Solo travel to Iceland is totally doable. But is it easy? Will it be lonely? How much more will it cost to go alone? In this guide, I’ll show you how I traveled alone to Iceland and had an incredible time exploring hot springs, hiking trails, Icelandic food, and so much more. Whether you’re an experienced solo traveler or taking your first solo expedition, here’s how to embark on a solo journey through the land of fire and ice.
Table of Contents
I. Meeting Other Solo Travelers or Locals – NOT AS EASY
It was actually relatively hard for me to meet other travelers in Iceland compared to the 50+ other countries I’ve been to. Most tourists in Iceland I saw consisted of: married retirees, couples, or families with kids. And most were suburban Americans. So in some ways, the tourism demographic felt like I’d traveled to Orlando or Wyoming in the USA.
On top of that, tourists and foreign workers outnumber local Icelanders by what felt like 10 to 1 in the summertime. The people working in the tourism and service industries are almost all foreigners! So some travelers visit Iceland and never meet an Icelandic person! I was lucky to be hosted by an Icelander, so I got some cultural exchange through that.
How to Meet Other Solo Travelers in Iceland
- Reddit’s Visiting Iceland sub and posting under the Meeting Other Travel Buddies thread
- Facebook’s many Iceland travel groups
- Staying at one of the hostels in Reykjavik to meet others who may want to share a car rental with you or join you on some adventures
- Samferda is Iceland’s craiglist for ride shares!
Don’t rely too much on most group tours for meeting others, as they are almost entirely couples or families traveling together. And most travelers I met on these tours were introverted conservative Americans. Unlike other places, where most travelers are super talkative and friendly.
However! Tours that are more adventurous, like this hiking tour to the Highlands, you will likely meet many more friendly solo travelers.
Fun Facts About Iceland’s Tourism Statistics
- Iceland received 2.3 million international tourists in 2018.
- In 2018, Americans made up most of the tourists to Iceland, at almost 700,000 American visitors!
- The population of Iceland was 350,000 in 2018. That means that tourists outnumber locals.
- In 2021, Iceland recorded 61,148 foreign immigrants living in Iceland. That’s because many European foreigners (from countries like Italy, Spain, and Poland) work in Iceland to help fill jobs that Icelandic people do not want. Polish people are the largest group of immigrants at 20,500.
II. Where to Stay in Iceland as a Solo Traveler
Why You Should Base Yourself in Downtown Reykjavik
If it’s your first time traveling to Iceland, and you’re not renting a car, I strongly recommend basing yourself out of Reykjavik (the capital) and doing day trip tours from there. Most of Iceland’s popular attractions are within 1-3 hours from Reykjavik, anyway.
From downtown Reykjavik, you also have access to the incredible restaurants in the city! As well as all of the amazing day tours that depart from Reykjavik.
I recommend staying near the Hallgrímskirkja Church or near Rainbow Street. Everything will be within walking distance if you stay around here. Bakeries, yoga studios, cafes, shops, museums, and other attractions.
Best Hotels & Hostels for a Solo Traveler
- Renting an Apartment: An rental apartment like this costs $150 a night! You get it all to yourself, so you can cook your breakfast from home. Or you can rent a room in an Airbnb for about $80/night.
- Guesthouse: Eric the Red Guesthouse is just $160 a night! And the location is perfect!
- Hostel: The two most popular hostels are Kex Hostel and Loft HI Hostel & Bar.
- Boutique Hotel: Alda Hotel starting at $300/night
- Luxury Hotel: Tower Suites Reykjavik for epic views and comfort
III. Safety of Solo Traveling Iceland
Iceland is so safe that there have only been five murders in the last ten years. In fact, it’s so quiet in Iceland that if the most minuscule thing were to happen, it would be all over the news and people wouldn’t stop talking about it for weeks. Such was the case of Noel Santillan, an American tourist who became an overnight celebrity in Iceland because he got lost driving due to an extra “r” typo in his GPS.
As for women, Iceland is one of the most progressive countries for LGBTQ and gender rights. So you can also rest assured as a queer or solo woman traveler.
Iceland’s Raw & Powerful Nature
The most dangerous part of Iceland travel is actually the raw and powerful nature here. It is scary. Nature is what kills people the most in Iceland. Much of the nature here is virginal. So do not rely on signs or fences like in the USA.
