Thingvellir National Park is notable for both historical and geological issues. As a national park, it was organized in 1930 in honor of the 1000th anniversary of Althing, the ancient parliament, originally founded in Thingvellir in 930 AD, and remained there until 1798. In 2004, Thingvellir has declared a World Heritage Site.

Thingvellir is extremely valuable to all Icelanders. This is the most important place in the history of the country. In the Middle Ages, the Altingi was Iceland’s highest legislative and judicial court. For centuries, Thingvellir has been a gathering place for people from all over the country every year in June. This place was the social center for Icelandic society. And, according to the Sagas, everyone was well dressed in colorful silk clothes and the like when they visited Alting.

Thingvellir is a place that has not the only historical significance, but also cultural and geological. It is located in the rift valley, on the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. A fault is visible with fissures passing through the area. The biggest fissure is Almannagja, a real canyon. Due to the constant divergence of lithospheric plates, earthquakes often occur in the area. Lake Thingvallavatn, on the banks of which the park is located, is Iceland’s largest natural lake and enhances the beauty of Thingvellir. The landscape at Thingvellir is also stunning with colorful lava fields and beautiful mountains in the background.

Access to Thingvellir, Almannagjá fissure, Öxarárfoss waterfall, Drekkingarhylur drowning pool, and some of the magnificent landscape is quite simple but requires a short walk.

What are the seasons like in Iceland? What is the Icelandic weather like? When can you see the Northern Lights? When can you see the puffins? When is the midnight sun?

These are some of the most frequent questions, although the most popular one is ‘when is the best time to visit Iceland?’ and it’s a hard one to answer because Iceland is so varied in nature and wildlife and the weather is so unpredictable. So we decided to put in as much information about the climate and seasonal attractions as possible into one place!

Iceland has four seasons, although sometimes it doesn’t feel that way as the weather changes all the time. You’ll probably hear the joke ‘if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes’ when you’re in Iceland. Many people think that Iceland is constantly freezing cold but that is not the case.

Iceland actually enjoys a much milder climate than its name suggests. This is partly due to the Gulf Stream that flows along the west and south of Iceland, bringing warmth all the way from the Caribbean! Unfortunately, though, this also means that the mild Atlantic air gets mixed with the cold Arctic air coming from the north and causes sudden and frequent changes in the weather. It also means that there is a lot of wind and storm in the country and that the south part of the country gets more rainfall than the north.

Another reason for the warmth in Iceland is the fact that Iceland is situated right on top of one of the earth’s hot spots. Iceland is a country of incredible geothermal activity and full of hot springs, geysers, mud pools, volcanoes, and occasional earthquakes.

This is one of the few places in the world where you can see two tectonic plates meet on the earth’s surface, as the tectonic plates normally meet underneath the sea. Iceland is actually being divided into two by the Eurasian and the American plates and the divide runs straight through the middle of the country and is very visible at Thingvellir national park, where you can even go diving or snorkeling between the two continents. In a few billion years, Iceland will be split into two.

Don’t be put off by the volcanic activity or earthquakes, whenever a volcano starts erupting, it becomes an attraction instead of people fleeing away and earthquakes are minor and very infrequent. No big damage has happened due to volcanic eruptions or earthquakes with the exception of crop failures hundreds of years ago and some canceled flights in recent years due to ash clouds. And the volcanic eruptions are just so incredibly beautiful to witness, reminding you of the forces of nature!

Although the temperature in Iceland is milder than you might expect — it’s still pretty cold! Depending on where you are from you may find it warmer or colder than you expected (that also depends on your luck, the time of year you visit and how warmly dressed you are!)

Temperature-wise, Icelandic winters are not as cold as Canada or Russia — or even in New York or the Baltic countries! In the summertime, however, it never gets any hot days, although sometimes it can get pretty warm. The temperature is pretty mild throughout the year and there is not as drastic of a change between summer and winter temperatures as there is in New York for example.

When is the best time to visit Iceland? This horse likes it in the summertime!

