17 Top Iceland Packing List Items + What to Wear & NOT to Bring (2018)

Updated on July 11, 2018 by Asher Fergusson

What should I bring on my Iceland trip?

Iceland is commonly referred to as the “land of fire and ice” and for good reason! It is a country of extremes, with glaciers and several active volcanos located next to each other. Iceland has a rugged landscape with Sulphur beds, hot springs, lava fields, geysers, waterfalls and canyons throughout it.

The country is not covered entirely in ice – it actually has a variety of landscapes. This makes planning what to wear in Iceland a bit challenging. The lists and FAQs below will certainly help you determine what to pack, what NOT to bring, and how to plan your trip!

1) Iceland Power Adapter – Iceland’s electrical outlets require 220 volts, 50Hz and electric devices in the country use the Europe style plug, which has two round prongs. It is important to keep in mind the voltage of the items you will be bringing – you do not want to bring high power appliances such as hairdryers. Check the voltage on any items you plan on bringing. I recommend this world adapter that you can use in over 100 countries.
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2) Travel Backpack – Skip the rolling luggage when traveling to Iceland, using a travel backpack such as Osprey’s Farpoint 40 is an excellent alternative to traditional bulky bags. You will find that by using a travel backpack it will be easier to move from one location to another and you won’t have to fight for trunk space if you are renting a car. The accessibility of this bag makes it easy to quickly grab the items you need and it carry-on size which can help you avoid additional airline fees!
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3) Iceland Travel Guide – A travel guide is Iceland is a great resource while traveling! I found this guide by Lonely Planet to be especially helpful because of the maps it includes. It is an essential if you want to explore Iceland on your own and skip the guided tours. Lonely Planet also has a Ring Road book that is an excellent resource when traveling by car in Iceland.
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4) USB Car Charger -Since the best way to explore Iceland is by car you most likely will be spending a lot of time in a rental car. Luckily the cars in Iceland have cigarette lighter plugs for charging devices. If you are planning to be doing any long hiking trips I would recommend bringing a portable solar powered charger
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5) Virtual Private Network (VPN) – A VPN is an essential for any travel. A strong VPN (like NordVPN ) provides you with an added layer of security so all your sensitive data such as passwords, credit card information and more is protected from being hacked. It is important to use when you are on public WiFi networks.
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6) Travel Insurance for Iceland – – Travel insurance is one of those things you don’t really think about until you’re in a situation where you need it. It is really important to have; you wouldn’t drive a car without insurance, right? World Nomads is an excellent choice for travel insurance, not only will they cover your costs if your luggage gets lost or stolen, they also cover flight cancellations and medical expenses if you become injured while traveling. Their insurance is extremely flexible and they cover over 150 activities which is why it is essential for Iceland travel.
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7) Water Bottle – Iceland has some of the cleanest and purest drinking water you will find in the world. Skip buying bottled water and bring your own water bottle! The water is so clean you can drink out of any tap! In fact, if you do buy bottled water you are buying tap water! Drinking bottled water screams “tourist”. You may smell traces of sulfur but rest assured it is completely normal.
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8) Swimsuit – If you are traveling to Iceland then you will no doubt take a dip in one of the many “hot pots” or geothermal hot springs located throughout the country. The famous Blue Lagoon is an absolute must! Remember to book your slot beforehand online, if you simply show up you will be turned away.Try to avoid bringing a swimsuit with metal, the Sulphur will cause damage to any metal parts.
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9) Quick-dry towel – This is an absolute essential when traveling. A quick-dry towel is light, easy to pack and conveniently portable. This is an item you want to bring; it can help you avoid towel rental fees at hotels, hostels and hot springs.
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10) Multi-Layered Jacket – 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 trekking shoes is a good idea even if you are just walking about Reykjavik. A good pair of shoes can make or break your trip! Make sure the shoes you bring are water resistant as it rains a lot.
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11)Comfortable shoes Men’s and Women’s – 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 trekking shoes is a good idea even if you are just walking about Reykjavik. A good pair of shoes can make or break your trip! Make sure the shoes you bring are water resistant as it rains a lot.
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12) Sunglasses – The sun shines in the summer as well as the winter so it is important to have a pair of shades to protect your eyes. Sunglasses are especially important when driving. Gas stations in Iceland will always sell sunglasses but keep in mind you may spend double so it might be an item to bring ahead of time.
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13) Camera gear – If you haven’t invested in any camera gear yet this would be the time. Not only is Iceland stunningly beautiful, it is a photographer’s dream! Ideally a DSLR would be the best option but if a digital camera is out of your price range considering bringing a GoPro or phone that can take high-resolution photos. Even with a standard camera phone Iceland’s beauty does not disappoint, from colorful sunsets to cascading waterfalls you are sure to capture some amazing shots.
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14) Warm hat or headband – 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 beforehand, head to the Icewear store in Reykjavik once you arrive and buy your hats there! They have a wide selection for men and women and you can return home with a souvenir you’ll use.
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15) Sunscreen – This is one of those items that most people don’t even consider when traveling but I have found it to be a staple. Iceland gets sun year-round and the sun can be quite strong, especially if you are out exploring on the glaciers. I really like this sunscreen by COOLA, it moisturizers and protects your skin from the suns rays.
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16) Sleep Mask – 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, making it harder to fall asleep. Using a mask while you sleep will help avoid confusion by your body’s internal clock.
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17) Jet Lag Relief – There is nothing worse than getting of the plane in a new country and being exhausted. You are there to explore and take in the scenery and being tired and groggy takes away from the experience! Try taking jet lag relief supplements, they relieve tiredness and fatigue and leave you feeling awake and refreshed! These are especially important if you will be renting a car in Iceland because the car rental company will be your first stop!
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Other items to consider

