinations, road trips, Northern Lights, springs and culture were all among my favourite things about the country!
So, is Iceland worth the hype? We’ll go into the best things about this Northern European nation in this blog post.
Why visit Iceland? A quick run-down
Visit Iceland for nature, culture and for a totally unique travel experience.
It’s ideal for couples, groups and families with older kids.
The main drawback of visiting is that it’s pricey.
It also might not be ideal for solo travellers and families with younger kids, but it’s still possible!
Reasons to visit Iceland
The best reasons to visit Iceland include nature, culture, its many attractions and tours and history. Read on to find out about them!
Staggeringly beautiful nature
It’s no surprise that the top reason to visit Iceland is nature.
Just outside Reykjavik, the country begins to sprawl, its countryside encompassing glaciers, ice caves, volcanoes, lava fields, waterfalls and two continental plates.
If you’re wondering “is Iceland’s nature worth the hype” the answer’s a resounding YES.
Iceland’s nature is a league of its own, and it’s well worth visiting for that reason!
Access Iceland’s nature by renting a car and driving around the highlights yourself, or by doing one of the below tours:
- Golden Circle Tour: The most popular nature tour of Iceland, the Golden Circle Tour encompasses the Great Geysir, Kerid Crater, Gullfoss Waterfall and Thingvellir National Park. It showcases some of the island’s very best attractions in a relatively short journey time from Reykjavik! Click here to read more about it.
- South Iceland Tour: Journeying along the bottom of the island, this tour ventures to black sand beaches, dramatic waterfalls and some even visit ice caves. Click here to read more about it.
- Snaefellsnes Peninsula: Thought to be “Iceland in miniature”, Snaefellsnes Peninsula is home to the hill of Kirkjufell which is one of the most-photographed destinations in the country, the bright Ondverdarnes Lighthouse and the dramatic Lóndrangar basalt cliffs. Click here to read more about it.
A destination across the seasons
And Iceland’s nature? It’s paradise whatever the season!
I first visited Iceland in winter and absolutely adored it.
The icy waterfalls looked all the more dramatic covered in snow, and steaming geysers erupted from the frigid earth.
The sun set early, but nights were cosily spent drinking hot chocolate, occasionally with the Northern Lights illuminating the sky.
I also adored walking around the streets of Reykjavik at 10:00 am, hot cappuccino in hand, watching the sun come up – sunrises and sunsets in winter last for about an hour and a half!
Iceland’s wonderful in the summer, too. Midnight Sun season lasts for two months from Mid May to Mid-July; seeing Iceland’s geysers in bright sunlight at midday is a completely unique experience!
Whale watching’s great in the summertime, and the weather’s perfect for road-tripping.
Visiting in Autumn/ Fall or Spring? You might just get the best of both worlds – some snow, the chance to spot the Northern Lights but also not freezing weather and super-dark nights!
Road trip paradise
Iceland’s a dreamy road trip destination.
Highway number one loops around the whole country, with short detours to spots like Thingvellir National Park, the Snaefellas Peninsula and the Rainbow Road at Seydisfjordur.
It’s often too cold to camp, but there are plenty of guesthouses.
One of the biggest perks of self-driving is that you can pull over at any natural attraction – and in Iceland, they’re at virtually every turn!
You can rent a car from Keflavik Airport; Hertz and Europcar have offices here.
Visiting Iceland in winter means one thing – Northern Lights!
The Northern Lights, or the Aurora Bolearis are they’re otherwise known, are colourful flashes that contrast with the night sky.
They’re usually only seen in Northern destinations (although have been spotted as far South as Italy and Spain), and Iceland is the prime place to spot them.
Do bear in mind, however, that seeing the Northern Lights is never guaranteed. The skies around Iceland can be cloudy, with poor visibility, which isn’t conducive to spotting them!
That said, I did a fantastic boat tour in Iceland when I visited in January and had an incredible display of the lights. They were much better than in Tromso the week after!
So, I’d recommend adding seeing the Northern Lights in as a perk to an Iceland trip – but don’t
go for the only reason of seeing them!
Once you’ve had a long day exploring Iceland’s many attractions, relax your weary muscles in one of the country’s thermal springs!
Blue Lagoon’s the most famous, a steamy bright pool in the midst of lava fields. While it’s beautiful, it’s not au natural – there’s a bar sitting in the middle of the pool (along with a silica mud mask bar!).
There’s also Sky Lagoon, which is closer to Reykjavik and has a seven step spa ritual.
Laugardaslaug is a pool in central Reykjavik with hot tubs lined along the sides. It’s much more local than Blue Lagoon and Sky Lagoon, and a lot cheaper too! I went here on my last morning in Reykjavik for a swim and soak.
Then there are countless other springs dotted throughout the country – the more hidden ones have virtually anyone there!
Reykjavik’s a quirky city
Visit Iceland for nature, but stay for the glorious city of Reykjavik.
As a capital, it really surprised me.
Street art lines the walls, views stretch across the harbour and museums offer a slice of Nordic culture.
Colourful fishing boats bob along a harbour, their bright reds and yellows contrasting with the icy blue of the water.
The salty smell of the sea and fish mingle into the air, and feet crunch on the fresh snow that coats the pavements.
There are cafes lining the streets where you can grab a hot cup of coffee as you walk around the streets.
Warm Nordic culture
Due to its geographic isolation, Iceland’s culture built up in a unique way over the centuries; it’s well worth learning about how people survived here over the years!
