The number one most important thing for you to bring with you to Iceland is horse food.
Just kidding! Definitely don’t try to feed these guys anything but their own hay. I’m a huge animal lover and one of the highlights of my Iceland trip was being able to spend some time with these beautiful wild horses. I had to include some photos of these precious little guys to give you some extra inspiration to travel to Iceland. Okay so now that you’re hooked (who can resist these adorable horses) lets get into the real Iceland travel essentials.
1. Warm Clothing
The real number one thing for you to pack is some warm layers. It is definitely ideal for you to bring a waterproof as well as wind proof jacket and pants because the wind in Iceland can be relentless. The entire time I was there it was constant and quite harsh. The week after we left, it was so strong that it had shattered the windows of people’s cars. It also rained quite a bit while I was there and speaking from experience, there’s not much worse than being cold and soaking wet when you’re trying to explore.
I highly recommend for you to pack layers of warm clothing such as long johns, and sweaters as well as top layers that can endure the elements. The weather is infamous for changing quickly. Layers will help you be adjustable and if you luck out and get some beautiful weather, at least you can peel back some layers and be prepared if a storm suddenly rolls in. On most days, I was wearing 2 jackets (1 insulated for warmth and 1 water and windproof on top) on top of a sweater with thermal fleece lined leggings.
2. A Camera
Iceland is such a uniquely photogenic place. If you’re going to venture here you will realize really quickly that it has unearthly qualities that can make you feel like you’re on another planet. Bring your camera and all your equipment to make sure to capture your memories and the incredible landscapes Iceland has to offer. I brought My Camera, tripod, 3 batteries, 3 memory cards, 2 lenses, 2 ND filters, a polarizer, lens cleaning cloths and a time release remote all in a small camera backpack.
3. 4×4 Vehicle
Rent a safe, reliable, medium to large vehicle. Icelands roads can become quite dangerous due to their extreme weather conditions, so make sure that you spend the extra little bit of money on a better rental vehicle to get you where you need to go safely. If you’re traveling on the F roads to the highlands in the summer, you absolutely need a large 4×4 that is high on the road enough to cross through rivers.
4. A GPS
Bring a some kind of map so you don’t get lost. An unlocked phone that you can buy an Icelandic SIM card for, a GPS preloaded with current Iceland maps or an old fashioned paper map are good options.
5. Cozy Accessories.. and an Icelandic Sweater?
Bring warm hats, gloves, scarves, socks and shoes that you can hike and be flexible in. Wooly Icelandic sweaters are an iconic staple for a reason., they will keep you nice and warm. Also, Iceland has such amazing landscapes and hiking spots. However, most of the best ones are a little bit more rugged than what you might be used to. They like to keep things natural looking here (which I love). But, that also means there is less paved trails and not a lot of easy walking conditions.
6. A preloaded map of all the places you can’t miss out on!
Iceland if famous for its hot springs, waterfalls, glaciers, volcanoes and hip vegan friendly restaurants. You can download a fully populated map of all the best spots here.
7. A Bikini or 2
Iceland is filled with hidden hot springs. Just some insider information here- a lot of them are not actually hot and some of them are hot enough to give you a serious burn. Always be careful and make sure you test with a finger, then try an extended exposure with your entire hand before you go jumping in. There are some spots, (usually marked, but not always) that are so hot that they are boiling so please be cautious. The local pools and hot springs are guaranteed to be safe and warm. Also don’t forget a towel! The most noteable and famous hot spring is the Blue Lagoon as pictured below.
Chances are you will be doing a lot of driving if you plan to explore the whole island. Bring your iphone full of good music and an aux cable/portable speaker. This pair is a great companion to help bring Iceland to life when you’re driving.
Iceland is not a cheap travel destination. The flight might very affordable, however, the food, accommodations and transportation costs are quite pricey. Be sure to think ahead and pack some snacks from home. Bring backpacker meals that are dehydrated dinner style entrees in a bag that all you have to do is add boiling water to. Or, you can bring things like dried fruit and nuts, soup cups, granola bars and energy balls. If you are unable to bring items from home, Bonus is the most well priced grocery store in Iceland. Often a mistake is to purchase food items at the gas station, because grocers can become few and far in between while you’re traveling from small town to small town. I’m a huge lover of herbal tea so I made sure to pack a bunch of teas and a camping stove to boil water.
10. Hair Ties
No. I’m not kidding about this one. I mentioned a few times now that the wind can get pretty crazy and that might make it a challenge for your hair. However, the biggest reason for hair ties is if you plan on visiting the blue lagoon. You will definitely want to keep you hair tied up and out of the water. I decided not to tie my hair up and it was a huge mistake. Although the photos came out nice, my hair didn’t. The mineral rich water penetrates deep into the hair shaft and hardens it, making your hair tangled, dull looking, knotted, dry and damaged. It took me at least two weeks to get my hair back to normal.
Check out my all season Icelandic Packing Guide here. It’s a full packing list of what I brought to Iceland in the summer, spring and winter.
Iceland is an incredible place to visit year round. Use these listed essentials and you will be well equipped to handle all of it’s unique conditions.