What to Wear in Iceland

Because the climate in Iceland varies from region to region as well as seasons it is important to bring a variety of clothes that are suitable for any weather.

Although Iceland has four seasons, the weather is constantly changing. The key is to bring layers! Whether touring the city of Reykjavik or hiking in the countryside you want to put comfort before style. You won’t feel out of place if you don’t dress fancy in Iceland, it is a country that should be enjoyed outdoors, so keep this in mind when choosing outfits to bring.

What should WOMEN wear in Iceland? – (Click to expand)

Women in Iceland keep it casual and cool, you won’t see many high heels but boots are a must. 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 shirtsand skinny jeans paired with boots. In the winter the temperatures can drop down so plan on wearing lots of layers, wool socks, a hat, scarf and 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)

Men’s fashion in Iceland is pretty straightforward, it is casual, comfortable and ready for the elements. No matter the season, comfortable 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, you won’t regret it! 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. Consider bring a scarf or neck warmer as well, its an added layer that can make all the difference.

Despite its name, Iceland is more of solar country than polar and glaciers cover only certain parts. Because of its location, the Gulf Stream brings mild Atlantic air in contact with the colder Arctic air, which results in abrupt shifts in weather. You may even experience four seasons in one day! As the joke goes, if you don’t like Icelandic weather, just wait 5 minutes. Because of these rapid weather shifts it is important to be well prepared when planning your trip to Iceland.

Iceland doesn’t exactly have a rainy season but precipitation does peak October to February, with the southern and western parts of the country receiving the most rainfall. The North, East and Interior parts 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 The Icelandic spring arrives in April and goes through May, with temperatures anywhere between 1-10°C. The spring is an excellent time for whale watching and seeing migratory birds.Not only is spring a beautiful time to visit Iceland, airfare is a little cheaper.

SUMMER The summer officially begins in June and gets the added bonus of 24 hours of daylight thanks to the Midnight Sun. Temperatures can range from 6-13°C. 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 the summer keep in mind you will need to book accommodations and your car rental months in advance.