This ‘mild’ weather however is totally unpredictable. You can wake up to a beautiful sunny day, get dressed, and by the time you’re dressed there’s a raging snow blizzard outside. Or you can be driving in some valley with nothing but clear skies, pass a hill and enter scenery of fog and rain.

Icelanders are used to this and if you book a tour that gets canceled due to weather, you’ll receive a full refund or it will be scheduled for another day.

We believe all the seasons have something great about them. You can read about the different seasons here and then make up your mind yourself when is the best time to visit Iceland, depending on your preferences!

Summertime is the high season and when most people come to Iceland. The weather is milder, the days are longer and it’s truly a spectacular time to visit Iceland. If you’re coming to Iceland for the first time, we would definitely recommend coming in the summertime.

If you are coming to Iceland for the second or third time, however, we’d recommend checking out one of the other seasons. The prices will be lower for your accommodation (with the exception of Christmas and New Year’s perhaps!) as it is the ‘off-season’ but you will see a great contrast to the summer landscapes.

Some attractions are only available during wintertimes, such as the elusive Northern Lights and spectacular ice caves in one of Iceland’s many glaciers. Or you could find yourself in a crazy adventure that includes big super jeeps and snow blizzards and come home with slightly more fun and exciting travel stories than usual. And nothing beats New Year’s Eve in Reykjavík! 🙂

When is the best time to visit Iceland? Go for New Year’s Eve in Reykjavík!

For updated information, you need about the climate and weather in Iceland visit the website of the Icelandic Met office. Just remember the weather in Iceland can be extremely unpredictable (also in the summer) — so all forecasts should be taken with a pinch of salt!

Spring in Iceland

When is the best time to visit Iceland? In spring you’ll see the contrast between thawing snow and the colors below 🙂

Spring in Iceland is the months of April and May. Icelanders celebrate the first day of summer on the first Thursday after the 18th of April, the ‘official’ first day of summer and a public holiday. It’s not that uncommon that it snows on this day. This is the official first summer’s day but it would be fairer to say that it’s the first spring day. During April and May, Iceland can from time to time have some snowfall, but generally, the snow is thawing in the mountains and the highlands, pretty much gone from Reykjavík and the coastline and flowers start blooming.

This is also the time when migrating birds, such as the popular puffin, start appearing in Iceland. The first puffins are seen in April and they stay until September. It is actually another bird, Lóa, or the Golden Plover that is supposed to bring springtime along with it, and the first Golden Plovers can normally be seen towards the end of March.

When is the best time to visit Iceland? For puffins, in summertime 🙂

Springtime weather in Reykjavík can be anything from snow, sleet, and rain to bright sunny days, and the temperature averages between 0-10°C. Springtime can be fairly wet in the south part of the country but drier (and colder) towards the north (around Akureyri). The Icelandic highlands can be about 10° colder than the coastline and are closed for traffic.

The colors of nature start to pick up, the grass may not be very tall or green yet but the leaves of the trees are just about to pop out. Spring flowers such as crocus and Easter lilies can be seen poking their heads out of people’s gardens and you might even see some spring flowers blossom on trees. Generally, people’s spirits are lifted after the winter and there’s excitement in the air for the summer that’s around the corner.

Spring is an excellent time for tourists to come to Iceland, as you may still catch the Northern Lights, the weather is fairly mild but the high season hasn’t started so there will be less tourists around and prices are lower. It should also be easier for you to find accommodation availability and many tours are available.

Summer in Iceland

Icelandic summertime is normally considered to start in late May or early June and lasts through August. This is the most popular time for people to visit Iceland. The midnight sun occurs during the Icelandic summer, meaning that the days are incredibly long and people gain extra energy.

The days keep getting longer and longer, until the longest day of summer which is around the 21st of June. After the summer solstice, the days start to get shorter, but only by a minute or two each day! The sunsets turn into sunrises in spectacular shows of color that may last for hours. Iceland is a paradise for photographers that want to catch nature in the ‘golden hour’.

When is the best time to visit Iceland? For midnight sun, summertime!

