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Country Profile: Iceland

Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in Europe, with two-thirds of its people living in and around Reykjavík. Away from the capital, the nation’s geologic and volcanic activity lends the island much of its beauty: Lava fields extend for miles, glacial rivers course to the sea, volcanic soil nurtures thick pine and birch forests and geothermal pools provide soothing spots to soak and a steamy aura to an otherworldly landscape. All against a staggering tableau of towering mountains and billowing volcanoes.

Founded by Vikings of Norway in the 9th century, Iceland has strong Scandinavian roots. Nordic music, literature, dance and cuisine all form the basis of local culture. The history and legends that define the nation are told in the Icelandic sagas and eddas, sweeping medieval epics that celebrate its heroes and its sweeping natural beauty.

However, the island’s abundance of lava fields is not ideal for agriculture, so much of its food–potatoes, green vegetables–is grown in sophisticated greenhouses. Sheep, dairy and seafood such as haddock and cod are also staples of the Icelandic diet. And the boldest of travelers sample hákarl, or cured shark.

According to some polls, Icelanders are among Europe’s happiest people. This may come as no surprise; by definition, they live close to nature and place a great value on self-sufficiency. Their national parks harbor the world’s most breathtaking fjords, glaciers and waterfalls. And there’s never a thermal pool far away for soaking. In Iceland, it seems, bliss is always close at hand.

Read more about Iceland

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Country Highlights
  • Gaze upon deep-cut fjords, vast glaciers, black sand beaches, shooting geysers and steaming lava fields.
  • Visit a state-of-the-art greenhouse, the source of much of Iceland’s produce.
  • Marvel at the nation’s dramatic waterfalls, plunging from great heights into crystal-clear pools.
  • Sample Iceland’s bounty fresh from the earth and sea, including organic lamb pastrami, wild salmon and lobster.
  • Soak in the soothing thermal pools.

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  • Trust our expertise with 36+ years in active travel.
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  • Detailed maps and easy-to-follow route notes ensure that you’ll easily find your way.
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  • Bring six friends on a guided tour and enjoy special savings, support, and a gift.

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Country Facts

About Iceland:

Iceland’s location on the Mid-Atlantic Range makes it a geologically active island and a prime research locale for volcanologists. A steady stream of pressure is released all across the island through craters, geysers and other outlets, including the water spout known simply as Geysir, the oldest known geyser in the world after which all others are named. Much of the island is uninhabitable. But its rocky coasts, black-sand beaches and starkly beautiful landscapes are home to a rich abundance of birdlife and the ubiquitous Icelandic sheep.

All that energy bubbling up from below the earth’s surface provides an ideal supply of power for the islanders. Geothermal and hydroelectric power are harnessed as renewable resources for heat and electricity. Iceland is a democratic parliamentary republic and its capital is Reykjavík.

Icelandic is Iceland’s official language. While knowledge of the local language is not necessary, you may want to learn some fun and useful phrases to use during your walking tour. The effort seldom goes unappreciated and by trying some greetings and salutations with a smile, your interactions are likely to grow into rewarding exchanges. See BBC Languages for helpful hints. Country Walkers also recommends a phrase book or two in our Reading Guide that you’ll receive after you reserve.

Life in Iceland

According to legend, the Norse gods guided Iceland’s first Scandinavian explorer, Ingólfur Arnarson, to settle in the region of what is now Reykjavík, meaning “Smoky Bay,” which he named for the billowing geothermal steam he saw rising from the ground. Geothermal energy is Iceland’s most valuable sustainable resource, used for heating homes and the many outdoor pools throughout the capital city. A variety of pools, spas and “hot pots” offer swimming, soaking and beauty treatments. For information, visit

Shopping and banking hours: Shops and stores are generally open Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. or 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to early afternoon. Banks are open from 9:15 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Meal times: Breakfast is served at hotels from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. In restaurants and cafés, lunch is served from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. and dinner is usually served from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Tipping: Tipping is not practiced in Iceland for service in restaurants, cafés, or taxis. If you wish to tip, you will not offend anyone, although it may be politely refused.

Iceland public holidays: Iceland’s public holidays, festivals, or calendars of events may affect your travel planning. Visit the Iceland tourist board’s website.

Icelandic cuisine is a blend of traditional Scandinavian dishes and Continental cuisine, and has become increasingly innovative in recent years, particularly at the many fine restaurants in and around Reykjavík. With a thriving fishing industry, fresh fish and seafood dishes are ubiquitous on menus, including salmon, trout, arctic char, and lobster. Adhering to strict quality standards for purity, Icelandic meat is grass-fed, free-range, and delicious, especially lamb. Similarly, Icelandic beef is high-quality and tasty. Dairy products, such as cheeses and the yogurt-like skýr, are equally excellent. And lastly, despite Iceland’s climate, much of its produce is locally produced in geothermally heated greenhouses. Typical sweets and desserts are licorice, chocolate (or a combination of the two), and snudur (frosted pastries).

