Iceland is commonly referred to as the “land of fire and ice” for its hot and cold dualities: glaciers sit right next to active volcanoes!
The country boasts a varied climate and landscapes with sulfur beds, hot springs, lava fields, geysers, waterfalls, and canyons, which can make planning what to wear in Iceland a bit challenging.
The lists and FAQs below will help you determine what to pack, what NOT to bring, and how to plan a successful trip to this otherworldly destination.
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What to Pack for Iceland – 27 Essentials
1. Windproof Travel Umbrella
Iceland is EXTREMELY WET. On average, it rains 18 days out of every single month, so you’ll want to bring a high-quality travel umbrella like the one pictured. Keeping dry is critical for enjoying rainy weather and will make you feel so much more cozy when exploring this beautiful island. This umbrella is compact, windproof, and easy to tuck away in its carrying case when it’s not raining.
There is nothing worse than getting off the plane in a new country and already feeling exhausted. You are there to adventure and take in the scenery, but being groggy can take away from the experience! Try these natural jet lag relief supplements that are made of botanical ingredients like chamomile. For me, they relieve tiredness and fatigue, preventing jet lag headaches which saves me from losing a lot of precious vacation time. Using them on the return trip home also helps me acclimate faster.
A VPN is crucial for any worldwide travel. A strong VPN (likeNordVPN) provides you with an added layer of security so all your sensitive data such as passwords, credit card information, etc. – is protected from being hacked. It is important to use when you are on public WiFi networks at hotels, Airbnbs, airports, and cafes to create a legitimately private network. You’ll also have the freedom to stream your favorite TV and movies while abroad since those services are often blocked or censored outside your home country.
Iceland’s electrical outlets require 220 volts/50Hz and electric devices in the country use the European-style plug, which has two round prongs. It is important to keep in mind the voltage of the items you will be packing – you do not want to bring high-power appliances such as hairdryers. I recommend this international adapter that you can use in over 100 countries; it has several built-in fuse protectors and convenient features that make charging your items much safer.
Skip the rolling luggage when traveling to Iceland. Using a waterproof travel backpack is an excellent alternative to traditional bulky bags. This one by Earth Pak will keep everything dry as you hike, kayak, bike, camp, or relax, and you will find it easier to move from one location to another without clunky wheels. Bonus points that it’s carry-on size can help you avoid additional airline fees
We had a friend hurt their ankle during a hike in Iceland. Thankfully, she had travel insurance or she would’ve paid out-of-pocket for ridiculously high medical bills! Many people don’t realize that their domestic provider does not protect them internationally, and they also mistake the cost of insurance for being very high. Travel insurance is actually very affordable (generally one of the cheapest parts of your trip) and it’s super easy to obtain with a quick quote.
Our go-to provider is Faye – they’ve pleasantly surprised us with immediate pay-outs through their mobile app and are setting an excellent standard for travel insurance plans. Not only do they cover your costs if your luggage gets lost or stolen, but they also typically cover flight cancellations, airlifts, and medical expenses. Protect your travel investment with Faye’s revolutionary approach. They can even cover full-trip cancellations for ANY reason!
This is an absolute essential when traveling. A quick-dry towel is light, easy to pack, and conveniently portable. It can help you avoid towel rental fees at hotels, hostels, and hot springs where the towels are typically fluffy, oversized, and will annoy you to carry around all day. It will also give you a way to dry off if you get caught without your rain jacket. This one is light as a feather and dries 10x faster than cotton.
Iceland has some of the cleanest and purest drinking water in the world, so avoid yet another cost by bringing a bottle instead of buying some at the store. If you do buy bottled water, you are actually just paying for plastic-wrapped tap water, and you’re asking to stick out as a tourist. The local water may have the faintest smell of sulfur, but rest assured it is completely normal and harmless. An added bonus of the filter is that it will likely take care of the smell if it bothers you.
Unfortunately, Iceland does have pickpockets who congregate around major tourist attractions. To avoid getting your valuables lost or stolen, I highly recommend you bring a neck wallet. It easily fits your passport, cash, ATM cards, and phone and can be worn discreetly under your clothing if you want to go on “stealth mode.” It will keep your items dry and even has RFID-blocking material to keep the e-thieves from scanning your wallet as they walk by.
Prevent your fingers and toes from turning into little ice-cycle digits. These hand and foot warmers are an absolute delight and feel like a cozy fireplace that warms you from within. Slip them into your socks and mittens; the oxidation process will begin almost immediately and gradually dissipate after 10 hours of heat. If you’re spending all day in the cold, these can even warrant buying less expensive snow boots since your feet will remain naturally insulated.
