I successfully visited Iceland and returned unharmed. This is a big deal for me since my previous attempt to travel overseas ended in two broken legs. That’s a different story.
If you are planning to visit Iceland and are like me, you may have researched and read countless blogs and articles, and watched dozens of YouTube videos on what to take, pack, and wear in Iceland.
As a Floridian, I’ve never owned a North Face jacket or base layers. The amount of items listed and the cost of some of these items can be daunting. In general you will a layer or so to keep you warm, and an outer layer to block wind. I recommend something rainproof with a hood for the unpredictable weather. Specifically what you will need will depend greatly on what you intend to do on your trip. We visited in April, with temps ranging from high 20s to low 40s (Fahrenheit) with winds ranging from approximately 0 to 15 mph (excluding one hurricane-like rain storm).
All the Foss!
So many wonderful waterfalls. The most spectacular we visited were Golfoss on the Golden Circle, and Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss both in Southwest Iceland. While quick drying clothing is beneficial, you would be further benefited by using water resistant or water proof clothing such as raincoats and shell pants. Particularly at Seljalandsfoss, you WILL get wet. I typically avoid saying “literally” due to its over and incorrect use. But I was literally wringing water from my gloves. Also very important, a water proof case for your phone or camera, I used the JOTO Universal Waterproof Case for my mobile phone. Towels or a Shammy would be beneficial to have as well.
Hot Springs and Geothermal Pools – OH MY!
If you plan to visit the Blue Lagoon in Grindavík or Laugarvatn Fontana on the Golden Circle, both of which I enjoyed and highly recommend, you will need swimwear. Hair and body wash, private individual lockers, and other amenities, are available at both locations. Both provide towels as well, though if you plan to enjoy the natural springs and hot pots Iceland has to offer, you will need to supply your own towel or Shammy (quick drying recommended).
At both the Lagoon and Fontana, visitors change into their swimwear in locker rooms. A few private stalls are available at both. However, there is a line to use these and as a result it is more common for guests to change in the locker rooms rather than the stalls.
Beach and Shores
I highly recommend some form of shell pants. I was very thankful to have splurged on my Duluth Trading shell pants when we visited the coast. They blocked the wind nicely.
I also accrued quite the collection of pebbles and sand to bring back to the states. Though in my defense, they weren’t all for myself.
Odds and Ends
I noticed several recommendations to include a Buff along with my wear weather gear. I decided to skip buying a Buff since
I’m cheap I was traveling on a budget. There were a few scenarios where I wish I had bought one. I found a work-around by pinning my scarf down with my sunglasses. I worked out okay, but I did need to fiddle with it occasionally to keep it in place.
I lost one of my gloves at some point. The backup pair I brought were fire engine red-colored fleece. The color made for a nice contrast in pictures, but were ineffective against the wind, and became rather miserable once wet. I would recommend investing in some water/wind resistant gloves, but get a fun color to spice up your pics.
Regarding getting money exchanged, most places we visited accepted my VISA card. There was a toll road which made having native cash a blessing, but I found having coin for the pay restrooms to be a necessity. Iceland has started to erect bathroom facilities and visitor centers at many of the attractions. Many of them require coin to use the restroom. My recommendation would be to exchange to some Krona and buy something with cash occasionally to have the coin available to get into the restrooms. The facilities were well maintained, and considering restrooms can be few and far between in some areas, it is worth a few coins for the just-in-case pit stop.
Bring a card game or desk of cards. You may have downtime, and you may not have cable or Wi-Fi.
If you do have cable, Iceland has a show called Keeping Up With The Kattarshians – Nútíminn I stumbled upon during my visit. I’m not quite sure why it exists, but I have no issues with it’s existence.
Wish in One Hand…
A few things I wish I’d packed:
- Shammy cloth / Chamois towel – it wasn’t a frequent occurrence, but the few times I was soaked it would have be nice to have; also when our digs were short a towel
- Buff – I do wish I had bought a Buff when I was home, there is a bit of a price hike overseas
- Gloves – I wish my back-up pair hadn’t been fleece
I am really happy I visited Iceland. Everyone was lovely, and it was nice to visit attractions what hadn’t been turned into a commercial money machine like some attractions in the U.S. I would love to return and I am looking forward to my next travel opportunity. If you are new to traveling overseas, this is a great place to start. Most people spoke English, VISA cards were widely accepted, and the roads are right-side aligned. DO IT! With the proper gear, and all the walking, the cold will become an afterthought.