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Most people decide to travel somewhere warm in January, like Tahiti, Hawaii, Australia, or even South America. Me? I like to mix things up, shake it around, and do something totally crazy. So I find a $100 one-way flight to Iceland from Chicago. Do I live in Chicago? Nah, but who needs to get home when you can get to Iceland from Chicago for $100? I was not disappointed in my spur-of-the-moment decision. January allowed breathing room in what has become a country newly excited with excessive tourism, a chance to see the northern lights, and beautiful snowy landscapes that just can never be reproduced anywhere. These Iceland travel tips will help you plan out your Iceland Vacation in the summer or the winter!
Iceland is not the cheapest place to go in Europe by far, but that doesn’t mean it should scare you off from visiting. In a week we spent about $1800 per person, including flights and a car rental. (We flew Wow Air just a month before it shut down for good. A week after we returned flights from Chicago ceased. Unfortunately at the time of this update in May 2023, flights are OUTRAGEOUSLY priced and my round trip from Boston – Reykjavik a few months ago was over $1500 round trip).
If you want a private driver instead of self-driving you can expect to spend $1000-$2000 / day for these services.
While accommodation in Iceland can be expensive, it is totally worth it to book. From unique hotels with a distinct scandinavian flare and hot tubs galore – it’s worth splurging on these little luxuries. Hotels with dining options are essential, especially in the countryside as the grocery stores can be scant in the winter if you want to self cook and there are not many restaurant options away from the cities. For my first trip in January 2019, we made all of our bookings through Booking.com– for our trip in March 2023, we went with one of my travel agency’s preferred partners and booked everything through us/them.
– Hey, don’t forget to save these links for later – once you click them to add them as a favorite in your toolbar so you can come back and book!
This farm stay was adorable! It had great rates & a great location near Vik where you can venture out and do several things in the area. We also saw the Northern Lights here!
This place was out in the middle of NOWHERE & let me tell you this is where you feel truly at peace. The guesthouse is like a farm stay, a bunch of rooms in an old farmhouse, but the cottages are incredibly nice and are each on their own if you have a little more money to blow. There is no kitchen in the guesthouse, but they do make food on-site for dinner if you want, and it comes at a very reasonable cost. We enjoyed our time here!
Easily our favorite place that we stayed in Iceland! They had it all! Hottubs! Cute dogs! Cute Cats! A great room! Very welcoming small family! The story of this family is great too! They just owned a little farm and slowly started letting people stay there as the tourism boom in Iceland took off, and they slowly built more and more houses. Great breakfast, and being able to watch the northern lights from the hot tub is something I will never forget.
Less than an hour outside of Reykjavik, on the edge of Þingvellir National Park, in a landscape of lichen and long-dormant lava fields, ION Adventure Hotel has all otherworldly landscape angles covered.
THE BOHO TRAVELLER EXCLUSIVE PERKS – When you book through me you will receive these exclusive traveller perks at ION.
The concept is a simple one, and is all the more powerful for it: 360° Boutique Hotel is named for the panoramic view made possible by its hilltop setting and its wraparound glass-walled construction. From here, fifteen minutes past the town of Selfoss, the view takes in mile after mile of wild southern Icelandic countryside, from forests and fields to distant waterways, mountains, and even, when the atmosphere cooperates, the Northern Lights.
THE BOHO TRAVELLER EXCLUSIVE PERKS – When you book through me you will receive these exclusive traveller perks at 360 Hotel and Spa.
A new hotel that has a wonderful location and a delightful bar and restaurant.
If you want THE vibe, this is the place to be in Reykjavik. With 6 bars and a prime location, this hotel is the bees knees and the place to see and be seen in Iceland. Plus, you get exclusive amenities when you book through us!
Steps away from the main shopping district, the long-awaited Reykjavik EDITION is the city’s newest see-and-be-seen hotel. The 253 stylish rooms and suites (as well as the chic rooftop bar) look out onto impressive, only-in-Iceland views, including Mt. Esja and Snæfellsjökull Glacier, while the specialty restaurant dishes up local and international favorites. The hotel also features a spa, state-of-the-art gym facilities, and nearly 6,000 square feet of event space.
Within a few blocks from the hotel you’ll spot Reykjavik’s colorful stories-high murals. Laugavegur Street, Grettisgata Street, and Skólavörðustígur are the best places to see them.
The Boho Traveller Exclusive Amenities at The Reykjavik EDITION For 2023:
Summer is THE popular time to hit up Iceland! If you want to beat the crowds and save some money, opt for visiting in fall, winter, or early spring (when you still have a chance to see the northern lights!). You’ll find better rates and deal with less crowds.
When we had 2 croissants and a cup of coffee that cost us nearly $25 our first morning in Iceland, we quickly realised that eating out for every meal was going to rack up the expenses. Thankfully all the hotels I book for us include breakfast (perks of being a Travel Agent – breakfast included is ESSENTIAL) so that just left us lunch and dinner to figure out. We often found ourselves on the road for lunch, so we would make a PBJ in the car or would just stick to snacking. There are some great little cafes at some of the big tourist attractions like Skogafoss and various spots in the Golden Circle. But apart from that, there isn’t much around. Both of my adventures through Iceland snacks have been a top car priority – pull over at the petrol station and fuel up your car and yourself.
