Frequently Asked Questions
WHERE IS ICELAND?
Iceland is a North Atlantic island and the westernmost country in Europe, midway between North America and mainland Europe. It lies about 800 km northwest of Scotland and 970 km west of Norway, and its northern coast is just below the Arctic Circle. From London, Iceland is the same distance as Athens. It is also the same distance from New York to Iceland as from New York to Los Angeles. Reykjavik is the world’s northernmost capital city.
IS IT DIFFICULT TO GET TO ICELAND?
Not at all! Frequent flights operate to Iceland from main cities in Europe and North America and many gateways are served daily. Flight times to Europe are two to four hours. Most flights connect at Iceland´s Keflavík International Airport (45 km from Reykjavík) to give good stopover opportunities for transatlantic travellers.
HOW COLD DOES IT GET?
Thanks to the Gulf Stream, Iceland isn´t as cold as it sounds. Temperatures are moderate year-round. Average July temperatures are around 11°C in Reykjavík - the north and east are often the warmest parts in the summer. Snow is not the orm and only settles intermittetly in Reykjavík but tends to stay longer in the north. Fine winter skiing areas are found on higher ground outside many towns, however. Average January temperatures in Reykjavík, at around zero, are actually higher than those in New York.
HOW SHOULD I DRESS?
In the summer, light clothing is often all you need - but always be prepared for both cold and wet weather at all times of the year. The weather can be extremely changeable. Icelanders often say, "If you don´t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes." And always bring a bathing suit, whatever time of the year you visit. A favourite pastime is year-round outdoor swimming in countless geothermally heated pools and lagoons, with a typical temperature of 25-28°C.
WHAT ARE THE PEOPLE LIKE?
Quite Scandinavian, exceptionally friendly, highly educated, sophisticated, attractive, honest and very modern. Their ancestors were predominately Norwegian, although some came from the British Isles.
DO ICELANDERS SPEAK ENGLISH?
Most Icelanders (especially those from their teenage years through their fifties) speak fluent English. In fact, they welcome the opportunity - so never be shy about approaching an Icelander.
WHAT IS THE ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD LIKE?
Excellent! Iceland´s hotels and guesthouses are almost invariably clean and comfortable. The seafood and lamb are of outstanding natural quality and served in imaginative European style. There are also plenty of fast food establishments.
WHAT KIND OF MONEY DO THEY USE IN ICELAND?
The Icelandic króna (ISK). All major currencies can be exchanged at the airport, banks and currency exchanges. Visa and MasterCard are accepted almost universally, and ATMs are generally not hard to find. Central Bank of Iceland - Exchange rate.
WHEN IS DAYLIGHT IN ICELAND?
Summer visitors who arrive to a bright midnight sky and ask when it gets dark in Iceland are sometimes told "in the middle of August." The sun barely sets in the summer in Reykjavík and it´s light round-the-clock in the north at the peak of summer. In mid-winter, expect only about four to five hours a day of daylight. Spring and autumn daylight hours are more or less "normal".
WHAT ABOUT THE ELECTRICITY?
Icelandic electrical standards are European (50Hz, 240 volts) so many North American electrical devices will require converts. Plugs are generally two-pin, so devices brought in from the UK and North America wil require adapters.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE BESIDES NATURE?
Nature is obviously a big part of the Icelandic experience - but it´s by no means the only part. Reykjavík is one of the liveliest, safest, most sophisticated and modern cities there is, and its nightlife and cultural activities have earned an exciting reputation. Other towns such as Akureyri in the north are worth visiting in their right too. For those who want to see both city and nature, the wilds begin just outside urban communities and a wide range of sightseeing tours are on offer from most of them.
WILL MY MOBILE WORK IN ICELAND?
Most European cell phones work on Iceland´s GSM network; North American ones use a different standard. But you can rent cell phones in Iceland. iceland now has the highest rate of cell phones use in the world. Mobiles work in towns and on virtually all main travel routes.
CAN I BRING MY LAPTOP?
Icelandic Internet usage is the highest in Europe. Results show that in 2009 92% of Icelandic households had a computer and 90% had access to the Internet. Many Internet cafes and Hotspots (Wi-Fi) can be found, especially in Reykjavík.
DUTY FREE IMPORTS:
For information on duty free inports see webpage of the Icelandic Directorate of Customs - http://www.tollur.is/default.asp?cat_id=301
Iceland is an island of 103.000 km2 (39,756 sq.miles), about one-third larger than Scotland or Ireland. Its highest peak, Hvannadalshnjúkur, rises to 2.119 m and over 11 per cent of the country is covered by glaciers, including Vatnajökull, the largest in Europe.
