Iceland is not as cold as it sounds thanks to the
warm Gulf stream which sends rather warm air ( at least for this northern location) to the
island. Maximum temperature during a summer day is about 15░C. It freezes during the very
long winter , but only a few degrees Celsius below zero. The climate varies depending on
the area; north and east tend to be sunnier, the inland is drier but there you can have
severe snow- and dust-storms. Summers are very short, quite rainy and cool. Even when
temperatures are moderate, it feels cold due to the strong, chilly winds. When I was
visiting in May, it was between 4 and 8 ░C but it felt like - 10 ░C to me. However it
was mostly sunny and it barely rained during the 5 days I was visiting. The weather is
very unpredictable and changes very quickly, which results in extraordinary beautiful
skies. Don't let the weather scare you, just be prepared for it. I do know people who were
visiting Iceland during a heatwave (about 25░C) but that is a very rare phenomenon.
You won't be able to wear shorts and T-shirts often, although the Icelandic people do.You
can easily recognize tourists by their warm clothing while Icelanders walk around in
T-shirts. The temperature at this moment in ReykjavÝk.
Click on image for weather forecast :
Best time to visit
It is mostly recommended to visit Iceland during
July and before the 15th of August because most roads and attractions are open then, and
the weather is at its best. When you are just following the ringroad you don't necessarily
have to stick to this period. Even during winter most parts of the ringroad are kept open,
but you can never be sure about the state of the roads, and it is dark most time of the
day. For example : in January sunrise at +- 11:20 a.m sunset at +- 3:45 p.m. According to
the inhabitants I spoke to, the weather gets nicer from the half of May on. A real
advantage for the traveler are the months of (almost) continuous daylight during summer,
which makes it possible to get most out of your day.
Usually I find it silly that travel guides mention
what to pack or wear, but I think it might be useful to make an exception this time. It is
very practical to wear clothing in layers, so you can adjust to the conditions.You will
need a warm sweater, good socks, a warm rainproof jacket with a cap and comfortable
walking shoes. (Material like Gore-tex is great for this purpose). During my visit in May
I was glad I had packed gloves, warm underwear, a cap and a scarf to protect me against
the ice-cold wind. And yes, the maximum temperature was between 4 and 8░ C but it felt a
lot colder ! When you want to go camping make sure you pack really good material to
protect you against the cold. The average summer temperature of 15░C might not seem cold
enough to pack such warm clothes, but it can be a lot cooler, especially at night. And
whatever you read in the books, no one is wearing those folcloristic sweaters anymore,
most young Icelanders are very fashion-conscious.
There are no trains or subways in Iceland. You can
travel by (rental) car, bus, airplane, or by boat.
Renting a car is very expensive, but the freedom
you get by it is really worth it. A jeep is more expensive and not really necessary if you
stick to the ringroad and the environment of Reykjavik. If you want to drive more inland
you'll need a 4wheeldrive car, and sometimes it's better to have an experienced chauffeur,
because you will have to cross rivers, which can be very dangerous. The major car rental
companies have offices in Reykjavik, see links .
Driving a car in Iceland is an extraordinary
experience. Signposting to major attractions or cities is OK, but less important places
are not always indicated. Even at an important tourist attraction as Gullfoss, the
landscape is barely disturbed by infrastructure for visitors.
All distances calculated from Reykjavik
Hvalfj÷rur: +- 35 km to 75 km.
Glymur: +- 65 km
Misandur: +- 65 km
Akranes: +- 100 km ( by tunnel +- 50 km)
Borgarnes: +- 115 km ( by tunnel +- 70 km)
Reykholt: +- 120 km
Hraunfossar +- 140 km
H˙safell: +- 145 km
Bessastadir: +- 10 km
Hafnarfj÷rdur +- 15 km
Keflavik: +- 50 km
Grindavik +- 55 km
Hafnir: +- 55 km
Blue Lagoon: +- 50 km
Reykjanesta:+- 65 km
Selfoss: +- 50 km
Hveragerdi: +- 40 km
Thingvellir: +- 50 km
Eyrabakki: +- 55 km
Geysir: +- 100 km (= via Thingvellir is the shortest route + 20 km via selfoss +- 120)
Gullfoss +- 110 km (= via Thingvellir is the shortest route +- 130)
St÷ng: +- 120 km
Skogar: +- 130 km
Dyrholaey: +- 155 km
Vik: +- 185 km
Information for drivers
Safety belts are required by law, and
the headlights need to be on day and night. Most of the ringroad around Iceland is
asphalted, but a lot of the other roads are covered with gravel. Gravel can be dangerous
for the windshield. Even if a road looks a major road on the map, it might be a narrow one
with loose gravel. Don't underestimate the distances : driving goes slower than we are
used in flat countries. Sheep, horses and cows are often standing or walking on the
road: the driver is always responsible in case of an accident ! A lot of bridges are only
wide enough for one car at a time ( called 'Einbreid br˙' ), the one who has arrived last
has to stop at the side of the road to let the other one pass. There are many steep slopes
where you can't see the opposite side (blindhaed). Drive cautiously and slow down or
stop for approaching cars in this kind of situations. Roads in the inland are only open
for 4-wheeldrive cars during summer. Most of them are closed from September through the
end of June, beginning of July. You have to cross rivers there which can be very dangerous
for inexperienced drivers. There are roadmaps indicating the present situation of the
roads in most hotels and visitorcenters.
