HOW TO GET THERE
Many airlines fly to Reykjavik from the US, so you will have tons of options to get to Iceland. If you are arriving early or staying later, please let us know and we will contact our supplier to get a group rate at the hotel so you only have to check in once.
You can easily route your flights using FlightsFrom.com to view the best way to get to and from destinations. We also recommend using Google Flights to compare the diﬀerent airlines and their prices/routes. ALWAYS book your flights direct on and airline’s website and don’t use third-party sites. You don’t want to have issues in travel and must rely on calling a third-party for assistance. Airlines will not speak with you directly about third-party bookings.
Iceland’s currency is the Icelandic Krona. Iceland is also one of the most expensive countries for shopping and eating, so be prepared for a higher price tag than you see in the US or other places in Europe.
Credit cards are accepted everywhere throughout Iceland, however if you want cash, you will also be able to find ATMs almost everywhere we go. Try downloading a currency app like XE Currency to see the most current currency conversion.
There are not any visas or vaccines required to visit Iceland.
The entry requirements for US citizens to visit Iceland is a passport with at least 6 months of validity and 1 blank page. For more information, please visit the State Department website here.
There are not vaccination requirements to visit Iceland as of June 19, 2023, but we always recommend checking Sherpa travel requirements that are updated by the government. That site can be found here.
Iceland uses the standard Europlug socket with two round prongs.
Click here to purchase your adapter/converter and see other travel accessories that will be great for this trip.
Each traveler will be expected to bring $100 per person to tip the guide and driver. Tips are $80 for the guides and $20 for the driver. While the Krona is preferred, but USD dollars are accepted — just make sure the bills are crisp with no tears. Your Happy Ambassador will collect tips from everyone towards the end of the trip before giving them to the guide and driver.
WEATHER & WHAT TO WEAR
Not surprisingly, the weather in the land of ice and snow is cold in November. Temperatures are an average of 40 degrees Fahrenheit during this month. So, dress warm! You can expect snow, rain, fog, and sun, sometimes all in the same hour! Pack layers during the day, so you are prepared for whatever Iceland throws at you.
What to Wear – THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF PREPARING FOR YOUR TRIP!
If you’re visiting Iceland in the winter, you need to prepare in advance and bring the correct gear.
It is important to have your gear ready in advance! Most of these items need to be shipped to you if you do not live in a cold weather climate, so give yourself time to return and reorder if things don’t fit. We are going to be visiting remote areas, so if you come unprepared there won’t be time or places to buy the correct gear after we arrive – you want to come prepared! You may also want to bookmark this page and reference it later.
How much luggage can I bring?
Because of the size of the tour vehicles, everyone is limited to 1 large bag, 1 carry-on sized bag, and 1 personal item.
IMPORTANT! Windproof Clothing
Travelers going to Iceland in the winter, please pack windproof clothing. The wind has the potential to be the worst weather factor during your visit. Because of this, you need to come prepared with gear made to be wind/waterproof.
I brought the following pants for myself and husband when we visited Iceland in March, and they worked very well for our trip!
- Men’s Pants recommendation Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07HMDLXRZ/ref=cm_sw_r_sms_api_glt_i_D25JNW0SSYX0V50MAZ1Y?psc=1
- Women’s Pants Recommendation Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07Y7496V7/ref=cm_sw_r_sms_api_glt_i_ADE4CACP0ERV3QA6A0AZ
In terms of footwear, wellies/gum boots/rubber boots are a definite no-no. They don’t keep feet warm and can become very rigid and dangerously slippery in sub-zero temperatures. The best thing to bring are snow boots. I also recommend bringing a pair of waterproof hiking or walking boots for lighter activity days. A top tip here is to buy some that are a size above your regular foot size so you can fit two toasty pairs of woollen socks on your feet first. Thermal or fleece insoles are very good to add as well. Paired with some ski socks, your feet will stay nice and warm whatever the weather. Merino wool socks are the best, whilst you should avoid cotton socks – cotton contains air pockets and when you perspire these air pockets absorb this moisture which in turn stops providing any insulation. Essentially, cotton makes you colder in cold weather. In fact, cotton anything (underwear, t-shirts etc) is probably a no no.
