Iceland Solo Travel Guide
In recent years, Iceland has become the number one destination to visit for travellers from all over the world. Its unspoilt natural beauty, stunning landscapes and picture-perfect views are the major drawcards, but there’s much more to this island. Use our Iceland solo travel guide as a starting point to help you plan your next solo trip to Iceland.
Why Visit Iceland?
While it can be difficult to travel around Iceland as a solo traveller, a visit to this beautiful country is a must. Iceland’s spectacular natural beauty encompasses Europe’s largest national park and the mightiest ice cap outside the poles. Add to that a sea full of whales and the world’s biggest puffin colonies.
Not only is Iceland a country of spectacular natural beauty, it is also an adventure playground. There are plenty of unique experiences to be had and bucket list items to tick off – from exploring glaciers and volcanoes to viewing the midnight sun and Northern Lights. An Icelandic adventure offers the chance to see the planet reforming before your eyes.
Unique Experiences on a Solo Trip to Iceland
1. Get a glimpse of the Northern Lights
Viewing the Northern Lights is on the bucket list for many travellers, and in Iceland you can tick this experience off your bucket list. Also known as aurora borealis, peak sightings occur in the middle of winter. You can look for the lights in clear, dark skies anytime between September/October and April. Catching your own glimpse of the Northern Lights requires nothing more than a dark, partly clear night (ie few clouds) and a bit of luck. Simply, stake out a light-pollution-free vantage point for a horizon-to-horizon view of the Northern Lights.
2. Explore Iceland in a kayak
A new perspective on Iceland’s natural treasures of offered from the water. Explore the fjords on a kayaking trip under the midnight sun. Try multi-day tours to Hornstrandir, Ísafjörõur or Ísafjarõardjúp for sea-kayaking at its finest. Kayaking the waters of Seyðisfjörður is a breathtaking highlight. You can also try a one-day adventure to Vigur, an offshore islet.
3. Bathe alfresco in hot springs
Iceland’s unofficial pastime is splashing around its surplus of geothermal water. There are ‘hot pots’ everywhere – from downtown Reykjavik to the isolated peninsular tips of the Westfjords. Not only are they incredibly relaxing, they’re a great way to meet the locals. Join them as they breathe cool, pure Icelandic air while bathing alfresco in volcanic-heated waters.
Everyone knows the Blue Lagoon is the big cheese: its steaming pale-blue lagoon full of silica deposits sits conveniently close to Keflavik International Airport, making it the perfect send-off before flying home, but for most it’s any easy day trip from Reykjavik.
4. Trek Iceland’s wilderness trails
One of the best ways to explore Iceland is on foot. In fact, setting off on foot will open up vast reaches of unspoilt nature not reached any other way. The opportunities for hiking in Iceland are endless, from leisurely long-hour strolls to multi-day wilderness treks. Pretty much straight from the capital of Reykjavik, you can go multi-day hiking and wild camping on lava fields coated with centuries-old moss, venture to the edge of exploding geysers in the Geysir Hot Springs area or teeter on the tipping point of terrain-tearing fissures in Thingvellir National Park. Be prepared for unpredictable weather.
5. Go on wildlife watching trips
Iceland’s two biggest wildlife drawcards are its most charismatic creatures: the twee puffin and the mighty whale – a number of species (including the immense blue whale) glide through the frigid blue ringing Iceland’s coast. Opportunities to see both abound on land and sea. Spot a breaching whale and curious dolphins on a whale-watching cruise from Húsavik. Other northern towns also offer cruises, as does Reykjavík. Colonies of puffins can be seen at numerous coastal cliffs and offshore isles, including Heimaey, Grímsey, Drangey, Látrabjarg and Borgarfjörõur Eystri.
6. Venture into a volcano
Iceland is home to the world’s only volcano that can be explored from the inside: Thrihnukagigur, east of Bláfjöll Mountain, which hasn’t erupted for 4,000 years. Using an open elevator, subterranean explorers experience a journey into the Earth as they’re lowered 120m into the dormant magma chamber.
7. Drive the Ring Road
There’s no better way to explore Iceland that to hire your own set of wheels and loop around Route 1 – affectionately known as the Ring Road. The ovular strip of cement loops around the island in a clock-like fashion, passing through verdant dales decked with tumbling chutes, haunting glacial lagoons with popcorn-like icebergs, desolate strands of sea coast and arid plains of parched lava fields. Don’t forget to take some of the detours – use the Ring Road as your main artery and then follow the veins as they splinter off into the wilderness.
8. Try glacier-walks & snow-mobiling
Trekking across an icy white expanse can be one of the ethereal experiences of your Iceland visit. The island has several options that offer a taste of winter even on the warmest of days. Vatnajökull, Europe’s biggest ice cap, is perfect for snowmobile rides. It also has dozens of offshoot glaciers perfect for guided hikes and ice climbs. At Eyjafjallajökull, the site of the volcanic eruption 2010, you can take a super-Jeep to discover the icy surface and then wander over to Magni, nearby, to see the still-steaming earth. Langjökull is perfect for dog-sledding while Solheimajökull is ideal for an afternoon trek.
