Mountains + Coast
Iceland. The Land of Fire and Ice. Few destinations capture the imagination like the world’s wonderland in the North. Overflowing with natural beauty – from cascading waterfalls to steamy lagoons to mountains of black sands and green moss – Iceland is a veritable feast for the eyes.
This epic BACK&PACK adventure includes a breathtaking 4-day trek on Iceland’s legendary Laugavegur Trail, snorkeling between continental plates at the Silfra fissure, a relaxing dip in the famed Blue Lagoon, glacier exploration, whale watching, meaningful conservation projects with local non-profits, and much more.
Our first full day in Iceland allows you to check an item off your bucket list – swimming between continental plates! Located at the intersection of the North American and Eurasian plates, the Silfra fissure in Iceland’s Þingvellir National Park is as unique an experience as it sounds. Deep blue waters, dark lava rock, and vibrant algae contrast to create the most stunning sight for snorkelers.
Next, we’ll explore the historical landmarks, vibrant culture, and untouched nature of Northern Iceland. While based in Akureyri – Iceland’s “capital of the north” – we’ll embark on excursions to see the area’s many attractions. Northern Iceland is well known for whale watching, and we’ll have a chance to hop on board a boat to spot some of these majestic giants. We’ll also venture inland to the otherworldly – some say moonlike – geologic and volcanic formations in and around Lake Mývatn. If the beauty of Iceland has yet to surprise you, the North will most surely take your breath away.
Halfway through our trip, we’ll take time to pause, reflect, and have the opportunity to give back through our locally-led volunteer projects. Projects differ year-to-year based on the needs of our partner organizations but often involve hands-on work in reforestation, trail maintenance, and beach cleanups with local non-profits and NGOs.
At last, our time on trail begins! Recognized by National Geographic as one of the most beautiful hikes in the world, we’ll spend four days trekking the 34-mile-long Laugavegur Trail. The natural contrasts you’ll encounter on this hike – black volcanic rock, spouting thermal vents, lakes, and colorful rolling hills – will make you feel like you’ve stepped into another world. We’ll overnight in tents, enjoy camp food prepared by expert guides, and undoubtedly spend hours marveling at Iceland’s long summer days.
We’ll cap off our stay in the south by visiting the iconic Seljalandsfoss waterfall, Reynisfjara black sand beach, and the Jökulsárlón glacier. As if you’re legs weren’t tired enough, we’ll take the opportunity to strap on some crampons and hike the ice. We’ll learn about the plight of the glaciers from our expert guides, then, after our fun-filled yet insightful play day, head back to Reykjavik for some much-earned rest.
On our final full day in Reykjavík, you’ll have a chance to submerge yourself in the tranquil waters of the famed Blue Lagoon. Rich in minerals like silica and sulfur, these unique pools offer the perfect environment to relax and reflect on our incredible adventures. You can go at your own pace and stay as long as you like on this day. In the evening, we’ll meet back in Reykjavík for our final meal and closing activities.
At the end of your trip, you’ll have a chance to do any last-minute shopping or sightseeing in Reykjavík before your transport to the airport. We’ll be sad to see you go, yet the end of one journey is simply the beginning of another. Whether you continue to another destination or head home from here, we hope you’ll fondly remember the Land of Fire and Ice.
Your journey will begin and end at Iceland’s largest airport, Keflavík International Airport (KEF). KEF typically has a wide selection of airlines and flight times, as well as reasonable fares. As we welcome travelers from all over the world, our pricing does not include the cost of flights.
We accept arrivals and departures at any time on the scheduled start and end dates. However, when possible, we suggest timing your arrival by early afternoon to make the most out of that first day – our day to break the ice and see some of Reykjavík. Further details on arrival procedures are provided one week before the program. Typically, staff meet participants directly outside customs and immigration in the passenger pickup area.