Packing cubes make life SO much easier while traveling. You’ll know exactly which “cube” your belongings are in without having to rummage around, and you can even switch the smaller ones from your suitcase to your daybag without having to unpack and repack them.
Note: My wife and I personally designed these packing cubes after having subpar experiences with the low-quality ones available on Amazon. Our packing cubes come with premium YKK zippers, puncture-resistant ripstop Nylon and quality workmanship backed by our lifetime replacement guarantee.
Thermal wear is every-day-wear in Iceland, so invest in a pair that will protect you come rain or shine. These merino wool leggings are the perfect layering item to wear under your clothes during hikes and adventures. It serves as a lightweight base layer that actually wicks away moisture, keeping you fully dry and comfortable.
Luggage locks are a simple and effective way to keep your belongings secure, giving you peace of mind so you don’t have to worry about anything getting stolen from your bags. This set of two TSA-approved locks is made by a reputable company that creates built-to-last travel accessories. Between checking your suitcase at the airport, strolling through crowded areas, and not having your eyes on your bags at all times – locks are a thoughtful precaution.
Layers are such a benefit in any location that has frequent shifts in temperature, wind, and weather in general. This jacket by North Face is made for a destination like Iceland, and most travelers will need to invest in a well-made coat before embarking on this journey. This one has insulation made of recyclable goods and fleece material, so it’s a bundle of warmth that tangibly feeeeels like quality. It has a reversible option so you can wear the puffy or fleece side.
A secret packing list item that many jet-setters have yet to discover – durable bags that keep your dirty shoes from touching your clean clothes (cause who wants that street funk all over their wardrobe?) Since these mesh bags are water-resistant, I used them in Iceland when my shoes were soaked after a day of trekking through icy plateaus; they came in very handy and kept all grimy-wet things separate from dry items. I also love that I can easily shake out any dirt before washing.
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Since Reykjavik is the most popular town, we recommend taking a stunning hike to the Golden Circle’s Kerid Crater in Þingvellir National Park. You also must take time to enjoy the relaxing thermal baths of the Sky Lagoon or the Blue Lagoon, and no Iceland trip is complete without witnessing the magical Northern Lights.
The vastness of Iceland is truly breathtaking. Between the mountain peaks and volcanic craters of Kirkjufell and the sweeping national parks like Skaftafell – you’ll need a pair of binoculars to take in the beauty from a distance. This set is waterproof and able to focus at a field view of 1,000-yards so you can animal-spot and bird watch. They’re not top-quality like a Vanguard Spirit, but for the price, they’re a steal and will definitely add some ‘wow’ to your sightseeing.
My wife field-tested these on a recent hiking trip and they are honestly the bomb. The material is breathable and slightly stretchy, and you can unzip them at the knee for a convertible pair of pants/shorts. We ended up trekking through muddy paths and simply removed the wet part below the knee, it dried shortly after and she was relieved to have a durable pair of hiking pants to keep her warm.
80% of the country is uninhabited, which leaves miles and miles of sprawling plateaus. Whether you scale the mountains or hike the lowlands, you will likely be far away from a reliable power source and don’t want to end up with a dead phone. If you need GPS or signal to call someone, this portable charger will (quite literally) save the day! After being stranded without electricity in rural areas, we never travel without it.
If you don’t plan on doing lots of hiking while in Iceland, you don’t need to buy expensive hiking boots. But having some light walking shoes is a good idea even if you are just strolling about cities like Kópavogur. A good pair of shoes can make or break your trip! Ensure that the shoes you bring are water-resistant as it rains a lot. If you do plan to do any hiking, you will absolutely need waterproof hiking boots for weather and safety reasons.
Most young and fit people think of stockings as being ‘old-school,’ but there is a reason most flight attendants wear them. Blood clots are more common on long flights and… not to scare you, but people do pass away from the combination of a pressurized cabin, not being physically active for a long time, and the extreme altitude. Compression flight socks will help you maintain blood flow throughout your body, increasing circulation around your legs and feet. This will reduce the chances of pain or swelling so you can land feeling energized and pain-free.
Icelandic bathrooms leave a lot to be desired as far as countertop space (often just providing you just a sink). Since their European ‘water closets’ are made for quickly taking care of business, this hanging toiletries bag will help you slow down and enjoy your self-care ritual. It hooks on any door or pole so you don’t have to unpack all of your skincare and styling products, giving you a built-in shelf to access your items. It will help you maintain your routine (and your sanity!)
