Iceland’s location conjures images of an iced-over piece of land at the top of the world. But what many travelers don’t know is that Iceland’s combination of hot and cold make this country a mystifying destination. Iceland is technically part of Europe; a Scandinavian country about the size of Kentucky or England. And despite assumptions, Iceland is not all ice. There is a unique energy to Iceland that only travelers booking flights to it will be privileged to discover.
Imagine passing by bubbling hot springs blanketed by a blue mist, waterfalls hitting black sand surrounded by rugged fjords and driving for miles amidst lava formations with not a soul in sight. This could be an image of life on the Moon or some undiscovered planet, but this fascinating place does exist in Iceland. Many travelers who come off a flight to Iceland are so enchanted by the place that they would rather keep it a secret than spread the word and have other tourists discover this serene and sparsely populated country.
From glacier-covered-volcanoes and steaming hot outdoor pools to twenty-hour days of pure sunshine, Iceland is nothing if not unique. The people speak the ancient Norse and the weather rarely dips below the mid-20’s, even in the winter. During the winter, there are about four hours of daylight per day, and January only sees about three sunny days the entire month. Still, about 300,000 people call Iceland home and visitors booking Iceland flights and accommodations will be welcomed with warm hearts to this country at the top of the world.
The buzzing city of Reykjavik is quickly becoming a popular destination and surprisingly boasts some of the best nightlife in the region. But most travelers who book flights to Iceland come here for more than just nighttime revelry; they come to experience the indescribable landscape, to bathe in natural hot pools, to explore ancient Viking sites or to catch a glimpse of the spectacular Midnight Sun. There is so much to see and do in Iceland that you may end up sticking around longer than you planned for. No matter how long you are planning to stay in this beautiful country, here are some tips to help you plan and enjoy the smoothest possible trip.
From November through February, temperatures in Iceland drop below freezing, but in summer the highs average around 50 degrees (Fahrenheit) and can climb higher than 75 degrees. It rains almost two-thirds of the year.
In the summer months, when the sun is out for nearly twenty-four hours and the winter accumulation has finally melted, travelers book flights to Iceland in droves. That said, it can be a bit disorientating at first when you lose track of the hours when darkness never comes. Early spring and late autumn are great times to find cheap flights to Iceland, too, when the number of tourists is not excessive – but there are long twilights. Flights to Iceland are easily available throughout the year but if you do visit in late autumn you might pay more for your flight tickets as the Northern Lights are more visible. Book your Iceland flights and accommodations in advance to ensure your spot under the sun.
From mid-November until the end of January winter engulfs the country, but don’t let the frigid winter winds keep you from an enchanting Iceland vacation. Cheap flights to Iceland tend to be more available in the colder months when the sun peeks out for only a few hours. The upside of less sunlight is that the phenomenal Northern Lights become more visible. Cheap flights to Iceland are a little harder to come by during the off season though as the Northern Lights are one of the most popular attractions to the country.
The best time to secure your flights to Iceland depends a lot on your reasons for visiting. If you are going in hope of catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights then book your flight tickets sometime between late Autumn and January, and make sure to book your flights to Iceland at least a couple of months in advance. If you’re not too fussed about the Northern Lights, then securing cheap flights to Iceland during the summer months would be better for you if you can tolerate the almost constant daylight with some areas of Iceland reaching into the 70’s (Fahrenheit) during the day. When booking your flight tickets try to secure seats on the right hand side of the plane for a chance of seeing the Northern Lights from the plane, and sitting on the left on the way back means you could see it again on the way home.
Depending on your starting point, your flight to Iceland from the United States can take almost nine hours (from Los Angeles) to a speedy five and a half hours (from New York).
Catch a direct flight to Iceland on Delta Airlines or Icelandair. You can also get a flight with a stopover via JetBlue, American, British Airways, Lufthansa and SAS. Icelandair, not surprisingly, gets you to Iceland from all over the United States, with flights leaving from Anchorage, Chicago, Minneapolis, Orlando and Seattle in addition to New York, to name a few locations.
The country’s name should be a hint that you need to take some warm clothes to Iceland. Yes, even in the summer you’re going to need a rain jacket and possibly a fleece to stay warm, and you’ll really need to bundle up in the winter. However, don’t forget a swimsuit, since those natural hot springs are calling your name. You probably are already planning to bring a camera to take photos of the Northern Lights, but don’t forget to bring electrical adapters so you can plug it in to charge it, as well as a converter if necessary.