There are so many unique facets of Nordic culture to learn about.
Head to Thingvellir, which takes its name from the word “meeting place” in Icelandic, and discover how the first Icelandic constitution took place there.
Or visit FlyOver Iceland and be enchanted with tales from The Longhouse, where a storyteller will beguile you with tales of Icelandic life and a troll who’ll teach you about Icelandic mythology.
Or, head to Seyðisfjörður to see their Rainbow Street.
This road represents Iceland’s support of its LGBTQ+ community (and travellers in the community).
It was painted by a local who couldn’t make it to Reykjavik Pride one year.
He decided to have his own Pride celebration in Seyðisfjörður and it was a hit, with locals joining him.
In commemoration, the road was painted rainbow-coloured – and a road in Reykjavik was even painted in the same way.
Well-facilitated for tourists
While Iceland is touristy, that can be a good thing, particularly when it comes to tourist infrastructure and facilities.
Iceland’s tourist infrastructure makes it effortless to explore. If you don’t want to self-drive, just type “Iceland tours” into Get Your Guide and you’ll find hundreds.
We did a Golden Circle bus tour, seeing all of the highlights, for £60 – which wasn’t too bad a cost for Iceland!
Iceland does service stations incredibly well. At most natural spots, you’ll find restaurants serving a variety of fast food, from Icelandic hot dogs to macaroni cheese, along with coffee (plant milks are usually available!).
Plus, there are shops where you can buy Icelandic products (including the all-the-rage jumpers) along with sparkling clean toilets.
Hotels, while pricey, are also of a very good quality too, with perfectly-cleaned rooms, excellent breakfast and staff fluent in English.
Easy to access from Europe and the U.S.
Another reason to visit Iceland is that it’s incredibly easy to reach from both Europe and the U.S.
In fact, when I took an IcelandAir flight from Heathrow to London, I found most people on the flight to actually be transferring in Reykjavik to destinations on the East Coast!
Iceland’s a three-hour flight from London, and around four to five hours from some of America’s biggest cities.
It’s an ideal stopover if you’re travelling between Europe and America; IcelandAir even offers packages with flights and a few days in the country.
Once you land in Iceland, jump on board the FlyBus coach for effortless transport to Reykjavik city centre.
Considerations for visiting Iceland
While Iceland’s definitely worth a visit, there are a few things to consider if you’re planning a visit. Here are my top tips to bear in mind:
The rumours are true, I’m afraid – Iceland’s pricey to visit.
That said, it’s possible to visit on a moderate budget.
My mum and I spent £700 on flights, a hotel for three nights (separate rooms) and two tours – Northern Lights and Blue Lagoon.
We also spent £60 each on a Golden Circle tour.
We got breakfast with our hotel, made sandwiches for lunch and ate out for dinner, which usually came to around £20-25 each.
So while it wasn’t cheap by any means, you can budget and be careful so you don’t break the bank!
Solo travelling’s possible, but it might not be the best place
Solo travelling’s certainly possible in Iceland – I think it’s pretty possible anywhere.
But the price means that it might not necessarily be the most cost-effective place for solo travellers.
There are hostels in Iceland, but they’re pricey (and I know I hate spending money on hostels when I could pay the same for hotels in other countries!), and it might be a bit pricey to rent a car on your own.
That said, you could join tours (there’s plenty on Get Your Guide!). If you’re interested in meeting people, you might be able to make friends on them!
Might not be ideal for younger kids
There are plenty of families who visit – and adore – Iceland.
However, Iceland’s big pulls – its epic landscape, hikes and the quirks and charms of Reykjavik, may be a bit lost on younger kids.
Instead, I’d recommend visiting when your kids are a little older!
Parts of Iceland are very accessible, but be mindful of mobility issues if you’re visiting the nature spots or in winter.
Many of the nature spots have level access, but others require a little hiking.
When I was in Iceland with my mum, who has mild mobility issues, we did struggle a little with the city pavements in Reykjavik sometimes being a little inaccessible!
Who Iceland is perfect for
So, who should visit Iceland? Here’s who it might be best for.
Fan of nature? Iceland’s a dreamy destination.
If you love nature walks, black lava beaches and foreboding glaciers, Iceland’s your place.
Get out in the great outdoors, traverse around its stunning coastline and take photo after photo!
Mid-range/ luxury travellers
If you don’t mind spending a little more money, Iceland’s the place for you.
It has some incredible hotels – and generally, three-star hotels in Iceland are a very good standard – and if you don’t mind spending the extra money, you’ll love it there!
Travellers with older kids
Families with older kids will find plenty to love in Iceland.
Geothermal activity, roaring waterfalls and immersive museums are ideal for older kids and teens!
Could Iceland be more romantic?
Couples will adore this staggeringly beautiful destination; you’l be able to slide into thermal springs as you enjoy the wide spreading lava fields and take in the view from the top of Hallgrimskirkja!
Or, head to the north of the island to find a deserted spot just for the two of you!
Adult family/ friend groups
Iceland’s the place to go with a group of friends or family!
I visited with my mum and we really enjoyed both nature and the city; there was something for both of us.
Groups will love renting out an isolated Airbnb with a hot tub!
So, is Iceland worth visiting?
YES, while Iceland is a very popular travel destination, it is definitely worth visiting!
Dramatic landscapes, friendly culture and plenty to do – you’ll love exploring this country.