Iceland holds a special place in our hearts, it’s one of the most beautiful places with a variety of different landscapes we’ve ever seen. It’s also home to the cutest animals, namely Icelandic horses and puffins, and the kindest people.

It definitely helps that most everyone speaks English, but honestly it isn’t really a deal-breaker as we never expect people in other countries to speak to us in English.

This is our do’s and don’ts guide with tons of travel tips for conscious travel to Iceland.

Strokkur surrounded by crowds of tourists.


1. Please be considerate and mindful of the locals.

It’s been very difficult for the locals dealing with the increased level of tourists in their country. The number of tourists currently visiting the country far outweigh the overall local population. The current infrastructure in the country wasn’t made for THIS many people and the roads, restaurants, and sights can easily be packed by tourists especially during the summer months.

There are growing pains.

It is very bittersweet for them as they delight in the fact that people want to see their beautiful country; however they are also concerned some famous sights are becoming endangered by the same people as well. Some areas have already been closed off due to environmental strain.

Iceland is still working on their tourist infrastructure.

There may not be as many bathrooms as you’d think. Do remember to bring toilet paper in case nature calls, but also remember to “leave no trace”. Make sure you have plastic bags to haul out your used toilet paper so you can properly dispose of them in a trash can.

Cured reindeer and smoked puffin from Strikið Restaurant.

2. Be open-minded and don’t yuck their yum.

We took a tour for a portion of our trip and we were overhearing a girl from Canada talking to our guide about Icelandic cuisine and the different types of animals they eat. Our guide actually mentioned to them that baby horse (foal) was one of his favorite foods and they replied with words of disdain and disapproval, asking how Icelanders can eat horses because they’re so cute and they’re pets.

Sometimes we, as visitors, forget why locals do the things they do…

Their culture is based on survival. 

Though Westerners (namely North Americans) associate horses with pets; however people need to recognize that prior generations of Icelanders (as well as many parts of Europe) regularly dealt with potential starvation and lack of food. In the past, they had to rely about methods of preservation for both seafood and meat as sustenance during their harsh winters. In short, they ate to live rather than to enjoy, so eating horses, puffins, sharks, and whales, etc. are part of their culture.

It’s also important to remember that the country of Iceland is an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Due to its geographic location, it has a lot of natural beauty and seafood is literally a boat ride away, but at the same time certain resources, like food diversity, are also limited unless it’s imported at a much higher price.

You don’t have to agree with them, but you also don’t need to be judgey and rude.

With that said… Locals really appreciate it when you give their cuisine a try. After we heard that our guide loved eating foal, we decided to try it once we got back to Reykjavik. When we placed the order, our server got super excited we were ordering the foal because it’s one of his favorite dishes.

Try the local cuisine! 

Give the hakarl (fermented shark) and pickled herring a try! I actually found out I quite liked it, especially the pickled herring! IMO, the vinegar taste is less pungent when it’s fresher and non-imported. Puffin was also delicious as was the less gamey than expected Icelandic lamb.

We are adventurous eaters so we’d try almost anything, but we also love eating the local cuisines, in our opinions, trying local foods gives us a taste and a look into their culture.

Why you should get a hot dog in Iceland…  

Yes, you heard right, I just told you to fly to Reykjavik just to get a hot dog. But hear me out, it is SO worth it!

If you’re less adventurous, definitely try the Icelandic hot dog. It’s different from the usual hot dog in that it’s got Icelandic lamb blended into it so it’s super delicious! Just don’t do what Bill Clinton did and order their hot dogs without the fried onions. Legit, you must eat them with the fried onions; I hate onions but those fried onion toppings are bomb.

This was our rental SUV 😉

3. Rent a car!

Iceland is easily accessible via the Ring Road during most seasons. During the winter, you may need a 4×4 to drive through the snow, but during most seasons a front wheel drive is perfectly fine. There are some mountainous roads, namely the F-roads and especially if you venture to the highlands, that require a 4×4 even when it isn’t snowing but for the most part you will be fine with a normal rental. You will also easily be able to drive on the gravel roads with your typical rental, just take your time and drive slower. 🙂

Driving is easy as the speed limit is pretty low and once you get out of the main touristy areas, the roads are wide open and insanely beautiful. You will want to pull off the road all the time to take photos, no joke, we wanted to but couldn’t since we had a full itinerary.

