It’s an ever trending destination and a quick Instagram search will show you why there has been a real fascination with Iceland in the last few years. It’s the smooth glaciers and bursting geysers, the waterfalls with the long names nobody can pronounce, the famous blue lagoon and of course, the Northern Lights.

Witnessing Iceland’s vast nature is like walking through Windows screensavers, there’s nothing quite like it. And because the country is a beast of nature with unpredictable weather, there’s a couple of things to know before going. So, the Travelettes have got your back. Here’s all that first-time travellers to Iceland should know.

Wrap Up

No matter the season, the weather’s bound to be chilly, to say the least, and it can change drastically. I had gone in October, a high season for the Northern Lights, and relatively mild cold-wise. Let me tell you, even under my five layers, I still felt the cold in places I didn’t know I could and that sharp wind mixed with rain hit my face hard washing down mascaras and eyeliners. So, ladies opt for waterproof make-up and bundle up. Thermals and waterproof/windproof jackets, trousers and shoes are a must. Even if it’s a day of sunshine and rainbows, you’ll want to get close to that majestic waterfall and chances are you’ll get wet, so go prepared.

Forget about Northern Lights tours

northern lights iceland

Chasing the dreamy green and purple Aurora in the sky is possibly the most popular activity and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There are a dozen tours promising to catch the Northern Lights but the truth is as it’s a natural phenomenon all you need is a dark, clear sky with no clouds or rain. When they’re out, they can be seen from anywhere be it the centre of Reykjavik or the middle of nowhere, so save your much-needed dollars and just look up. There are even apps you can download to check the probability of the Lights appearing.

Save $$ where you can

hot dogs in iceland

There’s no doubt that Iceland is expensive and you should definitely be ready for some ridiculously high prices. That said, there are ways not to spend so much if you’re a bit prepared. Take tea and coffee with you, limit unnecessary buys like alcohol and souvenirs, munch on street-sold hot dogs and refill your water bottle – no matter how smelly the water is.

Traditional dishes are…unique

Unique is just another way of saying strange but when in Rome, you’ve simply got to get a taste of the local cuisine. There are a lot of fish-based meals which is expected as Iceland’s in the middle of the ocean. Some of them are tasty and heart-warming and others are simply bonkers. I definitely never thought I’d be eating fermented shark, hakarl is its name, and yes, it’s as strange as it sounds. It’s served with a shot of Brennivín liquor that helps wash down the smell and the taste. This cured shark dish is extremely popular and it took even known chefs like Antony Bourdain, Gordon Ramsay and Andrew Zimmern by surprise. You’ve been warned.

You’ll see nature like no other

lava field iceland

The landscapes you see in Iceland are mind-blowing and breath-taking and as cheesy as it sounds, there are no adequate adjectives that come close to describing them. The views vary from green-dressed hills to dark lava rocks, black sand beaches and icy caves near volcanoes. A trip there will really show you the power and beauty of nature and how gorgeous untouched earth can be, so camera-ready or not take, in the sights.

Get a tour guide

Iceland’s a country bursting with cool facts and geographical phenomena and it would be a shame not to discover them. Get a tour guide who will know their way around and will drive you from location to location whilst blurring out interesting stories. And it’s not just about the cool information. Driving in Iceland can be tricky with its harsh weather conditions and long distances. Empty land goes on for miles with no gas station or restaurant in sight, so being prepared is key. A tour guide will be able to relieve that stress while you take in the views. Travelling with Ryan, from Hidden Iceland was like hanging out with a human encyclopedia. His tours and random knowledge couldn’t come more highly recommended.

Don’t call Icelandic horses ponies

icelandic horses

Although small and pony-sized, these animals with a gorgeous head of hair are to be called horses and Icelanders are very proud of them. According to my tour guide, Ryan, the horses shrank over the years to survive the cold and be closer to the ground to eat. Their petite frame helps them balance and walk in the uneven hard soil that exists due to the volcanic rocks and ash. Those stunning locks of hair grew to help them withstand polar temperatures. Driving along, you’ll most likely find them roaming around fields and although they’re described as temperamental with a colourful personality, you can pet them if you’re gentle. More so if you’re feeding them.

General tips

Iceland has a 2-pin plug so don’t forget your adaptor. You’ll certainly want to charge your camera. No visa is needed for EU members and those with a Schengen visa can stay for up to 90 days. As nature prevails in the country, it’s no surprise that there are more sheep than people in Iceland and even more surprisingly, black sheep aren’t the odd ones out here. It actually may be the opposite as there are hundreds of black sheep roaming free.

As much as you’ll want to enjoy the thermal pools, be aware that they are no friends to your hair. Even after 2 showers, your hair will feel dry and crispy, conditioner will be your best buddy. And lastly, throughout most of the year, the days are short and there’s lots to do so be sure to head out early.

iceland mountains