Packing for Iceland
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Visiting Iceland for a stopover or a week long vacation? Lucky you! Iceland is gorgeous with beautiful waterfalls, stunning volcanic scenery, and windswept beaches. Here is a packing list that will keep you comfortable when visiting this beautiful island.
Read on to see our Iceland packing tips for men and women. At the end you will also find my favorite must-see sights in Iceland and tips for saving money on food and lodgings.
Iceland Packing List for Women
Whether visiting Iceland in spring, summer or fall, chances are you will want a warm jacket. My first visit to Iceland was in August and we were lucky to arrive during a sunny heat wave. I still wore my down coat much of the time.
If Iceland is your stopover to Europe or the USA, you might want a warm but lightweight coat that can be easily packed in your luggage when you reach warmer latitudes. Check out these options:
• This flattering plus size down jacket nips in at the waist and packs into a small bag. It comes in regular sizes as well.
• This REI down jacket does a great job of blocking the wind and packs into its own left pocket.
• The North Face Thermoball is a popular lightweight down jacket that also folds into one of the pockets. It comes in many colors.
Iceland can be windy and wet, a water- and wind-proof shell is a great idea.
• This windproof rain jacket has a large hood and is great for hiking
• This cute colorful raincoat is waterproof and packable
• If you are continuing on to a city trip this raincoat is stylish and comes with reflective strips
You can layer them over a warm fleece sweater like these below.
If you are visiting Iceland in spring or autumn you will probably be glad to have a warm hat and gloves. My last visit was at the end of September and the winds were bitterly cold. I was very happy to have my wool hat when walking on the trails. A scarf would be a good idea too. And you’ll definitely need them in the winter months.
My favorite pants for hiking are leggings. I look for sturdy fabric and construction to avoid snags from bushes or abrasions from rocks. You might prefer to wear jeans or trousers. I’d recommend looking for something that can resist water or dry quickly. Here are some I like for hiking:
• Slip your smart phone into the hip pocket of these terrific leggings, or these in plus sizes.
• These lightweight hiking pants will dry quickly and pack easily
• These leggings are abrasion resistant and offer sun protection
Waterproof hiking boots or shoes are a must for sightseeing in Iceland, unless you won’t be walking on any trails. if you will be combining your Iceland visit with city trips then try to find shoes that can double for hiking as well as city streets. Here are some options:
Do you plan to stop at the Blue Lagoon or other thermal pools? Then be sure to bring a swimsuit. It might also be a good idea to bring flip flops and maybe a waterproof camera.
You also may want to pack a casual outfit for dinners out where you don’t feel like donning your hiking clothes. Iceland is typically quite casual, but you might want an additional pair of shoes other than your hiking boots.
Iceland Packing List for Men
Especially if you are traveling to Iceland in the spring or fall you will want to have layers to wear on their own or combine them to stay warm and dry. Here are a few jackets that might do the trick.
• Patagonia Torrentshell Jacket is a lightweight, breathable rain shell with a hood. It comes in a variety of colors.
• North Face Arrowood Triclimate is three jackets in one. It comes with a removable thin fleece jacket inside that you can wear on its own or layer with the raincoat. It also comes in sizes from Small to XXXL.
• Patagonia Nano Puff jacket is a popular down jacket that will keep you warm but is still lightweight and packs small to fit in your bag.
A fleece sweater is always a good idea to keep you cozy on the trail. Check out these options:
• Patagonia Better Sweater: A stylish sweater knit exterior and soft fleece inside to keep you warm and comfortable. It also comes in vest form.
• The North Face makes this cozy full zip fleece jacket that comes in a variety of colors.
• Big and tall men might appreciate the IZOD Performance Pullover sweater. It comes in many colors – I like the colorblocked versions.
In the autumn and spring you might be glad to have a warm wool hat and gloves on those windy chilly days. I’d bring them along just in case.
If you’ll be combining your trip to Iceland with cities in Europe or the USA then you might want to bring clothing that can do double duty on the trails and museums. These Brion pants from Prana are water resistant, durable and fashionable. They also have stretch for comfort and come in a variety of colors. In colder weather you can layer thermal underwear underneath.
Hiking boots or shoes will come in handy if you plan to hike any trails in Iceland. You might have rainy weather as well so waterproof shoes are a good idea. Here are a few options for boots and shoes.
• Hi-Tec Altitude Lite: This company makes great hiking boots that are inexpensive, perfect for people who only hike occasionally. These are waterproof and comfortable.