Please ensure you have emailed a copy of your itinerary to firstname.lastname@example.org. If there are any changes to your anticipated arrival or departure time, inform our team immediately by emailing us or calling +1.720.340.1139.
Please see the dates and costs section for our current pricing. Our trip fees cover most major expenses while abroad, yet items considered personal expenses (such as airfare) are additional. To assist with your budgeting, please ensure you’ve reviewed the following.
- Experienced and professional guides
- Shared accommodations in hotels/hostels, B&Bs, and camping
- Ground transportation to/from group activities
- Group meals and drinking water
- Equipment and entrance fees for the adventure excursions
- All equipment and supplies needed for the volunteer projects
- Donations to our partner organizations
- Health/travel insurance (strongly recommended)
- Flight costs to/from Keflavík (KEF)
- Airport/airline taxes, baggage fees, flight upgrades, meals, etc.
- Passport, visa, vaccinations, etc.
- Any costs incurred due to medical needs/emergencies/evacuations
- Personal spending money for shopping, snacks, etc.
- Cell phone and internet usage
- Laundry expenses
Local time – Iceland observes Greenwich Mean Time all year. There are no Daylight Saving Time clock changes. To calculate the time difference between Iceland and your area, we recommend timeanddate.com as it takes into account daylight savings rules and accepts present as well as future dates.
Currency – The official currency of Iceland is the Icelandic króna (ISK), often seen as “kr”. For current currency conversion rates, we recommend visiting xe.com.
Weather – Iceland enjoys a much milder climate than its name suggests. The peak season for traveling to Iceland is during the summer, between June and August when the most outdoor-related activities are available. For your convenience, we have compiled the following chart of the main cities with the average ranges for highs (°F) / lows / rain days per month.
|Reykjavík||37-39° / 27-29° / 13-14||43-54° / 33-44° / 9-10||51-57° / 42-48° / 9-13||37-45° / 28-36° / 12-14|
|Akureyri||37-38° / 27-28° / 10-12||43-55° / 32-44° / 8-9||53-57° / 42-47° / 9-13||36-44° / 26-34° / 12-14|
Dress code – Whatever you wear at home is likely equally acceptable in Iceland. In urban environments, “smart casual” is a safe bet. On our excursions, hiking/trekking gear is the norm. As such, we recommend you keep things simple and stick to classic combos (jeans/shorts and t-shirts, skirts and sweaters, etc.) for our times in the city. For our time on the trail and other nature-oriented activities, it’s critically important to dress in layers, as Iceland’s notorious swings in temperature, rain, etc. can catch even the most seasoned travelers off guard. We’ve laid out more specific recommendations in our packing list.
Language – The official language of Iceland is Icelandic, a North Germanic language similar to Old Norse. While English is also widely spoken in Iceland (~98% of the population speaks English), we encourage you to learn a few key phrases in Icelandic before embarking on the adventure. A few simple words such as greetings can greatly enhance the interaction with locals.
Safety – Iceland is considered to be very safe for travelers. Iceland has a low crime rate with rare instances of violent crime. Using common sense will go a long way in ensuring you do not become a victim. However, risk is inherent to travel, and there are always safety concerns regardless of where you go in the world. For a complete and thorough list of concerns and safety recommendations, please visit Iceland’s “Safety and Security” section at travel.state.gov.
Food – Exploring all the unique foods and flavors of Iceland can be positively delightful. Traditional Icelandic food is made of all sorts of seafood and grass-fed lamb, yet international fare is common as well. Your trip will include all major meals, so please be sure to inform our team if you have any dietary restrictions or allergies. We will forward this information along to our in-country partners.
Water – The water in Iceland is perfectly safe to drink. In fact, some consider it to be some of the best tasting water in the world!
