There are two types of travellers, those who plan ahead and the spontaneous ones. When it comes to Iceland however, both types of travellers will have to adjust their plans a little (or, in case of the spontaneous type, make some). When you’re travelling to Iceland, you’re going to have to plan some things in advance but other things can’t really be planned (such as the weather).
Book at Least a Month in Advance
Iceland is a popular destination these days so there are a few popular places and tours you’re going to have to book in advance. You can probably still get away with booking them a couple of weeks in advance unless you’re here at peak visiting times (such as Christmas for example) but if you want to be sure you’ll get your preferred dates, a month in advance is the way to go. If you’re looking for something a little less popular, check out our list of alternatives to popular destinations.
The Blue Lagoon – This is one of the most popular destinations in Iceland so for a while now, they’ve asked visitors to book their tickets in advance. They’re sometimes sold out for up to a month in advance, so plan accordingly if you want to visit this milky blue pool and spa. If it’s booked up on your preferred dates, there are always some alternatives.
Dog sledging – It’s not a traditionally Icelandic activity but since Iceland has the right conditions for it, it’s popular with tourists. If you want to try it, you’re going to have to book well in advance, since the tours are popular but availability is limited.
Longer tours – Many tour operators offer longer tours venturing farther into the Icelandic nature than can be accomplished in one day, or combining multiple activities along the way. If you want to go hiking, ride the Icelandic horse (if you’re an experienced rider) or visit the remote east or west fjords, these can be a great idea. These tours require proper planning and are best booked in advance. If you’re interested in booking longer tours, look at these multi-day tours or contact us!
Book a Week or Two in Advance
Generally speaking, unless you’re in Iceland at peak visiting times (such as around Christmas) most day tours and activities can be booked a week or two in advance.
A visit to the ice caves – The natural ice caves in Vatnajökull are only available during the winter, from about late November to late March and since many people want to see these amazing caves, it is recommended to book it at least two weeks in advance – please note, however, that the tours do not start in Reykjavík (unless it’s a multi-day tour) and you need about 6 hours to drive to the meeting point.
Into the Glacier – The natural ice caves form at the edges of glaciers but if you want to get right in the centre of one, there is another option. The man-made ice cave in Langjökull is impressive to visit and tours are available all year round. As Into the Glacier is getting more and more popular with tourists – especially during the summer when the natural ice caves are inaccessible – it is recommended that you plan ahead and book it at least a week in advance.
Glacier hikes – Glacier hikes are another popular option for glacier enthusiasts visiting Iceland. If you’re late to the party, you can try booking it the day before but if you want to be sure it’s available on your preferred date, we recommend booking at least a week in advance.
The Icelandic weather is notoriously fickle and unreliable. Any tours that are heavily dependent on the weather (such as boat tours and Northern lights tours) can be booked some time in advance but until the weather forecast is up, it’s best to remain flexible, especially in the winter.
Northern Lights – The Northern Lights are a magnificent natural phenomenon but since they are caused by solar storms and manifest way above the clouds. This means that they are not a reliable attraction and on cloudy days they cannot be seen at all. There are some tips you can follow to maximise your chances of seeing them but a Northern Lights viewing can’t be planned far in advance. We recommend consulting the aurora forecast a day or two before you want to go and adjusting your travel plans accordingly.
Whale-watching Cruise – There’s nothing wrong with planning a whale watching cruise ahead, especially in the summer, but since this tour includes a boat ride, it’s probably a good idea to consult the weather forecast and choose a day when the weather is nice and mild, especially in the winter.
What to do Instead
Iceland is a tiny island just below the arctic circle with famously unreliable weather. Sometimes tours get cancelled and there’s nothing to do about it but find something else to do and check again the next day when the weather is (hopefully) better. Luckily, there are plenty of things to do instead!
If you can’t go on a boat tour – The conditions on the open sea are often worse than the ones on land. See if you can’t go on a tour on land instead, such as going the Golden circle or some of the tours of the volcanic areas on Reykjanes.
If you can’t leave the city – In the winter, sometimes bad weather means that driving your desired route is impossible. Luckily, staying in the city is a great alternative, with its wealth of museums, exhibitions, concerts, and other events. Check out the Whales of Iceland exhibition, take a food tour of the city (or go to a beer tasting), or go swimming in one of the city’s many lovely geothermal pools!
If you can’t see the Northern Lights – Since Northern Lights tours are usually the only tours that go out so late, staying in the city is your best option. There are a few museums that are open late, there are a plethora of great restaurants in the city centre and there’s usually plenty of interesting concerts and events going on!