The small international airport 'Leifur EirÝkson'
is situated in KeflavÝk, a one hour drive from ReykjavÝk. There is a bus service to the
capital. On the lower level of the airport there are desks from car rental agencies and an
office from the bus company Flybus. A ticket for the Flybus to most major hotels in
Reykjavik, is rather cheap, and costs about 700 ISK. If you stay in one of the Icelandair
hotels, you can take the bus for free, just by showing your hotel voucher. In the
center of Reykjavik, there is another very small local airport. When your time is limited,
you can fly to another side of the island in stead of driving there. Flugleidir,
Fl˙gfelag ═slands and ═slandsfl˙g organize such flights. See links.
BS═ is the public bus company in Iceland. The bus
station in Reykjavik is situated at Vatnsmřarvegur. In summer, the buses drive daily but
not very frequently, around the island on the ringroad, but from mid-October till the
beginning of May, the bus doesn't make the full circle. They sell buspasses, which allow
you to travel around the island during a certain period. Although not cheap, it's the
cheapest way to travel.
Iceland can be reached by boat from
Scotland and Denmark, but a one way trip takes about 3 days, including a stop at the
Faroer islands. There are small ports at different locations on the island.
Iceland has got a very low crime
rate, you can feel safe. Ofcourse that doesn't mean that you have to be totally careless,
always be careful with your valuables when you are on holiday.The emergency phone number
for police, ambulance and fire department is : 112. You do have to be careful when
driving; the roads can be really dangerous when you drive to fast.
April 1, 2, 4, 5, 22
May 1, 13, 23, 24
December 24, 25, 26.
The local language is Icelandic, a
very old language that has barely changed. Foreign words are excluded. It's not easy to
learn the language, and they use some different letters. Many Icelanders speak English,
however, it is very practical to know a few words, so you can read at least some signs. A
good language site is the one from http://www.travlang.com,
where you can even hear how the words are pronounced.
Lodging is expensive no matter how
you travel. It's best to contact the Visitors bureau of Iceland to get the appropriate
information about the kind of lodging you prefer. There are several possibilities : Edda
hotels are summer hotels ( boarding schools which are open for tourists during the summer
holidays), but they have a few hotels that stay open all year round. Other hotel chains
are Keyhotel, Regnboga hotel and Fosshotel. Guest houses, youth hostels and campsites are
cheaper. Farms also offer accommodation. Much more information see: <Links> .
Only a few restaurants serve tourist
menu's at reasonable prices. If you don't mind cooking or eating junk-food, you'll keep
your meal budget within limits. In Reykjavik there are several American fast-food
restaurants like Subway, Mc Donalds, Pizzahut and Domino pizza. If you prefer the local
food, make sure what you're ordering, or would you like to have rotten shark for lunch?
There is a lot of fresh fish and lamb on the menu.
The main post office in Reykjavik is
situated at Posthusstraeti, but there are more offices. Open during weekdays from 8.30 a.m
till 4.30 p.m. During summer also open on Saturday morning.
You can buy phone cards at post
offices and in some shops. Public phones can be used with coins or those cards. I's
cheaper to make a call on weekdays after 7p.m. and before 8a.m., and during weekends and
holidays. The code for international calls from Iceland is 00, then country code, area
code and telephone number. Check in advance if you can use your mobile phone there.
Money and prices
The Icelandic monetary unit is the
krona (ISK). It can be hard to find this money abroad, some specialized exchange offices
might sell it. The exchange office at Reykjavik's airport is open 24 hours. To get an idea
of the exchange rate : http://www.xe.net/ucc/ .Credit
cards and Eurocheques are widely accepted (except maybe in some small villages). Banks are
usually open from 9 a.m. till 4 p.m..
Make sure your budget is not too
tight, because Iceland is not cheap to travel in. Be prepared for high prices and
don't let this spoil your holiday. There is ofcourse a big difference in price
between summer and low season. From June trough August prices of hotels, car rental etc.
are much higher (almost double). Even during off-season prices are very high. You can
compare it more or less with a stay in NYC (which is also known for its high hotel rates).
I was prepared for outrageous prices, but it wasn't so terrible as I expected.
Iceland is not the most appropriate
destination for shopping because of its high prices. Although shopping can be
cheaper for toutists. There is a reduction on tax-prices. In Reykjavik there are some
nice, trendy shops, but the shopping area is quite small. There is one big mall : Kringlan
shopping mall. Food can be bought at the supermarkets like Thin Versl˙n, 10/11 and 11/11
( open from 10 or 11 a.m. till 11 p.m.), and at grocery stores. When you're on the road
it's best to have some food with you, because not all the villages do have a shop.
Many gas stations sell a few snacks.
GMT ( like in London).But they don't
change to summer time.
The voltage is like in most European
countries : 220 V, 50 HZ AC. Americans will need to bring an adapter with a different type
of plug if they want to use their appliances.
Ferries : http://www.travelnet.is/transport/DoFerries.htm
Avis : http://www.avis.com / Hertz : http://www.hertz.com / Europcar: http://www.europcar.is
General information :
Iceland tourist information : http://www.icetourist.is/
General info : http://www.travelnet.is/
What to do : www.icelandtoday.is
Official Reykjavik site : www.tourist.reykjavik.is
Travel information: www.exploreiceland.is
Youth Hostel Travel Service: http://www.hostel.is
Icelandic Farm Holidays:
Eddahotels : http://en.hoteledda.is/
Fosshotels : http://www.fosshotel.is