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Home to glassy glaciers, hot thermal springs, spectacular geysers, active volcanoes, lava fields, stunning waterfalls and snow-capped mountains, Iceland is indeed the 'Land of Fire and Ice'. The second largest island in Europe, Iceland lies close to the Arctic Circle northwest of Scotland and south of Greenland, and its primary draw for visitors is its unique and wonderful natural phenomena.

The hardy Icelandic people, descendants of ancient Norsemen and Celts, are intriguing too, having spawned what is now renowned as the oldest-surviving parliament in the world (called the ), founded in 930 AD. Iceland also boasts a much-revered literary heritage of the best medieval works, mostly based on heroic sagas.

Most of the country's popular tourist features are in the south of the island near the capital, Reykjavik, and can be explored on the much celebrated 'Golden Circle' route. Top of the list for scenic splendour are the Gullfoss double-tiered waterfall and the spouting hot springs of Geysir.

Reykjavik means 'smoky bay' but, in the case of Iceland's pristine capital (which is Europe's most northerly capital city), the smoke is not smog but rather steam from the underground springs that warm the city.

Reykjavik has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the cleanest, most invigorating cities in Europe, and boasts one of the highest standards of living in the world. The city may be small, but it is full of interesting attractions, from galleries and museums to thermal bathing spots, and the nightlife is second to none.

Iceland is steadily increasing in popularity as a travel destination, and offers so much to see and do that repeat visits may be necessary, particularly as the country seems so different in summer and winter.

The summer weather enables all sorts of outdoor fun in the gloriously unique landscapes, but the icy winter months bring with them the spectacle of the Northern Lights, truly one of the most magical experiences the world has to offer.


Icelandic, but English is widely spoken.


The unit of currency is the Icelandic kronur (ISK). Almost all banks offer foreign exchange facilities and can be found in even the tiniest villages. Most have ATMs on their premises and they're available after banking hours, which are usually Monday to Friday from 9.15am to 4pm. Credit cards are widely used in Iceland for purchases and cash advances.


Iceland's electricity supply is 230 volts, 50Hz, as it is in most European countries. Plugs and sockets are of the two-pin type typical of Europe.


Service charges are included in bills and tipping is not expected in Iceland.


Iceland is an extremely safe country to visit. The only threats are a low level of petty crime and rapidly changing weather conditions, so travellers should keep an eye open if they are on the road.


The international country code for Iceland is +354. Travellers should note that Icelanders are listed by their first name in the telephone directory, not the last. Visitors can rent WiFi hotspots; WiFi is easy to access and free calls can be made using WiFi connections.


There are no specific health risks associated with travel to Iceland, and no vaccinations are necessary for entry. Travellers should, as a precaution, be up-to-date on routine vaccinations before every trip, and should consider getting vaccinated for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and measles. Medical care in the country is of high quality and payment is usually expected in cash from visitors. Travel health insurance is highly recommended.

Public Holidays

New Year's Day1 Jan1 Jan
Maundy Thursday9 Apr1 Apr
Good Friday10 Apr2 Apr
Easter Monday13 Apr5 Apr
First Day of Summer23 Apr22 Apr
Labour Day1 May1 May
Ascension Day21 May13 May
Whit Monday1 Jun24 May
National Day17 Jun17 Jun
Commerce Day3 Aug2 Aug
Christmas24 Dec24 Dec
Boxing Day26 Dec26 Dec
New Year's Eve31 Dec31 Dec


Most business in Iceland tends to take place in the capital, Reykjavik, and business meetings are usually formal, with smart dress essential. It's worth handing out business cards, and initial greetings are usually accompanied by a handshake. Punctuality should be respected; meetings are usually conducted in English when dealing with foreigners. Visiting business people should note that Icelanders generally go by their first name, and telephone directory listings are alphabetical by first name. Business hours are usually from 8am to 4pm (summer) and 9am to 5pm (winter); most offices are closed on weekends.

Passport & Visa

The borderless region known as the Schengen Area includes Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. All of these countries issue a standard Schengen visa that has a multiple entry option, and which allows the holder to travel freely within the borders of all the aforementioned countries. Additionally, foreign passengers to Iceland must hold return or onward tickets, the necessary travel documentation for their next destination, and sufficient funds to cover their stay in Iceland. It is highly recommended that travellers' passports have at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from their travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.


Smoking in bars, restaurants and on public transport is illegal in Iceland, and penalties for the possession of drugs are steep. Travellers should note that although whale meat is legally available in Iceland, it is not legal to bring it across borders into the UK or EU.