Icelanders expect everyone to use common sense, such as staying on trails. I saw a hiker go off-trail and stand on a ledge to take a picture. Our tour guide came running to get him off. He was actually just standing on literal thin ice along a cliff edge. That same tour guide then proceeded to tell me horror stories about tourists walking on glaciers (which is forbidden without a tour).
And as a solo traveler, I highly recommend guided tours into certain rugged outdoor spots (like the Highlands) just to be safe. For instance, on one of the hiking trails, I walked on a trail of crumbling soft soil along a cliff edge. I was terrified and holding onto my guide’s hand for dear life.
III. Renting a car vs. Guided tours
I think that if you’re solo traveling to Iceland, then it’s not only cheaper but more time-efficient to just go on tours (listed below) instead of renting a car. Especially if it’s your first time in the country. However, here are the pros and cons to doing either:
Why You Should NOT Rent a Car in Iceland
Drawbacks to renting a car. The cost of renting a car in Iceland, particularly during peak tourist seasons, can be expensive. You’re looking at around $150 to $200 a day (including full insurance) plus gas at $8/gallon.
Additionally, navigating Iceland’s challenging terrain and unpredictable weather conditions requires extra caution and experience, especially for those unfamiliar with driving in such conditions. Sometimes the wind is so bad in Iceland that it can rip your car door off, if you’re not careful getting out. And if you get a flat tire? That’s not included in your insurance!
Renting a car also entails dealing with logistics such as finding parking spaces, maintaining the vehicle, and planning routes, which can consume valuable time and effort. Furthermore, some attractions in Iceland, particularly in remote areas or on glacier-covered terrains, may require specialized 4×4 vehicles.
Tours do all of that for you and cost you less than car rental + insurance + gas. Bring a good book and enjoy the ride to your destination. Plus, a guide often provides such interesting insights to the local history, culture, and nature.
Why You SHOULD Rent a Car in Iceland
One advantage of renting a car is the freedom and flexibility it provides. You have the autonomy to explore at your own pace, deviate from the usual tourist routes, and discover hidden gems off the beaten path. Renting a car also allows you to control your itinerary and spend as much time as you want at each destination. Luckily, I met a solo traveler with a car who drove us to Reykjadalur hot springs! Check Samferda for ride shares.
So if you have a healthier budget, are comfortable driving in a foreign country, don’t mind dealing with parking, understand the risks involved in taking car of a car in Iceland, then I think renting a car in Iceland can be a great option.
III. Uniquely Fun Tours You Can Do Solo in Iceland
As mentioned above, if you’re solo traveling, it will probably cost you less money and time to just do guided tours instead of dealing with a car rental. This way, they pick you up, take you around, and you don’t have to figure out driving or parking logistics. Just show up and go. Here are some guided tours you can join:
1. Sky Lagoon
This Sky Lagoon Tour is the perfect way to start your Iceland trip. With round-trip transfers included, you can enjoy this geothermal spa’s serene outdoor oasis where you can relax and rejuvenate. Immerse yourself in warm, mineral-rich waters while enjoying panoramic ocean views and rocky landscapes.
Sky Lagoon offers various amenities, including saunas, steam rooms, and cold plunge pools for a holistic spa experience. Their 7-ritual step is well worth it (and included)! Lastly, you can also grab a bite at the on-site restaurant or shop for their products at their gift shop. Book the tour here.
2. Horseback Riding Tour
This Horseback Riding Tour allows travelers to ride Icelandic horses along the breathtaking landscapes of Iceland. Icelandic horses are truly one-of-a-kind, being pure breeds descended from Vikings who brought them to Iceland over 1,000 years ago. They possess the special trait of having five gaits, including the renowned “tölt,” a smooth, comfortable gait that provides a unique riding experience.
During the tour, you’ll be split up into beginners, intermediate and advanced riders, led by experienced guides who will ensure your safety and comfort.
The tour typically includes visiting scenic areas such as lava fields, meadows, and riverbanks, offering a unique perspective of Iceland’s diverse terrain. Whether you’re an avid horse lover or simply seeking an unforgettable adventure, this tour allows you to connect with the Icelandic horse culture and experience the joy of riding these special horses.
