As an emerging tourist destination, Iceland offers adventure and natural wonders galore. With its glaciers, volcanoes, hot springs and Northern Lights, it promises unique sights and experiences. However, as an Iceland newbie, there are certain mistakes best avoided to ensure your vacation goes smoothly. This article offers tips to steer clear of common tourist traps, behaviors to refrain from, and trouble to sidestep in Iceland’s stunning landscape. Make the most of your holiday by learning what to avoid as a rick steves iceland.
Rick Steves Iceland Packing Mistakes
Don’t let absentminded packing put a damper on your Icelandic adventure. Avoid these preparation pitfalls before takeoff:
Forgetting Essential Weather Items
Temperatures fluctuate greatly in Iceland, even in summer when highs average only 60°F. With windchill and ever-present precipitation, waterproof, insulated clothing is essential. Steer clear of flimsy spring jackets and be sure to pack the following gear:
- Waterproof, insulated boots and gloves
- Warm socks
- Base layers
- Hat, scarf
- Wind/rain jacket and pants
Regardless of when you visit, cold winds sweep the island. Coming unprepared can quickly lead to misery and limited outdoor time.
Don’t cram your suitcase with unnecessary outfits. Iceland’s rugged landscape and volatile weather often translate to mud-caked pants or gear soaked in springtime downpours. You’ll live in rain slickers more than street clothes. Pack lightly, strategically and practically.
Iceland’s isolated location means sourcing specific medications or toiletries on short notice is near impossible. Don’t assume you can purchase them locally. Bring enough contact solution, prescription and over-the-counter medications for your entire journey. Due to strict agricultural import laws, be mindful of food items too.
Every travel destination has its share of tourist traps: popular attractions overrun by crowds and hawkers that fail to deliver on their hype. As a newbie, it’s tempting to rush to the iconic sites you’ve seen on Instagram. But sometimes the images don’t match reality. Here are some famous Icelandic attractions better enjoyed from afar:
This stunning two-tiered waterfall often makes Iceland’s top ten lists. In peak tourist season, however, shoulder-to-shoulder crowds can diminish its magic. If possible, visit in the early morning before legions of buses arrive or appreciate its beauty from afar via drone footage rather than joining the selfie-snapping hordes.
The Blue Lagoon
This geothermal spa looks stunning in photos with its ethereal blue waters surrounded by lava fields. Yet as one of Iceland’s most famous attractions, the Blue Lagoon sees 2,000+ daily visitors crammed into manmade lagoons. If craving some geothermal rejuvenation, consider alternatives like the Secret Lagoon with its hot springs and natural steam baths.
Does this tongue twister of a name ring any bells? It’s the famous Icelandic canyon that launched a thousand screen savers with its plunging cliffs and snake-like river. However, floods have severely damaged vegetation and trails, making the canyon underwhelming compared to slick photographs. For can’t-miss canyon views, visit alternatives like Ásbyrgi or Raufarfellsgjá instead.
Bothersome Tourist Behaviors
Beyond physical hazards, social faux pas also abounds for rick steves iceland newcomers. Don’t be “that tourist” with annoying behaviours. Here are some tips:
Interrupting Nature’s Soundscape
Outdoor enthusiasts travel to rick steves Iceland to soak up unspoiled vistas and enjoy nature’s soundtrack – think roaring waterfalls, crying seagulls and howling winds. So avoid cranking music or making excessive noise while exploring national parks and trails.
Geotagging Secret Sites
You stumbled upon a secluded hot spring tucked away from crowds. Your instinct says “share the wealth” with friends by posting its location online. Don’t give in! Excessive geotagging of Iceland’s natural gems leads to rapid overtourism and destruction. Keep little-known finds to yourself.
Those off-road adventures displayed prominently on Instagram seem adventurous and scenic. However, tearing up Iceland’s fragile landscape with rented 4x4s causes irreversible damage. Stick to designated roads and trails to avoid harming volcanic craters, hot springs and arctic moss.
