As nearly everyone I’ve talked to since visiting knows, I love Iceland. What I love most is the incredible scenery that includes amazing mountains, fjords, rivers, waterfalls, hot springs, lakes, glaciers and geysers. The natural beauty of Iceland is hard to believe. Around every corner there seems to be another stunning view. The small fishing towns are extremely picturesque too. Seydisfjordur in the east and Siglufjordur in the north were two of my favourites.

The hot springs around the country are a really great experience, especially when you can find remote ones where the only company you have is the snow-capped mountain scenery and fields stretching into the distance. Even if you ignored everything else and just did a tour of Icelandic hot springs, I’m sure that your visit would still be extremely enjoyable.

Add to that the delicious and abundant seafood, the friendly, well-educated people who could often pass as models, and the interesting and unique history and language. The language has changed relatively little since the vikings settled Iceland, and sagas dating from as far back as 1100 CE can still easily be read and understood.

For some of the highlights of my trip to Iceland, read my post titled ’12 unforgettable things to do in Iceland’.


Iceland travel infographic


A few facts about Iceland

  • Capital: Reykjavik
  • Population: About 330,000
  • Currency: Icelandic króna
  • Official Language: Icelandic
  • Official Script: Latin alphabet (with a few extra characters compared to English)
  • Time Zone: WET UTC+0
  • Calling Code: +354
  • Internet TLD: .is
  • Drives On: Right
  • Drinking Age: 20
  • Can Drink In Public: Yes (Not sure of legality, but everyone does)
  • Can Drink Tap Water: Yes, definitely (You can also drink water straight from most streams)
  • Plugs/Sockets: C & F, 230V (Same as most of continental Europe) more info

Getting there (on a budget)

WOW air has cheap flight connections to and from Canada, the USA and lots of European countries. It is therefore easy to add a trip to Iceland as an extra stop between North America and Europe or vice versa.

Easyjet is another cheap option from the UK or Switzerland. Wizz Air flies from a few central and eastern European countries.

Visa information

Visas are not required for citizens of EU members, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many others. For a full list click here.

How to hitchhike around Iceland

How much does it cost?

Visiting Iceland cost me about 7000 Icelandic krónur per day (roughly A$80, US$63 or €60) including accommodation and everything else except flights. Iceland is an expensive country though, and I did my visit on a super tight budget. I hitchhiked everywhere, couchsurfed some nights, stayed in hostels for others and ate a lot of sandwiches and other things that could be purchased cheaply from supermarkets. You could very easily spend double that amount with not much more to show for it.

One huge positive for budget travellers in Iceland is that there are so many incredible natural attractions to see that cost nothing. Another is that the costs of getting to Iceland from North America and Europe have plummeted in recent years.

SIM cards

I generally buy a local SIM if I am visiting any country for longer than a few days. I highly recommend getting one for your trip, as Wifi is not as ubiquitous in Iceland as many other places. It is also very useful to have an internet connection when you are out in areas where there are not very many people, whether you want to find that hot spring you were looking for or book a hostel for the night. is a great resource for deciding which SIM card to buy.

Language barrier

What language barrier?! Pretty much everyone in Iceland speaks fluent English.

Icelandic characters

Icelandic is written with some extra characters not found in English (at least not anymore).

Ð or ð (eth) is pronounced like the ‘th’ in that.

Þ or þ (thorn) is pronounced like the ‘th’ in thick.

The two letters above are not as foreign to English as they might seem. Both thorn and eth were actually used in Old English to denote these two slightly different ‘th’ pronunciations. Eth got phased out in favour of using thorn for both, before it eventually got replaced by ‘th’. This was to do with the confusion between thorn and the letter ‘y’. This confusion continues to this day. Early printing fonts were imported from Germany and Italy, neither of which used the thorn character. ‘Y’, being kind of similar, was used as a stand in for thorn and led to generations of people mispronouncing ‘ye olde’ signs. ‘Ye’ was actually ‘þe’ and would have been pronounced ‘the’.

Æ or æ (called ‘ash’ in Old English but simply and logically called ‘æ’ in Icelandic) is pronounced like the ‘i’ in like.

Some Icelandic vowels also have accent marks which change their pronunciation. These are á, é, í, ó, ú, ý and ö.

Some Icelandic words and phrases

If you are interested in learning some of the local language then here are a few words and phrases in Icelandic to get you started:

 (pronounced high) is just like the English word hi.

Takk (pronounced tahk) means ‘thanks’. The more formal way of saying thank you is: þakka þér fyrir (pronounced thah-ka thyer fih-rir).

Talarðu ensku? (pronounced Tah-lar-thu en-skuh? with the emphasis on the first syllables of each word) means do you speak English?

(pronounced yaw) means yes. (yoo) also means yes, but is used for answering a negative question.

Nei (pronounced nay) means no.

An ad on a Reykjavik shop window with highly stylised typography including some of Iceland’s unusual characters.

Food in Iceland

I don’t think that the excellent quality of Icelandic seafood will surprise anyone given the country’s location. It is essential to the Icelandic culture, history and economy; It is also delicious. Some of the myriad ways you will find fish prepared are in soups, stews and pies, as well as baked, fried and dried.

The dried fish is called harðfiskur. It is wind-dried and could reasonably be described as ‘fish jerky’. It is often eaten with butter and is one of the highest protein foods in the world.

The best fish ‘n’ chips I have ever eaten was in a place called Icelandic Fish and Chips in Reykjavik. And I don’t say that lightly as it is one of my favourite meals in general. Try the rosemary garlic potatoes with your fish. You won’t regret it.

Bónus is the best supermarket for those on a budget.This is where they are located: They have a good range of bread, sandwich fillings, yoghurts and other snacks. Try the skyr (a yoghurt-like, strained, skim-milk cheese).

Icelandic Fish & Chips

Drinks in Iceland

Iceland’s (cold) tap water is considered to be amongst the purest and best quality water in the world. Don’t drink the hot water though. Due to its geothermal origins, it often smells like sulfur.

Full strength beer was banned in Iceland until the first of March 1989. Since then, the first of March has been celebrated as ‘Beer Day’ every year, and beer has grown to be the most popular alcoholic drink in Iceland. In recent years, there have also been a growing number of Icelandic craft beers produced. The best places to try these are three bars in Reykjavik that are all quite close to each other. They are Skúli Craftsbar, MicroBar and Mikkeller and Friends (owned by the Danish brewery Mikkeller).