Just beware – the grocery stores are skint on fresh veg in the winter so you might want to only opt for this route for lunches.
Not literally, but pretty much! There is one road that goes all the way around Iceland called the Ring Road. In ideal conditions, it will take you about 18 hours to drive it completely. Do NOT think that it will take this long in the winter though. Snowstorms (and hailstorms, rainstorms, crazy winds, and who knows what else) can pop up in Iceland at any point in time and make driving conditions dangerous. Even if you don’t need to pull over you will definitely need to reduce your speed.
This ring road will take you to all the main cities and attractions. There are roads that offshoot from the Ring Road (also known as Highway 1) that will take you to specific places, like the blue lagoon. But, everything is very easy to find. The highlands are not accessible in the winter. Usually, during the summer you will need a 4X4 or a tour to take you in there.
Summer is chilly (at least for me as a Floridian). Temperatures average around 50-55 F (10-13C) and a really warm day can be 77F (25C). Winter temperatures are around 32F (0C) but can get chillier. The coldest we experienced on our trip was 21F (-6C).
Renting a vehicle gives you freedom of your time and your itinerary. PLUS it is another way to save a few extra dollars, those tour buses usually aren’t the best way to get the most bang for your buck. If we had been on a tour bus, we would have never been able to visit the stunning Reykjadalur Hot River (pictured below). A private driver though will make your life incredibly easy and you’ll have that extra insight to the country you wouldn’t have driving yourself. I have done both ways and there is no wrong answer on which one to pick!
If you aren’t a fan of the big outdoors, Iceland is probably not the place for you. There is lots of hiking to be done, heaps of nature trails, innumerable steep paths, plentiful thermal springs and much more waiting for you in Iceland. I’m not saying you shouldn’t visit by any means, but if your idea of a holiday is shopping and eating, then this may not be your dream destination. Plan on being outside and getting a little dirty.
When you are visiting attractions, if there is a rail with a sign that states clearly “DO NOT CROSS” – I would recommend not crossing. These signs are not only in place for your safety, but the safety of the land. Many tourists visiting Iceland are straying from the trails to get that perfect “instashot”. It is destroying the natural vegetation that Iceland needs to survive. So PLEASE, just follow the rules.
Seriously, WINDY AF. There have been reports of people’s car doors blowing off because it’s so windy!! My hair extensions all literally turned into mini dreads, and then the mini dreads turned into GIANT dreads. I procrastinated on brushing my hair for a few days, and let me tell you it was one of the most unpleasant things when I finally went to brush it out. BE PREPARED FOR THE WIND AND BE SURE TO PACK DETANGLER!
If you aren’t a fan of crowds, you may want to reconsider visiting Iceland in the summer. Summer in Iceland is packed and there are way more tour buses and visitors in general. Hitting Iceland in the offseason can up your chances for better photo ops, better experiences, and less hassle.
If you opt to travel in Spring, Fall, or even ~winter~, you could find yourself having a more enjoyable experience with fewer crowds and a chance of catching the northern lights.
You don’t need to worry too much about a language barrier. In most places people will speak English. Unless you’re in the rural countryside, you won’t have any problems.
Also, Icelanders are super friendly, though they might be a little shy! Make sure to say hello! 🙂
Additionally, Iceland is one of the safest places to travel and there is very little crime, even pickpocketing is extremely rare.
Most likely, you won’t need to book that northern lights tour unless you are only going to be in Iceland 1 or 2 nights and staying in the city the entire time. The other reason to book a northern lights tour would be if you have no idea how to use your camera and aren’t renting a car, the tour will get you right and sorted. But, if you do a little research and learn how to use your camera, and have a car – you should be set. All you need is patience and the Aurora app. Here is the link for iPhone. I enjoyed this app and was even able to see the northern lights in Scotland because of it!
Ask a local where the lights are usually spotted (it’s typically to the north), and check the Aurora App to see what the chances are to see the lights that night. In the winter, if the sky is clear, you will most likely see the northern lights!! I saw them 3 times in one week while I was in Iceland.
I’ve heard of several people visiting Iceland and doing the entire ring road in 4 days. To me, this is INSANE! We did the south coast in 7 days and my boyfriend complained about all of THAT driving! So I can’t imagine doing the whole 18-hour ring road in only 4 days.
Firstly, I truly believe that amount of driving doesn’t give you ample time to truly experience Iceland, and you won’t be able to do any of the cool stuff, often which takes an hour or so to get to by foot after you park. In the winter you also need to allow yourself more time to get from one destination to the next, as the weather can change in a split second, and driving in the snow in a tiny car is not the same as driving in the summer when there are 24 hours of daylight.
Do yourself a favor and take it slow. When people ask you about your trip to Iceland, is all you want to tell them that it was a lot of driving? No? I didn’t think so.
Break out your camera, get clicking, and get creative. There are so many beautiful things in Iceland to photograph, so get original and share the beauty of this northern country with the world! Plus, the lighting is just spectacular ALL the time as the sun is never directly overhead – it’s amazing.