Iceland is a European island country located midway between North America and mainland Europe. It lies just below the Arctic Circle between 64 and 66 degrees north. The capital is Reykjavik. It is the northernmost capital in the world and is located exactly halfway between New York and Moscow.
There are several daily non-stop flights to Iceland from North America and Europe. Flights land at Iceland’s Keflavik International Airport (48 km or 30 miles southwest from Reykjavik). Our short trips are perfect for those who want to take advantage of a free Icelandair stopover when traveling between North America and Europe. For more information, check out the Icelandair Web site.
Iceland is 103,000 square km or 40,000 sq mi. It’s about one-quarter larger than Ireland or about the size of the state of Ohio. The population is 320,000. Two out of three Icelanders live in the greater Reykjavik area. One third live in coastal areas around the island. The central highlands are uninhabited. The biggest city outside of the Reykjavik metropolitan area is Akureyri which is located in the north and has 17,000 inhabitants.
The winters in Iceland are fairly mild thanks to the Gulf Stream. In Reykjavik, it’s just as likely to rain as it is to snow. However, it’s often windy and the weather is very changeable. The average temperature in January, the coldest month, is 0 C (32 F). Summers are cool with an average temperature of 12 C (54 F) in July. It rarely gets hot and it can be rainy and windy. The record heat recorded in Reykjavik is 26 C (78 F).
There are big differences between winter and summer daylight hours. From May to August, you won’t see much darkness. Conversely, in mid-winter, expect only about four to five hours of daylight each day. Spring and fall daylight hours are roughly the same as in Europe and North America.
No matter what time of year you plan to visit Iceland, always pack some warm and water-resistant clothes and good walking shoes. The weather can change quickly anytime of the year. During the summer months, bring some light clothing along with fleece and rain gear. Don’t forget to bring your swimsuit. Iceland has an abundance of outdoor geothermal pools that are open year-round and have an average water temperature of 26 C (78 F).
Swimming is very popular year-round in Iceland. The Reykjavik area has more than 10 high-quality outdoor swimming pools and there are outdoor swimming pools in most towns and villages around Iceland. The pools are filled with water from natural hot springs. Many pools also have saunas, steam baths, and various "hot pots" with water temperatures ranging from 36 to 44 C (96 to 112 F). Most pools also have children’s areas with slides and water toys.
Icelanders start learning English in the 4th grade and most Icelanders (especially younger people) speak decent English. Many welcome the opportunity to practice their second language — so don’t be shy about starting a conversation in English.
Fish, lamb and dairy products are the basics of the Icelandic diet. Icelandic fish such as cod, haddock, halibut, ray, redfish, and lobster are caught in the unpolluted waters of the North Atlantic, and has a reputation for superb quality. Freshwater salmon and trout are also popular during the summer months. The use of hormones in livestock is forbidden in Iceland and sheep and lambs roam freely on mountain meadows during summer. Icelandic dairy produce has a delicate flavor produced by the clean environment and fragrant pastures that the herds are reared on. Try some of the Icelandic specialties such as skyr, a skimmed milk curd. The Icelandic tap water is natural spring water and is pure and safe to drink throughout the country. Check out the Iceland Local Food Guide for more gastronomic information.
The Icelandic currency is kronur (ISK). The currency devalued dramatically in 2008 making Iceland more affordable for visitors. It’s easy to exchange money at the airport, in banks and at currency exchanges. You can also pay for virtually anything with a credit card – except the public buses. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted; American Express and Diner’s Card less so. Bank machines are easy to find. Click here for a currency converter.
Icelandic electrical wall sockets are European (50Hz, 220 volts), with standard two-prong plugs (Type F/C). Most North American electrical devices will require converters and all North American and UK devices (including laptops) will require plug adapters.
Downtown opening hours may vary but stores are generally open from 10:00-18:00 on weekdays and 10:00-14:00 on Saturdays. Some stores stay open longer on Saturdays and most downtown stores are open until 18:00 on the first Saturday of each month. There are two large shopping centers in Reykjavik, Kringlan and Smaralind. The stores in the shopping malls are open all days of the week and later at night than downtown stores.
When you buy goods in Iceland that cost more than 6,000 ISK you can get about 15% refunded. It’s easy to claim the refund. Click here to learn more about the Iceland Tax Refund.
Mobile phones in Iceland use the European GSM system. Most North American smart phones will work (check with your provider). The country code for Iceland from overseas is +354. There are no area codes in Iceland.
It’s easy to get Internet access throughout Iceland. Most hotels offer free Wi-Fi service. Many restaurants and cafés will also have free wifi access.
By Taxi: Taxis are available in front of the terminal. The 45-minute ride to Reykjavik costs around 20,000 ISK.
By Bus: The Flybus is located right outside the terminal. The bus leaves 35-40 minutes after the arrival of each flight. The trip to Reykjavík takes about 45 minutes. When reaching Reykjavik the first stop will be the downtown BSÍ Bus Terminal.The Flybus fare is approx. 2,200 ISK per person. Alternatively, you can opt for the Flybus Plus which costs 2,800 ISK per person and includes transfer to all major hotels.