For travelers, these long days are extremely handy as you won’t ever get lost in the dark or need to reach a destination before it gets dark. There is no darkness! Don’t worry, you’ll still be able to sleep, just use black-out curtains 🙂

Most tours are available in the summertime and you’ll be able to see many locations in the long summer days, including mountains, glaciers, volcanoes, and waterfalls, many of them providing you with excellent contrasts in color.

The weather can still be unpredictable and some years it feels like summer never comes. Temperature can be as low as 5°C but as warm as 25°C! On average the temperature is between 10° to 15°C. Summers are not as wet as springtime but it does rain occasionally. What brings the main cold factor is the windchill, as Iceland is a very windy country. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to experience nice and warm, still summer days in Iceland and if you are in town, you will see how the city comes alive!

Plenty of outdoor camping or music festivals take place in Iceland during summertime and many people choose to travel around the country and sleep in tents. Summer music festivals include the Secret Solstice Festival and the ATP festival, as well as an abundance of smaller ones.

In the summertime, normally towards the end of June or beginning of July is when some highland roads are opened, after having been closed for the whole winter. This is the only time of year that you can access the popular valley of Landmannalaugar (unless you go on this Landmannalaugar super jeep winter tour) and Þórsmörk valley. So if you dream of going hiking in the Icelandic highlands, for example along Iceland’s most popular hiking routes; Laugavegurinn and Fimmvörðuháls, then July or early August is the best time for you.

Autumn in Iceland

The Icelandic autumn starts late August and stays until late October or early November. Autumn is a great time to visit Iceland as it’s still relatively warm in late August, getting colder each day though! In September and October prices for accommodation go down but you’ll be able to see the gorgeous autumn colors of Iceland, perhaps experience the first fall of snow of the year and even catch the Northern Lights!

The only downfall is that it may be really windy, wet, and possibly quite cold. Autumn is similar to springtime in temperature, between 0° to 10°C but autumn feels windier, maybe it’s just because all the leaves falling from the trees keep being blown around in the wind! Obviously, there are also still days such as you can see in the picture above, taken at Þingvellir national park.

When there is a new fresh layer of snow mixed in with the autumn colors, the moss, and the lava, you’ll be able to see some incredible color combination, such as you can see in this picture from Hraunfossar — Lava Falls.

When is the best time to visit Iceland? For contrasting colors, autumn!

Autumn is when the birds start leaving and some tours such as river rafting or highland tours stop being on offer. On the other hand, this is when you’ll be able to go mushroom or berry-picking in the countryside. You can pick wild blueberries, crowberries, and strawberries in Iceland. You’ll also be able to find redcurrants, although they are mainly planted and found in people’s gardens.

 

And remember to search the skies for the Northern Lights!

Winter in Iceland

Winter in Iceland is between November and March. These are the darkest months of the year, the shortest day of the year is just before the Christmas holidays, on the 21st of December. On that day there’s only daylight for about 4-5 hours. Fortunately, though, the Christmas season is filled with twinkling fairy lights in every garden and on every street!

Wintertime is great to cuddle up indoors over a nice cup of hot chocolate or bathe in one of Iceland’s many hot tubs, hot pools or hot springs! You can bathe in some hot springs all year round — but they feel especially nice during the winter time 🙂

When is the best time to visit Iceland? For ice caves, wintertime!

Wintertime in Iceland is mainly famous for two things: The Northern Lights and the natural ice caves. The ice caves are formed underneath Vatnajökull glacier, Europe’s largest glacier, during summer when the ice is melting and big rivers flow from underneath the glacier. During summer you can’t visit the caves since they’re full of flowing water but when the temperature drops and the water turns back to the ice, then Iceland is left with spectacular blue caves to explore.

You can see the Icelandic glaciers all year round and they can be breathtaking in the summertime as a contrast to the summer colors, although it is in wintertime that they become truly spectacular. Contrary to many people’s belief, Iceland is not constantly covered with snow during wintertime, the snow has a tendency to appear and melt and appear again, so you can still see the contrast of colors and get a sense of the incredible size of the glaciers.

Wintertime is Iceland’s most unpredictable season when it comes to weather. If you are in the south, such as in Reykjavík then the average temperature is around 0°C. It can go down to -5° or up to +5°C but doesn’t normally get any colder or warmer than that. That’s not considering the windchill.