Situated on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Iceland is a hot spot of volcanic and geothermal activity: 30 post-glacial volcanoes have erupted in the past two centuries, and natural hot water supplies much of the population with cheap, pollution-free heating. Rivers, too, are harnessed to provide inexpensive hydroelectric power
Out of a population numbering more than 300.000, half live in the capital Reykjavík and its neighbouring towns in the southwest. Keflavík International Airport is located about 50 km from the capital. The highland interior is uninhabited (and uninhabitable), and most centres of population are situated on the coast
Iceland was settled by Nordic people in the 9th century - tradition says that the first permanent settler was Ingólfur Arnarson, a Norwegian Viking who made his home where Reykjavík now stands. The Icelanders still speak the language of the Vikings, although modern Icelandic has undergone changes of pronunciation and, of course, of vocabulary! Iceland is alone in upholding another Norse tradtion, i.e. the custom of using patronymics rather than surnames; and Icelander´s christian name is followed by his or her father´s name and the suffix -son or -dóttir, e.g. Guðrún Pétursdóttir (Guðrún, daughter of Pétur). Members of a family can therefore have many different "surnames", which sometimes causes confusion to foreigners!
In 930, the Icelandic settlers founded one of the world´s first republican governments; the Old Commonwealth Age, described in the classic Icelandic Sagas, lasted until 1262, when Iceland lost its independence, and in 1944 the present republic was founded. The country is governed by the Althing (parliament), whose 63 members are elected every four years. four-yearly elections are also held for the presidency; President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson was elected in June 1996 to succeed Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, and was re-elected in June 2000. The head of state plays no part in day-to-day politics.
Life expectancy, at 81.3 years for women and 76.4 for men, is one of the highest in the world, and a comprehensive state health-care system aims to keep it that way.
Hvannadalshnjúkur 2119 m
Bárðarbunga 2000 m
Kverkfjöll 1920 m
Snæfell 1833 m
Hofsjökull 1765 m
Herðubreið 1682 m
Þjórsá 230 km
Jökulsá á Fjöllum 206 km
Ölfusá / Hvítá 185 km
Skjálfandafljót 178 km
Jökulsá á Dal 150 km
Þórisvatn 83 km2
Þingvallavatn 82 km2
Lögurinn 53 km2
Mývatn 37 km2
Hvítárvatn 30 km2
Vatnajökull 8300 km2
Langjökull 953 km2
Hofsjökull 925 km2
Mýrdalsjökull 596 km2
Drangajökull 200 km2
Heimaey (Westmann Islands) 13.4 km2
Hrísey at Eyjafjörður 8 km2
Hjörsey at Faxaflói 5.5 km2
Grímsey 5,3 km2
Flatey at Skjálfandaflói 2,8 km2
Málmey at Skagafjörður 2,4 km2
Papey (East Iceland) 2 km2
Viðey near Reykjavík 1,7 km2
Surtsey (Westmann Islands) 1,6 km2
Glymur in Botnsá 190 m
Hengifoss in Hengifossá 128 m
Háifoss in Fossá 122 m
Seljalandsfoss in Seljalandsá 65 m
Skógafoss in Skógá 62 m
Dettifoss in Jökulsá á Fjöllum 44 m
Gullfoss in Hvítá 32 m
BE SAFE IN ICELAND:
Nature is one of Iceland’s many attractions for travelers, and while beautiful, it can also be harsh and unpredictable. Therefore it is important to be prepared, and aware of possible dangers, and know how to react in – or preferably prevent – difficult situations.The Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue (SAR) operates a useful website for safe travel in Iceland. www.safetravel.is
Icelandic weather is notoriously unpredictable and variable between regions so always pay attention to weather forecasts and traveling conditions. This applies especially on the highlands and in winter but caution should be exercised everywhere at all times. The Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO)- www.weather.is - and The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration (IRCA) - www.road.is - provide more information
Always be appropriately equipped. Hiking requires special equipment, glacier exploration another and jeep safaris yet another. Your tour operator should provide information regarding equipment for group travels and guided tours. For lists of equipment for different types of activity, visit safetravel.is. These, without exceptions, include warm clothes and a communication device.
When traveling in Iceland, it is crucial that someone knows your exact travel plans. A travel plan can be reported to SAR through safetravel.is. A map, a compass and a GPS are important, particularly in isolated areas. Such travels should not be undertaken without consulting experts.
When driving in Iceland, make sure of the road condition as well as your vehicle’s condition. Also ensure that it suits your journey. For example, a 4x4 vehicle is essential in the highlands, where you might encounter rough terrain and unbridged waters. The highland roads are closed in winter times and weather sometimes causes other roads to be closed as well. Information about road conditions and their opening/closing is accessible at IRCA’s website.
Some roads in other remote areas of Iceland, such as the Westfjords and the East, are unpaved and should be navigated cautiously for your own safety and minimal risk of damage to your vehicle. Strong winds can occur all year, causing difficulties for drivers so – again – always heed weather forecasts.
The Icelandic emergency number is 112. The 112 Iceland app also enables you to contact the Icelandic emergency services, and them to locate you, if trouble occurs. Never hesitate to use this number. Should you get lost, do not wander off. Staying in the same place will make it easier for rescue teams to locate you.
Do not be distracted by your surroundings. Losing oneself in the otherworldliness of Iceland is easy, but always remember to watch your step and keep your eyes on the road.Above all, always prepare before traveling to and within Iceland. Familiarizing yourself with the conditions will optimize your chance of a safe travel experience in Iceland.