Electrical outlets – Depending on the difference between your home country and Iceland’s electricity systems, you may need to bring a travel plug adaptor (changes the plug/outlet type) and an electric converter (changes the voltage/frequency) for your electronics to work. Iceland’s voltage/frequency is 230V/50Hz. Voltage/frequency in the U.S. is 120V/60Hz. Thus, if you are coming from the U.S., you will need to ensure your electronics can be charged at 230V/50Hz (i.e., “dual-voltage”) or bring along an electric converter and plug adapters (types C and F), such as you see here.
Cell phone – Many major cellular carriers have broad coverage overseas. Please check with your carrier for rates and coverage before travel, as many plans require you to activate international roaming before use. We will provide further guidance on connectivity post-enrollment.
Wi-Fi – You will find Wi-Fi in most cities and towns in Iceland. Many cafes, restaurants, and hotels/hostels offer free Wi-Fi.
Laundry – Laundry services are available in the accommodations we use. As such, we recommend packing light then doing your laundry every week or so.
BACK&PACK can not apply for passports or visas on your behalf, yet the information below should help guide you through the process. As always, contact our team if you have questions or run into any issues.
Travelers with U.S. passports – For the most up-to-date information, please visit Iceland’s page at travel.state.gov. Travelers with U.S. passports do not need a visa for stays less than 90 days but must have 3+ months of validity on their passport after the departure date from Iceland. If you need to apply for or renew your passport, please submit your application as soon as possible.
Travelers with non-U.S. passports – Please verify passport and visa requirements for your nationality by contacting your local Icelandic embassy or consulate. The websites embassypages.com and embassy-finder.com operate handy directories of embassies and consulates around the world. If you’re required to obtain a visa and need specific information for the application process, please let us know at email@example.com. We will be happy to assist you.
Keeping your documents safe – Please be aware that passports are quite valuable abroad. Guard your important documents as you do your credit/debit cards, and keep these items in concealed locations. Additionally, we suggest you make copies of your important documents (passport, visa, etc.) before travel. Having these copies is very useful in the event of loss or theft. You can make photocopies or scan documents into a secure yet accessible computer file (a password-protected file stored in the cloud, for example). If photocopying, we suggest you make two copies of your documents. Leave one copy at home with a close friend or family member. Keep hold of the other copy while abroad, separate from the original.
BACK&PACK is not able to supply medical advice (we’re not doctors, after all!), yet you may use the steps below to guide your decision-making process regarding travel vaccinations.
- Go to the Travelers’ Health section for Iceland on the CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) website.
- Read through the information carefully and consider which precautions you may want to take.
- Schedule an appointment with your physician or travel health professional. For assistance locating a travel clinic in your area, you may wish to try the Find A Clinic service on the CDC website. Please allow plenty of time before your trip to see your healthcare provider (CDC suggests 4-6 weeks). Let your provider know before your appointment that you are coming in for travel vaccinations. They might ask about the areas where you may visit. Our Iceland itinerary includes exploration in both urban and rural areas throughout the Northern and Southern parts of the country, as well as Reykjavík.
Please note, the packing list below has yet to be updated for our 2024 trips. Please check back in March for changes and additions.
Below you will find a detailed list of our recommended items for Iceland. Above all, remember you will be responsible for carrying your luggage from place to place. Do not skimp on essentials but know that you’ll likely feel every ounce of weight over time. Thus, the lighter you can pack, the better. As a general rule, if your pack is more than 30-35 pounds, you’ve overpacked. Strive for less! You will have the ability to do laundry every week or so (see the “Laundry” note on the “Country Info” tab).
- Main bag (35-70 liter capacity, depending on your packing habits) – We suggest a wilderness-style backpack for ease of use in various environments abroad. Wheeled luggage or duffel bags are acceptable but should be easy to carry over long stretches of rough terrain.
- Smaller bag for day trips, sightseeing, and weekend excursions
- Valid passport and visa (see “Travel Docs” tab)
- Electronic or physical copy of travel documents (see “Travel Docs” tab)
- Electronic or physical copy of flight documents/itinerary
- Debit/credit cards and cash (see “Money” note below)
- Insurance information
- Student ID or other identification (optional – student IDs can sometimes get you discounts abroad)
- Electronic or physical list of phone numbers, addresses for postcards, etc.