Boots for Men – click links below for examples of each
Boots for Women – click links below for examples of each
Difference between conditions
- Extreme cold and dry conditions – rated by manufacturers for temperatures down to – 148 F / -100 C
- Moderate (Less Extreme) conditions – rated by manufacturers for temperatures down to – 40 F / -40 C
Thermal long underwear/long johns are great for your first layer – make sure these items of clothing are either wool or polyester. You will be wearing these everyday of our trip, so I recommend bringing 2-3 pair so you can have clean layers. A good and economical second layer is jogging bottoms/sweat pants, again, made from polyester. Your top layer should ideally be ski pants and, unsurprisingly, the famous ski brands produce the best ones. Waterproof trousers can work as a cheaper alternative but aren’t really worth it if the temperature gets below -15 degrees (which we aren’t ruling out).
Click to buy: Hot Chilly’s Thermal Layers
These base layers are currently ON SALE at Sierra Trading Post
The key here is layers. Like with your legs, a thermal underwear/base layer is essential. Stick with polyester and wool and once again, avoid cotton. A warm fleece shirt is perfect for your second layer ideally underneath a 100% wool jumper (essential). Fleece shirts can be quite cheap to buy so it doesn’t hurt having one with you even if you don’t wear it. Once again be sure to check they are 100% polyester – there are some out there masquerading as ‘fleece’ but which actually contain a cotton mix which should be avoided. Lastly a fleece coat/jacket is perfect for the penultimate layer ideally with a 300 weight/ 300 GSM.
These are good websites to shop for layers that are currently having sales on layers right now:
TIP: just because a sweater or shirt says “wool” in the item title, does not mean that it is 100% wool. Check the specs of each item you are ordering to see the actual material percentages. Many times items will say they are wool and are actually blended 90% acrylic and only 10% wool.
THIS IS YOUR MOST IMPORTANT ITEM. Now this is probably the item of clothing you should spend the most on and certainly one that you should look at the better brands for. Your jacket is essentially on the front line of the weather assault and should be able to withstand the coldest weather that Lapland/Iceland can throw at you. Jackets known as ‘Down Parkas’ are definitely the thoroughbreds of the jacket arena here. Unsurprisingly these are the most expensive, but these are the types of jacket used in expeditions to the Arctic. The ‘Down’ aspect of the jacket refers to the insulation made up of goose feathers, quite possibly the best insulation there is. If this isn’t within your budget don’t panic – you can also pick up a down shell jacket or similar insulated jackets for a lot less money. But obviously the cheaper, lesser insulated jacket you go for the less effective the jacket is likely to be.
Tip: Buy one size bigger than your normal size so you can fit layers underneath.
It goes without saying that a hat and gloves are more than necessary in Lapland. Having your head or hands uncovered is a simple no no. It is actually worth taking two pairs of gloves – one thinner pair for wearing when you need to take photos whilst outside as well as a bigger pair of gloves or mittens (gloves that have one section for the thumb and one for the other four fingers together) to wear at other times. Mittens will keep your fingers warmer than gloves! Good ski gloves are ideal as they are windproof, especially for my Iceland travelers. If you want to truly upgrade, there are chargeable heated gloves and mittens you can buy for about $100-200 per pair.
Tip: If your hands tend to sweat in gloves, please bring at least 2 pairs. You do not want to wear wet gloves. You can also bring hand and feet warmers!! If you have a Costco or Sam’s membership, you can buy them in bulk or you can order them from Amazon.
Amazon Hand Warmers
As someone who grew up skiing, on the coldest winter days hand warmers were my best friend. I highly recommend bringing some!
For your head the most popular type of gear to wear is a fur trapper/deer stalker/Russian style hat with ear flaps. These flaps are a God-send if it is really cold or windy as they act like built-in ear muffs. When it is seriously cold a balaclava can be really useful under a hat but this isn’t essential. Scarves or neck gaiters/snoods are also a great way to keep extra toasty when in Lapland.
- Men’s Fur Trapper Hat – I ordered this one for my husband!
- Women’s Fur Trapper Hat – I ordered this one for me!
