What NOT To Do In Iceland: 12 Things To Know

Knowing what NOT to do in Iceland is just as important as knowing what to do. This 12 tips of things not to do in Iceland will help you plan a memorable and safe trip!

Iceland is one of our favourite destinations ever, and rightfully so! It has a spectacular landscape, waterfalls, black sand beaches, geothermal pools, national parks and yummy food. If that was not enough, it has the northern lights; if you end up at the right time and if you are lucky enough. If you are planning a trip to Iceland, these are the things you should not do. 

You’ll likely be starting your trip in Reykjavik, so be sure to also check out my guides to 1 day in Reykjavik and 3 days in Reykjavik!

12 Things NOT TO Do In Iceland

Drive a two wheel drive in winter

While two wheel drives are manageable in summer, Iceland in winter is a whole different ball game. Most of Ring Road is paved and kept clean even through winter. But if you are going on a road trip in Iceland which takes you off the Ring Road onto dirt roads or f-roads or mountain roads, a four wheel drive is a must. We recommend splurging on snow tyres in the winter. It can really make driving much easier.


Take Icelandic weather for granted

Icelandic weather is very fickle. It changes in a blink of an eye. Make sure you check their government weather (Vedur) website before heading out. Vedur forecasts are pretty accurate and are updated often. Sometimes the temperature might not be too extreme, but the wind can be pretty strong. Dress appropriately. If you are chasing the northern lights, check the aurora strength and whether the sky is cloudy. The closer you are to city lights, the less you see the Aurora. If you are in Reykjavík, the Grotta Lighthouse is a great location to see this beautiful phenomenon.

Stop offroad

Iceland is beautiful and you may be tempted to stop and click photos almost at every turn. But don’t! Stopping offroad could lead to a fine. You are also not allowed to drive off road unless its clearly marked. Along with legal concerns, there are also safety concerns if you’re stopped in the wrong spot and another car comes around or you get stuck/lost driving offroad.

In the same vein, you can severely damage the ecosystem by driving off-road in the moss-covered lava fields. So please stick to the paths!


Wear a swimsuit in the public shower at the geothermal pools

One important thing about visiting hot springs in Iceland is that you MUST shower before getting in – and you have to do it completely naked.

The male and female shower areas are different. But, if you aren’t comfortable with public showers, then you should might find yourself in an awkward situation. You are supposed to take everything off and then walk to the showers with your towel and bathing suit. Take a shower naked and then put on your swimsuit. It is mandatory to clean yourself before putting on your swimsuit.

Some of the popular hot springs, like the Blue Lagoon and Sky Lagoon, offer packages where you can get access to private showers and changing rooms but at the smaller hot springs and geothermal pools, you won’t have that option.

Tip: If you need to do some shopping in Iceland check out how you can claim your tax refund.

Leave a tip

Icelanders can take offense to leaving a tip after a meal. It is not customary to leave the waiter a tip. However in our experience, Icelandic people are very warm and friendly. Don’t hesitate to tell them how great your meal was and exchange a smile.


Buy bottled water

Icelandic water is the cleanest and purest water in the world. Instead, carry a reusable water bottle with you and refill with tap water. Better for the environment and your pocket!

Leave before trying the local food

Yes, Iceland has a lot of weird food. If you are not brave enough to try the fermented shark or dried fish that does not mean you have to give up on Icelandic food. If you are a vegetarian, don’t forget to try their geyser (dark rye bread) and soup. We loved their onion and mushroom soup.

Also, go to the nearest local bakery to sample their Kleina (fried pastry) and Snudur (cinnamon bun). If you are a non vegetarian, you are in for a treat. Try their seafood especially the langoustines. And no matter what your food preference, you have to try their Skyr – which is similar to flavoured yogurt. Just a small tip, they don’t allow you to carry Skyr out of Iceland. Don’t try to take some home, it will be confiscated at the airport!


Swim at Reynisfjara Beach

In fact, don’t even get close to the water! Reynisfjara Beach may be one of the most famous black sand beaches in the entire world but it’s also one of the most dangerous places in Iceland.

At first glance, it looks like your every day beach that is perfect for taking a stroll along the water’s edge but looks are deceiving. This beach is known for “sneaker waves” aka rogue waves that come out of nowhere and can and will pull you out to sea.

There have been tourist deaths at Reynisfjara Beach, as many people ignore the posted warning signs. Please don’t be one of them!

Try to Fit Everything Into One Trip

Iceland is a fairly large country and there’s so much to see and do, it can be almost overwhelming. But here’s some important advice – you don’t have to do it all in one trip!

In fact, we think it’s better to focus on a few destinations, a region, or a particular route (like the Ring Road). If it’s your first time, you could even base yourself in Reykjavik and do a few different day trips, like the Golden Circle that checks off a few popular attractions.

If you try to do everything in the same try, you’ll end up rushing and missing some of the best things the country has to offer. Be sure to leave time in your itinerary to relax in the swimming pools and hot springs and go on a hike or two.

Leave the Bar Before Midnight

One of the biggest things not to do in Iceland, particularly in Reykjavik, is to go home before midnight if you’re looking for a night out.

The nightlife in Iceland starts late and it’s not uncommon for tourists to go out, find the bars completely dead, and go home…when in reality, the locals haven’t even gone out yet! Usually right around midnight is when you’ll start to see people besides tourists in the bar, so try to do as the locals do and start your evening late.

Forget Layers and Waterproof Clothes

As we mentioned above, Icelandic weather is fickle. No matter what time of the year you visit Iceland, it’s key that you pack layers and waterproof clothes. Long sleeves, a sweatshirt, and rainproof jacket are all key. And keep in mind that if you plan on going behind some of the many waterfalls in Iceland, you will likely get soaked so waterproof pants and boots are a good idea too!

Wait to Book the Blue Lagoon

If you’re going to visit the Blue Lagoon, be sure to book your ticket in advance. It’s one of Iceland’s most popular lagoons, due to its convenient location near the Reykjavik airport, and it does sell out. (And no, we don’t necessarily consider it one of Iceland’s tourist traps, though we do think there are prettier lagoons out there!)

Siddharth and Shruti are two nerdy souls who are either wandering the world or playing games in their pyjamas. They enjoy exploring offbeat places together and believe that the journey is just as important as the destination. You can read their blog – Siddharth and Shruti and follow them on Instagram & Twitter.

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Iceland is a bucket list destination for many. If you are planning to travel to Iceland or a road trip to Iceland here are the top things not to do in Iceland Things to avoid in Iceland

Have you been to Iceland? Would you like to add any other things not to do in Iceland on the list?

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8 thoughts on “What NOT To Do In Iceland: 12 Things To Know”

  1. I just got back from Iceland and have to admit that it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Cold, but so beautiful. I heard so much about Skyr and couldn’t wait to try it, I was disappointed. It tastes exactly like the Greek yogurt I eat all the time. It’s good, but don’t expect anything better or different than Greek yogurt.


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