This guide is designed to help you with practical matters in planning your trip to Iceland: when to go, how to get there, how to get around, how to prepare. Advance planning is especially important in high season (mid-June to Aug), since tourism is booming and services have trouble meeting demand.
In the United States, Iceland Tourist Board (P. O. Box 4649) 655 3rd Ave., New York, NY, 10017 (tel. 212/885-9710; www.icelandtouristboard.com), can get you started in planning your trip. Iceland does not maintain tourist offices in Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand.
A particularly useful reference is the free 240-page booklet Around Iceland, with practical, concise listings for virtually all accommodations, dining, attractions, and tourist services throughout the country. The booklet is easily found in hotels and tourist information centers, and can be downloaded from www.heimur.is/world.
The most readily available large-scale, medium-scale, and thematic maps are published by Mál og Menning, and can be purchased overseas through www.nordicstore.net.
Other companies are producing excellent small-scale hiking maps for particular areas.
A fun way to prepare for a walking trip in Iceland is to visit Google Earth (www.googleearth.com) and print out aerial photographs of your route.
Packing Suggestions for Iceland
The items below are hardly a complete packing list, just a series of suggestions and reminders.
Bathing Suit Yes, even in winter. Icelanders love their geothermal pools and hot tubs year-round, and so should you.
Binoculars These aren't just for bird nerds; you'll be glad to have them when whales, seals, dolphins, and foxes appear in the distance.
Compass/GPS Locational Device The latter is preferred, especially because compasses can be thrown off by Iceland's magnetic minerals.
Driver's License & Passport You wouldn't forget these, now would you?
Earplugs Icelanders can get pretty noisy late Friday and Saturday nights.
First Aid It's easy to scrape yourself on Iceland's endless lava rocks, so at the very least bring bandaging materials and antibacterial ointment.
Flashlight There's a good chance you'll visit a cave; bring a strong one.
Hair Conditioner The mineral content of Iceland's geothermal water can be pretty rough on hair.
Hiking Shoes Even the most sedate tours often involve walking over rough terrain. Water-resistant shoes with ankle support are advised.
Insect Repellent You'll need this if you plan on visiting the interior or the Mývatn area, especially in spring or early summer. A head net is even better.
Motion Sickness Pills Longer ferry rides, as well as whale-watching and sea-angling trips, traverse stretches of open sea. Iceland's winding, bumpy roads can also cause motion sickness.
Raingear Icelanders prefer raincoats over umbrellas, since the wind blows rain (and umbrellas) in all directions. Though it's not always windy, and if you visit any bird cliffs in nesting season, an umbrella is an ideal defense against attacks by arctic terns. Bring rainpants since Iceland is pretty darn rainy.
Sleeping Bag This could save you lots of money.
Sleeping Mask The midnight sun can make sleeping difficult.
Sunglasses The Icelandic terrain can produce lots of glare, and with the sun so low to the horizon, sunglasses are essential for driving.
Sunscreen The sub-Arctic sun can cause sunburn even when the weather's cool, and the landscape offers few places to hide.
Towel Renting one every time you go to a geothermal pool adds up.
Tupperware Travelers in Iceland often have to carry food in tow.
Windbreaker or Windproof Shell Iceland is windy . . . penetratingly windy.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.