- Faux Fur Trapper Hat
Where to Shop & Save
To buy your gear and clothes, you don’t have to shop at the places I have recommended here, but they are a great resource for examples of what to bring. Growing up skiing in northern California, I have found several great outwear websites that have frequent sales on good gear! I also like that these sites have reviews on their products. For example, if someone from northern Alaska or Canada says the jacket they ordered kept them warm and dry in the dead of winter, THAT is the jacket you want to order! The outwear sites I frequently use and have regular sales of 50-70% off and free shipping are below.
Note: for coats and hats, I believe Eddie Bauer has a higher temperature (warmer) rating than similar items ordered from Land’s End. This is based on comparing their online reviews. If you want to order your coat from Land’s End, then order the “expedition” type jacket, as it is the warmest and offers better protection for the wind.
We are staying at 3-star and 4-star accommodations. Each place will have a private bathroom in the room with a safe. All the places will also have heating and air. There will also be hotels/bars on site.
SECURITY & SCAMS
Iceland is a notoriously safe place. The biggest danger here is the weather you will be safe as long as you pack correctly.
As always when you travel, be aware of your surroundings and belongings to avoid petty theft.
INTRO, & HISTORY
Iceland’s stark, pristine scenery has been shaped by fire and ice: More than 200 volcanoes and numerous glaciers form the country’s landscape. It’s a frozen land that’s always letting off steam. Its U-shaped valleys, jagged lava fields, monstrous ice caps, hot springs and geysers have carved a rugged, bizarre landscape you won’t see anywhere else on Earth. But you don’t need the fortitude of a Viking to enjoy Iceland. In fact, you can experience many of its extremes in relative comfort. During a recent trip, we swam outdoors in a naturally heated pool just feet/meters away from a glacier.
Icelanders, like many islanders, are self-confident and reserved, but once you break the ice, so to speak, they are among the friendliest in the world. Of course, they, too, have their extremes. Although Sunday-Thursday nights in Reykjavik, the capital city, are usually quite sedate, the wee hours during the weekend (particularly Friday nights) can get downright raucous as stylishly dressed young people observe a rowdy party-on-the-streets ritual known as theruntur, or circuit.
Roughly 500,000 tourists visit Iceland each year, far exceeding the country’s total population. Visitors flock to this country to revel in Reykjavik’s famed nightlife, but also to travel over lunar landscapes; wade in hot springs; trek across glaciers; comb miles and miles of secluded beaches; swim in geothermal pools; bathe in the mysterious Blue Lagoon; contemplate stunning waterfalls and geysers; gaze at the midnight sun; and experience winter days where the air’s so fresh it feels as if it might snap.
Iceland’s raw nature is sublime. It is like no place else on Earth.
Iceland is a volcanic island straddling the active Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The Eurasian and North American tectonic plates divide the country, and are slowly pulling apart, accounting for fissures, craggy mountains, towering glaciers, deep fjords and lava-scarred tundra. Roughly the size of the state of Virginia, Iceland is located in the far north, but the only part of the country touching the Arctic Circle is the small island of Grimsey.
The country is generally divided into seven geological, physical and scenic regions, and it’s possible to see most of them by driving the Ring Road (Highway 1), which circumnavigates Iceland. A bus makes the route daily year-round, unless weather forces road closures in the north.
Southwest—The capital city is located on the Reykjanes Peninsula which dominates the region, and is home to Iceland’s international airport, the city of Keflavik and the Blue Lagoon, Iceland’s most popular tourist attraction. The Reykjanes Peninsula is a geothermal hot spot, and much of the region’s power is derived from this geothermal activity.
West—The Snaefellsnes Peninsula is home to fishing villages and farms, but the main attraction is Snaefellsjokull glacier, which on a clear day can be seen from as far away as Reykjavik. In his seminal novel Journey to the Center of the Earth, Jules Verne described the glacier as the entry point to the Earth’s core. The region is sometimes referred to as Saga Land, because many of Iceland’s sagas (such as Egil’s Saga) were written in West Iceland.
West Fjords—The mountainous area is the westernmost part of Europe, close enough to Greenland (175 mi/280 km) that polar bears sometimes (albeit rarely) drift there on ice sheets. The capital of the West Fjords is Isafjordur, the perfect jumping-off point during the summer to explore the lush valleys, towering mountains and rugged sea cliffs, as well as the many fishing villages dotting the coast. The area is home to myriad seabirds, including the North Atlantic puffin.
