Country guide: Iceland

Walking the laugavegur trail in Iceland

Here’s a few tips for the bush-walker friends who wish to explore Iceland in a unique way, or a least away from marked trails.

This is thus NOT a touristic guide and the information you will find here is very broad. This article is for smart travelers and the goal is simply to help you get ready, that’s it. Once you are in the country, you’re an adventurer: figure it out yourself!

Iceland for adventurers in 6 key points (plus 2 bonus points)

Quick Summary:
– Hitchhiking: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) – Quite Doable
– General transportation: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5) – Most places get served
– Camping: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5) – Wild Camping is slightly restricted
– General cost: 0.5 out of 5 stars (0.5 / 5) – Extremely expensive country

1. Transportation in Iceland

Transportation in Iceland is pretty straight forward: there is ONE road going around the Island and that’s pretty much about it. On top of that, the road is narrow and doesn’t offer dedicated passing lanes.
Thanks to its surge in tourism, public transportation is rather well developed and you can reach almost any place, except during low season (October-March)

  • Hitchhiking in Iceland
    Hitchhiking in Iceland is easily doable provided you stay on the main road. Traffic decreases so much outside of road n#1 that the probability of being picked up is close to none. The second issue will be to resist whatever weather you’re facing while waiting to be picked up (rain, wind, snow). 
    ARTICLE: How to succeed at Hitchhiking.
  • Traveling by train in Iceland
    There is no train in Iceland
  • Traveling by bus in Iceland
    Traveling by bus in Iceland is doable but not great. The buses run from June to September at best and focus mostly on the south part of the Island. It is still your best bet if you don’t want to ruin yourself with renting a car, though remains quite expensive.
    A useful link is shared at the end of this article to help you visualize a map and the destinations of Icelandic buses
  • Traveling by car in Iceland
    Traveling Iceland by car remains the easiest solution, but also the most expensive. Major roads are paved, but a lot of them turn into dirt roads if you go too much inland. Roads are narrow and there are no dedicated passing lanes, so you have to overtake by driving in the opposite lane. Remember that 95% of gas stations are located on route n#1.
  • Traveling by bicycle in Iceland
    Traveling Iceland by bicycle seems like at tough option. As stated above, the roads are very narrow and the driving aggressive. On top of that, the weather tends to change all the time, though mostly windy and rainy. Look for solutions not involving route n#1.
  • Traveling by plane in Iceland
    If you want to reach the other side of Iceland, like Husavik, taking a plane might be your only option if you don’t feel like driving.

2. Food in Iceland

Iceland remains a developed country, so you’ll find supermarkets in most towns. But that’s it. Once again, as soon as you leave road n#1, your chances of finding a market are very slim.
Food is also quite expensive. So if you want to limit your sendings, bring some with you from your home country (check customs for what’s allowed) 

3. Water in Iceland

Cold tap water is drinkable in Iceland. But do NOT drink hot tap water or use it to cook/boil anything as it is directly pumped from volcanic springs.
Streams and rivers are everywhere in Iceland and water can be drank directly from it without filtering.

4. Sleeping / Camping in Iceland

As long as you are not on a private property or a natural reserve, you can camp anywhere in Iceland. Technically you should also be allowed to camp for a single night on private properties provided they are not cultivated land.

!To make sure this rule stays up in Iceland, be cool: don’t be a huge disgusting asshole who leaves trash behind and ruins the area!

For those who don’t like to camp, options are going to be rather limited. Not every town has hostels, so you’ll have to aim for hotels or BnB.

5. Locals / Communication in Iceland

The primary language in Iceland is Icelandic, though almost everyone can speak perfect English.

Cultural clash: Icelandic people can be as welcoming as they are reserved. Reykjavik aside, most of them live in towns of 3000 inhabitants or less.
Stop asking them if the website to see if the person they are dating is related to them is a true thing

6. Places to see in Iceland

If you like hiking in remote locations with potentially dangerous weather at every corner, Iceland is the place for you. Anywhere will do. The south part as lots to offer with all their Volcanic glaciers.

If you like to hit hot springs and see wales all while spending a lot of money, Iceland is also for you.

7. Useful links for Iceland

8. The author’s review of Iceland

Iceland is a beautiful, raw, country. Though it is also very dangerous because of it’s extreme weather that can hit you anytime.
Unfortunately it is also a very expensive country, so you better have very deep pockets if you want to see and do everything.


Warning!

When you travel, you are an ambassador to your country. So for all your fellow citizens, be nice: don’t behave like an asshole.
Don’t get mad, don’t complain of cultural difference, don’t complain at all, and don’t mock locals. Are you a traveler? An adventurer? Then adapt!

One comment on “Country guide: Iceland

  1. I would not really agree regarding biking in Iceland. It is true that the ring road around the island is not so pleasant to ride on, but if you have a mountain bike or a trek bike and ride on the 4×4 roads, that can be quite pleasant. You do need to be quite flexible and have time, as weather is changing really fast and can be harsh. Summer is definitely a better option. And you can carry take the bus with most bikes if needed. You need medium to good MTB skills if you want to ride single trails over there, there are quite some steep and volcanic areas. You would have to push the bike up in most places, and may have to push it down on some harder areas.

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