PRO TIP: Remember to bring a GPS or get one from the car rental company. We actually didn’t request one as we brought our own, but our car ended up having one built in which was nice, especially since the spots on Google Maps aren’t 100% accurate.

GPS coordinates will be your best friend, we literally used them for everything, including while chasing waterfalls.

This is the Sólfar (Sun Voyager) sculpture, created by Jón Gunnar Árnason as an ode to the sun.

4. Walk around the city of Reykjavik.

The main areas of the city are very walkable and you’ll be treated with colorful street art and quirky Icelandic culture. There are giant bald eagles flying on the sides of buildings and life-sized trolls on the street.

Reykjavik’s Cutest store was one of my favorites, its rainbow colored walkway leading up to the building with the cutest gifts. It brought back childhood memories of playing Candy Land, except IRL.

Aside from stores, you can also see modern architecture at the Harpa Convention Center, the Sun Voyager sculpture, as well as some of the museums in the city, such as the phallus museum or the whale museum.

While this Black Sand Beach in Vik can be beautiful, it can also be deadly. The waves easily sneak up on people, so be careful when taking photos out there!


1. Do not be an ugly tourist and stay safe.

Note that these stories are not meant to be offensive or anti-tourist in any way, they are real-life stories that should be taken into account while traveling in Iceland. You don’t want to be one of these statistics that show up on the Icelandic news.

Watch for warning signs! Your life is more important than the gram!

There are signs everywhere leading up to the beach telling people to be careful of the rip tides. Due to the rip tides, every year someone gets swept away at the Black Sand Beach at Vik, don’t be that person!

Someone gets airlifted at Glymur annually because they can’t make it up the mountain, don’t be that person! Don’t be the person that slips off the mountain because it’s muddy/slippery and you wanna get a good photo. We all do it for the gram, but you don’t want to be that person, it may cost you your life. 

Also respect locals and their property, we all know Iceland is expensive, but camping out in someone’s backyard is not right.

Off-roading is illegal. 

The famous plane wreck at Sólheimasandur Beach is located on private property and is now only accessible via a 2.5mile (4km) hike. Originally cars were permitted closer to the wreck but the landowners blocked it off to traffic because a tourist decided to go off roading in the surrounding area. Essentially, cars are now banned from the area and visitors must walk in to view the wreck. Don’t ruin it for the rest of us.

As negative as this point sounds, there are important safety implications to consider. Be aware, be careful, and be respectful! 🙂


We hiked on Svínafellsjökull glacier, look at those insane cracks!

2. DO NOT hike glaciers without a guide.

This point is similar to the one above, but it can’t go without being stated. This is super important because, in short, you might die.

There have been reports of people going glacier hiking throughout history who have just completely disappeared into thin air. It’s extremely easy to fall into a crack or crevice and meet your downfall so it’s best to go with a guide; they know where they’re going and all you have to do is follow them.

Fun Fact: With global warming and glaciers melting, bodies of long missing glacier hikers have been found recently.

There are multi-day tours as well as single day tours for glacier hiking, they will also provide all the equipment you will need for the hike so that you’ll be well taken care of.

I love Icelandic horses! They’re so cute.

3. Don’t assume their horses are ponies.

Icelandic horses are on the smaller, stouter, and shorter than the horses you’re used to but they are definitely NOT ponies. They are a hardy breed with a long, heavy coat built designed for the cold weather. They also have a unique gait other horses lack, accounting for a total of 5 gaits.

Fun Fact: The Icelandic horse has a pure bloodline and developed isolated from other horse populations, it is actually most closely related to the original horses brought to the island by the Vikings. Once an Icelandic horse leaves the country, they are no longer allowed back in to maintain the pedigree and health of the horses throughout the country. Tourists are also not allowed to use their own horseback riding gear, if someone attempts to bring it into the country it will be destroyed as it may cause disease.