• Oboz Big Sky: Prefer the easy on and off access of slip on shoes? Check out these waterproof hiking shoes. They also come in boot form for more warmth and protection from the elements.
• Do you like to stay light on your feet? These Salomon Waterproof Trail Runners will be grippy enough for hiking but without the bulk of a boot. They are great for a vacation that combines hiking with city trips.
Iceland is quite casual but you might want something other than hiking gear for dinners out. Maybe pack one button down shirt or something a bit less casual for restaurants.
Will you visit thermal pools like the Blue Lagoon? Pack your swimsuit and flip flops. You might want a waterproof camera too.
Electronics and Accessories for Iceland
You should definitely bring a day pack to carry things like your camera, binoculars and snacks. This backpack folds up very small to fit in your luggage and comes in several colors.
Iceland uses the typical European plugs, so bring your adapter if you need it. Don’t have one already? Here is a colorful one that has four different plug options or here is another one that includes USB plugs.
You will want your camera to capture the beauty of Iceland’s waterfalls, black sand beaches and geysers. Make sure to bring extra SD memory cards and fully charged batteries. You might also want an external drive like this one to store photos.
You might also want to pack binoculars if you are going to see the puffins or go whale watching. Here are some lightweight options that pack down small:
Iceland’s tap water is clean and delicious, so bring a refillable water bottle while sightseeing and hiking.
Must-See Places in Iceland
If you only have a day in Iceland, I recommend doing a Circle Tour. You can rent a car and do it on your own, but it may be more cost effective to go on a group tour. Even if you are visiting for a few days it can be easiest to book daily tours rather than rent a car yourself.
Here are some sights and tours I recommend:
- Take a full day Golden Circle Tour that brings you to some of Iceland’s most beautiful natural sites. Travel by bus with a local guide to Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, and the Geysir area.
- Take a full day tour of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. See the Snæfellsjökull glacier, walk on the black sand beaches, visit a charming fishing village and go to the mountain of Kirkjufell.
- Go snorkeling in the crystal clear, chilly waters of the Silfra lava fissure between the American and European tectonic plates.
- Visit the famous Blue Lagoon thermal baths. Be sure to book your tickets in advance as this does sell out in high season.
- Check out some other thermal baths like the Secret Lagoon. Get your tickets in advance here.
- Go on a full day tour of the South Coast of Iceland. Visit Seljalandsfoss waterfall and Skógar waterfall plus the black sand beach at Reynisfjara and the charming coastal village of Vík.
- Explore inside a lava tunnel. Scramble through the prehistoric subterranean labyrinth with a guide.
- Head out from Reykjavik at night to find the Northern Lights!
Tips for Saving Money in Iceland
Iceland can be quite an expensive place to visit due to the high prices of lodgings and dining out.
If you are looking to save some cash I recommend visiting the grocery store when you arrive to stock up on snacks. These can be great to have with you on sightseeing days as well as in your hotel room.
Check the map for the nearest grocery store, common store brands are Bonus and Kronan. The Iceland brand shops are also open 24/7. A few snacks I really liked include the skyr yogurt (the isey blueberry is my fave) and Corny granola bars in chocolate banana and peanut flavors. You might also want to try the flatkökur (flatbread) which you can top with herbed cream cheese or hummus.
You can also book accommodations with a kitchen and cook your own meals to save cash. Here are some accommodations in Reykjavik with kitchen facilities.
- Freyja Guesthouse & Suites are highly rated and have free bikes to use to get around Reykjavik. There is a common kitchen and they serve breakfast and have coffee and snacks all day. Check prices here.
- City Comfort Apartments are located in the city center near the famous church. All units have balconies and kitchens. Click here for availability.
- If you are looking for a budget place to stay, check out Kex Hostel. The property is an old biscuit factory and has its own bar and restaurant as well as shared kitchens on every floor. Check out room options here.
- You can stay your first or last night near the airport if, like me, you have an extremely early or late flight. I recommend Alex Guesthouse. They have simple rooms with shared bathrooms and sweet little cabins (pictured above). There is also a shared kitchen and free breakfast. It is right next to Keflavik International Airport and they’ll pick you up and drop you off for free.
Be sure to book your stay in Iceland in advance, as in the high season it tends to be very full. You can compare prices for hotels across booking engines with HotelsCombined.
Have fun in Iceland! It’s such a magical place.
Are you visiting Iceland on a cruise? Be sure to check out these 10 handy items you should consider packing for your cruise. You might not have considered them!
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