Go adventuring alone with solo travel to Iceland. Even if your friends and family don’t want to go, the unique landscape and nature experience makes traveling alone in Iceland so worth it! This guide will tell you what inspired me to go, give you the top reasons why Iceland is a great solo destination and tips for planning your trip.
Why I was Traveling Alone in Iceland
Take a gander at that picture just above. That’s me, hanging out in an ice cave and it’s the reason why I took a solo trip to Iceland. You see, Iceland had been rumbling around the middle of my bucket list for a long time. I was interested in the volcanic landscape, glaciers and waterfalls, but then chasing down leopards in Sri Lanka, dinosaurs in England and nature trails in urban Singapore took my travel priorities. It wasn’t until I saw pictures of that ice caving experience that Iceland shot up to the top of the list. I visualized myself a modern day Shackleton, risking life and limb on a solo quest to explore the Great Blue Cave.
The truth is…that cave is a major tourist thing and no one goes into it solo. There is a steady stream of people visiting the cave every day and even though I traveled to Iceland alone, I certainly wasn’t alone in the cave. I got the Shackleton shot by hogging the cave entry with my tripod. However, even though my caving was a tad less intrepid than the picture implies, it was still an astonishing experience. The cave is in the Vatnajokull glacier, which is made up of a millennia of ice 1,300 feet (400m) deep. Every winter, the water that runs through the glacier freezes up, creating the cave. The light filtering into the cave refracts off of the tightly compacted snow creating an electric blue blanket of ice.
You can only do the cave in the winter and I triggered the trip because I found a slammin’ winter fare deal on Wow Air. I knew that I only had a day or two to snag the fare, but when I tried to get my husband to come with me, I got the most incredulous look. “Go to Iceland, in the winter? Isn’t it cold?”, he said, perhaps not understanding that ice caves need cold temperatures in order to be ice caves. He wasn’t up for it and other friends had work, family obligations or were equally skeptical of the winter itinerary. Hence, my solo trip to Iceland.
I came back from the trip an evangelist for the country. The Shackleton cave produced the requisite WOW moment for me but I also became bewitched by the broader landscape. I felt small amidst the thundering waterfalls and spare volcanic terrain. I was also tickled by the quirky culture of downtown Reykjavik. So go ahead, embark upon a solo adventure and you too can find out why traveling alone in Iceland is worth it.
Read More: Get more reasons why winter travel to Iceland is pays off dividends way beyond the cold air temperatures.
Why you Should Embark Upon Solo Travel to Iceland
I travel solo several times a year and know from long experience that it is easier in some destinations than others. An ideal solo destination will be able to offer the traveler some mix of the following: good public transportation, tours that are friendly for singles, English signage and fluency in the tourism infrastructure, a friendly culture and low levels of crime and sexual harassment. Iceland delivers quite well on most of those fronts.
Public Transportation in Iceland
Iceland doesn’t have a great public transportation system. There have (rather expensive) city buses that serve Reykjavik proper. But don’t expect to take a public bus to the popular tourist spots outside of the city. That said, there are several shuttle services that make it very easy to get from the airport to downtown Reykjavik. Just exit the luggage area and catch the Flybus, it will drop you off at one of twelve downtown bus stops. The downtown center is very compact so once there, you can get around on foot.
Solo Friendly Tours
I chose to take a tour rather than self drive. I know how to drive in winter road conditions but I would have preferred having a co-pilot, given Iceland’s unpredictable weather. So, I made the choice to add time to my stay in Reykjavik with a three day Golden Circle/South Island tour. This allowed me to have the company of others for that portion of my Iceland solo trip.
The bane of traveling by yourself is being hit with a single supplement up-charges. Some of the tour providers in Iceland, such Arctic Adventures, don’t do the up-charge. However, if you book the same trip through G Adventures, you will pay it. So it is worth your time to shop around for a local provider who welcomes solo travelers.
Everyone in Iceland speaks English and all of the tourist infrastructure such as maps and signage are bi-lingual. This makes communicating in Iceland very easy. That said, their place names are long, Nordic and don’t easily roll off the tongue. I’m quite sure that I’ve never properly pronounced one word of Icelandic.
Don’t worry too much if you mangle the Icelandic place names, because people in Iceland are pretty friendly and they will forgive you for it. I didn’t find Icelanders to be friendly in that– invites you to their house for Sunday dinner– sort of way. But they are friendly in that– we want to be helpful, plus we have a sense of humor because we have a penis museum and we believe in elves– sort of way. All of the people I encountered were friendly and helpful.
Low Crime and Sexual Harassment
Iceland has an extremely low crime rate. In 2017, they only had 131 people in prison (compared to 2.1 million in the US), and their per capita incarceration rate is 6% of America’s rate. They have guns, but they just go hunting with them rather than committing crimes.
This is comforting for a female traveling solo in Iceland. While there, I never once felt like I needed to look over my shoulder or keep a white knuckle grip on my bag. Nor did I get groped, marginalized or hear any mansplaining. This is because, according to the World Economic Forum, Iceland is the world’s leader in gender equality (the US is #45). Not that things are perfect there, but a culture that proactively works on its gender equality is going to be a comfortable place for a solo female to visit.
Resources for Traveling Solo in Iceland
- Book day tours from Reykjavik. If you choose to base yourself in Reykjavik, you can book a series of day tours that will get you out to the Golden Circle, hiking and thermal pools or seeing whales and puffins.
- Book multi-day tours from Reykjavik. If you see a cool day tour that goes longer than 10 hours, you really should book it as a multi day tour. Otherwise, you will spend all of your time on the bus and not enough of it doing fun stuff. Guide to Iceland has tours from 2-14 days, including this three day tour that includes the ice cave, a glacier hike and waterfalls or this eight day “best of” package.
- Meet with a local artist. Check out Creative Iceland where you can meet with local artists and learn a craft like knitting, print making, photography story telling. They also offer a class that teaches you about the local elves.
- Get some tips for how to stretch your budget.
Whether you normally travel alone, or like me, you just couldn’t round up a travel companion, you should go ahead and plan your solo travel to Iceland. In addition to it’s bucket list natural wonders, it’s also friendly, safe, and you don’t need to be lonely. You won’t regret it, but the friends that you leave home just might.
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