Iceland holds a special place in my heart. It's one of the most beautiful places I have visited with a variety of landscapes.
When you start planning your next trip to Iceland, keep this list of Do's and Don'ts in mind and you will have a safe and enjoyable journey through this country.
Do: Use Good Judgement When Exploring
Locals will advise you to keep your personal safety top of mind, and I am going to advise the same. There is something about the beauty of Iceland that makes tourists steer from safe paths when walking along the cliffs, behind waterfalls, and through glaciers.
There may not always be signs or barriers in the Icelandic natural landscape as they would prefer not to spoil the beauty of the sceneries, but if there are signs, heed them.
Do: Take The Weather Seriously
Icelandic weather is volatile, no matter where is the country you are. A sunny day can quickly turn into a snow flurry and then into a rain storm. Download a local weather app when you're there.
Do: Plan Ahead & Prepare Before Heading Out For The Day
Iceland is rugged and it will willing punish those who do not prepare well for a trip through the country-side. A pair of flip flops and a band tee will not suffice in Iceland. When preparing for your trip to Iceland, consider the weather at the time of travel and the activities that you are preparing for when you decide on what clothing to pack for your trip.
Research is your friend when it comes to travelling around Iceland. Plan an itinerary that is realistic for you (but also flexible). Talk to locals about what they recommend, and then listen. As a tourist, we tend to think we know best, but in Iceland this is definitely not the case. You don't want to be caught in a snow storm a couple hours from Reykjavík. If you plan was to head out for the day and a local advise against it, change your plans up.
Do: Be Flexible With Your Plans
While it is important to plan ahead for your trip, be flexible with your plans. The weather in Iceland is unpredictable. Storms that you do not want to be wandering about in can hit at any time. Be prepared to shift your plans around to accommodate for any unforeseen gloomy days.
Do: Be Aware of Daylight Hours
As strange as this one may seem, it's important to take note of the hours of daylight that you have available for you to tour during the day. Just as much as the weather can affect your trip, so can the number of daylight hours. In winter, you can have as little as 4 hours of daylight, so keep this in mind when planning a 10-hour outdoor adventure.
Don't: Drive Off Road
Driving off-road is not just advise against, it is illegal. As is stopping on the side of the road. Driving off-road is dangerous and can cause damage to the fragile Icelandic environment. Main roads in Iceland are clearly marked so there will be little confusion as to what is considered as "off-road". Respect nature and stick to the road, even if you have a 4WD.
Do: Take a Tour
Iceland's tour operators are passionate, professional and knowledgable about their country. Taking a tour will offer you guidance and allow you to tackle a more rugged side of the country by bus, snowmobile, or even helicopter that it too dangerous to be doing alone.
Do: Spend Time With Icelandic Animals
Iceland is not know for having too many native animals, but they certainly have a few cute ones that call the country home. You may get the opportunity to say 'hi' to an Icelandic horse, puffins, reindeers and even whales.
Don't: Buy Bottled Water in Iceland
Not only is Iceland is ranked one of the most eco-friendly countries in the world, and their commitment to using far less plastic is commendable. But their water is one of the freshest in the world. Having been filtered by lava for decades, their tap water has no added elements and is one of the freshest and cleanest sources of water that you will drink.
Do: take an empty flask with you to Iceland and fill it up at any tap whenever you need a refill.
Icelandic people take great pride in caring for their land, picking up litter while on a hike and throwing it away when they find the nearest bin. Littering is frowned upon by locals. If there is no bin near you, hold on to it until you find one to throw away your trash.
Do: Pack a Swim Suit
Your swim suit is a must pack when travelling to Iceland, no matter which season you travel in. I know that it's not the first thing to come to mind when packing for Iceland but trust me when I say that you will take a dip while you are there. Part of the unique gifts that Iceland has to offer are it's hot springs. They are pretty much a national pastime to soak in the warm water and gossip and I would highly recommend taking a dip.
Do: Take a Shower Before a Dip
It might make you uncomfortable to shower before taking a dip, but it is not only part of the Icelandic culture, it is a mandatory hygiene etiquette to take a shower before putting on your swimsuit and climbing into a hot spring or pool. The pools are worth it.
Lastly, just to touch on a question that everyone asks when heading to a new country: "Should I tip for service?"
Tip customs vary heavily around the world, but like many parts of Europe there is no need to tip for service in Iceland. The price that you see on the menu includes it all so there is no need to add tip or VAT.