Travel tips for Iceland: how to avoid the crowds!
Iceland is hot and happening at the moment! It seems like everyone wants to go to Iceland now that Icelandair offers the possibility of a free stopover on your way from Europe to North America or the other way around. WOW Air seems to be having really competitive rates too. Many years ago, when I traveled to Iceland for the first time, Iceland was known for being one of the most expensive places in the world. These days, if you play it wise, you can find ways to do Iceland on a budget. Budgeting is not my specialty though (read this blog by Young Adventuress on budgeting tips for Iceland), beating the crowds is. My article about how to avoid the crowds at Grand Canyon still receives lots of visitors each day, so I figured I’d write one for Iceland as well. Having been there no less than seven times and and eighth coming up at the end of the month, I think I can tell you a fair bit about it. Today I’m sharing my travel tips for Iceland on how to avoid the crowds and how to see the off the beaten path sights.
Reverse your way of thinking
Many of the popular sights in Iceland can be found around the capital city of Reykjavík. It makes sense to see those first, before leaving civilization behind and hitting the road. However, just remember everyone else does that, too. Why not take Golden Circle Tours on the day of your departure? Same goes for the Blue Lagoon and I will be honest with you, I made that same mistake as well. Everyone goes to the Blue Lagoon on their way from the airport, as it’s fairly close and you will basically pass it on your way to the city. But … why don’t you just go on your way back, when everyone is still doing last minute shopping and/or having a last coffee in Reykjavík? Or if your flight out is early, why not go the night before and sleep near the airport instead of in the city? Keflavík Airport offers a lot of accommodation these days, too, plus it’s cheaper than Reykjavík anyway. Or do like me and skip the Blue Lagoon, here are my 5 reasons why it’s better not to go!
Travel in winter
Even though summer is probably the most desirable time to visit Iceland, it will blow you away in winter, too. I visited twice in winter and am going back at the end of this month again. Yes, it will be cold (but hey, it’s basically always cold in Iceland) but the crowds in Iceland will be mostly gone and you will have quite a few of the sights for yourself. Plus you will have quite a few of the nature baths for yourself, rather than having to share it with the crowds. Not convinced about visiting Iceland in the winter? Then read my suggestions on how to stay warm in Iceland this winter!
Travel early in the morning or late at night
Can you believe I did the whole South Coast, including a glacier hike, in just a day? I did this when visiting Iceland with a friend in June, when it doesn’t get very dark. We got up early, hit the road and stayed up until way past midnight. We stayed in a cabin near Hella and made it all the way to Jökulsárlón that day. We only got there at about 8.00 pm but since we still had plenty of daylight. There was almost nobody there, can you believe it? Neither could we, but it was GOOD! When you travel in summer, make use of those long days and get out, explore and experience. You can always sleep at home, right? More tips on how to see the Icelandic South Coast in one day can be found here!
See unknown sights
I know you probably want to see the Blue Lagoon and the Golden Circle but there are plenty of beautiful sights that receive less visitors and are equally gorgeous. A great example is the Krýsuvík Thermal Area which is just a short drive away from the town of Hafnarfjörður. I visited in June after my arrival on Keflavík and I was the only one here. THE ONLY ONE! In such a stunning setting! When planning your visit, you can’t miss this, it’s a really amazing place and has gorgeous geothermal activity, too, less the crowds you will find at Geysir. Another great sight will be the DC-3 plane wreck on the beach near the town of Vík, it’s an amazing and eerie place to hang out for a bit. I was here last summer, also the only one. OK, with my travel partner that is but still …
Hike! Hike! Hike!
Put on your hiking boots and walk my friends. Seriously, you cannot see all the beauty of Iceland from just a car, you need to get out and discover some the beautiful places by foot. Last summer, I got pretty sad when Vík was run over by tourists but then I decided to hike up Mt. Hatta, just in the hinterland. I saw nobody on the trail and once I climbed the ridge behind the village, the views were stunning. OK, you will have to work a bit because it’s not just a walk in the park, but it’s awesome once you’ve reached the top. For those wanting to push it further, I can definitely recommend hiking the Laugavegur, which is one of my favorite multi-day treks in the world. When going on a hike, make sure to stay safe though. Last summer I went hiking in Landmannalaugar by myself and managed to get lost. With common sense I found my way back though and eventually I just took it as a great learning experience.
So, have I given you enough travel tips for Iceland without the crowds? I sure hope so! Let me know if you have any other suggestions as well, so we can all enjoy Iceland in our own quiet and peaceful way!
Want to read more blogs and travel tips for Iceland? You may enjoy these posts, too:
– A detailed guide on how to keep safe while driving in Iceland
– Free alternatives to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland
– A must-do in Iceland: a glacier hike on the Sólheimajökull
– All you want to know about hiking in Iceland
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Thank you for sharing!