This is Hverir Geothermal Area, it is located in the northern part of the country.

4. Do not restrict yourself to Reykjavik and the Golden Circle

In fact, I strongly urge you to GET OUT OF REYKJAVIK! Iceland has so much to offer you if you give it a chance.

Like I’ve said before, the country is insanely beautiful and there is SO much to see and do. That’s not to say you shouldn’t explore Reykjavik, we definitely did! We found it to be the quaintest capitol city, but you should also venture outside of the city limits. In fact, the Golden Circle was actually one of my least favorite areas just due to the insane amount of people in the area, it was a lot less enjoyable to me than the north and western fjords. Plus, there are so many amazing waterfalls to see.

Other areas of Iceland are much less crowded and offer a greater sense of tranquility rarely found elsewhere. There are also many must see natural features that exist on Iceland because of where it’s located on the Earth, in between two tectonic plates.  

Make your first time in Iceland, the best time in Iceland, by following this list of tips and tricks. Follow this guide to traveling mindfully and you will have an AMAZING time in Iceland! 🙂

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How to Travel Mindfully in Iceland | Do's and Don'ts on having fun in Iceland while staying safe and mindful of the locals. Tips for traveling in Iceland #iceland #reykjavik #goldencircle #traveltips Iceland - Do's and Don'ts | How to have fun in Iceland while staying safe and mindful of the locals. Tips for traveling in Iceland #iceland #reykjavik #goldencircle #traveltips


  1. Ourjournal Reply

    Very informative article. Completely agree with the “leave no trace”. Tourists are indeed a heavyweight especially if they are not ready for the volume.

    • Constance Panda Reply

      With Iceland it’s especially important since the tourist population far outweighs the local population so it’s vital for visitors to take care of the land as the Icelanders would.

  2. Thanks for the lovely tips on how to make a vacation to Iceland an enjoyable one whilst respecting the locals! An adventurous foodie myself, I love to try out new cuisines and local fare as it’s a great way to learn more about the culture and practices held dear by the locals. Good on you for trying out foal and fermented shark! I’d love to savour those dishes when I visit Iceland as well 🙂

    • Constance Panda Reply

      Hope you get to visit Iceland soon so you can try the foal and hakarl 😉

  3. LaiAriel R. Samangka Reply

    Do’s and Don’ts blog post is really unusual, but I really appreciate you for writing this for this serves as a reminder to all the travelers. I haven’t been to Iceland and this is surely something I should remember If I get here, even with places that I visit. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. It is very well written and informative.

    • Constance Panda Reply

      Glad it’s useful to you! Hope you get to visit Iceland soon 😊

  4. I like the angle. In a way, it’s good that the culture is based on survival.. and I agree that we shouldn’t yuck their yum as someone’s pet is actually someone else’s food 🙂 Cheers!!

    • Constance Panda Reply

      Thank you for the feedback, I appreciate it! I figured I’d write about these issues since I haven’t seen it covered much yet it affects the locals quite deeply ☺️

  5. Amazing post, very useful tips to travel to Iceland, I dindt know that about the glaciars, seems to be easy to walk, who can imagine that can be so dangerous without a guide. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Chris Behrsin Reply

    This is a great angle for an article on travelling in Iceland. I never actually realised there’s more tourists than the population. I also don’t understand people who won’t eat stuff because it looks cute but still eat things like lamb :).

    Thanks for posting.

    • Constance Panda Reply

      Glad you enjoyed the post! The Icelandic population is over 300k, the majority of them live in Reykjavik so you can easily see how the millions of tourists who visit can overwhelm the country. It’s a surprisingly small country so I figured it would be a great post to educate others on visiting the country and why being considerate and respectful tourists is so important, especially in this scenario.

  7. When you are dying to visit a country and then you get to read something like this, it’s like icing on the cake. Your thoughts resonated with mine when you advised the travellers to see more than Reykjavik. I would love to see the city too especially the rainbow coloured pathway and street arts but I also want to explore the true untouched landscape of this country. Black sand beach picture is breathtaking and the horses are actually too cute.