FALL Autumn begins Iceland’s off-season, there are fewer tourists and the landscape is marked with vivid color changes in the local vegetation. The fall begins in September and at the beginning of the month there will be sunny days with highs around 10°C and lows around 5°C. October sees the most rain and temps begin to drop further, with averages ranging from 2.2-6.8°C. September is also when the Northern Lights start making their appearance, if you are wanting to chase the lights head north to Húsavík. Fall is a great time to visit Iceland, many of the summer tourists have left, accommodations are easier to find and it is absolutely beautiful.

WINTER By November, winter has arrived, with temperatures ranging from 3.4 to -1.3°C and snow beginning to cover many areas. During the winter months you can often find package deals that include flight and accommodations but be aware that the country is not as easy to drive around. Many roads become closed in the winter and driving in Iceland during this time is no joke.

What NOT to bring 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. Hair dryers are bulky and you risk causing damage to electrical circuits.

2) DON’T OVERPACK: You might be surprised to find that you may not even go through all the clothes you packed for your trip. Pack the essentials and leave room for souvenirs, better yet skip packing some sweaters and opt for buying some in Iceland at the Icewear store in Reykjavik! Iceland is a country where you will be enjoying nature more than anything so skip packing fancy clothes.

3) DON’T BRING CASH: Pretty much anywhere you go in Iceland they will accept cards; there is no need to carry lots of cash. If you find yourself needing cash, there are plenty of ATMS available.

4) DON’T BRING FANCY CLOTHES: You want need fancy or high-end clothes while visiting Iceland. Most of the sites are outdoors and you want to be dressed comfortably and wear clothes that are made for the elements. Remember the key is to dress in layersas the weather can take an unexpected turn.

5) DON’T BRING EXPENSIVE JEWELERY: No matter where you travel, it is always best to leave expensive items, including jewelry, behind. While Iceland is extremely safe and theft is not an issue, items can always be lost.

6) DON’T BRING HEAVY ITEMS: Avoid bringing lots of books, electronics, appliances etc. These will only be a hassle as you go through customs and especially if you plan on doing lots of walking around. Try to pack minimally and leave room for souvenirs.

FAQs about traveling in Iceland:

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 is possible to circle the whole country, depending how long you stay. The famous Ring Road is the main road that circles the entire country and a great option for see the many geological sites and waterfalls. If you want to experience more of the inland be aware you may need an off road 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 an automatic. That being said, you should book your car rental early regardless 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.

What is the time difference in Iceland?

Iceland is on GMT time and is 4 hours ahead of New York.

How expensive is Iceland?

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. 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.

What is there to do?

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, making it an excellent stop when you first arrive or before you depart. Due to its increasing popularity reservations are required. It is well worth the visit so make sure you book a spot in advance online. There are different time slots and they often fill up quickly so make sure you keep this in mind when planning your trip.
  • 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 Hvítá river travels from the glacier Langjökull, before cascading 32 metre (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. Its 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 South Iceland on the famous Golden Circle route. There are several geyers 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, and you can walk right up to, but be prepared to be drenched! On a day where the wind is blowing your chances of being soaked are even more likely! 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!

How safe is Iceland?

Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world. Crime is almost nonexistent and there are no areas one should avoid. The locals are extremely friendly and welcoming and are very use to tourists visiting their country. Iceland only has a population of 330,000 and there may be times on your travels you won’t see another person for miles, in fact there are more sheep than people on the island.

Where can I buy alcohol?

Alcohol that is stronger than 2.25% isn’t sold in the grocery stores in Iceland; instead you can buy alcohol in the state-owned liquor stores named Vínbúdin. I highly suggest purchasing any alcohol or spirits at the duty free store in the Keflavik airport when you arrive, 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.

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Author: Nicole Crites

Nicole Crites is a freelance travel writer based in Hood River, Oregon.

Her passion for international travel and learning new languages has taken her all of the world. She spent a year in Brazil as a foreign exchange student in high school and studied International Relations & Business in college. She currently works in finance for the action sports company Dakine.