Iceland is known for its incredible nature, quickly changing weather conditions, Icelandic horses, and so much more, so when you travel to the land of ice and fire, you want to make sure, you’re picking the right stuff! To help you a little with that, here’s our Iceland packing list with recommendations, what to bring to the island, based on our own yearslong experience, divided into different categories:
What Am I Going to Pack into My Suitcase?
First of all, you can absolutely travel to Iceland all-season. If you’re well prepared, you will be able to face any kind of weather! During the wintertime, a carry-on bag might be too small to bring all the heavy and warm clothes, but that really depends on the length of your journey. To start with, here are a few things that you should bring in any case:
- a valid passport / identity card
- enough film material / data medium / spare batteries /etc. (those things can be quite expensive in Iceland)
- camera gear
- water bottle (the lava-filtered glacial tap water in Iceland is not only safe to drink, but it's also healthy!)
- bathing clothes (for the hot springs)
In addition, you should keep in mind to make sure you have travel insurance, for the time of your trip. As we are sure you will think of basic items like pyjamas or toothpaste yourself, we will not include these things on our packing lists.
Winter in Iceland is not like winter in the Arctic, as many people think. Still, it can get very cold, but it's so worth travelling to Iceland off-season, especially if you want to see the Northern Lights. So if you’re going to visit Iceland between October and December, the first thing to think of is thermal underwear (always use it as your base layer). If you want to watch the Northern Lights, be prepared for waiting outside in the cold for a while, so as a general hint: layer up and wear warm winter boots! What can also be of great help, are gloves that still make it possible to use a camera, so they shouldn’t be too big or impractical.
Here is a small list of essentials, you shouldn't forget:
- swimsuit / swim trunks for relaxation in the hot springs like i.e. the Blue Lagoon or Mývatn Nature Baths (a pleasure after a long, cold day!)
- windproof gloves, scarf (or buff!), and winter hat
- skiing underwear or thermals as a base layer (for the ladies: thermal leggings also work well!)
- ski trousers or snow pants (especially if you want to go on a snowmobile tour or skiing, i.e. in Akureyri)
- snow boots or warm waterproof hiking boots
- wool socks
- warm waterproof jacket with a windproof outer layer
During the summer months, Iceland offers lots of opportunities to spend your time right, but as it doesn't get that hot in Iceland between May and the end of August, you still need to bring warm clothes. So while you can start dreaming about endless summer nights thanks to the midnight sun, or day trips to the beautiful peninsular Snæfellsnes in the twilight or breathtaking Skógafoss waterfall, we make sure you are dressed just right, as the weather conditions can change quickly.
Here are the essentials:
- hat and buff
- water bottle
- moisturizer (very pleasing after bathing in hot springs)
- hair conditioner (very popular among Icelanders)
- quick-drying or waterproof pants (very practical, in case you get surprised by rain)
- waterproof jacket
- t-shirts and long-sleeved shirts
Note: it makes sense to bring flip-flops if you visit a spa (like the Blue Lagoon mentioned before), but they're impractical to walk in the wilderness of course.
To be more precise: Big parts of Iceland are covered with lava fields that you can't walk on with simple sandals or flip-flops, even if you feel hot, you need to wear sturdy shoes, to make sure you won't trip and fall.
A lot of people like to visit Iceland's capital Reykjavik and start their day tours or further travelling from there. So if you've planned a city break or a self-drive trip from hotel to hotel, don't think that you won't need weatherproof clothes, just because you're not camping. Especially for tours along the Ring Road, including the amazing Golden Circle, here are some ideas of what should be in your suitcase:
- warm, wind- and rainproof clothes (must-have: waterproof jacket, recommendable: waterproof pants)
- light clothes for warm days
- scarf, gloves, and hat
- thermal underwear
- sturdy shoes with grip sole, best: hiking boots
- sunglasses and binoculars
- bathing clothes
- personal first-aid kit
Hotel-Based Hiking Tours
- see "Hotel Holidays" but in addition:
- solid walking boots and wool socks
- sneakers or high-ankle footwear
- good rainwear (e.g. Gore-Tex or Sympatex pants and rain jacket, or if you like: a rain cover for your head)
- towels (might be a good idea)
- see "Hotel Hiking Holidays" but in addition:
- long-sleeved clothes
- mosquito spray, scissors, torch
- alcohol (for the grog in the evening!)
- backpack for day trips
- clothes pegs
- sleeping bag (if not rented)
Hiking or Trekking Holidays
Iceland is perfect for trekking and hiking tours. One of our very popular trekking tours goes along the famous trail Laugavegur, starting from Landmannalaugar mountains to the valley of God Thor. Hiking tours can be very exhausting, so always bring enough water, meaning a water bottle you can refill, and energy bars, as well as warm clothes, especially if you go glacier hiking.
Here's our list of recommendable items, in addition to "Camping Holidays:"
- waterproof hiking shoes
- light shoes for wading (sandals, surf shoes,...), sandals (for the accommodation)
- Transtex underwear (no cotton)
- fleece sweater, hiking trousers (no jeans, e.g. Gore-Tex), hiking socks
- hiking sticks / trekking poles (to protect the knees and secure while wading)
- reusable water bottle, sunscreen, handkerchiefs, blistering plaster
- gaiters (not necessarily needed, but can be very practical, depending on your kind of shoes)
Horse riding is very popular in Iceland, and the Icelandic horses are famous all over the world, especially for their two additional gaits, called "tölt" and "skeið." They are also known for their welcoming and friendly character, and the horse breed is one of the purest in the world. Did you know that if an Icelandic horse leaves the country, it can never come back?
If you travel to Iceland, and you've booked riding holidays, here are some tips for you, what to bring:
- waterproof shoes, (riding) boots (best: rubber, as rivers are being crossed quite often)
- warm jacket or riding coat, light shoes for wading through water (sandals, surf shoes,...), sandals (for the cabin)
- warm woollen or fleece sweater
- warm socks, gloves, scarf, and hat
- warm, preferably long underwear (thermals)
- for females: sports bra
- comfortable clothes for the evenings in the cabin
- comfortable slippers for the cabins (it is unusual to wear outdoor shoes inside the cabins)
- bathing clothes and towels
- small camera, to carry with you on the horse
- chocolate or energy bars for exhausting riding days
- mosquito spray (if needed: mosquito net for the head)
- plaster and blistering plaster
- sunscreen for lips and face (alpine sun exposure!)
Hint: Rather use travelling bags than suitcases, as the luggage is going to be transported by a utility vehicle. Pack wisely, as the space in the vehicle is limited. Also, don't forget nose spray, cough drops, and Ibuprofen, in case you should catch a cold.
Did we forget anything on our packing list to Iceland? Please get in touch with us, and let us know!