Backpacking in Iceland allows you to immerse yourself in the country's natural beauty and experience its stunning wonders closely. Iceland, with its vivid landscapes, jaw-dropping waterfalls, and strange charm, has become a bucket-list destination for adventurous travelers. From traversing volcanic terrain to soaking in geothermal hot springs, here is everything you need to know for an unforgettable backpacking adventure in Iceland.
Iceland is often referred to as the "Land of Fire and Ice" due to its fascinating geological features. The country is situated on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and possesses diverse volcanoes and glaciers. There are black sand beaches, sprawling lava fields, majestic glaciers, and captivating ice caves.
The geothermal activity of Iceland gives rise to hot springs and bubbling mud pots, and such activity is never seen in other parts of the earth. If you are a travel lover and want to explore the hidden gems of Iceland, then this backpacking Iceland guide will offer everything you need to know about backpacking in Iceland.
Backpacking Iceland Travel Guide
There are many great places to visit in Iceland that await backpackers who want to experience nature closely. If you have a plan to travel to Iceland, then this Iceland travel guide will help you a lot.
· Choosing the Right Season to Visit
Iceland experiences four distinct seasons, each with its charm. Summer (June to August) offers long daylight hours, lush green landscapes, and vibrant birdlife. Winter (December to February) brings shorter days but also provides the chance to witness the hypnotic Northern Lights. Among these extremes, spring and autumn offer milder weather, and most tourist spots are empty in these seasons. Therefore, if you want a calm and cool tour of such beautiful landscapes, then spring and autumn are the best seasons for you.
· Backpacking Iceland Guide to the Essential Packing List
When embarking on the adventure of backpacking in Iceland, it's essential to pack wisely to ensure comfort, safety, and preparedness for the country's unique weather conditions and outdoor activities. You must have layered clothing, waterproof and windproof jackets, hiking shoes, comfortable socks and undergarments, a scarf, a hat, and gloves to cope with all sorts of conditions. Bring a travel cooking set, a first aid kit, and essential travel documents. Backpacking Iceland's guide to essential packing helps you keep your backpack light and manageable by packing only the essentials.
· Understanding the Terrain and Trails
Iceland's diverse landscapes offer a paradise for hikers and backpackers, with a range of trails that showcase the country's natural beauty. The Laugavegur Trail is 55 kilometers long and showcases the highlands' volcanic deserts and mountains. The Fimmvöruháls Trail takes you between glaciers with stunning views. The Skógafoss Waterfall, located on the South Coast, offers a short hike to the top for stunning views. Snfellsjökull National Park, located on the Snfellsnes Peninsula, provides diverse landscapes, including lava fields, mountains, and coastal cliffs.
Consider the trail's difficulty, weather conditions, and duration while backpacking in Iceland. Check forecasts and trail conditions, and inform others of your plans. Carry appropriate gear, including boots, warm clothing, a map, a compass or GPS, and ample provisions. Iceland's trails cater to all levels and offer an unforgettable connection to nature.
· Getting Around Iceland
To explore Iceland, renting a car is a better option, as it offers the freedom to stop anywhere. On the other hand, public transportation is budget-friendly, but you need a lot of time. Hitchhiking is another popular option for budget-conscious travelers in Iceland. It is safe in Iceland because of the low crime rate; however, hitchhike in pairs or groups for added safety. Also, it is crucial to obtain a wide range of medical and personal coverage while backpacking in Iceland.
Best Places to Visit Iceland
Iceland is a country that is gifted with stunning natural beauty and diverse jaw-dropping landscapes that captivate visitors from all over the world. If you have a backpacking plan, here we discuss the best places to visit Iceland.
Exploring the Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is one of the most popular tourist spots and is the capital of Reykjavik, which includes Gullfoss, Geyser Strokkur, and Ingvellir National Park. Whether you choose to visit for a day or extend your stay, this iconic route promises an unforgettable journey through some of Iceland's most captivating sights. These are must-see spots for every backpacker. Remember, you should manage your time while visiting the Golden Circle, as there are much more intimate and equally astounding sights to see. For accommodation, Laugarvatn is considered the best place there.