The further north you’ll go, such as to Akureyri or Ísafjörður, you will be greeted with more snow and colder temperatures. Nothing very extreme though, but it’s likelier that the temperature may drop down to -10°C. Sometimes you’ll be able to see some beautiful winter landscapes, full of snow, ice and icicles.

The highlands are closed during wintertime but some glaciers are accessible. Tours depend on weather and visibility and can be canceled with just a few hours notice. When they are canceled you will be offered another tour in return or a full refund. Therefore you shouldn’t find yourself on top of a glacier in a crazy snowstorm, but if you do, temperature may drop down to -15° to -20°C. The best advice we can give you is to bring a lot of warm layers, preferably wool or fleece. That way you can always add a layer or take one off!

When is the best time to visit Iceland? Wintertime for the Northern Lights!

The Northern lights are best seen between September and March. It’s impossible to see the Northern Lights at the height of summer (June/July) because in order to see them it needs to be dark and at this time Iceland has the midnight sun and the nights stay bright. By August, nights start to get darker and the Northern Lights can occasionally be spotted then. The ‘season’ for the auroras is considered to be from September until March, when the nights are dark for a substantial amount of time.

From time to time the Northern Lights are particularly active, such as in 2013 when there was a solar maximum and spectacular displays were seen.

In 2012 the Met office launched a Northern light forecast for Iceland. Using it you can see where and how strong Aurora activity is predicted at each given time and area. Look for the white parts, they signify clear skies, and that’s when the Northern lights are best seen in natural darkness. The forecast is not a 100% guarantee and some nights when the activity is high on the scale (such as 7 out of 9) then you may not see anything and at other times when the activity should be low (1 or 2 on the scale) then you can see some great aurora performance.

So, when do YOU think is the best time to visit Iceland?

Iceland’s tourist season is concentrated from mid-June through August, and tourism is growing by about 10% each year; so booking ahead is often essential. Prices fall as much as 40% in the off season, but many accommodations close in winter, especially guesthouses.

Iceland is not the poor and provincial country it once was, and virtually all accommodations meet good basic standards of comfort and cleanliness. Mattress standards are particularly high.

Accommodation Options

Hotels — The word «hotel» generally signifies the most luxurious choice in town, but not all hotels are superior to or more expensive than guesthouses, and not all «hotel» rooms even have private bathrooms.

Guesthouses — are a time-honored Scandinavian institution that is closely related to the «bed-and-breakfast.» Rooms, which are usually in private houses, are most often cheaper than hotels and range in quality from the equivalent of a two-star hotel to a hostel. While private bathrooms are rare, most guesthouses are likely to have cooking facilities, sleeping-bag accommodation, or a family-size apartment fitting four to six people. Because Icelanders have a highly developed sense of personal privacy, the proprietors often live in a separate house. Standards of cleanliness are usually very high.

Cabins — Small timber cabins for travelers are sprouting up all over Iceland, usually in conjunction with an existing hotel or guesthouse. Some travelers seek them out for their comparative privacy, quiet, and convenience. The cabins are often designed for family groups of around four, with private bathrooms and cooking facilities. Prices are comparable to regular doubles.

Farm Holidays — Staying at farmhouses is the classic Icelandic way to travel, and helps visitors feel more in tune with Iceland’s cultural traditions. Every farm in Iceland has its own road sign, and farm names are often unchanged from the Age of Settlement. Towns and villages did not exist for most of Icelandic history, so farmsteads have traditionally been the organizational basis of Icelandic society. A farm stay is simply a guesthouse in farm surroundings; expect comforts to be on par with those of a European bed-and-breakfast.

Sleeping-Bag Accommodation — For hardy visitors on a budget, the Icelandic custom of «sleeping-bag accommodation,» can feel like a gift from the travel gods. In many guesthouses, farm stays, and even some hotels, travelers with their own sleeping bags can get around 35% to 50% off on room rates.

