An American’s Guide to Iceland

Now that most American travelers have suffered through the Alaskan cruise scam dealing with expensive and boring ports, and seven days of rain and fog, folks are being turned on to a better arctic experience. Here’s an American’s guide to Iceland with everything you need to know before traveling to one of the most amazing places on Earth.

Tim and Felicia cover some of the basics American travelers need to know when traveling to Iceland.

Let’s cover the most important stuff you need to know about traveling to Iceland first.

Never go hiking in jeans. Cold and scratchy. Don’t climb glaciers without proper guidance. It’s embarrassing being rescued by the authorities. Don’t try fording rivers or any large puddles in rental cars. And stay far away from any active lava flows.

And yes, you may have to pay to use public “water closets,” i.e. toilets, at gas stations in Iceland. The cost is usually around ISK 200 (about $1.50), and you can pay with Iceland coins. Some public pay-per-use toilets have QR codes to scan, and others accept Google Pay, Apple Pay, and tapping credit cards. Toilets in government museums and buildings with visitor centers are usually free.

Why Are People Traveling to Iceland?

Iceland is green, and Greenland is ice. Let that sink in for a moment before you decide to visit the world’s summer playground, Iceland!

Believe it or not, there are volcanoes in Iceland. As we’re writing this, they are kinda active, causing some trouble and even evacuations in certain areas in Iceland. Hopefully, by the time you get there, the volcanoes will go back to sleep and let us party like it’s 1999. Or, at least 2023. You get it.

Iceland is basically a much cooler Disney for grownups who hate heat, lines, and think sleep is a waste of time. Think nature’s obstacle course with glaciers, mountains, volcanos, lots of ocean, and a view from just about anywhere that’ll make your eyes pop.

So, grab your favorite Abercrombie sweater, your Lululemon hiking pants, and dust off those rarely worn Hoka boots, and get ready to soak up the never-ending sunshine, and maybe play hide and seek with some legit elves in this magical one-of-a-kind land this summer.

Going To Iceland

Most tourists fly into Keflavík (KEF-lah-vick) International Airport, or (KEF), when visiting Iceland. KEF is Iceland’s largest airport and is located 30-ish miles from Reykjavík (RAY-ke-ah-vick), on the southwest coast of Iceland, the country’s capital and largest city. As well as a thriving European restaurant and nightlife scene, Reykjavík is home to beautiful churches and museums where you can learn about Viking history. It’s a little pricey since everything has to be shipped in, but honestly, not much worse than being fleeced for a $24 burger and fries at any Five Guys here in the States. Think $20-30 per person for lunch and $30-$50 for dinner, drinks extra. Tips are unnecessary.

So, you might be thinking, why in heck would I want to visit Iceland this summer? Well, first of all, Alaska cruises in the summer are awful! It rains almost every stinkin’ day! What a sham! But it’s actually dry season in Iceland, and there’s a LOT more to do. Let me paint a little Bob Ross for you.

Imagine dipping your booty in a toasty hot spring having a happy little accident while the sun’s still up at midnight. Or whimsically dancing through fields of tall purple flowers like you’re in a freakin’ shampoo commercial. We don’t really know where they go, and I’m not sure we really care. And if you’re feeling a little extra, like Tim, you can boogie all night at a rock festival and march with the locals in an Independence Day parade the next morning. Remember how free clouds    are. They just lay around in the sky all day long.

Trust me, boredom is not on the itinerary for June in Iceland. Here’s a quick rundown of the must-knows before you jet off, or cruise, to the world’s summer wonderland.

Will I Need To Speak Icelandic?

Icelandic is a North Germanic language spoken by over 300,000 people in Iceland, where it is the national language. I’m not gonna lie, Icelandic is weird to native English speakers and difficult to learn. Fortunately, most Icelanders also speak English. But that definitely won’t stop them from poking fun at your day-glo fuchsia mittens in Icelandic.

Just because they speak English doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least try to learn a few basic words before your trip to Iceland. Sure, they might chuckle a little at your pronunciation, but let’s be honest, you would laugh at them if they were trying to figure out the difference in silly English words like CLOZE or CLOSE, LIVE versus LIVE, or POLISH versus POLISH. English kinda sucks when you think about it!

Here are a few words and short phrases you should POLISH – I mean POLISH up on.

YesJá (YO)
NoNei (NAY)
Hello/HiHalló (HOLL-o)/ hæ (HI)
GoodbyeBless (BLESS)
Thank youTakk (TOCK)
SorrySorrí (SORRY)
Where’s the bathroom?Hvar er klósettið? (CLAH-er CLOSE-ett-eh)
Common Icelandic phrases, just in case.

There are No Northern Lights in June

Sorry, night owls, but Iceland’s famous neon dance in the sky takes a summer break due to the sun hogging all the spotlight. Iceland boasts the “midnight sun,” with the longest days of the year. On the longest day of the year, the summer solstice which typically occurs around June 21st, the sun rises around 3 AM and sets just after midnight, providing almost 21 hours of daylight followed by three hours of neon magic that keeps it bright outside. Twenty-some hours of daylight provides lots of time for adventures well into the night. But hey, that just means more time for daytime shenanigans.

Don’t Forget Your Sunnies and Sunblock

With the sun playing overtime, you’ll want to protect your eyeballs, and keep your skin from turning lobster-red. Despite the cooler temperatures and occasional cloudy days, the sun’s rays can be quite strong, especially since Iceland is close to the Arctic Circle.

With the mercury hovering around a nippley 48°F, Iceland’s natural geothermal hot tubs are like nature’s own Jacuzzis. And they’re everywhere. Picture yourself in a Speedo or tiny bikini, marinating with your peeps in a steamy hot pot while the sun winks at you at midnight right before it comes up again at 3. Magical? Abso-freakin-lutely.