Reykjavik is a backpacker-friendly city offering various accommodation options like hostels and campsites. Public transportation, biking, and walking are convenient ways to get around attractions including Hallgrimskirkja, Old Reykjavik, Harpa Concert Hall, The Pond, and the Sun Voyager sculpture. You can do outdoor activities such as hiking Mount Esja, exploring the Reykjanes Peninsula, and visiting swimming pools like Laugardalslaug. Enjoy backpacking in Reykjavik and make the most of its charming atmosphere and scenic beauty.
Geothermal Wonders at the Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is another one of the best places to visit Iceland and is an iconic geothermal spa on Iceland's Reykjanes Peninsula. Its milky blue, mineral-rich waters, and amazing volcanic surroundings make it a must-visit destination. To enjoy a memorable experience, you should arrive early or late to avoid crowds. Protect your hair by applying conditioner before entering the water, and use the provided silica mud mask for your face. The Backpacking Iceland guide will help you explore the sauna, steam rooms, and relaxation areas and consider purchasing skincare products made with Blue Lagoon's geothermal seawater.
Majestic Waterfalls: Gullfoss and Seljalandsfoss
Gullfoss is a powerful and historically significant waterfall in southwest Iceland, known for its two-tiered cascade into a narrow gorge. Seljalandsfoss, located in southern Iceland, offers a unique experience with the ability to walk behind the waterfall. For Gullfoss, selected trails provide viewpoints of the waterfall from above, capturing its splendor. Seljalandsfoss allows for photography from various angles, including the captivating perspective from behind the waterfall. Exercise carefully when hiking, wear appropriate clothing, and for a more intimate experience, make sure to visit during off-peak hours.
Dettifoss is a powerful waterfall in northeastern Iceland. Visit during the summer (June to August) for milder weather and longer daylight. Access is via the Ring Road and Road 864. There are two hiking routes: the popular west side from the parking lot or the less crowded east side with a longer hike. Carry food and water, follow safety guidelines, camp at designated sites, and respect park regulations. Explore Selfoss waterfall and Jökulsárgljfur Canyon nearby. Preserve the environment and wildlife. Stay safe, be prepared for weather changes, and enjoy the beauty of Dettifoss and its surroundings.
Backpacking Heimaey Island
Heimaey Island, located in the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago off the south coast of Iceland, is a hidden gem for backpacking enthusiasts. With its stunning landscapes and rich cultural heritage, Heimaey offers a unique and immersive experience. Hike along scenic trails that lead to breathtaking viewpoints overlooking the island's dramatic cliffs and volcanic formations.
backpacking in Iceland allows you to explore the Eldfell volcano, which erupted in 1973 and left behind a fascinating lava field. Visit the charming fishing village, wander through colorful streets, and indulge in fresh seafood. Enjoy the island's natural beauty, rich wildlife, and warm hospitality, which make Heimaey Island an unforgettable destination for backpackers.
Exploring the Landscapes of the South Coast While Backpacking in Iceland
Black Sand Beaches of Vik
The black sand beaches of Vik, including Reynisfjara, offer breathtaking beauty and captivating attractions. Reynisfjara is particularly famous for its dramatic black sand, towering basalt columns, and stunning rock formations. However, it's important to be aware of safety precautions when visiting these beaches. The waves and currents can be unpredictable, so it's crucial to stay at a safe distance from the shoreline. The unique rock formations, such as the Reynisdrangar sea stacks, add to the mystical atmosphere of the area. Take in the awe-inspiring scenery, but always prioritize your safety and follow any guidelines provided by local authorities.
Skogafoss: The Cascading Beauty
Skogafoss is an impressive waterfall in southern Iceland, standing 60 meters tall and 25 meters wide. Its cascading beauty mesmerizes visitors, with the powerful water creating a constant mist. Hiking to the top involves climbing approximately 500 steps, offering panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. From the summit, one can witness the Skógá River, smaller waterfalls, and picturesque valleys and mountains. Dress appropriately and exercise caution due to potentially slippery conditions. Skogafoss is a must-visit for nature lovers and photographers, showcasing the raw power and natural splendor that make it an iconic destination in Iceland's breathtaking scenery.