The Case for Hostels — Iceland’s 25 youth hostels are hardly the exclusive domain of young backpackers. All hostels have good basic standards of service and cleanliness. Some are almost indistinguishable from guesthouses or farm stays. Most offer doubles, though the majority of rooms sleep three to six; and private bathrooms are an extreme rarity. All hostels give you the option of sleeping-bag accommodation or sheet rental. All have guest kitchens, and some offer meals and self-service laundry. In some remote destinations in Iceland, hostels may be your only option for lodging and dining, as well as an excellent source of tourist information.

Camping — Iceland’s many campsites make the country far more accessible to travelers of limited means. Icelandic campsites are safe, conveniently located, and plentiful: virtually every village has one. Many campsites are adjoined to farm accommodations, even to guesthouses or hotels, not to mention all the hiking trails. Because Icelanders themselves love to camp, campsites can also be great places to meet natives.

The Star-Rating System

Icelandic hotels are rated on a voluntary basis by the government on a one- to five-star scale. One star means breakfast is available and your room has a sink, among other minimum standards. Two stars means more options for meals and refreshments. Three stars means all rooms have private bathrooms, phones, TVs, radios, and desks. Four stars means easy chairs, satellite channels, room service, and laundry service. Five stars means room safes, secretarial services, exercise facilities, and shops — but not a single Icelandic hotel has earned this designation.

Many fine hotels and guesthouses opt out of the rating system, however, because the standardized criteria do not serve them well. A hotel in an old house, for instance, could be demoted a star if just one of its rooms lacks the requisite square footage. Accommodations with individualized room designs are particularly ill-served by the system.

More Money-Saving Tips

  • Book rooms with access to a kitchen. Restaurants are particularly expensive in Iceland, and you can save money by cooking for yourself.
  • Ask about apartments and «family rooms» if you are traveling in a group of three or more. These types of rooms are very common in Iceland, but are not always well-advertised.
  • Act noncommittal. Many Icelandic guesthouses quote different prices to different people. Always ask for a price before committing, even if the guesthouse has a published rate. They could quote something lower to snag your business.
  • Be wary of packages and group tour rates. Icelandic guesthouses often quote a higher rate to a travel agent than to an individual calling directly, especially outside of Reykjavik.
  • Ask about special rates or other discounts. You may qualify for corporate, student, military, senior, frequent flier, trade union, or other discounts. Children’s discounts are very common in Iceland.
  • Book online. Internet-only discounts are very common in Iceland; many accommodations have a standard discount every time you book online. Some supply rooms to Priceline, Hotwire, or Expedia at rates lower than the ones you can get through the hotel itself.
  • Remember the law of supply and demand. You can save big on hotel rooms by traveling in Iceland’s off season or shoulder seasons, when rates typically drop, even at luxury properties.

Iceland is unique which is a great reason to visit it but know that driving here requires more caution and skill than in places where the roads are straight, groomed, and the weather is less, well, arctic.

Driving through Icelandic landscapes is one of the most rewarding, uplifting experiences you can have. This is all thanks to the breathtaking views and the spectacular winding roads which carve gracefully through the martian meets wild west landscape. The ring road is more straightforward than the fjords but the landscapes are no less stunning. All of this can be yours and not cost you your savings or your life if you take a bit more time to be smart about where you drive when and know where to access information. Especially in the wintertime. 

Here in Iceland natives know not to question the power of weather, to respect it and make themselves aware of road conditions before they jump into a car to drive to country side. Here are some easy steps to take to make sure the drive of your life is not your last. 

