What to Wear to Iceland’s Top Attractions
Tips from someone who’s been, but didn’t bring enough socks.
Heading to Iceland? No doubt you’ve gone deep down the internet rabbit hole reading about how this northern country is the “adventure of a lifetime,” “otherworldly,” and “really freaking cold.” Given the challenging landscapes and weather, it pays to plan out your outfits, specifically what to wear to the Black Sand Beach, the Blue Lagoon, downtown Reykjavik, waterfall country, and on a Northern Lights tour. If nothing else, please, heed this warning: Buy a multi-pack of tall, warm wool socks. Bring them everywhere you go. Share them with a friend. You won’t regret it. All this sock talk should tip you off that this guide is geared toward Iceland’s coldest months (October through March), but temperatures dip down all year, so it’s a always a good idea to pack with warmth in mind.
Otherworldly Adventure: Black Sand Beach
What to do at Black Sand Beach
Walk to the Sólheimasandur plane crash. The contrast of this dismantled plane against the black sand is beyond spooky, especially if it’s overcast. (Don’t worry. Everyone aboard this plane survived.) The hike takes about an hour each way on flat terrain, but the sand can be quite wet.
What to wear at Black Sand Beach
This is going to sound extreme, but in order to be comfortable on this hike, you should rock a “deep sea fisherman” look. Dress like an extra on the “Deadliest Catch,” and you’ll be set. That means proper hiking boots with wool socks. If there’s any rain in the forecast, you might want waterproof pants. Beyond that, it’s all about layering: thick leggings, bulky sweater, and a wind resistant coat.
Black Sand Beach Pro Tip
Not to keep harping, but do keep an extra pair of socks in your car or backpack so you can swap them out between attractions. (We promise future tips will be relatively sock-free.)
Suit Up: Blue Lagoon
What to do at the Blue Lagoon
Soak in the milky blue waters of a natural hot spring that are said to have healing properties. Layer on rich mineral face masks. Enjoy a cocktail or two from the swim-up bar.
What to wear to the Blue Lagoon
A swimsuit. Truly, it’s all you need! At check-in you’ll be given a robe, sandals, and towels. You’ll have access to a well-appointed locker-room, complete with free shower products and hairdryers. You may want to invest in a waterproof tote or phone case. You’ll want to take a bajillon selfies of this moment, but there’s no great place to stash your phone. And it’s a drag to dart back and forth to your locker.
Blue Lagoon Pro tip
Buy tickets ahead of time, and book the earliest entry—it’s most serene in the morning when the doors first opens. Because the lagoon is so close to the airport (just 20 minutes away), consider either kicking off your trip here or coming for a dip before you fly home.
Paint the Town: Night Out in Reykjavik
What to do at night in Reykjavik
Enjoy dinner on the town with your crew. Those that really want to splash out should book a luxe chef’s tasting dinner at Grillmarkt—it’s like dining in an upscale grotto. To cut loose post-dinner, head to The English Pub. It sounds touristy, but this is actually where all the locals hang. Stay for the nightly wheel-of-fortune game; it’s surprisingly addictive, and you might just win beer for the whole bar.
What to wear at night in Reykjavik
Reykjavik can be a fun, feminine detour from all that functional outdoor gear. Consider this a prime sweater-dress moment. Top your cozy look with warm tights, leather ankle boots, and a bold lip. And remember a small purse or clutch, which is easy to forget when the rest of your packing list is a sea of waterproofed thingamabobs.
Reykjavik Pro tip
Learn how to say “cheers” in Icelandic—”skál!”—and you’ll make fast friends with your bartender.
Chasing Waterfalls: East Iceland
What to do in East Iceland
Contrary to TLC’s advice, you will go chasing waterfalls. All sorts of them! Waterfalls you can walk behind like Seljalandsfoss. Waterfalls you can climb like Skógafoss. And secret waterfalls with no names tucked behind skinny caverns.
What to wear in East Iceland
Warm athletic wear is the way to go. You want to be cozy, but you’ll also need decent range of motion for all of this waterfall conquering. This is the perfect opportunity for worn-in flannel, a puffy vest, and leggings. Finish it off with some Bean boots.
East Iceland Pro tip
Layer up. But bring a backpack so you have some place to stash your shed layers once you warm up and break a sweat.
Coffee Shop Crawl: Day in Reykjavik
What to do during the day in Reykjavik
Stroll Reykjavik’s cobblestone streets, popping into cute cafes that attract your attention. Shop for the perfect souvenir. There are great artisan shops scattered throughout the city, and you can’t go wrong with a traditional Icelandic wool sweater.
What to wear during the day in Reykjavik
Cozy plus cozy. Pull on a pair of jeans and a soft sweater. Top your look with a plush scarf.
Reykjavik Pro Tip
Early birds might have a hard time finding breakfast before 10AM. Most of the shops and cafes open mid-morning.
Bundle Up: Northern Lights Tour
What to do on Northern Lights Tour
This is it! Nature’s grand fireworks finale! The Northern lights can be finicky though and showtime isn’t always predictable. Be prepared to kill time in frigid conditions maybe ducking in and out of the refuge of your tour van.
What to wear on a Northern Lights Tour
The works! Turtle neck, parka, hat, gloves. You might even consider bringing a blanket from your hotel or rental (no joke!).
Northern Lights Pro Tip
Book your tour as early on in your trip as possible. If the conditions are cloudy and your tour gets cancelled, it gives you time to rebook.
Bonus Northern Lights Pro Tip
Pay attention when you’re flying in and out of Iceland at night. It’s very common to be able to see the Northern lights from your plane. If it’s vibrant enough, your pilot may announce it.