Many people make some big misassumptions when thinking about Iceland. They look at the country’s name and geographical location and assume that it must be the sort of place when big coats and lots of layers need to be worn at all times of year to help people stay warm. It's true that temperatures in Iceland never get too high, but the country has a lot of options for outdoor recreation, especially in the summer months, and one of Icelandic people's favorite activities when the sun is shining is to head down to the beach with friends or family. Arctic swimming and surfing can be enjoyed here if you're bold enough, but many of Iceland's beaches are best-suited for shelling, beachcombing, relaxing, and admiring the picturesque, pristine views all around. Read on to learn about the best beaches in Iceland. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.


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Many of Iceland's beaches are filled with black, wet sands and rocky areas, but if you're looking for something a little more traditional, check out Breidavik. Located in the Westfjords area of the country, Breidavik is surrounded by cliffs and mountains, as well as flat grassy spaces and a large stretch of golden sand. Camping is popular in this area, with activities like fishing and birdwatching being very enjoyable at Breidavik too, and the large sandy expanse is ideal for picnics, strolls, and beach games for visitors of all ages. Another unique aspect of this beach is the fact that North Atlantic Puffins gather here each year through the summer months for breeding, so it's an awesome spot to see some wildlife.

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Located on the Reykjanes Peninsula, Sandvik is a black sand beach that is one of the best surfing spots in all of Iceland. Of course, you'll need to be a brave soul to try riding the waves up here due to the fact that the waters are exceptionally cold and the winds can be very rough, but if you think you're up to the challenge, Sandvik is the place to be. For non-surfers, this Icelandic beach is a lovely spot to admire the views or simply sit and watch surfing enthusiasts doing their best to stay on their boards out at sea. There's a lovely old wooden bridge to walk across too that provides some breathtaking views of the local cliffs and landscapes, ideal for nature lovers and photography fans.

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Located out in the untouched east fjords area of Iceland, Vestrahorn is one of the country's most magnificent beaches. The landscape here looks like something from a fairy tale, dominated by stunning snow-capped mountains and shimmering icy waters. There's a local Viking-style village that was actually used as a film set and left abandoned afterwards, so that can be a fun place to explore too, and the beach is also home to a little lighthouse and a very old shipwreck, making it a terrific spirit for adventurous souls. Wet sands and marshy green areas can be explored on this beach, which is a wonderful spot for people of all ages to come and feel a million miles away from civilization.

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The first major advantage of Álftanes is that it's only 15-20 minutes away from Iceland's capital city of Reykjavik, so it's very easily accessible for most tourists in the country as many people tend to stay in this city when visiting Iceland. Álftanes is a very unique beach, unlike any you might have seen elsewhere in the world. Sand and volcanic rock cover the landscape here and there's a lot of history in the area, with an old fort being built here and a spot near the beach once being used to execute pirates and outlaws. The nearby Álftaneskirkja church is a must-visit location and the beach is filled with interesting rocks and shells to gather up and take home as souvenirs.

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5.More Info

More Info
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Located in the North Atlantic, not far from Greenland, Iceland is the most sparsely populated European country of them all. It's home to less than 350,000 despite covering an area of around 40,000 square miles. Renowned for its very welcoming vibe, friendly people, unique cuisine, and stunning natural and man-made landmarks, Iceland has a lot to offer for the modern day traveler in need of a relaxing getaway or a simple backpacker in search of something new. Believe it or not, Iceland is also home to some of the prettiest beaches you could ever hope to see.

If you're planning a trip to Europe, you have a very long list of potential destinations to choose from. You could visit major capital cities like London or Rome, for example, or check out Scandinavian nations like Sweden and Denmark. You could relax in the Black Forest of Germany, walk the streets of Prague, investigate key historical locations around Eastern Europe or bask on the beaches of the Greek islands. There are so many options to choose from, it can be very difficult to pick between them. If you're looking for an 'off the beaten path' destination, however, why not book a trip to Iceland?