  1. Drive on studded tires when driving in winter. 
    Most rental cars should have them on automatically. If you´re not sure double check and request them.
  2. Always check www.road.is for the road conditions on your route. 
    There are maps and web cameras indicating the condition of roads and importantly which ones are closed. Not all closed roads are gated.
  3. Check www.en.vedur.is for weather conditions in the area you are and are going to. 
    Things can change quickly in Iceland. Most tourists get into trouble when the are not aware.
  4. Use caution when using a GPS. It may not give you the best route. 
    It may also distract you. Keep your eyes on the road especially if it is raining or snowing. One tourist drove into a river reading it wrong instead of watching the road. 
  5. There are single lane bridges in Iceland. 
    Only some of them have flashing yellow lights, so get to know the traffic sign for them. It looks like a car inside of hourglass brackets. In the event you see either the sign or the yellow light, or the road narrowing, it is always best to slow down and use caution, yielding to any oncoming traffic. There was a fatal head on collision on one of these bridges last year. 
  6. Think thrice about the type of vehicle insurance you take out. 
    Fully comprehensive and/or windscreen insurance can come in handy if you are driving on gravel F roads or on the South Coast. Dinged windscreens are common. This is as true in summer as wintertime depending on where you plan to drive to. 

Generally Icelanders are used to fending for themselves in a harsh environment and enjoy the freedom it affords. No one will tell you not to go near the edge of a cliff because it is dangerous. It is assumed to be dangerous. 

However the more tourists who come here and do not exercise good judgement the more manmade safety enforcement devices (aka freedom restrictions) are implemented. We all pay for that psychically. However some pay for it with their lives. Do your part to keep yourself safe and Iceland free.

Inevitably, most people get their first taste of Iceland at Reykjavík, rubbing shoulders with over half the country’s population. It may be small, but what Reykjavík lacks in size it more than makes up for in stylish bars, restaurants and shops, and the nightlife is every bit as wild as it’s cracked up to be: during the light summer nights, the city barely sleeps. Reykjavík also makes a good base for visiting Geysir, the original geyser, the ancient parliament site of Þingvellir, spectacular waterfalls at Gullfoss and the famous and sublime Blue Lagoon.

Beyond Reykjavík, Route 1, the Ringroad, runs out to encircle the island, and the wilder side of Iceland soon shows itself – open spaces of vivid green edged by unspoiled coastlines of red and black sands, all set against a backdrop of brooding hills and mountains.

 The west coast is dominated by the towns of Borgarnes and Reykholt, both strongly associated with the sagas, while the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, with views of the monster glacier at its tip, is one of the country’s most accessible hiking destinations. Arguably Iceland’s most dramatic scenery is found in the far northwest of the country, the West Fjords, where tiny fishing villages nestle at the foot of table-top mountains. Ísafjörður is the only settlement of any size here and makes a good base from which to strike out on foot into the wilderness of the Hornstrandir Peninsula. Beautifully located on the north coast, Akureyri is rightfully known as the capital of the north and functions as Iceland’s second city. With a string of bars and restaurants, it can make a refreshing change from the small villages hereabouts. From Akureyri it’s easy to reach the island of Grímsey, the only part of Icelandic territory actually within the Arctic Circle; and the country’s biggest tourist attraction outside the capital, Lake Mývatn. The lake is a favourite nesting place for many species of duck and other waterfowl and is surrounded by an electrifying proliferation of volcanic activity. Nearby Húsavík is one of the best places in the country to organize summer whale-watching cruises, while just inland, the wilds of Jökulsárgljúfur National Park offer superlative hiking along deep river gorges to the spectacular Dettifoss, Europe’s most powerful waterfall. Then there are the East Fjords which, despite easy access, remain the least touristed part of Iceland, perhaps because there are no major sights – just plenty of calm, quiet, grand scenery.

South of here, Höfn is a good base from which to visit Europe’s biggest glacier, the mighty Vatnajökull, either on a skidoo trip or on foot through Skaftafell National Park, while the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon offers the surreal chance to cruise alongside floating icebergs.

The south coast is marked by vast stretches of black, volcanic coastal sands punctuated by charming villages such as Vík, Iceland’s southernmost settlement. Inland are more mighty waterfalls, including Skógarfoss and Seljalandsfoss; the wilderness surrounding Hekla, a highly active volcano which last erupted in 2000; at least one thermal outdoor pool to soak in; and a landscape central to Njál’s Saga, one of the nation’s great, visceral Viking romances. Iceland’s most rewarding hiking route can also be found here: the five-day Laugavegur trail between extraordinary hot-springs scenery at Landmannalaugar and the beautiful highland valley of  Þórsmörk. Just a quick ferry ride offshore from all this lies Heimaey, at the heart of the the Westman Islands, which hosts one of the the world’s largest puffin colonies – and carries evidence of a catastrophic eruption during the 1970s which almost saw the island abandoned.