Skaftafell National Park: Glacier Hiking Paradise
Skaftafell National Park in southern Iceland is a glacier hiking paradise. It's rough landscapes and stunning glaciers attract adventurers. During backpacking in Iceland follow the Iceland travel guide, stay in designated areas, and respect the dynamic nature of glaciers. Dress warmly, wear suitable footwear, and carry essential items. Check the weather conditions and be prepared. Skaftafell offers glacier hiking trails for various skill levels, allowing exploration of Iceland's icy beauty. Immerse yourself in the breathtaking views and the unique opportunity to experience these majestic glaciers.
Another one of the best places to visit while backpacking in Iceland is Vatnajökull, which is the largest glacier in Europe and a captivating destination for adventurers. Its vast icy expanse stretches across an area of over 8,000 square kilometers, covering numerous volcanoes and creating a breathtaking landscape. Explore the glacier's mesmerizing ice caves, where dazzling blue hues and intricate formations await.
While backpacking in Iceland, go through the glacier hikes of such places, but make sure to follow the backpacking Iceland guide and follow the recommendations of professionals. Witness the powerful glacial rivers and cascading waterfalls, and discover the unique beauty and awe-inspiring majesty of Vatnajökull.
Fjarárgljfur, a hidden gem in southeastern Iceland, offers a remarkable experience for backpackers. This place offers beautiful cliffs and a meandering river that winds through the rugged landscape. There are different waterfalls and lush greenery that immerse you in nature's masterpiece. Fjarárgljfur is a place of natural wonder and serenity, inviting backpackers to discover its enchanting beauty and create unforgettable memories along the way.
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon: Icebergs and Wildlife
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon in Iceland is renowned for its stunning icebergs and diverse wildlife. Witness the captivating beauty of floating icebergs, each with its unique shape and coloration. Boat tours provide an immersive experience, allowing you to get up close to the icebergs and learn about the glacial environment. Keep an eye out for seals, as the lagoon is home to a thriving seal population. Respect the environment and wildlife by following guidelines and maintaining a safe distance.
Exploring the Untamed Wonders of the North While Backpacking in Iceland
Húsavík: Whale Watching Capital
Húsavík is hailed as the whale-watching capital, attracting enthusiasts worldwide. If you want to see humpback, minke, and blue whales, you should visit this place from May to September. There are great tour options available, ranging from traditional boats to modern vessels, all with knowledgeable guides sharing insights about the whales and their habitat. Make sure to keep a proper distance and cause minimal disturbance to the whales and their environment. Backpacking in Iceland helps you explore different other attractions like the Húsavíkurkirkja church and Húsavík Whale Museum to delve into the area's maritime heritage.
Myvatn: A Geothermal Wonderland
Myvatn, in northern Iceland, invites you to explore its volcanic landscapes and geothermal activity. Discover steaming vents, bubbling mud pools, and captivating lava formations. Backpacking in Iceland helps you relax and rejuvenate in natural hot springs, immersed in warm mineral-rich waters. Don't miss visiting the mystical Dimmuborgir, where you can enjoy the unique atmosphere of an enchanting maze of lava. Myvatn is a haven for nature lovers and geology enthusiasts, offering a glimpse into the powerful forces that shape Iceland's extraordinary landscapes.
Godafoss Waterfall: The Waterfall of the Gods
Godafoss Waterfall, also called the Waterfall of the Gods, is not only a majestic natural wonder but also carries historical and mythical significance. Photographers will delight in capturing the horseshoe-shaped waterfall, plunging 12 meters into the river amidst breathtaking landscapes. Nearby, the Lake Myvatn area offers unique volcanic formations and diverse birdlife. Also, visit the charming town of Akureyri, known as the "Capital of the North." Godafoss is a mesmerizing Icelandic treasure that blends history, folklore, and natural beauty.
Hvitserkur, a majestic rock formation situated on the northern coast of Iceland, is a fascinating destination for backpackers. Rising from the sea like a mythical creature, this basalt monolith's unique shape and rugged beauty captivate. You can explore diverse coastal landscapes and dramatic cliffs nearby. Hike along the shoreline, taking in the breathtaking views and listening to the crashing waves. Capture memorable photographs of Hvitserkur while backpacking in Iceland against the backdrop of the North Atlantic Ocean. Dip yourself in the beauty of this place and make your journey memorable.