Iceland’s Blue Lagoon is the VIP lounge of hot springs, complete with a spa, a swim-up bar, and rocks that look like they’re straight out of a sci-fi movie. It’s about an hour south of Reykjavik near Grindavik (GREEN-DA-VEEK). Blue Lagoon can be a little pricey, but there are plenty of other more budget-friendly hot spots and public pools to take a dip in. This year, with above-average volcanic activity, there is the possibility some of these hot springs may be temporarily closed for your safety. Unexpected 2000-degree lava burns usually don’t end well for humans.

The Revenge of the Purple Lupines

These Alaskan imported flowers brought in to shore-up the soil have turned into Icelandic superstars, painting the countryside in shades of purple during summer months. They’re the tall, good-looking types that bloom their hearts out in late June. DEFINITELY worthy of a hundred selfies. Head to Skógafoss (SKO-AH-FOSS) for the best backdrop.

Fisherman’s Day: A Big Fish Day in Iceland

Since 1938, the first Sunday in June is like a big family reunion for fishermen. It’s a day to honor the sea’s bounty and remember those who’ve braved the waves. The Festival of the Sea turns this tribute into a party with free food, tunes, boat rides, and a free pass to the Reykjavik Maritime Museum. Harbor towns like Grindavík (GREEN-DA-VEEK) also throw their own shindigs, giving you a peek into the life of a true Icelandic fisherman.

There is some trouble with the pesky Icelandic volcanoes near Grindavík right now, and there have been some evacuations. Hopefully by the time you get there, those pesky lava flows will be done, and Fisherman’s Day will be as festive as ever.

Icelandic Independence Day

Roll out the red-and-white streamers, folks, because June 17th in Iceland is like the Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve, and a giant birthday bash all rolled into one! It’s the day Icelanders high-five each other for breaking up with Denmark back in 1944. Its formal name is Thjodhatidar Dagurinn (SHOW-TAT-IDS-DAGURINN? Show yer tats! It’s Dag! You in?) in Icelandic, which translates to “the day of the nation’s celebration”. Good luck with that one.

Reykjavik turns into party central with parades that have more helium than a science lab, bouncy castles that could launch you to the moon, and enough hot dogs and candy to keep dentists busy for years. If you’ve got little ones, this is the jackpot of fun – it’s like Disney World, but with legit Vikings!

The Evil Icelanders

But hey, it’s not all sunshine and unicorns. Well, actually, it’s a lot of sunshine, but watch out for those midges! Kinda like mosquitoes, midges are tiny vampires that feast on human blood and leave itchy bumps. But don’t worry, they’re usually hanging out at the water’s edge plotting their next attack. Just slap on some lavender spray, and you’ll be as bulletproof as Superman.

Iceland is Green, and Greenland is Ice

As for the weather, June’s got the thermostat set to “mild adventure” with a side of “sun’s out, fun’s out.” Sure, it might get a bit nippy with the breeze, but that’s just Iceland’s way of keeping you cool while you’re looking hot. Everyone looks good in a sweater! And remember, layers are your best friends – like a fashion onion, you can peel off or pile on as needed. So, pack your bags, grab a waterproof jacket (because Iceland likes to keep you guessing), and get ready for the time of your life under the midnight sun. And there you have it, a fun-sized guide to Iceland’s summer fiesta! Plus, WE will be there this June! It’s going to be epic.

Hitting the Streets of Reykjavík

When you land in Reykjavík, don’t just stand there with your suitcase looking a fool — hop on a local tour! For about $30-$40 a person, it’s like getting a backstage pass to the city’s greatest hits, and you’ll be a street-smart wanderer in no time. Snag a tour from Viator, and hit the jackpot. You’ll zigzag through the city, checking out the hip Laugavegur, the duck-filled Tjornin, and the Harpa Concert Hall that’s shinier than a disco ball.

You may even get a history lesson. Turns out, Icelanders have this thing for naming their kids after volcanoes and elves. If you’re itching to burn through some cash or munch on something yummy, these tours are like a treasure map to the best spots.

Don’t miss Skolavordustigur, AKA Rainbow Road. It’s not a Mario Kart track—it’s a real street painted with every color of the rainbow. Snap a selfie and join the club; it’s the thing to do.

Hallgrimskirkja is the big kahuna of landmarks here. It’s a Lutheran church that looks like a concrete spaceship from Viking times. The inside? It’s as calm as a spa day, but the outside will have you craning your neck like you’re watching an NBA game from floor seats. For about $11, you can zoom to the top for some amazing pics.

Then there’s the Sun Voyager, a shiny metal ship sculpture chilling by the water. It’s a hat tip to ancient GPS-challenged explorers. The artist says it’s all about chasing the sunshine and finding new horizons—or something poetic like that.

For architecture buffs, Harpa concert hall is a must-see. It’s like a giant bee’s honeycomb if bees were into avant-garde glasswork. They’ve featured operas, symphonies, and even famous people including Björk, plus a 2022 episode of the Bachelor filmed here. Oh, and the view from the top? No lie, total chef’s kiss.

Lake Tjornin is the zen center of Reykjavík. It’s got more swans than a ballet recital and it’s the perfect spot to chillax in the middle of the city buzz. You might even spot a puffin during certain times of the year.

And for the grand finale, strut down Laugavegur. It’s the beating heart of the city, with more colors than a box of crayons and enough street art to fill an Instagram feed for days.

So there you have it, a whimsical whirlwind tour of Reykjavík that’ll have you grinning from ear to ear! 🌈🦆🎨

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