No matter what time of year you visit Iceland, you will be glad you brought a hat! Opt for having at least 2 hats or headbands so you don’t end up wearing the same one in all your pictures. Instead of packing them, it can be fun to visit the Icewear store in Reykjavik once you arrive and buy your hats there! They have a wide selection and you can return home with a souvenir you’ll actually use.
The fit on this is impeccable and gives anyone a flattering silhouette. A turtleneck is perfect for a winter wonderland, but the above-the-knee hem adds a bit of sensuality. You’ll stay plenty warm for dinner and drinks, still able to paint the town red and charm the locals with your sophisticated sense of style. My wife gets tons of compliments on it and says it’s quite timeless.
Covering the top of your head won’t be enough, you’ll need full-face coverage in the land of ice. A thick scarf is great for indoors, but it will be too bulky and impractical for the fierce Icelandic wind. A wool gaiter combines comfort and functionality because it’s tighter and less floppy than a scarf, staying in place so you can remain on-the-go. Iceland gets a bad rep for being unreasonably cold. It’s actually the wind that makes temperatures seem much colder than they are – so your main goal will be fighting that wind chill!
If you are traveling to Iceland between June and August, you will become acquainted with the famous Midnight Sun, which gives 24 hours of daylight. This natural phenomenon can make it very hard to fall asleep and stay asleep. Using a black-out mask at bedtime will help avoid confusing your body’s internal clock and keep you well-rested.
When the shopping is this stellar, it will inevitably happen! This “just in case” bag is the perfect solution for future shopping and gift purchases – it takes up virtually no space when empty, but will count as your carry-on item for the flight home.
Fitting neatly under your plane seat, it can store Icelandic treats like: Wool sweaters, handcrafted lava jewelry, artisan chocolates, mineral-rich sea salt, Silica mud skincare products from the thermal baths, sagas, Brennivín, alcohol, Viking beer, and more.
Because the climate in Iceland varies by region and by season, it is important to bring a variety of clothes that are suitable for any weather. Layers are the key! No matter what season you choose to visit, rain gear will be needed.
Despite its name, Iceland is more of solar country than polar and glaciers cover only certain parts. The Gulf Stream causes frequent weather shifts. You may even experience four seasons in one day! There’s a saying that undoubtedly applies to Iceland, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes!”
What should WOMEN wear in Iceland? – (Click to expand)
Below is a sample women’s clothing list. (All items link to Amazon.com for your convenience).
Women in Iceland keep it casual and cool, you won’t see many high heels. If you plan on spending more time in the city, find some fashionable sneakers or ankle boots that are comfortable enough for walking and nights out on the town. Year-round essentials include a warm jacket, long sleeve shirts, and skinny jeans paired with either short or tall boots. In the winter the temperatures can drop down so plan on wearing lots of layers, wool socks, a hat, scarf, and a down jacket. In the warmer months, you might still have some chilly days, so a cute dress with a scarf, leggings, and ankle boots is an excellent option.
What should MEN wear in Iceland? – (Click to expand)
Below is a sample men’s clothing list. (All items link to Amazon.com for your convenience).
Men’s fashion in Iceland is pretty straightforward. It’s casual, comfortable, and ready for the elements. No matter the season, jeans, boots and a long sleeve shirt or sweater paired with a jacket is the way to go. If you are traveling in the fall or winter, add some base layers to your outfit and pair with a down jacket. A hat is definitely an important item; make sure you bring at least one warm hat to protect your ears and head from the wind. You’ll want a scarf or neck warmer as well for an additional layer.
Packing for the Seasons in Iceland
Precipitation on the island peaks October to February, with the southern and western parts receiving the most rainfall. The north, east, and interior regions have colder winter temperatures but warmer summers and less snow and rain. You will quickly learn that Iceland’s most influential element is the wind; in fact, the Icelandic language has around 156 words to describe the wind!
SPRING – April, May
The spring is an excellent time for whale-watching and seeing migratory birds. Not only is spring a beautiful time to visit Iceland, but airfare is also a little cheaper due to it being a less-popular tourist season. There’s a little less rain, but Iceland is still a wet place so you’ll need your rain jacket and a windproof travel umbrella. Good waterproof hiking shoes are crucial, and quick-dry active fabrics are ideal.
Certain parts of the summer see 24 hours of daylight. Summer is the high-season for tourism in Iceland, so if you want to skip the crowds, consider traveling in the spring or fall. If you are set on visiting in this season, keep in mind you will need to book accommodations and your car rental months in advance and plan for higher prices.
WINTER – November, December, January, February, March
During the winter months, you can often find package deals that include flights and accommodations, but be aware that the country is not as easy to drive around, which may hinder your exploration. Many roads become closed in the winter, so driving in Iceland during this time is no joke.