Iceland’s barren Interior is best tackled as part of a guided tour – it’s much easier to let experienced drivers of all-terrain buses pick their way across lavafields and cross unbridged rivers than to try it yourself.

Before traveling to Iceland please read the list of 10 things (in no particular order) that you might find helpful before you begin your trip.  If you’re planning a trip to Iceland for the first time, there are just a few things you should know before you go.

1. The weather in Iceland is unpredictable. If you’re renting a car, taking a hike, or simply plan to walk around and sightsee, be prepared to possibly experience a bit of wind or rain on any given day. Packing waterproof pants, a windbreaker jacket (with a hood!), gloves, and of course an umbrella are all smart items to find room for in your suitcase.

2. A helpful tip if you plan on renting a car in Iceland: Manuals are significantly cheaper to rent than Automatics. It’s also important to note that F-Roads are accessible by cars with 4WD only.

3. And on that note, take caution while driving! As mentioned above, Iceland can get pretty windy, so watch your speed and drive safe. It would also be wise to study different Icelandic road signs before taking to the road as these can be a bit confusing.

4. Along with your waterproof pants and windbreaker, be sure to pack your own towels since renting them can definitely add up!

5. Do not fret about having to exchange your money for Krónas. Fortunately, you can use your credit card for almost everything in Iceland. A few situations where you might find cash useful would be for paying parking meters, or buying something from certain cash-only vendors at the flea market. It’s also possible you might come across a public toilet that requires you to pay a few coins. (The exchange rate for converting Icelandic Kronas to United States Dollars is 1 ISK for 0.00887 USD, or 500 ISK for roughly 5 USD.)

6. If you use a smartphone, an Icelandic mobile sim card can be purchased to access Iceland’s 3G network which is extremely helpful since it works even in the most remote areas, away from cities.

7. There is no need to tip when you’re eating out at a restaurant since the tip is always included in the price of the meal, and be careful before purchasing any alcohol (from places like Vínbúðin for instance) since many places offer it much, much cheaper. (There is also no need to tip taxi drivers since that’s also included in your total.)

8. Because the water is heated by geothermal energy, the hot water coming from the faucets smells a bit like sulfur. Regardless, the water is completely safe, so do not be alarmed! Don’t hesitate to drink the cold water either (that’s free of the sulfur smell) since that’s safe, too!

9. If you plan on bringing electronics or appliances, make sure to bring an adapter. Iceland uses the Europlug/Schuko-Plug which has two round prongs, so find a converter that will accommodate the 220 volts and you should be good to go. Finding a compatible adapter can be harder for a hair dryer, so it’s recommended you leave yours at home and instead buy a cheap one locally, or see if your hotel carries one.

10. Bring an informative travel guide, an accurate and detailed map of Iceland, as well as a GPS if you plan on driving. These will all come in handy and it wouldn’t hurt to study up before you go!

There is no more appropriate subject to photograph than the Aurora borealis to remind one that the word photography literally means to draw with light. 

The Aurora of the north (Aurora Borealis) occurs when charged particles emitted from the sun penetrate the earth’s magnetic shield and collide with atoms and molecules in the atmosphere. Witnessing this phenomenon is out of this world, but the process of photographing it need not make your head spin.

The first thing I always do is set my camera ISO for the aurora between 400 and 3200 depending on how strong it is. Then I put the camera on aperture priority and take a picture. The camera picks a shutterspeed authomatically and makes an exposure. Your camera’s meter is balanced to average out light. As such if you were to point it at a black wall it would make it grey. If you point it at a white wall it would make it grey. So pointing it to a dark sky with lights will often result in an undesirable overexposed exposure. Take the picture and see what happens. Switch to manual mode and adjust the shutter speed accordingly.

Here are the steps.
1. Mount camera on on tripod, frame up your image.
Yes this can be difficult in the dark but you will take several exposures and can adjust as you go.