3. Silfra Snorkeling Tour
This Snorkeling Silfra Half-Day Tour is an unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime experience. Where else can you literally swim between two continents through glacier water? It is a natural wonder!
Silfra is a crack in Thingvellir National Park, where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates diverge, which is also causing Iceland to split apart slowly at about one centimeter a year. This geological phenomenon makes Silfra one of the few places on Earth where you can snorkel or dive between two continental plates.
Participants are provided with high-quality drysuits to ensure comfort and warmth as they navigate the chilly but captivating waters. I went in the summer and barely felt the cold. The only part of your body that gets wet is the bottom half of your face. Everything else stays warm and dry. Bring thermal layers.
This guided tour provides an opportunity to explore the crystal-clear waters of Silfra, which are fed by melting glaciers and offer unparalleled visibility to see the mesmerizing underwater landscapes, including dramatic rock formations. The glacial water is exceptionally pure and can even be consumed during the snorkeling adventure. It was the most delicious water I’ve ever tasted!
The tour includes round-trip transfers from Reykjavik, all necessary snorkeling equipment, and the guidance of experienced instructors who prioritize safety and provide insights about the geological and historical significance of Silfra.
4. Food Walking Tour
Iceland has some of the most exotic and unique dishes I’ve tasted in all my world travels! And the Reykjavik Food Walking Tour provides the perfect introduction to the vibrant food scene of Reykjavik.
During the tour, you’ll have the opportunity to visit five different establishments, beginning with a traditional Icelandic breakfast spot. Next, you’ll make a stop at a lamb hotdog stand famous for its flavorful toppings. This stand holds the distinction of being the place where Bill Clinton once enjoyed a tasty hotdog! You’ll also visit a pub where you can sample the notorious fermented shark, accompanied by soup and locally brewed Viking beer.
Continuing the culinary exploration, the tour takes you to a fancy fish restaurant (Messinn), where you can indulge in exquisite seafood dishes, and sides like potato casserole and rye bread. Finally, the adventure concludes with a visit to Cafe Loki‘s famous rye bread ice cream.
Throughout the tour, you can expect to learn about Icelandic cuisine, its history, and the cultural significance of the dishes you try. Knowledgeable guides will share fascinating insights and stories, providing a deeper understanding of the local food traditions.
As a solo traveler, this tour was a bit awkward sitting at a table by myself with other quiet and conservative travelers who came as couples or families. But I still think the experience is worth it as a solo traveler. If there aren’t any friendly people, then just stick to your guide!
5. Hvamssvik Spa Tour (Option to Add Glymur Hike)
Time Magazine has rated Hvammsvik Hot Springs as the number one thing to do in the world! It just opened up in 2022, so it remains a relatively hidden gem offering a unique and rejuvenating experience to immerse yourself in soothing and mineral-rich waters, surrounded by stunning natural landscapes.
The spa is a whopping 45 minutes north of Reykjavik, but you can book this tour that includes round-trip transportation from the city!
Hvamssvik + Glymur Hike Combo
Alternatively, the Glymur Hike + Hvammsvik Hot Springs tour offers a long hike to Iceland’s second-highest waterfall combined with a relaxing experience at Hvammsvik Hot Springs. The hike takes you through stunning landscapes, including scenic canyons, lush greenery, and breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. This tour also includes round-trip transfers from Reykjavik,
6. Landmannalaugar Highlands Hiking + Hot Spring Tour
This Landmannalaugar Hiking Tour from Reykjavik takes you into the captivating highlands of Iceland. What makes this tour truly special is the unique and untouched landscapes of the highlands, characterized by colorful rhyolite mountains, geothermal hot springs, and vast lava fields. It looked like another planet. This tour also includes round-trip transfers from Reykjavik!
7. Southern Coast Tours
This South Coast Tour takes you on a minibus through the breathtaking landscapes of Iceland’s south coast such as:
- Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, where you can walk behind the cascading water
- Reynisfjara black sand beach, famous for its dramatic basalt columns and roaring waves. Keep an eye out for the iconic Reynisdrangar sea stacks rising from the sea.