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4 Best Iceland Beaches

  • Breidavik, Photo: forcdan/
  • Sandvik, Photo: Tawanboonnak/
  • Vestrahorn, Photo: Leonid Tit/
  • Álftanes, Photo: sumos/
  • More Info, Photo: forcdan/
  • Cover Photo: Courtesy of forcdan -

More Ideas: Driving in Iceland

Planning on going to a trip in Iceland? Maybe you’ll need to drive to get around. Here are seven tips that you might find useful. Some people might tell you that you need to rent a 4x4 if you need to get to any part of Iceland’s Ring Road, but that isn’t the case.

1. You can drive around Iceland’s Ring Road without getting a 4x4.

A two wheel drive has proven itself to be good even on snow covered roads. So long as the car you’re driving has the appropriate type of tires, you’ll be able to drive around just fine when you visit during the winter without ever having to worry about slipping.

In fact, some remote parts of Iceland require that you do NOT have a 4x4 vehicle, which are prohibited there. There are the F or H roads, which are unpaved. Therefore, having a 2x2 vehicle means being able to travel to more places.

Of course, the most important bit of this tip is that you don’t have to spend way too much on a 4x4 rental, which also means more money spent elsewhere on your trip.

2. Watch Out for Speed Cameras

Iceland’s government regulates people’s driving speeds. This is why there are a lot of speed cameras set up near highways and roads. Obviously you don’t want to catch a speeding ticket, so don’t be complacent with the speed limit just because you don’t see any officers around because you won’t see them at all! Besides, the speed limit is there for a reason, and that’s too keep you and people on the road safe.

You’ll find most of Iceland’s speed cameras in densely populated places such as Selfoss and Reykjavik just 1 to 2 hours away. The known speed limit for Iceland is 90 km/hr for paved roads and up to 50 km/hr. for within the cities. Some go as low as 30 km/hr, so it’s better to watch out for those speed signs. If for some reason you need to go fast, make sure you never go more than 5 to 10 km/hr beyond the limit. Generally, however, follow the speed limit. You’re better safe than sorry.

3. Keep the Cost of Gas in Mind

For some reason, gas is one of the top 5 things travelers forget about when they’re on the road. But you shouldn’t make that same mistake - lots of people have gotten themselves caught with not enough cash when they decide to gas up.

There really isn’t any way for you to reduce the cost of gas other than not driving at all. But if you’re on a road trip, that’s not really an option. If you listened to the first tip, you’re already saving a lot of gas because 4x4 use up more fuel than their 2x2 counterparts.

On average, however, filling up a 2x2 tank will cost about $80 USD, which is approximately more than twice the cost if you had your tank filled in America, which would be $25 to $30. Ultimately, you’re going to have to just save up for the gas cost. If you want, you can cut costs on other things like food or accommodations.

4. Watch out for the One-Lane Bridges and Tunnels

Driving in Iceland isn’t too boring. In fact, you need to keep your eyes peeled for those one-lane roads, bridges, and tunnels. Having been designed at a time when tourists weren’t a thing there, these bridges are so long but yet are wide enough to fit only one vehicle. Thankfully, it’s usually easy to spot if it’s safe for you to pass by. Some of these bridges have pull out spaces that allow vehicles to adjust in case there are two of them that start to cross it at the same time.

The rule of the road is that the first car to arrive and start crossing the bridge gets the right of way. Unfortunately, not everyone listens to this road so it’s better to play defensively. It’s a little scary but you’ll eventually get used to it like most locals do.

5. There’s One Toll Road in Iceland

If you plan on visiting the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, there will be a lone toll road there. One very interesting fact about that spot is that it’s the only toll road in all of Iceland. It’s a tunnel that actually goes under the ocean and connects two pieces of land. The toll costs $10 so be sure to have change ready if you’re passing by. You can actually drive around the toll road but it’s too impractical for you if your plan is just to avoid spending $10. In fact, going through the tunnel means shaving off a few hours otherwise spent on the detour, which could cost you more in terms of gas, not to mention that you’ll be wasting precious time on your trip.

Undoubtedly, taking the toll road is you best option. Just remember to bring at least $20 and keep it in your car so you can pay for the round trip.