2. Select your base ISO setting.
I like to start with 400ISO which has very little noise but more speed than 200 or 100. Depending on your camera and on the amount of light present on the night you might go 200 or you might need 3200.

3. Select your aperture.
If you are not concerned with depth of field pick an aperture either the lowest your lens offers, or for best image quality the sweet spot on your lens. This is usually two stops down from the lowest. So if your lens is at 3.5, it would go 4.0 then 5.6. If you want to have more depth of field pick a higher number like f 8.0.

4. Put the camera on A (aperture priority) and take a test shot.
This will force the camera to pick your shutter speed for you. Note what shutter speed the camera picks when on the Aperture priority setting and how dark or light the image is.

5. Switch the camera to M (manual mode).
Double check the aperture is the same as your test shot and set the shutter speed accordingly. If your camera gave you 14 seconds but it is way too bright try halving the time. So 7 seconds. If it is just right note the shutter speed and set it to manual anyhow. This way you will have that exposure as a base reference and the meter will not jump all over the place as the aurora flares up and down.

You will need to use your judgement and experiment with trial and error. Even more so if you are not practiced at metering. You can control it yourself judging the light and what you are getting. Remember you are painting with light and your results can vary greatly depending on the settings above. Have fun and experiment. I usually bring something warm to drink and some very good mitten gloves. The aurora tends to be visible when the skies are clear and the weather is cold.

Icelandic weather is notoriously unpredictable. In summer there’s a fair chance of bright and sunny days, and temperatures can reach 17°C, but good weather is interspersed with wet and misty spells when the temperature can plummet to a chilly 10°C. When thinking about the best time to visit Iceland, it’s worth bearing in mind that most museums and attractions are only open from late May to early September, and it’s at these times, too, that buses run their fullest schedules.

 Although almost all of Iceland lies south of the Arctic Circle and therefore doesn’t experience a true Midnight Sun, nights are light from mid-May to early August across the country; in the north, the sun never fully sets during June. Between September and January the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights can often be seen throughout the country. In winter temperatures fluctuate at 7–8°C either side of freezing point and daylight is limited to a few hours – in Reykjavík, sunrise isn’t until almost 11am in December; the sun is already sinking slowly back towards the horizon after 1pm.

Resting on the edge of the Arctic Circle and sitting on the top one of the world’s most volcanically active hot spots, Iceland is an inspiring mix of magisterial glaciers, bubbling hot springs and rugged fjords, where activities such as hiking under the Midnight Sun are complemented by healthy doses of history and literature.

Iceland is a place where nature reigns supreme. Aside from the modern and cosmopolitan capital, Reykjavík, population centers are small, with diminutive towns, fishing villages, farms, and minute hamlets clustered along the coastal fringes.

 The Interior, meanwhile, remains totally uninhabited and unmarked by humanity: a starkly beautiful wilderness of ice fields, windswept upland plateaux, infertile lava, and ash deserts, and the frigid vastness of Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest glacier. Iceland’s location on the Mid-Atlantic ridge also gives it one of the most volcanically active landscapes on Earth, peppered with everything from naturally occurring hot springs, scaldingly hot bubbling mud pools and noisy steam vents to a string of unpredictably violent volcanoes, which have regularly devastated huge parts of the country. The latest events came in 2010 when Eyjafjallajökull erupted and caused havoc across Europe; and in 2015, when the eruption at Holuhraun created a huge new lava field.

Historically, the Icelanders have a mix of Nordic and Celtic blood, a heritage often held responsible for their characteristically laidback approach to life. The battle for survival against the elements over the centuries has also made them a highly self-reliant nation, whose former dependence on the sea and fishing for their economy was virtually total. Having spent years being dismissed as an insignificant outpost in the North Atlantic (Icelanders gave up counting how many times their country was left off maps of Europe), the eruption under Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 saw the tourist industry, at least, wake up to Iceland’s potential. Now close on a million foreigners visit annually – three times the national population – and Iceland is on a steep learning curve as it struggles to cope with tourist-driven inflation and sagging infrastructure at popular sights.