How to organize a trip to Iceland

How to organize a trip to Iceland

Advice and suggestions for best organizing your trip to Iceland

When I first thought about Iceland as a possible travel destination, I was in New Zealand, it was 2011 . Although I have never been a big fan of climbing and long walks in nature, New Zealand enveloped me in the marvelous nature that, for some reason, I imagined could be typical of Iceland. 

Even though I thought about it several times, the fear of the exaggerated costs scared me a little.
A complex and rather expensive destination, especially if you are traveling alone, it has always been set aside for practical and wallet-related reasons. 

You have no way out. Sleeping, petrol, eating out, in short, everything you need to survive comes at a high price. We know well that the more remote you go, the more exclusivity has a price and for my 37th birthday I decided that this country could represent a variation to the destinations that I have explored in recent years.

Iceland is an excellent destination for those who love adventure and self-drive, a dream for those who love camping. 
What I want to do in this post is instead to accompany you, or rather let me accompany you in planning this trip.

Everything is ready when…

Everything was ready, all that was missing was the backpack to prepare when I receive a call from home.
My father was ill, so I returned to Sicily to assist him during his hospital stay.
I canceled the departure, but my travel companion instead went and found a last minute replacement to take my place.
Even if not done firsthand, but carefully studied for about 1 month, the following is truthful and confirmed following the trip taken and concluded, with my directions from home.
I mean…I missed the fun part!

Travel guides and recommended books 

For this trip I bought the Routard Guide to Iceland , I hadn’t used these guides for a long time and I must say that I liked it very much. The guide was updated in 2016. First of all, I really appreciate recycled paper, and secondly, I was fascinated by the traveler spirit that animates the entire guide.
Small and compact, very well made. Purchased online for €16. Excellent base to start planning your trip. 

Season – What is the best time to travel to Iceland?

The season in which you will travel will also determine the travel itinerary you will follow. Although summer, even without the Aurora Borealis, is considered the best season, winter also has its pros. The answer therefore, as almost always, is that it depends on what you want to do and what the reason behind your journey is.

Iceland in Winter

If winter can be a wonderful season to visit Iceland, it is also true that in these months temperatures can drop to -30°C, particularly in northern Iceland, from December to February the coldest temperatures are reached.
The wind could then contribute to making it feel even colder. It shouldn’t necessarily be discarded as a period, but it’s a good idea to leave well equipped. The winter months, from September to April are the best for hunting the Northern Lights.

The downside of traveling in this season is the fact that it is almost always dark, it is very cold and the inland roads are closed.

The pro is instead a lower number of tourists, more accessible prices and the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights!

Iceland in Summer

June and July are the months of the midnight sun, which is incredible but could make the body feel the effects of this variation, it is essential to have a sleeping mask. In August the nights begin to get longer.

Many mountain roads are open during the three summer months , but from September to June they are closed, for those who want to do a lot off road.

Generally speaking, even in summer, to drive on the F-Roads you need a 4×4 ( it is however possible to drive on the F Roads ONLY if they are green on the website ). Temperatures generally hover between 15 and 5 degrees, the drawback of these months is the rain which can be quite frequent.

The downside of traveling in this season is the high number of tourists, the very high prices especially for hotels and B&Bs.

To avoid the hordes of tourists, given that the days are very long, particularly in the Golden Circle, the ideal would be to go early in the morning or in the evening, around 8/9pm.
The pro is that the internal roads are accessible and it is possible to drive off road (be careful of the fords!).

The Northern Lights

In Iceland it is possible to see the Northern Lights, provided there is total darkness and clear skies, 8 months out of 12, generally starting from August you can be lucky enough to see this wonderful show.
The reason why it is not seen in summer is the length of the long days which therefore decrease the hours of darkness making hunting more complex.
Generally the best months to go hunting for auroras are from September to March.  
The aurora lights tend to be quite active for 2 or 3 consecutive days, which is why it is recommended to stay in Iceland for at least 7 days.
To keep these events under control, I recommend checking the status of the authors on the official Aurora Service Forecast website . 

northern Lights

Car rental, van or camper rental and bus route organisation

After much searching I fell back on the rental company, or rather I should say rental broker, which I have relied on for years: Rentalcars .
We rented a 4×4 Suzuki Vitara 4×4 with full protection and second driver.