- Lightweight short-sleeved shirts, casual dresses, etc.
- Long-sleeved shirts, casual dresses, etc.
- Lightweight pants or long skirts
- Nicer outfits for going out
- Warm pants
- Warm upper layers/sweaters/jackets
- Raincoat/outer shell
- Thermal underwear
- Warm hat
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Flip flops or sandals
- Sun hat or cap
- UV protected sunglasses
- Mesh laundry bag labeled with your name
- Travel plug adaptors and/or electric converter (see the “Electrical outlets” note on the “Country Info” tab)
- Cell phone and charger
- Tablet or laptop (see “Valuables and electronics” note below)
- Headphones (optional)
- Camera (optional)
- eReader (optional)
- Locks for luggage (optional)
- Journal (optional)
- Water bottle (see the “Water” note on the “Country Info” tab)
- Quick-dry towel and washcloth
- Soap or body wash (see “Eco-friendly products” note below)
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss
- Lip balm
- Eye care supplies (glasses, contact lenses, etc.) and spares
- Hairbrush or comb
- Any necessary razors, trimmers, and shaving cream
- Nail clippers and tweezers
- Medications (see “Medications” note below)
- Personal first aid kit (see “First Aid” note below)
- Waterproof sunscreen (SPF 30+)
- Small bottle of insect repellent with DEET (25-30% concentration)
- Earplugs and/or sleep mask (optional)
- Any personal items you need not on this list (feminine hygiene products, etc.)
Valuables and electronics – Note that BACK&PACK is not responsible for lost, stolen, or damaged items. You are free to bring a tablet, laptop, camera, jewelry, watch, etc. – but if you are concerned about losing/damaging an item, then it’s best to leave it at home.
Eco-friendly products – For your toiletries, please consider traveling with reputable “green” brands to help reduce environmental impacts. For soap/body wash, we’re fans of Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap, for example.
First Aid – We recommend that all travelers come with a basic first aid kit for personal use. Supplies may include Band-Aids, antiseptic cream, pain/fever medication, cold medicine, antidiarrheals, mild laxatives, Pepto Bismol, anti-itch cream, decongestants, cough drops, etc. While you can purchase premade first aid kits, these products tend to be bulky and don’t always contain sufficient quantities of certain items. Alternatively, you can simply list what you like to have on hand when you get a cold, the flu, upset stomach, bug bites, etc. Purchase necessary items (in sufficient quantities!) at your local pharmacy, then pack everything together in a ziplock bag.
Medications – You are responsible for the proper administration of any prescription and over-the-counter medications. Note, some prescription medications are difficult to find in pharmacies abroad. Please consider taking precautions to reduce the risk of loss. For your flights, ensure prescription medications are in your carry-on bag, NOT checked baggage. They should be clearly labeled in their original packaging/with instructions, as required by the airlines. Then when in Iceland, you may wish to err on the side of caution by securing prescription medications in a bag with luggage locks. Luggage locks can be purchased at your local Walmart, Target, travel store, etc.
Money – Iceland is a largely card-based society. We recommend traveling with a debit/ATM (for any needed cash withdrawals) and a credit card (kept in separate, concealed locations). Each offers distinct advantages abroad, plus having two cards is very useful in the event of loss, theft, or denial of one by a particular vendor.
Visa and Mastercard are both widely accepted. Your cards will need chip technology and a 4-digit PIN. If you have questions or concerns regarding your debit/credit cards, contact your card provider.
Be aware that some cards charge significant fees while traveling (e.g., 2-3% foreign transaction fees), so please budget for your card’s total cost of use. It is also critical to inform your debit/credit card providers of your international travel plans before departure to avoid suspension of your account (i.e., fraud protection).
Current Ways To Save
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