East Fjords: Secluded Beauty
The East Fjords of Iceland offer secluded beauty with picturesque fjords and charming coastal villages. While backpacking in Iceland, explore the rugged mountains, deep fjords, and cascading waterfalls that create the breathtaking landscape of this area. There are diverse hiking trails that pass through the region that unveil hidden gems for backpackers seeking adventure. Discover serene lakes, hidden hot springs, and untouched wilderness off the beaten path. You can meet with diverse people in that area and explore the charm of the communities in that area.
Off-The-Beneath Path Adventures
Snæfellsnes Peninsula: Iceland in Miniature
Snæfellsnes Peninsula, known as "Iceland in Miniature," showcases diverse landscapes and unique attractions. From majestic mountains to black sand beaches and volcanic craters to cascading waterfalls, it encapsulates the breathtaking beauty of Iceland in a compact region. Camping and hiking options abound, offering opportunities to immerse oneself in the peninsula's splendor. Explore scenic coastal trails or volcanic landscapes, suitable for all levels of outdoor enthusiasts. Don't miss Snæfellsjökull volcano, which inspired Jules Verne's "Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Backpacking in Iceland's highlands is an adventure like no other. The rugged and untamed landscapes of the Highlands offer a thrilling experience for outdoor enthusiasts. Trek through vast lava fields, cross glacial rivers and witness majestic waterfalls cascading from towering cliffs. Explore the iconic Landmannalaugar, known for its vibrant rhyolite mountains and natural hot springs. Traverse the otherworldly landscapes of Thórsmörk, nestled between glaciers and volcanoes. The Fjallabak Nature Reserve beckons with its remote wilderness and hidden gems. Keep in mind that the highlands require careful planning, sturdy equipment, and knowledge of the ever-changing weather conditions.
Westfjords Region: Remote and Untouched
The Westfjords Region of Iceland is a remote and untouched paradise known for its dramatic landscapes and untouched beauty. Highlights of this region include breathtaking fjords, towering cliffs, and cascading waterfalls that create captivating scenery. Hiking enthusiasts will find a multitude of trails to explore, offering stunning views and a sense of solitude. Wildlife enthusiasts can spot seabird colonies and maybe even encounter seals and whales along the coast. For accommodations, charming guesthouses and cozy campsites provide a comfortable stay.
Trollaskagi Peninsula: The Land of Trolls
The Trollaskagi Peninsula, known as the Land of Trolls, beckons with its mesmerizing beauty and enchanting folklore. Explore its rugged landscapes, towering mountains, and deep fjords, all steeped in mythical tales. Hikers will delight in the abundance of trails, offering awe-inspiring views and a chance to connect with nature. Venture off the beaten path to discover hidden gems like secluded waterfalls, tranquil lakes, and rejuvenating hot springs. Trollaskagi Peninsula offers a unique and immersive experience where the allure of nature intertwines with captivating legends.
Reykjanes Peninsula: Gateway to Iceland
The Reykjanes Peninsula serves as the gateway to Iceland, welcoming visitors to explore the geography of the region. This beautiful area is home to famous sites that showcase Iceland's unique natural wonders. Visit the Bridge between Continents, where you can stand between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. Reykjanes Peninsula also boasts rugged lava fields, stunning coastal cliffs, and charming fishing villages, providing ample opportunities for exploration.
Backpacking in Iceland offers a wide range of jaw-dropping destinations that promise unforgettable experiences for backpackers. From the rocky highlands to the captivating coastal regions, Iceland's diverse terrain provides an unforgettable experience for outdoor enthusiasts. Visit the amazing Golden Circle, geothermal areas, majestic waterfalls, and historical landmarks. Exploring lesser-known destinations like the Westfjords and Landmannalaugar allows for a deeper connection with Iceland's untouched wilderness.
However, it is essential to plan your trip for backpacking in Iceland carefully, considering the weather, trail difficulty, and safety precautions. With proper preparation, a sense of adventure, and a respectful attitude towards nature, backpacking in Iceland promises a remarkable journey filled with awe-inspiring landscapes and cherished memories.
So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and start backpacking in Iceland now!