You will want good waterproof pants and boots for this season, as moisture on your skin can quickly lead to extreme discomfort and even dangerous health conditions like frostbite or hypothermia. To help prevent this, you should also bring moisture-wicking scarves, good active leggings and shirts, and layers that can easily be added or removed to suit your comfort and to prevent sweating. Don’t forget a heavier convertible coat, good gloves, a winter hat or two, and wool socks galore! Temperatures average from 25°F to 35°F (-4°C to 2°C).
What NOT to Take to Iceland
1.DON’T BRING a hairdryer
Even with an adapter, a lot of powerful appliances will not be suitable for use in Iceland. Go for the air-dry option, or ask if your accommodations have one they can provide.
2.DON’T TAKE expensive jewelry
No matter where you travel, it is always best to leave expensive items behind. While Iceland is safe and theft is not much of an issue, items can always be lost or damaged.
3.DON’T PACK too much
Yes, you’ll need certain items without a doubt, but overpacking on clothes and personal items will leave you with a very heavy bag and a sore back.
4.DON’T BRING cash
Pretty much anywhere you go in Iceland will accept cards; there is no need to carry lots of cash. If you find yourself needing cash, there are plenty of ATMs available.
5.DON’T TAKE heavy items
Avoid bringing lots of books, electronics, appliances, etc. These will be a hassle through customs and if you plan on doing lots of walking around. Pack minimally and leave room for souvenirs.
6.DON’T PACK fancy clothing
Even outings in cities don’t require nice clothing, so save the room in your luggage. If you want to dress up, keep it simple using items you can wear on other days as well.
FAQs about traveling in Iceland
1. What is the best way to travel while in Iceland?
The absolute best way to see and experience Iceland is by car. Renting a car is an easy process, and it’s possible to experience the whole country by road, even on a fairly short trip.
The famous Ring Road is the main road that circles the entire island. It’s the best option for seeing the many geological sites and waterfalls.
If you want to experience more of Iceland, be aware you may need an off-road-capable vehicle to navigate the F roads.
Keep in mind that automatic cars are limited at car rental companies, so if you don’t know how to drive a manual, it is important to book your car further in advance to ensure you get a vehicle with an automatic transmission. That being said, you should book your car rental early anyway – even if you travel during the off-season – just to be safe. If you can drive a manual, you will save money on your rental, as manual cars are often far cheaper in price.
2. What is the time difference in Iceland?
Iceland is on GMT time and is 4 hours ahead of New York.
3. Is Iceland expensive?
YES. Iceland is the fourth most expensive country in the world. When planning your trip to Iceland, it is important to understand that it is a very expensive country to visit because the island is hard to get to and has very limited resources that don’t need to be imported.
From car rentals to gas, food and accommodations, you will be surprised at how much you will spend in Iceland. Meals range from $15-25 USD per meal and a pint of beer could set you back $20 USD!
Consider purchasing some items such as alcohol or snacks at the duty-free store at the airport when you arrive, otherwise you will be spending double once you are traveling around. You may also bring in your own snacks and alcohol, but be sure to follow the strict customs limits regarding these items.
4. Where can I buy alcohol in Iceland?
Alcohol that is stronger than 2.25% isn’t sold in grocery stores in Iceland. Instead, you can buy alcohol in the state-owned liquor stores called Vínbúdin. I highly suggest purchasing any alcohol or spirits at the duty-free store in the Keflavik airport when you arrive, as it will save you a lot of money. If you are traveling on a budget, you may be surprised to find that a casual drink at a local bar is not so casual. Beer and mixed drinks alike are very expensive.
5. How safe is Iceland?
Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world. Crime is almost nonexistent and there are no areas one must take care to avoid. The locals are extremely friendly and welcoming and are very used to tourists visiting their country.
The entire country of Iceland has a population of just 330,000 (comparable to the city of Santa Ana, CA), so there may be times on your travels when you won’t see another person for miles. In fact, there are more sheep than people on the island.
6. What is Icelandic food like?
As you might guess, Iceland’s most popular foods are fish-based. It’s an island, so fishing is a critical part of the country’s economy. You will see plenty of seafood delicacies, including the famed dried stockfish. This high-protein jerky-like snack used to be served in lieu of bread since grains were so hard to come by. Plokkfiskur is a fish stew that is quite tasty and shouldn’t be missed. Don’t forget to try the lamb, too! Sheep are the main livestock on the island, and Icelandic lamb is made in a variety of delicious ways. Root veggies are also common and are used in many dishes.