North—Iceland’s second-largest city is Akureyri, but the area is more about striking nature. North Iceland is home to Dettifoss, one of Europe’s most powerful waterfalls. Whale-watchers flock to Husavik to track humpback whales, and during summer visitors can take to the slopes for glacier skiing under the midnight sun, or enter the Arctic Open, a golf tournament that tees off at midnight.
East Fjords—East Iceland begins about 300 mi/480 km northeast of Reykjavik. The region is known for Europe’s largest ice cap, Vatnajokull, about an hour’s drive form the fishing village Hofn. The Ring Road wends through and around the fishing villages dotting the region’s narrow fjords, Reydarfjordur being the east’s longest and widest fjord. The East Fjords is home to herds of free-roaming reindeer.
South—South Iceland is known for the Golden Circle, named after the popular tour that takes visitors to Thingvellier National Park (home to the world’s first parliament), the powerful Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir, a hot spot for geysers. (The word geyser is derived from the Icelandic word geysir.) South Iceland is replete with lush farmlands and lakes, including Thingvallavatn, Iceland’s largest lake. The active volcano Hekla is also in the south. The Westmann Islands, visible off the southern coast, are easily accessible by ferry or airplane.
The Interior—Simply called the Highlands, Iceland’s interior is uninhabitable, a vast area of desolate beauty, characterized by glaciers, mountains, volcanic wastelands and variable weather. The Highlands are primarily accessible only during summer, mainly via tours in four-wheel-drive vehicles or on horseback. (Winter travel should not be attempted without a guide.) Highlights include Thorsmork, Sprengisandur and Landmannalaugar. Organized tours last from one to 10 days. You should never travel alone in Iceland’s interior; always have a companion, if not a guide.
Popular folklore states that Iceland was named after ice to trick would-be settlers into venturing to Greenland. This is actually true. To elude the King of Norway, the Vikings who settled the windswept island (traditionally dated AD 874) wanted to dissuade other Vikings from going.
The records of Iceland’s first inhabitants were written in Landnamabok (Book of Settlements), in the 12th century, detailing the island’s first settler, Ingolfur Arnarson. The story goes that when this Viking chieftain from Norway spotted land, he tossed his boat’s seat posts into the sea, and made his home where they washed ashore: Reykjavik. He started a farm in Reykjavik (which means “smoky bay”), named after the steam rising from the region’s hot springs.
Being an isolated island, the language hasn’t changed much since the time of settlement, and Icelanders can still read the epic 13th-century sagas written in Old Norse.
The country enjoyed an early golden era as an independent republic from 930 to about 1262 (its parliament, the Althing, is considered the oldest in the world). Following a time of bloody anarchy, it entered a long, dark period—ruled first by Norway and then by Denmark—until its second independence, the formal establishment of the republic on 17 June 1944.
It was World War II, and the resulting Marshall Plan, that transformed Iceland from a farming and fishing nation where many rural inhabitants still lived in turf houses into a modern country. British troops first moved into Iceland during the war, followed by U.S. troops. The British withdrew around 1941, but U.S. forces maintained a NATO base outside Keflavik until 2006. These U.S. forces built the nation’s international airport in Keflavik, and helped Icelanders complete the nation’s main highway, the Ring Road, which circumnavigates the country.
One of Iceland’s only major international disputes occurred when the country decided to redraw its territorial waters, which only extended 4 mi/6 km offshore prior to 1952. During the next several years, Iceland began expanding its waters to protect its fishing grounds from foreign trawlers. By 1975, the country had extended its waters to 200 mi/322 km. Each time Iceland increased the size of its waters, the country met huge opposition from the British. Several times, the British sent large ships into Iceland’s waters in protest, followed by a ban of Iceland fish imports in the U.K. These skirmishes, known as the “Cod Wars,” established Iceland’s reputation as a staunch nation. The British eventually backed down and signed an agreement with Iceland to honor the 200-mi/322-km limit. Almost every maritime nation has now adopted the 200-mi/322-km zone.
Iceland also received global criticism for its resumption of whaling, especially because it prides itself on being environmentally aware. The government ensures that the catch is limited to a sustainable number, and that there is a market for it.