6. No Need for an International Driver’s License

It’s natural for you to think that you’d need an international driver’s license to be able to drive in Iceland, but that isn’t the case. Iceland regulations accept all kinds of driver’s licenses, so you can pretty much bring with you the one that you use where you’re from.

7. It is Illegal to Drive Off-Road

If you think you can go off-roading in other countries, don’t try to do it in Iceland. It is in fact illegal to do that there. Driving off-road also harms Iceland’s ecosystem, which is why the rule was set there in the first place.

Driving is one of the more practical ways of getting around Iceland, especially if you’re travelling. Just keep in mind to drive slower when it snows as the roads could get slippery. Make sure to get the right kind of tires too!

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Tipping in Iceland

Iceland, a small Nordic country in Europe, is simply breathtaking and heavenly, thanks to its land and water formations, the northern lights, and other attractions. In 2017, tourists in Iceland outnumbered the locals. For each Icelander, there were five tourists.

If you are thinking about visiting Iceland real soon, you may be wondering about how locals view the practice of tipping, especially if you come from the United States and many other countries where tipping is customary. This is definitely a valid and even widely debated topic about Iceland. Here are some things you need to know.

Is tipping illegal in Iceland?

There is a myth going around among tourists that tipping is illegal in Iceland. This may come from the fact that many establishments refuse tips. This is untrue. Tipping is certainly not illegal.

The subject of legality comes into play when you talk about whether the recipient should pay taxes on tips or not, but that is not your problem as the giver of the tip.

Are Icelanders insulted by tipping?

Another rumor is that tipping is seen by Icelanders as something insulting. This may be rooted in the inherent hospitableness of the locals. Icelanders will gladly sit down with you, a tourist, over coffee or offer to tell you something about interesting sights in the area.

Many people think that tipping may offend Icelanders because it makes it appear like they are being nice only for the money. This is true if you tip the wrong person at the wrong place and/or time. We will talk more about this later.

Why is tipping unnecessary?

Whereas many European countries are becoming accustomed to the practice of tipping, Iceland has somewhat remained in the opposite direction. Tipping is almost never done in this country. This may come as a relief, considering how expensive everything is in Iceland.

The main reason for this is that gratuities are already automatically added into your bill. This applies to hotels, restaurants, cafes, taxis, and even stores. The amount shown on your bill is the exact amount you are expected to pay, nothing more and nothing less.

Service staff in Iceland is also paid well. They also have unions who make sure that they are given good wages and benefits. They definitely do not need tips.

What if I really want to tip?

Nothing should stop you from tipping service workers in Iceland for remarkable service. As mentioned earlier, it is neither illegal nor offensive. Icelanders are familiar with the custom due to the influx of tourists in their country, and they know that tips are a token of appreciation.

Aside from ISK (Icelandic krona), the Icelandic currency, USD is widely accepted by service establishments in Iceland, so there is no need to worry if all you have on you are in US dollars.

I insist on tipping. How much should I give?

Like in numerous other European countries, the common manner of tipping in Iceland is rounding up the bill to the next even amount or paying an additional 10% of the total bill.

But this may still vary depending on the type of establishment you’re at. In an upscale restaurant, you may want to give a larger margin than you would at a cheaper place.

Regardless of where you are, do not think about tipping too much. It does not make you look generous, only foolish or ignorant. In many restaurants, for example, there is already a 15% gratuity integrated into your bill. If you tip 10%, which is the unspoken standard amount in many European countries, that means the server is getting a 25% tip, which is just excessive.

Are there places where I’m not supposed to tip at all?

Do not tip at take-out counters, hotdog stands, pizza parlors, and similar places. It is just never done. You are also not expected to tip for cab rides, ordering drinks, or checking your coat. You will also rarely ever see tip jars or bowls in cafes and similar establishments. If you do see one, it is okay not to put in anything. Needless to say, do not even think about tipping outside of the service industry.

To conclude, it is neither illegal nor offensive to tip service employees in Iceland. You are free to reward good service, but do know that it is not expected or needed. Service workers in Iceland are paid relatively better than are their counterparts in other tourist-heavy destinations, and they do not need tips to get by.

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