C ost: €1290 for 10 days.
On several occasions I have rented on this site using their full insurance and when we had to make a complaint everything was handled excellently and the refund occurred without any problem.

The choice fell on the 4×4 SUV starting from €1140 for 10 days which then, including full insurance and second driver, reached €1290 for the entire duration of the trip. If you opt for a non-4×4 SUV the costs drop significantly, in the image you see an SUV starting from €766.
I recommend not saving on insurance because you may need it especially when driving off road .

The choice is therefore yours, you can also opt for two-wheel drive keeping in mind that you cannot go off paved roads, therefore remaining on paved roads (Ring). An SUV already allows for a few more detours. A 4×4 makes you dare more towards the interior and mountain roads.

To request a two-wheel drive or 4×4 car quote click here .

If you plan to travel a lot of km, know that the 4×4 consumes a lot (ours did 10km per litre). It is advisable to rent a diesel 4×4 (fuel costs less) and manual (with manual gearbox that allows you to remove the 4×4 traction when not needed).

Alternatively you can rent campers , which on the one hand save money on accommodation, on the other they can be a bit of a limitation when it comes to unpaved roads.
While a valid alternative would be 4x4s with a tent on the roof or, in some cases, vans equipped as campers. 
To compare the prices of the main suppliers and choose your preferred vehicle click here

Remember that it is not possible to camp freely as the lands that may be thought of as free are private property and the risk of being sent away is high.
So, even if the idea seems wild and fun, in Iceland you can’t camp wherever you want but you have to do it on the campsite or where it’s allowed. 

To discover the best corners to park I recommend using the app: Park4Night

But above all, remember to always keep a full tank, sometimes you drive for hours without meeting a petrol station attendant!

Those who do not have a car can travel by bus, reach destinations of interest and from there take part in the tours.

Keep in mind that buses operate from June to mid-September, summer, while in other months the runs are reduced and many roads are closed.

The main companies are

Generally operating from May to October and connecting the main tourist areas. These companies offer travel vouchers that could save you something, so I recommend evaluating the different options and choosing the most convenient one. Some lines only operate in summer, so make sure you are purchasing tickets for routes during the available periods.

Below is a map of bus transport in Iceland,  click here for the official website and start planning your bus trip.

Iceland bus

What itinerary to follow in Iceland

This goes in second place because to choose where to sleep it is good to first of all know WHERE!
You can find a bit of everything online, so much so that I got confused by not realizing the size of the island and thus resorting to the good old method that clears up any doubts: I asked a person who I know lives there.
Basically the itineraries depend on the season in which you travel, the duration of the trip and also on the car you rent.
Generally speaking, for those who have a few days the Golden Circle is the best choice, for those who have 10 days then it is ideal to combine the Vesturland , the South and part of the East , for those who have more than 10 days then you can follow the entire Ring , driving around the entire region.

How to organize a trip to Iceland
Regions of Iceland by

Useful sites for planning a trip to Iceland

Iceland presents problems that I had never faced before. For example, the fact that some roads, those in the interior, are accessible mainly 2 months a year. Knowing in advance without taking anything for granted which roads we can take and which we can’t will help you plan your itinerary.
I remember that especially those who travel between the beginning of June and mid-June must absolutely keep the following sites under control:

Roads accessible or still closed (the news is in real time which means that unfortunately knowing in advance whether a particular road will be passable or not is not possible but it at least makes any last minute detours possible).

Weather – It is important to know what the weather will be like in order to organize your trip to Iceland, this site is updated and official.

Aurora Borealis – For those who fly to Iceland in search of auroras, this site indicates the auspicious times and places.

Map of Iceland – Navigators do not always have all the roads, so in this case the map of Iceland is necessary, there is only 1, to buy once you arrive. You can find it at petrol stations. It is essential not only for the roads but also because campsites and petrol stations are indicated. Cost €25.