- Charming coastal village of Vík, known for its picturesque setting and stunning views of the surrounding landscapes.
- Mýrdalsjökull glacier, which covers the active volcano Katla.
Another option, is this South Coast Tour + Glacier Lagoon and boat tour! This one includes:
- Seljalandsfoss waterfall
- Skógafoss waterfall
- Black sand beach of Reynisfjara
- Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon’s floating icebergs
- Diamond Beach where icebergs that have washed ashore glitter like diamonds against the black sand
8. Glacier Hiking
On this Glacier Hike, you’ll explore the landscapes of Iceland’s south coast and then experience the thrill of hiking on a glacier.
The highlight of the tour is a glacier hike on one of Iceland’s impressive glaciers. You’ll be equipped with all the necessary gear and receive guidance from experienced guides who will lead you safely across the glacier’s icy terrain.
I regret not doing this! But next time I will. Let me know if you go what it’s like. I hear it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
9. Kerlingarfjoll Hike
This Kerlingarfjöll Hiking Tour allowed me to explore the special and not-as-visited Icelandic highlands! The tour entails a guided hiking expeditions, where I could immerse myself in the extraordinary hills of Kerlingarfjöll. We encounter steaming hot springs, bubbling mud pots, and vibrant hues of red, yellow, and green. It was scary and mesmerizing! The geological formations and contrasting colors of the rhyolite hills and volcanic steam make this region a true wonder to behold. The tour includes round-trip transfers. Bring your own lunch (or you’ll stop at a gas station store to buy a sandwich).
It was very laid back and we ended up having to make some changes during the tour but it all worked out for the best and it made the trip even more special.
If you’re going with family or a group, consider this private tour. It’s run by the guide who led me on this tour. He’s hilarious, super insightful, and was a ton of fun to hike/travel with!
IV. Iceland Tourist Traps to Skip
1. The Golden Circle
This is the most tourist-visited area in Iceland. And here’s why I think you should skip it. The Golden Circle can be quite underwhelming and even boring. The main attractions typically involve driving up to a parking lot, walking a short distance, and observing a geyser and a waterfall, often seen from the road while driving to other destinations. Spending an entire day for this and paying $150 for such limited experiences may not be worth it for many travelers.
The top highlight of the Golden Circle, Thingvellir Park, you can enter while doing the Silfra Snorkeling tour. And Thingvellir holds cultural and historical significance for Icelanders, so this is the only spot in the Golden Circle that may be worth it for you.
However, if you are determined to explore the Golden Circle, pair it with a visit to a unique and more immersive attraction such as the Sky Lagoon, Silfra Snorkeling, Secret Lagoon, or Fontana Spa. This way, you can make the most of your trip by combining the obligatory Golden Circle visit with a truly memorable and distinct Icelandic experience. Here are some tours that do that:
- Golden Circle + Sky Lagoon Tour
- Golden Circle + Silfra Snorkeling Tour
- Golden Circle + Secret Lagoon + Tomato Farm
- Golden Circle + Fontana Spa
- Golden Circle + Kerlingarfjöll Private Tour
2. Blue Lagoon
The Svartsengi geothermal power plant harnesses volcanic energy to generate electricity and provide hot water for heating purposes. After the extraction of steam and hot water from deep underground, it is directed into turbines, which are connected to generators, producing electricity. This clean and renewable energy source helps to power nearby communities and infrastructure.
After the water/steam has passed through the turbines, it is no longer suitable for generating electricity but retains its heat. This hot water is then piped to the Blue Lagoon, where it fills the lagoon and provides the warm and mineral-rich bathing experience.
Today, the milky blue run-off water has become one of Iceland’s most popular and expensive tourist attractions. And even though I love the sustainability behind it, I really didn’t like my time at the Blue Lagoon. Here’s why.
- The Blue Lagoon is notorious for being overcrowded. And with hordes of visitors, I had to wait on a long line to get checked in.
- It has a much more industrial ambience, with kids running around and frat boys drinking beer.
- On top of that vibe, the high silicon/mineral content in the water can leave your hair dry and brittle, causing damage. This is something the spa warns you about before you check in.
- It is insanely bright. So bright, that they sell sunglasses for $40 at the bar. That’s probably because milky blue water can reflect sunlight intensely, increasing the risk of sunburn.