    • Constance Panda Reply

      Thank you for the feedback, Iceland is an amazing place to visit, hope you get to visit the country soon!

  8. What an awesome post, really enjoyed reading this. Thanks for showing other places in Iceland, the phots of the scenery look fabulous. I have bookmarked this for future reference. Loved all your tips and recommendations.

    • Constance Panda Reply

      I hope more people will visit other parts of the country as well, especially if they can be respectful of the locals 🙂 Thank you for the compliments!

  9. great tips! I think the most important is to be respectful… I see so many articles about tourists ruining the landscape of Iceland or picking out the moss! I hope the country just benefits from the tourism and isn’t too negatively impacted from an environmental point of view

    • Constance Panda Reply

      Argh I can’t believe people pick out the moss! It’s so gorgeous right there sitting on the lava rocks! Maybe I’ll need to add one of those stories to this post too… But yes I totally agree with you, that is exactly what inspired this post, the bittersweet feeling of wanting to share everything I experienced in Iceland while hoping that tourism actually benefits the locals and doesn’t destroy the beautiful landscapes the country has to offer.

  10. Stephanie | Adventures in Aussieland Reply

    Such an informative article! I wish more travellers were a bit more conscious about not leaving a trace. I also love that you mentioned trying local food. I’ve never understood why people don’t try local food when they travel. Unless you have a food allergy, why would you stick with what is known? You’re there to broaden your horizon.

    • Constance Panda Reply

      Exactly! Sounds like we travel similarly haha, we ALWAYS need to try the local eats. We’ve found we learn a lot about the culture that way too!

  11. Hiral Pandya Reply

    Very useful article. It’s always helpful to have these pro tips before visiting a new country and Iceland can be a bit overwhelming. Oh and great pictures, by the way. 🙂

    • Constance Panda Reply

      Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the photos and the post!

  12. Such a great post on the Dos and Donts of Iceland. The popularity of Iceland in the recent years a tourist destination has been tremendous but as you rightly state it is a country that is a lot different from mainland Europe. It is always nice to be aware of the regional traditions and cultures and respect them and of course be careful of taking care of the nature that is one of the prime reasons why people visit this beautiful country.

    • Constance Panda Reply

      Thank you for the kind words, I’m glad you enjoyed my angle to this tips and tricks on Iceland post 🙂

  13. Pingback: Do you need 4-wheel-drive in Iceland? – Quirky Globetrotter

  14. This is such an awesome post, Constance! I love how you’ve addressed how important it is to embrace the local culture of Iceland, including their cuisine. With many people going vegan these days for conservation reasons, I do think some quickly forget that in smaller populations around the world eating animals in done in a sustainable way – and as you mention, has also been done in order to survive in their environment. I also totally agree about silly tourists doing dangerous things for the purpose of getting a photo for Instagram. Surely travelling has more meaning than that! Thanks for writing this great article 🙂

    • Constance Panda Reply

      Thank you for all the compliments! I’m glad you enjoyed this post especially since I cover a lot of controversial issues within. I totally agree with you about sustainability and conservation with relation to veganism. While I personally am not vegan nor do I have anything against veganism a lot of the time I feel it goes the opposite way for vegans. Many vegans do shame others for their food choices, and IMO as a visitor (and guest) to another country, it’s not only rude, but also extremely arrogant to shame people (especially locals) for their food choices because they may or may not have a choice and they are a part of local customs.

  15. Thanks for the information. It is quite useful to me. I really love your blog.

  16. Mina Edinburgh Reply

    I appreciate you saying that in case the person would like to hike the glaciers, it is best to do it with a guide as it is very possible for a person to go missing in the area. I did hear a lot of people disappearing never to be seen again, but for me, that does not reduce the beauty and glory of the glaciers in my eyes. If anything, I will just be careful since that is the sole reason why I wanted to visit Iceland.

    • Constance Panda Reply

      It’s still best to go on a glacier hiking tour rather than chance it yourself. Lives are more important than saving money 🙂

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