9. Volunteer at the Arctic Fox Research Station
A volunteering holiday is a great way to get intimately involved with Iceland’s people and landscapes. The best option is to volunteer for a week or more between June and August to monitor Iceland’s only native mammal, the Arctic Fox. Situated on the northern cliffs of the jaw-dropping Hornstrandir Peninsula, the research station is a photographer’s Eden and naturalist’s dream. As a volunteer, you will set off for a six-hour viewing shift during which you will monitor fox behaviours and changes in location. There’s a lot of sitting and looking involved, but there’s no better location to take in the views.
10. Horse riding
Icelandic horses are beautiful creatures and seeing them up close is an experience in itself. Mounting one and heading out on a horse ride is taking the experience to a higher level. While many farms around the country offer short rides, the southern shores of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula are among the best places to ride the small, tough Icelandic horse. Several award-winning stables are located here. Follow the crests of sand or trot into the hills to find hidden geothermal sources.
11. Winter in Iceland
Winter travel to Iceland is growing in popularity, and the appeal is clear: Northern Lights, nature at its most raw, and the chance to experience crazy diurnal rhythms. It’s a great option if summer crowds (and prices) don’t appeal. It’s true that daylight hours are limited but city life goes on as normal, and opportunities for outdoor adventure are great: frozen waterfalls, snow-covered mountains, ice caves, and activities like skating, skiing, snowmobiling and snowshoeing. You’ll probably need help to travel safely and to access the best of the outdoors during this time – day tours are perfect for this, and locals know the best winter secrets.
How to Travel Iceland Ring Road Solo?
The best ways to travel around Iceland’s Ring Road as a solo traveller is either by bus, hitching or carpooling.
Far less convenient that car rental but a lot cheaper, Iceland’s limited bus service is the most cost-effective option for solo travellers. Budget double the time of a private vehicle to loop around the Ring Road.
Hitch-hiking or Carpooling
The most cost-effective way to venture around the Ring Road solo is to stick out your thumb. In summer it’s quite easy to hitch all the way around the Ring Road but be aware of the potential risks involved.
Carpooling is a safer and savvy alternative to hitching. Many hostels have rideshare poster-boards in the lobbies. Another great resource is www.samferda.is, an online rideshare messageboard.
How to Solo Hike across Iceland?
Hiking your way across Iceland as a solo traveller is a rite of passage. While there are plenty of short walks ranging from a few hours to a full day, most of the best hikes in Iceland are completed across multiple days.
Below are the top five multi-day hikes which showcase the best of each Iceland region as you hike solo across the island.
The most popular hike in Iceland, this route takes you straight through the island’s interior, passing caramel-coloured dunes, smoking earth and devastating desert.
Duration: two to five days
2. Ásbyrgi to Dettifoss
The most popular hike in Jökulsárgljúfur canyon, the route takes you through birch forests, striking rock formations, lush valleys and commanding perpendicular cliffs while taking in all of the region’s major sights. The hike ends with Europe’s most powerful waterfall in Dettifoss.
Duration: two days
3. Royal Horn
The Royal Horn is the best option for getting a taste of all that Hornstrandir Peninsula has to offer. Views of lonely fjords, emerald-green bluffs and swooping gulls make this hike a fan-favourite.
Duration: four to five days
Linking Skogar and Þórsmörk, the hike features a parade of waterfalls that turn into a blustery desert as you pass between glaciers. Then, the steaming stones from the 2010 eruption appear before the path leads down into flower-filled Þórsmörk.
Duration: one to two days
Largely untouched, this remote interior circuit unveils postcard-worthy vistas that rival those of well-trodden Laugavegurinn.
Duration: three days
How to Backpack Iceland Solo?
Iceland is one of the hardest places to backpack solo. Not only is it expensive to travel by yourself, most of the places of interests are remote so it’s hard to get around by public transport. Having said that, nothing is impossible and it is possible to backpack solo around Iceland with the right amount of planning.
Check out our article Backpacking Iceland Solo for information about when to backpack around Iceland as well as accommodation and transport options for backpackers in Iceland.
Is Iceland Safe for Solo Female Travellers?
IceIand has a very low crime rate and in general any risks you’ll face while travelling are related to road safety, the unpredictable weather and the unique geological conditions.
Iceland is regularly ranked as being one of the best countries in the world in which to be a woman and a mother. However, as with any other country, women are subject to incidents of theft, intimidation, and physical violence, so take all precautions to travel safely.
Safetravel (www.safetravel.is) is a great website for solo travellers heading to Iceland. Here you can learn about minimising your risks when travelling in Iceland.
Solo Travel Tours to Iceland
Travelling solo around Iceland can be a challenge due to the remoteness of its attractions, unpredictable weather and lack of excellent public transport services. It’s also expensive to travel around Iceland especially as a solo traveller. For these reasons, taking a guided tour around Iceland is a great option. Not only do you leave the planning and organising to the travel experts, a guided tour can also be cost effective in the long run. Plus, the convenience and safety of travelling in an organised group and sleeping in comfortable accommodation are other benefits to consider when booking a guided tour to Iceland.
For the best solo travel tours to Iceland, head to ?.