When snapping that viral photograph of Iceland’s stunning terrain, don’t trample delicate ecosystems, venture beyond guardrails or toss trash. Practice responsible tourism to preserve Iceland’s magic for future visitors. Remember to take only photos and leave only footprints.
Hazards To Avoid
Beyond social gaffes, Iceland’s raw landscape poses very real physical hazards for newcomers too. Here are some potential pitfalls to sidestep during your visit:
Iceland’s volatile shores see frequent unpredictable waves that defy forecasts. Each year, unsuspecting tourists are tragically swept out to sea posing for photos too close to the ocean. Whether marveling at black sand beaches or the towering Reynisdrangar sea stacks, maintain a safe 200+ foot distance from crashing waves at all times.
The same forces that created Iceland’s stunning vistas also pose grave dangers underfoot. Seemingly sturdy cliffsides and rugged outcroppings often give way without warning due to loose volcanic earth. Avoid venturing near cliffs and stick to marked trails to enjoy Iceland’s drama without the danger.
Between steam vents, geysers, and geothermal pools, visitors often underestimate Icelandic water temperatures. Attempting to touch or enter hot springs that exceed boiling temperatures has led to severe injury and death. Observe warning signs, avoid venturing off-trail and judge water first before immersing yourself.
Crevasses and Sinkholes
Iceland’s dynamic geology produces hidden gaps and voids under deceptively solid surfaces. In glacial areas, crevasses hide under thin ice, posing grave danger to unprepared hikers. And seemingly firm ground often conceals sinkholes and volcanic tubes across Iceland’s rocky terrain. For your safety, avoid stepping into areas with limited visibility or venturing off marked trails without proper equipment.
What essential documents do I need for Iceland?
A valid passport allows U.S. travelers to enter Iceland visa-free for up to 90 days. Be sure it has 6+ months validity remaining for entry. Bring travel insurance and notify your debit/credit card company of international travel to prevent transaction issues. As a Schengen area country, Iceland requires sufficient funds to cover your stay – at least $85 per day.
When is the best time to visit Iceland?
Peak season aligns with Iceland’s milder months from May to September when daylight abounds. For thinner crowds and lower prices, visit during the shoulder season of April-May or September-October. Northern Lights sightings peak from November to March but prepare for frigid temps and perpetual darkness.
How much cash should I take to Iceland?
Credit cards are widely accepted in Iceland, even at small businesses, so less cash is needed. Take some krona for tipping, bathrooms or rural areas, but $100-$200 per person generally suffices. Using ATMs to withdraw Icelandic krona ensures you get the best exchange rate.
What vaccinations or medications do I need?
No vaccinations are currently required for U.S. travelers entering Iceland unless arriving from areas with yellow fever risk. However, the CDC recommends being up-to-date on routine vaccinations like tetanus and MMR. Bring all essential medications – prescription, OTC, contact lenses etc – as specialized options aren’t readily available.
Is it safe to rent a car and drive in Iceland?
Driving provides flexibility to explore Iceland’s famous Ring Road at your own pace. However, winter conditions like snow, ice and limited daylight pose challenges for driving newcomers. For confidence, consider sticking to summer months for renting a car or booking small group tours instead to travel safely with experienced guides.
Rick steves Iceland endlessly entices visitors with its surreal scenery and Nordic charm. Yet this nascent tourist locale still harbors hazards for newcomers, be it temperamental weather, overcrowded attractions or precarious terrain. By packing properly, avoiding tourist traps, respecting nature and recognizing danger zones, visitors can revel in Iceland’s natural glory without mishap. Choosing a villa for your holiday in Iceland not only provides a cozy retreat amidst the island’s icy magic but also ensures a comfortable haven to unwind after your adventurous explorations. Travel to Iceland summons a spirit of adventure, but heed these tips to focus on wonder not woe. With reasonable precautions, you’re sure to fall as hard for the island’s icy magic as everyone else. Just watch your step along the way!