There are multiple airports in Iceland, including Keflavik International Airport (KEF) and Akureyri Airport (AEY). Here are a few other tips for getting to where you need to go from each of these airports.
Keflavik International Airport is Iceland’s largest airport, dealing solely with international flights. As such, it is the gateway for most international travel in Iceland. Keflavik International Airport is not to be confused with Reykjavik Airport, which is the main domestic airport serving Iceland. There are two major buses that operate to and from the airport, the Gray Line Iceland and the Flybus. You can arrange your buses with either one upon arriving after your flights to Iceland. Gray Line Iceland also offers door-to-door drop offs, so if you aren’t staying at one of the major hotels you can request an alternative drop off point. Failing that, there is the option of a taxi. It will be more expensive but is a more direct and quicker method of transport. If you have a lot of luggage it can also be wise to opt for a taxi, just be sure to agree on a fee before you get in to avoid being overcharged.
The best and cheapest way to travel from the airport to the city of Akureyri is via the free city bus. It runs for the better part of the day and doesn’t cost a penny. You can find information regarding the schedule either when you get there or you can do a bit of research online after you’ve booked your flights to Iceland. Another option is to rent a car or hail a taxi. The taxi won’t be cheap, especially when compared to the free bus, but it does remove the waiting time. Renting a car would only really be beneficial if you are planning to drive around several towns and parts of Iceland.
After you’ve gotten to where you need to go in Iceland after your flight, there are a few ways you can navigate around the country if you so choose. Domestic Iceland flights are available from Reykjavik to various destinations from Air Iceland and Eagle Air. Flying – especially in the winter – is the easiest, quickest and often the cheapest way to get around. Iceland Air also connects with bus services, to provide travel to destinations not served by flights.
Other than flying, the only reliable way of getting around the country is by bus. There is no train service in the country and, though car rentals are available, this is not a recommended means of transport, due to ice and poor roads. The bus network is extensive. Advance purchases are not necessary and tickets can be bought from the driver. However, most bus routes cease operation until the snow thaws in late May and early June.
Iceland is an island of striking natural beauty, with geological formations unlike anywhere else in the world, so make sure you get out of Reykjavik to explore. The Lake Myvatn geothermal region combines the active volcano Krafla with astonishing lava formations in the “Dark Cities,” or Dimmuborgir, said to be the home of Satan after he fell to earth, as well as Dettifoss, the most striking waterfall in Europe. You’ll see more surreal geology in Skaftafell Park, where waterfalls cascade over black cliffs and you can sail between constantly shifting mountains of ice on the Jökulsárlón lagoon. Beautiful forests wait to surprise you at Asbyrgi Canyon, and scuba divers (yes, there’s diving in Iceland) can enjoy a surreal landscape under the water at Silfra in Thingvellir National Park.
Take a horseback ride under the midnight sun in Husey, where you may have to steer around the grazing reindeer, and return during the winter to take in the Northern Lights. When you’re ready to treat yourself to some world-class spa treatments, head to the Blue Lagoon (technically known as Bláa lónið), where the mineral-rich water has healing effects on your skin. You can also dine in luxury overlooking the milky blue lake surrounded by otherworldly lava, and many people compare the landscape here to that of the moon. If you want to view the black sand beach and odd rock formations at Reynisfjara Beach, take a guided tour, since the ocean here is quite dangerous. When it’s time to return to Reykjavik, you can sample the wild nightlife, or look for a restaurant that serves whale meat or fermented shark for a true Icelandic experience. Whale-watching tours are available from Reykjavik Harbor, and you should save room in your luggage for a hand-knitted Icelandic sweater, which you can pick up at a local flea market.
Most flights out of Iceland fly out of Reykjavik, where Icelandair connects you to numerous destinations, mainly in Europe, including cities such as Amsterdam, London, Copenhagen, and Paris. Other carriers offer flights as well. Visit https://www.cheapflights.co.uk for the top flight deals for routes out of Iceland.
Reykjavik actually has two airports. If you’re flying internationally, Keflavik Airport is the one you want (Reykjavik Airport is the domestic-only airport), and it’s easy to get there. A shuttle bus runs regularly to connect you from Reykjavik (the city) to Keflavik.
Once you choose a destination, be sure to check out our Iceland airport guides for more detailed travel information and helpful tips.
(prices quotes are from London)