Some treats include:
Rúgbrauð: Icelandic rye bread. Sweet and traditional, this bread is dense and very tasty.
Pönnukökur: Icelandic pancakes! Similar to crepes, they’re thin and delicate, and often served with some sort of sugary filling.
Snúður: Sweet, rolled cinnamon bread often served with chocolate.
7. What is there to do around Iceland?
Iceland is a land of glaciers, geysers, waterfalls, hot springs, and lava beds. It is a country that can only be enjoyed and experienced outdoors.
Not only are there lots of sights to see, just driving around and experiencing the gorgeous scenery is an activity in itself! I was absolutely blown away by the beauty I found there, it seemed no matter where I went I was surrounded by amazing sights. Here are some of the top sights I recommend visiting:
Blue Lagoon– Iceland’s famous geothermal spa. It is not far from the Keflavik airport. Due to its increasing popularity, reservations are required. It is well worth the visit so make sure you book a spot in advance online.
Gulfoss– (Golden Falls) is one of Iceland’s most iconic and beloved waterfalls, found in the Hvítá river canyon in south Iceland. The water in the Hvítá river travels from the glacier Langjökull, before cascading 32 meters (105 feet) down. It is truly a beautiful sight to behold.
Kerid Crater– a volcanic crater lake located in the Grímsnes area in south Iceland, along the Golden Circle. You will see a small gravel parking lot off the main road, pull in and see the attendant to pay a small fee before walking to the viewpoints.
Jökulsárlón– a glacial lagoon bordering Vatnajökull National Park in southeastern Iceland. It’s beautiful, still, blue waters are dotted with icebergs from the surrounding Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier, part of larger Vatnajökull Glacier. The Glacier Lagoon flows through a short waterway into the Atlantic Ocean, leaving chunks of ice on a black sand beach. In winter, the fish-filled lagoon hosts hundreds of seals.
Geysir– a famous hot spring in the geothermal area of Haukadalur Valley, found in southern Iceland on the famous Golden Circle route. There are several geysers to see and you can follow the marked paths to view them all. If you are lucky you might even see one erupt! There is a restaurant and gift shop located across the street, a great place to grab a bite and pick up some Icelandic souvenirs.
Skógafoss– an amazing waterfall in southern Iceland found along the coastal route of the Ring Road. It has a drop of 60 meters and a width of 25 meters. You can walk right up to it, but be prepared to be drenched! On a day when the wind is blowing, your chances of being soaked are even higher. There is a staircase that you can take all the way to the top where a magnificent view awaits you.
Vatnajökull National Park– a protected wilderness area in southern Iceland centered around the Vatnajökull glacier. Defined by massive glaciers, ice caves, snowy mountain peaks, active geothermal areas, and rivers, the region includes Jökulsárlón, a glacial lagoon with icebergs, and the Svartifoss and Dettifosis waterfalls.
Húsavík– also known as the whale-watching capital of Iceland, this sleepy little fishing town has colorful houses, unique museums, and stunning views of snowcapped peaks across the bay. It is also an excellent location to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights!
8. What is the best time of year to visit Iceland?
Iceland’s tourist high-season is summer, which goes from June through August. Prices will be higher, reservations will need to be made earlier, and you’ll need to plan for a little more competition for views and resources at times.
The best off- and shoulder-season times are the months of April, May, September, and October. These months have slightly less forgiving weather (October may be a bit cold for some) but tourism is far lower and prices will be back to their already-high normal amounts. The fall months are especially beautiful, as long as you plan your wardrobe appropriately!
9. Is the water safe to drink?
Icelandic local water is perfectly safe, and you may actually be looked at askance if you head to the local market to stock up on bottled water. If you’re concerned, bring a filtered water bottle and carry it around with you to refill as needed. Some local water will have a slight sulfuric taste, which is natural and quite harmless.
10. Do I need to tip when paying for services?
It is not necessary to tip in Iceland. Most bills will already include the tip or gratuity, and tipping is not a custom on the island.
On the other hand, it is not considered rude to tip (especially since tourism has become a much bigger industry for the country), so leaving your change or a small amount of additional cash on the table for good service will always be appreciated.
11. What money is used in Iceland?
The króna (krónur when pluralized) is the currency of Iceland, abbreviated ISK. You may see it incorrectly written as IKR. Icelanders aren’t fond of carrying cash, and they prefer to be paid using credit or debit cards as well, so you shouldn’t need to carry around much cash at all.
Euros and USD are not generally accepted on the island – you’ll need to pay in local currency. Check exchange rates in the months before you leave and when finalizing your travel budget.