Black sand beach

Dressing in layers is important in Iceland! 

Packing for Iceland is probably going to be the most stressful part of your trip. The weather in Iceland can be unpredictable. Even in the height of the summer, you can get cold temperatures and rain. It’s not uncommon to have sun, rain, snow, and wind all in the matter of hours in Iceland.

If you’re from New England like me, you won’t find the temperatures to be as cold even in the dead of winter, but if you’re from Florida or Italy, you better bring extra socks and mittens. Despite the unpredictable weather, Iceland is an incredible country with hundreds of exciting and unique opportunities.

Depending on what activities you chose to do during your time in Iceland, you’ll probably want to pack your luggage around those activities. If you’re hiking on glaciers, then you’ll want waterproof clothing. If you plan to spend the afternoon at the Blue Lagoon, then you’ll want to bring your swimsuit.

This post will provide some insight into what you should pack for Iceland’s most popular outdoor activities. Of course, suggestions will vary slightly on what time of year you visit Iceland. For general packing guidelines, check out the What to Pack for Travel in Iceland for excellent tips by a local.

Thingvellir National Park

Views of the mountains from Thingvellir National Park (Source: Katelyn Michaud)

How to Pack for the Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is one of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions. Thousands of people self-drive or take a tour of the 300-kilometer loop from Reykjavik into the southern uplands and back to the city. While there are many stops along the paved loop, the three primary stops are Thingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss waterfall, and the geysers of Haukadalur valley.  

All stops along the route are natural features in the Great Outdoors, so you’ll want to dress appropriately. For the colder months, you’ll want a thick winter jacket, warm hat and gloves, and thick socks and boots. Since it does rain a fair bit in Iceland, waterproof clothing is a must, especially if you want to get close to any waterfalls.

During the warm summer months, you’ll still want to dress in layers in case you get cold. A light waterproof jacket and sweater is a good idea. Since there is sun almost 24 hours during the height of the summer, you’ll want sunscreen and a hat to protect your skin.   

Vatnajokull glacier

The Vatnajokull Glacier from the Ring Road (Source: Katelyn Michaud)

How to Pack for Glacier Tours

Over 10% of Iceland is covered by glaciers making glacier hiking and ice caving a favorite activity for those who love adventure. Vatnajokull glacier is the largest glacier in both Iceland and Europe and is a protected national park covering over 12,000 square kilometers. Glaciers in Iceland can be explored by foot, snowmobile, ice climbing, and ice cave tours. If you enjoy a good adventure, don’t miss this opportunity to do something you can’t do in many places in the world.

Since you’re going to be on ice and snow all day, you will need warm and waterproof clothing. Tour companies will provide you with glacier boots and all the safety gear you need like crampons, a harness, and a helmet. Sunglasses are a must because snow reflects sunlight and can cause snow blindness, where you temporarily lose your vision from overexposure to the sun’s UV rays. Dress in layers and have a change of clothes for after the tour in case you do get wet during the tour.   

Horseback riding

A person riding an Icelandic Horse (Source: Inspired by Iceland)

How to Pack for Icelandic Horseback Riding Tours

The Icelandic Horse was originally brought to Iceland when the Vikings settled the island over 1100 years ago. Today, it is one of the oldest and purest horse breeds in the world. Iceland is home to over 80,000 Icelandic Horses with many residing at riding stables for tourists of all ages and riding abilities to ride.

Iceland Horseback Riding Tours are a popular way to discover the out-of-this-world landscape of Iceland. Most riding stables will provide boots and rain gear if you don’t have your own. All stables will provide a helmet for safety that must be worn. For horseback riding, you’ll want long pants, preferably with some stretch, and shoes or boots. During the cooler months, you’ll want warm layers as you might get cold on your ride, especially if it’s windy.

Blue Lagoon

People relaxing in the Blue Lagoon (Source: Inspired by Iceland)

How to Pack for the Blue Lagoon and Hot Springs

The Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa in Iceland is one of the 25 wonders of the world and one of the top attractions in Iceland. The geothermal waters of the spa are made of silica, algae, and minerals that are great for your skin. At a consistent temperature between 37°C and 40°C, spending an afternoon at the Blue Lagoon is a relaxing way to end your amazing adventures in Iceland.  

It’s not hard to pack for the Blue Lagoon or other hot springs. You just need a swimsuit and a towel. On sunny days, you’ll want to bring sunglasses and a hat, like a baseball cap to keep the sun off your face. Due to the composition of the water, you’ll want to remove all your jewelry so not to damage it. Hair conditioner will also protect your hair from drying out from contact with the water. Use plenty of it before and after you enter the water.  

With so many amazing experiences and tours in Iceland, it’s challenging just to pick a few to do on your Iceland holiday. With an onslaught of cheap airfares, packing is becoming increasingly tough if you’re traveling light, but you’ll want to pack appropriately for your tours. 

Find Tours in Iceland here.