Iceland’s weather is notoriously changeable and windy, although the country experiences relatively mild temperatures year-round. The Gulf Stream and prevailing southwesterly winds carry warm, tropical air and moisture northward, producing frequent but brief showers.
Average high/low temperatures in Reykjavík in the summer months are: June – 54°F/45°F; July – 60°F/50°F; August – 57°F/48°F.

For up-to-date forecasts, see For historical average temperatures and rainfall, see

U.S. citizens: Passports are required and must be valid for at least three months beyond the dates of travel. Visas are not required for stays of up to 90 days. For more information, see

Iceland uses the kronur (ISK). The current exchange rate is 1 USD = 1 ISK. Exchange rates can vary greatly month to month, so we recommend you visit for the latest.

Many businesses in Europe will no longer accept credit cards without PIN numbers (chip and pin cards). Contact your bank or your credit-card company for details on fees and card use when travelling, and to inform them of your travel destination and dates so they do not freeze your accounts when they see charges appear from a foreign country.

We recommend having a variety of payment options readily available to help you start your trip: ATM card(s), credit card(s), some U.S. dollars to exchange, and some euros in small denominations.

No immunizations are required to enter Iceland. Requirements and recommendations change frequently, so always check directly with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC:; 800-232-4636), a travel clinic, and/or your personal physician for the most current information. Plan ahead for immunizations, as some require administration several months prior to departure.

Electricity: Alternating current of 220V and 50Hz is used in Iceland. Outlets have two round holes. For a full listing of electrical outlets worldwide, see If you are bringing your own hair dryer or other electrical device, you will need a travel converter, available at most hardware, travel, or consumer electronic stores. For laptops or an electronic device with a dual voltage switch, you will only need the adapter plug, not the converter.

Phone: Iceland’s country code is “+354.” Cell phone coverage throughout Iceland is extensive, but we cannot guarantee adequate signals on all American phone models or while on walking trails or in remote areas. For more information regarding international phone use, please refer to this blog post.

Internet: Internet access is generally very good in towns and villages; however, all of the hotels used on our tours do not necessarily provide it, or they provide it at an additional cost. Details regarding Wi-Fi availability in each hotel are available in the Itinerary Overview that you’ll receive once you’ve reserved.

Iceland is in the Greenwich Mean but does not observe daylight savings time. Throughout the summer, Iceland is Eastern Standard Time plus four hours, and during the winter, Iceland is Eastern Standard Time plus five hours. For more information on worldwide time zones, see:

A wealth of travel information is available at


International flights arrive at Keflavík International Airport (, sometimes called “Leifur Eiríksson Air Terminal” or “Reykjavík Airport,” about 30 miles outside the capital of Reykjavík (which also has a small, domestic airport in the city proper). A network of domestic flights connects to smaller cities within Iceland and is a fast and fairly economical way to travel within the country.

International Airports in Iceland

  • Akureyri – Akureyri Airport
  • Reykjavík – Keflavik International Airport

Local transportation

Iceland does not have a rail system, but does have an extensive long-distance bus network made up of several private companies; information about all bus lines, schedules, and fares is compiled by one company, BSÍ (
Renting a car is also a popular way to get around Iceland and most major car rental agencies have offices at airports and there are local agencies in city or town centers. If you do rent a car, be aware of rules and regulations for two- versus four-wheel-drive vehicles. Taxis are available and can be reserved in advance (your hotel can usually provide assistance). For more information contact Country Walkers, or go to

For additional hints and guidance about travel to Iceland, visit the Icelandic tourist board’s website at


Iceland - 1 Tour Available

Guided Walking Visit incredible natural wonders in Iceland

Iceland: Reykjavík & National Parks

Activity level: Easy to Moderate Terrain

4-9 Miles Daily

Flight + Tour

11 days, 10 nights

From $7,798 USD

per person

Tour Only

8 days, 7 nights

From $6,598 USD

per person

Tour Highlights:
  • Near the basalt sea columns of Vík, enjoy a memorable walk along the headlands above Reynisfjall cliffs, spotting puffins and kittiwakes.
  • Discover many of Iceland’s traditions on your visit to a folk museum in Skógar complete with old turf farmhouses and antique fishing boats.
  • Learn about the fascinating and distinctive Icelandic horse when you visit a farming family near Hella, who will take you through their stables to show you the unique gaits of these pony-sized creatures.

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Departure Dates
Flight + Tour Combo


  • Jun 8
  • Jun 15
  • Jun 29
  • Jul 13
  • Jul 20
  • Aug 3
  • Aug 10
  • Aug 17
Tour Only


  • Jun 10
  • Jun 17
  • Jul 1
  • Jul 15
  • Jul 22
  • Aug 5

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