- It comes with a hefty price tag of about $150-$200. Some people get it for $80 if they go crazy early/late and have their own car.
- It’s located 45 minutes south of Reykjavik, near the airport.
If you do decide to check it out, I understand. But I recommend pairing it with this tour Meradalir Volcano Hike. That way, you’re getting a discount, seeing something else, and getting a ride to both places!
V. Interesting Things to do in Reykjavik as a Solo Traveler
Don’t sleep on Iceland’s capital! There are lots of cool things to do in Reykjavik as a solo traveler. Here are just a few ideas:
- Harpa Theatre: How to Be Icelandic in 60 Minutes play was hilarious and an amazing way to learn about Icelandic culture! This is a highlight experience.
- Shopping: Rammagerdin is the best shop!
- Restaurants: Don’t miss Apotek, ROK, Fish Market and Dill.
- Walking Tours: Such as Reykjavik Viking Walking Tour, or a Folklore Walking Tour.
- Museums: Like the Iceland National Museum, Perlan Museum, and the Settlement Exhibition. I also heard that the Phallological Museum was supposed to be interesting but something about the topic made me reluctant!
- Food & Drink Tours: You could consider this Icelandic Traditional Food Tour, or what about an Icelandic beer pub crawl?
VI. Costs of Solo Traveling Iceland – NOT THAT BAD
- Accommodation: $80 for an Airbnb to $300 for a higher-end hotel. And $50 if you want to stay in a hostel dorm.
- Tours: $50 for a big bus tour or $150-$200 for a small bus tour.
- Food: $24 for a nice burger with fries to $30-$40 for a plate of fish at a nice restaurant. INCLUDING TAX AND NO TIPPING. This is not that bad!
- Transportation: $15-$30 for a bus transfer from the airport.
- Car Rental: $100-$200+ a day. If you can drive a manual, it’ll be cheaper.
- Gas: $8/gallon
- Groceries: $3 for yogurt, $20 for smoked salmon, $10 for a sandwich.
VII. Solo Transportation to & in Reykjavik
- Taxi: If you’re rich. It’s going to run you like $250 each way from the airport. Every ten minutes driving costs like $20-$30 USD.
- Bus: This is what the 99% take. You can take the bus from the airport to the city for about $15-$30 (depending if you do the public bus or the tourist bus).
- Walking: Downtown Reykjavik is very walkable!
- Tours: To get around nature and other attractions, join the guided tours listed above.
VIII. Itinerary for Iceland Solo Trip
I recommend going for about 5 days and doing the following:
- Day 1: Food Walking Tour + Sky Lagoon
- Day 2: Silfra Snorkeling + Horseback riding tour
- Day 3: Hvammsvík or Reykjdalur hot springs hike + Harpa (How to Be Icelandic play)
- Day 4: Highlands Full Day Hiking Tour (Kerlingarfjoll or Landmannalaugar)
- Day 5: South Coast + Glacier Hiking Tour
And itinerary like this should cost your about $900 for the tours + $500 for food + $500 for a flight from JFK + $750 for accommodation = between $2,500 and $3,000. And you can do it cheaper, if you tailor it your way.
IX. Multi-Day Country Tours to Join
If you’re worried about having to plan a solo trip to Iceland, then consider some of these multi-day country tours!
- 8 day Small Group Tour for $2,430. Includes glacier hiking, whale watching, hot springs, Lake Myvatn and so much more! What a steal!
- 8 day Ring Road Tour + Snaefellsnes Peninsula for $2,037. This. one includes the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, the Eastfjords, and Akureyri!
X. FAQ: Traveling Solo to Iceland
- Who took all of your pictures? I asked people with cameras, solo travelers in my tours, my guides, and did selfies!
- Is it expensive to solo travel Iceland? Yes and no. It’s comparable to traveling to NYC solo. But if you book things ahead of time, you can do a 5 day trip to Iceland to about $2,000, including flights, meals, and transportation/tours. See the section above for expenses.
- Did you meet any cuties? Iceland is not the easiest place to meet other single travelers because most traveler are married couples or families. But maybe try meeting up locals and look up local events!
- Feel free to drop any questions in the comments and I will answer!