Park4Night – Application that shows campsites, rest areas and car parks, ideal for those who camp or travel by camper or van.


Sleeping – Camping, Hostels, B&Bs, private apartments

We understood which itinerary to follow and now comes the sore point: accommodation. Personally, it’s been 7 years since I found a hostel with a room shared between 24 people at the shocking figure of €40 per night but life in Iceland is expensive and so is sleeping .

Among all, and as the first piece of advice, I invite you not to do what I did, save it for the last minute but rather plan everything well in advance to get nice accommodation at reasonable prices. On average, however, don’t expect to pay less than €35 for a bed in a 24-person dormitory, especially if you travel in high season.

They have all been tried: campsites, hostels and B&Bs. This part is probably the one that had the greatest impact on the final cost of the trip .
On average, around €90 per day was spent for two people to sleep (alternating the solutions). For more details on the itinerary and accommodation details read: Iceland travel itinerary (online soon).

iceland camping

Sites used to reserve hostels and B&Bs 

Hotels & B&B 

For these I recommend booking well in advance so as to find solutions that are not the most expensive. Costs are rarely less than €100/120 per night for a double room, breakfast is almost never included (starting from €8 per person, considering that a coffee at the bar costs €5!). The reference sites used are HotelsCombined , which compares different prices online, and .


An excellent solution, but still expensive, to amortize the costs if you are alone or even with two people. Beds in dormitories cost between €34 and €45 per night per person. Some do not include sheets and duvets, which is why it is best to bring a sleeping bag. The cost of sheets is around €8 (but this doesn’t always happen. To reserve the hostel online search on HostelWorld .


In truth, campsites are found almost everywhere, they are very basic and essential, some even ask to be paid to recharge the various devices (up to an outrageous €9). One night camping per person costs around €20 per person.
For those who plan to camp all the time, a good solution could be the Camping Card . The card costs €149 per person and allows you to camp in all campsites participating in the project. Is it worth it or not? If you only camp, definitely yes. 

camping card iceland

Regarding campsites, an average night costs between 1200 and 2000 Icelandic crowns per person, an average of 1500. this cost includes the lawn, use of bathroom but not shower which is subject to payment (400/500 crowns), a kitchen but It’s not always there, so it’s worth considering a travel stove .
If you need to top up your mobile phones, this also comes at a cost, starting from 100 crowns up to 1000 in Landamalugar.

It is essential that camping equipment is windproof , that the sleeping bag is suitable for temperatures of 0-5 degrees, and that it is a mattress so as not to sleep on the ground, otherwise you risk freezing to death.

Activities and tours in Iceland

The beauty of Iceland is that practically everything is free but perhaps you want to add travel experiences that will make it even more special. For example, in Iceland the chances of seeing whales are quite high and this is true all year round.

For some additional and special tour ideas I recommend considering the following:

Whale Watching Tour – From €80 per person.
Snorkeling in Silfra – From €190 per person
Langjokull Glacier Ice Cave Tour From €210 per person
Landmannalaugur hiking From €95 per person
Boat Tour in Glacier Lake Jokulsarlon From €254 per person Flight plane over the volcanic craters From €500 per person Rafting From €100 per person 

It’s easy to understand what a substantial budget is needed, but I believe that one of these experiences is worth having. Especially if we’re talking about a trip that not everyone will do a second time. Ideal for alternating self-drive and fun activities in the spectacular nature of Iceland.

But if everything has a cost, in Iceland there is also something very pleasant that is often free or in any case costs as much as a coffee: the Hot pools!
They are everywhere, there are natural ones and artificial ones. The natural ones are free but sometimes require a bit of trekking, the artificial ones are paid and the cost is between 500 and 1000 Icelandic crowns, except the two most beautiful and organised, Blue Lagoon and Myvatn (5000/6000 crowns) .

For those who want to go to the Blue Lagoon , which generally takes place on the day of departure since the flights are in the evening, it is advisable to reserve a few days in advance . Places are limited, so don’t assume that everyone who shows up will get in.