Duty Free

Travellers to Iceland over 18 years do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes or 250g of other tobacco products. Travellers over 20 years are also allowed 1 litre of spirits and 3 litres of beer, or 3 litres of wine and 6 litres beer, or 1 litre spirits and 6 litres beer, or 1.5 litres of wine and a 12 litres of beer, or 18 litres of beer; and food items up to 3 kg not exceeding ISK 25,000. Permits from Post & Telecom Authorities are required for cordless phones, remote controls or radio transmitters, but not for a GSM mobile phone. Prohibited items include narcotics and drugs, uncooked meat products, weapons and powdered or moist snuff.


Reykjavik Tourist Information Centre, Reykjavik: +354 454 2000 or

112 (General)

Entry Requirements

US citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least three months beyond the period of intended stay in Iceland. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.

Passports endorsed 'British Citizen', 'British Subject' (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the United Kingdom), and 'British Overseas Territories Citizen' issued by Gibraltar, must be valid on arrival. British passports with other endorsements must be valid for three months beyond the period of intended stay in Iceland. A visa is required.

Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least three months beyond the period of intended stay in Iceland. No visa is required for a stay of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.

South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least three months beyond the period of intended stay, and a valid Schengen visa, to enter Iceland.

Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid on arrival in Iceland. No visa is required for nationals from the Republic of Ireland.

New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least three months beyond the period of intended stay in Iceland. No visa is required for a stay of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.

Embassy Consulates

United States Embassy, Reykjavik: +354 595 2200.

British Embassy, Reykjavik: +354 550 5100.

Canadian Embassy, Reykjavik: +354 575 6500.

South African Honorary Consulate-General, Reykjavik: +354 561 7181.

Irish Honorary Consul, Gardabaer: +354 554 2355.

Embassy Consulates

Embassy of Iceland, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 265 6653.

Embassy of Iceland, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland) : +44 20 7259 3999.

Embassy of Iceland, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 482 1944.

Honorary Consulate of Iceland, Johannesburg, South Africa: +27 11 305 8954.

Honorary Consulate of Iceland, Dublin: +353 1 872 9299

Consulate of Iceland, Auckland, New Zealand: +64 9 528 3932.


Iceland boasts a surplus of natural thrills, making the island a playground for adventurous nature lovers in search of something different. An exciting combination of glaciers, hot springs, icy fjords, volcanoes, snowy slopes, geysers, and otherworldly rock formations ensure a unique holiday in Iceland, and that's not even taking into account the magical Northern Lights.

Although it is one of the most exciting outdoor travel destinations in the world, more conventional sightseeing in Iceland is also possible, with Reykjavik providing an impressive selection of museums and galleries, a famously fun nightlife, good shopping, and a mouth-watering array of restaurants.

Reykjavik is commonly the starting point for Icelandic holidays and the most well-beaten tourist route on the island, the Golden Circle, starts in the city. This 186-mile (300km) loop can be driven in a day and covers many of Iceland's most popular tourist attractions and activities, including the Gullfoss waterfalls, the geysers of Strokkur and Geysir, and the beautiful landscapes of Thingvellir National Park. For a longer trip, and to experience more of the island than the popular south, travellers can drive Iceland's Ring Road, which circles the island and takes about a week to travel.

Many travellers will find the Reykjavik City Card useful as it covers not only the major sightseeing attractions in the city but also a few excursions nearby, including a ferry ride to nearby islands and discounts for activities such as whale watching and horse riding. The tourist card also allows unlimited bus transport and even includes discounts at some restaurants. The Reykjavik City Card is available in one-day, two-day, or three-day packages.


As the name suggests, Iceland's climate is cold, but not as cold as might be expected because of the passing warm waters of the Gulf Stream, which regulate the climate. The summer temperatures in Reykjavík, between June and August, range from 41F (5C) at night to as high as 77F (25C) during the day. The average mid-winter temperature, in January, is 31F (-0.5C).

The south is the wettest part of the country, but snow is rare. Coastal areas tend to experience winter gales and are generally windy. During the summer months, there is almost continuous daylight; early spring and late autumn feature long twilights. The opposite is true in the darkness of winter from mid-November until the end of January, when the country only experiences a few hours of daylight each day.

The Northern Lights are often visible in autumn and early winter. The best time to visit Iceland depends on the desired activity. Generally summer is the most pleasant time to visit but the Northern Lights are a big draw card in the colder months.

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