Hot pools iceland
Hot pools Iceland – Photo by

Clothing for a trip to Iceland

For someone who runs away at the first hint of cold, it immediately follows that the choice to go to Iceland placed me faced with an unexpected and unforeseen expense. The clothing.

Thinking of going with summer clothes despite the fact that in mid-May it already reaches 28 degrees here is not possible, so I had to think, in my total ignorance, of suitable clothing for what is still defined as the country of the 4 seasons. In the best case scenario, however, they tell me that it does not exceed 20 degrees. The shopping for this trip had also been done and so my backpack was ready to contain the following things:

How much does it cost to travel to Iceland 

As much as we try to keep costs low, Iceland is a country that even sleeping in campsites or hostels requires a rather substantial budget. Generally speaking, between petrol, 4×4, accommodation (B&B, hostels and campsites), eating, trying to keep costs as low as possible, if you are traveling with two people, in general the costs per person per day are around 120 /€140 per day . If you add tours and some dinners at restaurants (these costs are considered by cooking yourself and shopping at the supermarket), around €150/170 per day per person.

Withdrawing cash is not convenient. Everyone, even the campsites, accept credit card payments , Visa and Mastercard more or less everywhere, Amex less so. So no problem if you are short of cash, but I highly recommend always traveling with cards ideal for travelers with low withdrawal fees, reloadable and free in the basic version. 

For those who camp or travel in a hostel and don’t want to eat in a restaurant in the evening, given the costs, there are supermarkets in the cities where it is advisable to stock up for the trip. The cheapest is the BONUS , loco with a little pig. In principle this is found in all the main cities, in the smaller ones even if not the bonus you can always find a supermarket.
Supermarkets are also authorized to sell light alcohol, up to 2.5 degrees. There are special shops for alcohol.


Traveling Solo in Iceland – How to Get the Best and Don’t Spend a Fortune

Self-drive travel costs could be very high if you travel alone, but this does not mean that solo travelers should give up this experience.

In fact, there are alternative solutions to self-drive that are worth taking into consideration. 
I have therefore considered three different valid options that best optimize time and costs. 

Option A – At the hostel, look for someone to share travel costs with 

It is a method that has its pros on one side but cons on the other.

Hostels always have noticeboards in the common areas where they are looking for travel companions .

On the other hand, perhaps you have already reserved your place to stay and therefore you are tied to reservations, which is a good idea to make well in advance especially if you are traveling in high season, and therefore the times may not coincide. 

This is the X factor, or the risk of not finding someone within the first 48 hours.
And given that waiting for travel companions in Iceland could be expensive, you risk spending €70 a day waiting to find someone who may not arrive.
In this case, I wouldn’t waste time and move forward. 
For example, you could wait to find travel companions and in the meantime you could take part in day tours.
An excellent reference forum is Lonely Planet’s ThornTree .
For a list of tours and costs click here .

Option B – Be based in three main destinations and take part in group tours

Certainly taking part in a group tour cushions the costs but makes you lose the pleasure of self-drive. 
But having to make a virtue of necessity once there, at least it’s time not to waste time feeling sorry for yourself but instead to make the most of your stay.

The costs of the tours, depending on the one you choose, vary between 80 and 250 euros per day .

For example, a 5-day tour which also includes a whale watching tour, private double rooms, starts from €800 per person, but it is possible to choose your own tours and then return to the hostel in the evening.

To book daily tours I recommend taking a look at the websites Viator Iceland , Getyourguide and Civitatis

Public transport is not very cheap but it still pays off if you travel alone.
The main companies are

It will require some time but this way of moving, although limiting on the one hand, if combined with tours , can prove to be the winning solution! At this point, if you opt for this option, the ideal is to take part in daily tours that can take you to discover the wonders of this country.

Option C – Group travel

This is a third valid option that combines the traveling trip, optimizes times and amortizes costs.
Group tours are offered starting from 5 days at absolutely affordable costs which allow you to discover areas that are not accessible without your own transport and therefore, as they say where I come from, have your cake and eat it!

Porto: Guide to areas with hotels, Airbnbs and hostels

How to organize a safari in Kenya

How to get to the San Blas Islands from Panama City

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *