Journeying through Iceland's Golden Circle is an experience of nature's raw majesty. Brimming with geothermal spectacles, the grandeur of the Gullfoss waterfall, and Thingvellir National Park's geological wonders, this iconic route offers a panorama of breathtaking sights.

However, its beauty comes with the challenge of unpredictable weather, demanding thorough preparation and strategic packing for every backpacking adventure. Each season in the Golden Circle tells its own story, from the Northern Lights winter spectacle to the perpetual daylight of summer.

Proper packing is crucial to experiencing the captivating Icelandic wilderness fully. Our guide provides essential tips for backpacking in Iceland, ensuring a comfortable and memorable journey. Whether you're a solo traveler connecting with nature, exploring ice caves, or embarking on a glacier hike, this guide is your ally.

Gear up for a car tour or a trek along the Laugavegur Trail, and prepare for an unforgettable expedition through the Golden Circle. This journey resonates deeply and endures in memory.

Tips for Backpacking in Iceland in Each Season

The Winter Wanderer (December to February)

winter in iceland

Venturing into Iceland's Golden Circle during winter months offers a landscape transformed into a frosty paradise. To fully enjoy this icy wonderland, proper gear and preparation are crucial.

Here's your essential packing list for the Winter Wanderer:

  1. Thermal Layers: Iceland's winter can be piercingly cold. Pack thermal underwear and woolen socks to retain body heat.
  2. Insulated Outerwear: A high-quality insulated jacket is vital. It should be both waterproof and windproof to protect against harsh Icelandic weather.
  3. Waterproof and Insulated Boots: The snow-covered terrain demands boots insulated against the cold and waterproof to keep your feet dry.
  4. Ice Grips or Crampons are essential for added traction on icy paths and glacier hiking experiences.
  5. Warm Accessories: Remember a warm hat, gloves, and a scarf. These small items play a big role in keeping you warm.
  6. Headlamp: With limited daylight, a headlamp becomes an indispensable tool for any activity, whether early morning hikes or late-night searches for the northern lights.
  7. Sunglasses and Sunscreen: The reflection off the snow can be surprisingly strong, making sunglasses and sunscreen necessary even in winter.
  8. Camera with a Good Low-Light Performance: To capture the mesmerizing aurora borealis, bring a camera capable of handling low-light conditions.
  9. Thermos for Hot Drinks: A hot beverage can be a great comfort during cold outdoor adventures.
  10. Moisturizer and Lip Balm: The cold, dry air can be harsh on your skin and lips, which are essential to prevent dryness.
  11. Swimsuit: For those rejuvenating dips in Iceland's geothermal hot springs, a must-visit even in winter.
  12. A sleeping bag rated for cold weather is necessary if you plan camping or staying in huts along hiking trails.

Remember, staying warm and dry is the key to enjoying Iceland's winter. By packing these essentials, you'll be well-prepared to explore the breathtaking snow-clad landscapes, marvel at the frozen waterfalls, and chase the elusive northern lights during your backpacking trip to Iceland.

The Spring Adventurer (March to May)

Spring in Iceland

Spring in Iceland, a time of transition and renewal, offers unique challenges and rewards for backpackers. As the snow melts and the landscape revives, the Golden Circle transforms into a realm of burgeoning beauty. Here's what you need to pack for this season:

  • Layered Clothing: Icelandic spring weather can be unpredictable, ranging from sunny spells to sudden snow showers. To navigate these changing conditions, wear a moisture-wicking base layer, a warm middle layer, and a waterproof and windproof outer layer. This approach allows for flexibility and comfort.
  • Waterproof and Sturdy Footwear: With the spring thaw, trails can be muddy and wet. Waterproof hiking boots with a good grip are crucial for comfort and safety on slippery paths. They are essential for trekking popular trails or venturing into the more rugged Icelandic wilderness.
  • Rain Gear: Quick, unexpected rain showers are typical in spring. A durable, lightweight rain jacket and pants protect you from the elements. This gear is not just for rain; it also provides an additional layer against the wind, which can be particularly sharp during spring.
  • Warm Accessories: Temperatures can still be relatively low, especially in early spring. Pack warm hats, gloves, and a scarf to protect against chilly mornings and evenings. These are especially handy when hiking early or enjoying the late-night twilight.
  • Sun Protection: Despite the cool temperatures, the sun's rays can be intense, mainly when reflected off snow and ice. Sunglasses, sunscreen, and a sun hat are vital to protect your skin and eyes, ensuring a more comfortable backpacking experience.
  • Quick-Drying Clothes: Given the likelihood of getting damp, whether from rain or melting snow, packing clothes that dry quickly is beneficial. These materials help maintain comfort and warmth, which is essential for longer hiking trails or when you're away from your base for extended periods.

The Summer Explorer (June to August)

Summer in Iceland

From June to August, summer in Iceland is a period of extended daylight, milder temperatures, and vibrant outdoor life. This season is ideal for exploring the Golden Circle and other iconic Icelandic adventures. Here's what you should pack for an unforgettable summer exploration:

  • Light Clothing: Summer in Iceland is relatively mild, with temperatures typically ranging from 10°C to 15°C (50°F to 59°F). For daytime activities, pack light, breathable clothing.
  • Layering Options: Despite the milder weather, having layers is wise. A fleece or light-down jacket can be invaluable for cooler evenings or windy days.
  • Rain Gear: Icelandic weather can be unpredictable, even in summer. A lightweight, waterproof raincoat or poncho should always be in your backpack, along with rain pants if you plan extended outdoor activities.
  • Sun Protection: The near-constant daylight means more exposure to UV rays. Bring sunglasses with UV protection, a broad-brimmed sun hat, and sunscreen to protect your skin.
  • Sturdy Hiking Boots: Whether you're traversing the hiking trails of the Laugavegur Trail or exploring the natural beauty of South Iceland, good quality, comfortable hiking boots are essential.
  • Daypack: For your daily excursions, a comfortable daypack is necessary to carry essentials like water, snacks, your camera, and extra clothing.
  • Swimwear and Towel: Don't miss out on Iceland's natural hot springs. A swimsuit and a quick-dry towel are must-haves for a relaxing soak after hiking or exploring.
  • Camera with extra batteries: Summer in Iceland is visually stunning, with landscapes in extended twilight. A good camera will help you capture the magic, and extra batteries will ensure you take advantage of all photo opportunities.
  • Insect Repellent: In some areas, especially near water bodies, you might encounter midges. Having insect repellent can make your outdoor experiences more enjoyable.
  • Reusable Water Bottle: Stay hydrated during your hikes and explorations. Iceland's tap water is clean and drinkable, so a reusable water bottle is a handy and eco-friendly choice.

The Autumn Enthusiast (September to November)

Autumn in Iceland

Autumn in Iceland, particularly around the Golden Circle, is a time of stunning beauty and change. As the landscape transforms into a canvas of rich oranges, reds, and yellows, the weather becomes more unpredictable, necessitating a well-thought-out packing strategy for your backpacking trip. Here are essential items to include:

  1. Warm Layers: As the Icelandic climate cools, it's vital to pack warm clothing. Include wool or synthetic base layers, fleece or insulated mid-layers, and a warm jacket.
  2. Waterproof and Windproof Outerwear: Sudden rain showers and gusty winds are expected. A high-quality, waterproof, and windproof jacket and pants are essential to stay dry and comfortable.
  3. Durable Hiking Boots: Sturdy, waterproof hiking boots are necessary for wet and muddy hiking trails. They provide support and grip, essential for both safety and comfort.
  4. Accessories for Warmth: Remember hats, gloves, and scarves. These small items can make a significant difference in maintaining your body temperature, especially during cooler mornings and evenings.
  5. Headlamp: With daylight hours reducing, a headlamp becomes essential for any early morning or late evening hikes or for exploring dimly lit areas like caves.
  6. Camera with a Good Zoom Lens: Autumn's vibrant colors are a photographer's dream. A camera with a good zoom lens will help capture the breathtaking landscapes and possibly wildlife sightings.
  7. Waterproof Backpack Cover: Protect your backpack and its contents from unpredictable rain showers with a waterproof cover.
  8. Insulated Water Bottle: It's essential to stay hydrated, and an insulated water bottle keeps your drink at the right temperature regardless of the weather conditions.
  9. Quick-Dry Towel: A quick-dry towel is a practical and space-saving option for hot springs visits.
  10. Portable Charger: Keep your electronic devices charged, mainly if you rely on them for navigation or to capture memories of your Iceland backpacking adventure.

Each season in Iceland offers a distinct experience, from the aurora borealis in winter to the midnight sun in summer. By packing appropriately, you can comfortably and safely explore the breathtaking landscapes and rich cultural heritage of the Golden Circle throughout the year.

Comprehensive Packing List

Embarking on a journey to Iceland's Golden Circle requires more than just a spirit of adventure; it necessitates a well-thought-out packing list to ensure you're prepared for the diverse and often unpredictable Icelandic environment. Whether you're backpacking through the rugged Icelandic wilderness or exploring the national parks, this comprehensive packing list is designed to equip you for every season and every adventure.


  1. Thermal Base Layers: Essential for maintaining warmth, especially in colder seasons.
  2. Insulating Mid-Layers: Fleece or down jackets for additional warmth.
  3. Waterproof and Windproof Outer Layer: A must-have for Icelandic weather.
  4. Hiking Pants: Preferably waterproof and breathable.
  5. Extra Socks: Wool or synthetic blend, suitable for hiking.
  6. Gloves, Hat, and Scarf: Crucial for winter, but handy in other seasons too.
  7. Swimwear: For those rejuvenating dips in hot springs.


  1. Sturdy Hiking Boots: Waterproof and comfortable for long walks.
  2. Sandals or Water Shoes: Useful for hot springs or river crossings.

Gear and Accessories

  1. Backpack: With enough capacity for your gear and comfortable for long treks.
  2. Sleeping Bag: Appropriate for the season, especially for multi-day walks.
  3. Headlamp and Batteries: Vital for shorter days and exploring caves.
  4. Water Bottle or Hydration System: Stay hydrated on the trail.
  5. Sunglasses and Sunscreen: Essential for protection against UV rays, even in colder months.
  6. Map and Compass/GPS Device: For navigation on Iceland backpacking trails.


  1. Camera with Extra Batteries: Capture the stunning landscapes and the northern lights.
  2. Portable Charger/Power Bank: Keep your devices charged.
  3. Waterproof Phone Case: To protect your phone from the elements.

Personal Items

  1. First-Aid Kit: Include personal medications and basic first-aid supplies.
  2. Toiletries: Biodegradable soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.
  3. Quick-Dry Towel: Compact and fast-drying.
  4. Travel Insurance Documents: This is always a good idea for adventure travel.

Optional Items (Depending on the Season/Activity)

  1. Ice Grips for Shoes: For winter or glacier hikes.
  2. Binoculars: For bird watching and wildlife observation.
  3. Lightweight Backpacking Stove: If you plan to prepare your own food.
  4. Dry Bags or Plastic Bags: To keep your belongings dry.

This packing list is tailored to accommodate a variety of activities and seasons, from exploring the awe-inspiring ice caves and glacier hiking to soaking in the natural hot springs and gazing at the aurora borealis. Remember, being well-prepared for the dynamic and sometimes extreme Icelandic conditions is the key to enjoying your Iceland backpacking trip. Happy packing and safe travels!

Why is Backpacking in Iceland Essential?

Why is Backpacking in Iceland Essential?

Backpacking in Iceland is essential for several compelling reasons:

  1. Unmatched Natural Beauty: Iceland's landscapes are extraordinarily diverse and visually stunning, offering everything from volcanic terrains and geothermal springs to massive glaciers and cascading waterfalls. Backpacking allows travelers to immerse themselves in these unique natural wonders up close.
  2. Experiencing the Midnight Sun and Northern Lights: Depending on the season, backpackers in Iceland can witness the surreal phenomena of the midnight sun or the mesmerizing Northern Lights, experiences best enjoyed in the tranquility of Iceland's remote areas.
  3. Cultural Immersion: Backpacking in Iceland provides an opportunity to connect with local culture and history. Backpackers can better understand the country's rich traditions and customs from ancient Viking heritage to contemporary Icelandic life.
  4. Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Travel: Backpacking is an eco-friendly way to explore. Iceland is known for its commitment to sustainability, and by backpacking, travelers can minimize their carbon footprint while enjoying the natural environment.
  5. Personal Challenge and Growth: Iceland's varied and sometimes challenging terrain offers a perfect opportunity for personal growth. Backpackers can test their limits and endurance, leading to a sense of achievement and self-discovery.
  6. Solitude and Reflection: Iceland's vast and often uninhabited landscapes offer a sense of isolation and peace, providing a perfect setting for reflection and a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

In essence, backpacking in Iceland is essential for those seeking a unique blend of adventure, natural beauty, cultural immersion, and personal growth, all while being mindful of the environment.

Safety Tips Before Backpacking in Iceland

Before embarking on a backpacking trip in Iceland, prioritizing safety is crucial due to the country's unique terrain and weather conditions. Here are essential safety tips to keep in mind:

  1. Inform Someone of Your Plans: Always let someone know your itinerary and expected return time. It is crucial in case of emergencies.
  2. Check the Weather Forecast Regularly: Iceland's weather can be highly unpredictable and change rapidly. Stay updated on the weather conditions for the area you plan to visit.
  3. Prepare for Sudden Weather Changes: Pack appropriate gear for all types of weather, even if the forecast seems clear. Conditions can change quickly, especially in mountainous areas.
  4. Understand and Respect Local Warnings: Respond to warnings about hiking trails, weather conditions, or natural hazards. These are put in place for your safety.
  5. Stay on Marked Trails: It is essential to stay on marked trails to protect yourself and the environment. Off-trail hiking can be dangerous and damaging to delicate ecosystems.
  6. Be Aware of River Crossings: Many hiking trails in Iceland involve river crossings. Continually assess the depth and current of rivers and cross at designated points where it's safest.
  7. Pack a First Aid Kit: Always carry a basic kit with essentials for minor injuries or illnesses.
  8. Learn Basic Emergency Procedures: Familiarize yourself with basic emergency procedures, such as what to do if you get lost or if someone gets injured.
  9. Carry a Reliable Communication Device: In remote areas, it's crucial to have a means of communication, such as a charged mobile phone with a local SIM card or a satellite phone.
  10. Beware of Wildlife and Natural Hazards: While Iceland does not have sizeable dangerous wildlife, it's still important to be cautious around animals like sheep and horses. Also, be aware of natural hazards like geothermal areas and glaciers.
  11. Respect Road Closures and Restrictions: If you're driving to trailheads, respect road closures and restrictions. They are in place for safety reasons, often due to weather or road conditions.
  12. Dress Appropriately: Wear layers that can be easily added or removed. Waterproof outer layers are essential in Iceland's often wet and windy climate.

By following these safety tips, you can help ensure that your backpacking experience in Iceland is memorable and safe. Being prepared and respectful of Iceland's unique environment will significantly enhance your adventure.

Bottom Line

Venturing through Iceland's Golden Circle is an odyssey that unveils unparalleled beauty and moments that etch themselves into memory. Each season, from the magical winter wonderland to the vibrant bloom of spring, the sun-kissed days of summer, and the mystical aura of autumn, reveals its distinct allure and natural marvels.

By adhering to our detailed seasonal packing guide, you can embark on this mesmerizing journey with comfort and joy, ready to embrace every breathtaking vista and moment. Our devotion to crafting extraordinary backpacking Iceland adventures extends beyond mere travel; we delve into creating transformative experiences.

Armed with profound knowledge and enthusiasm, our seasoned guides will lead you through the Golden Circle and into the heart of Iceland's rich tapestry of history, geology, and culture. Whether you're solo travelers seeking an intimate Iceland adventure, an avid trekker on the lookout for the next exhilarating hiking trail, or someone yearning to uncover the secrets of Vatnajökull National Park, our curated tours are designed to cater to every inclination.

We invite you to explore and choose from our diverse Golden Circle tours, each thoughtfully tailored to align with your seasonal preferences and interests. Whether you're planning to backpack Iceland or considering a car rental for a more leisurely exploration, let us guide you through this epic Iceland trekking experience.

Embark with us on a journey that traverses the physical landscapes and the realm of wonder and awe.


How many days is enough to visit Iceland?

Most travelers on a trip through Iceland typically allocate at least seven days, as shorter durations may seem hurried. With many awe-inspiring sights to explore, your journey can be as extensive as you desire. Indeed, touring the Ring Road is one of the most favored methods to experience the wonders of Iceland.

Do they speak English in Iceland?

English is widely taught as a second language in Iceland, with nearly every Icelander proficient in it. Additionally, many Icelanders are multilingual, speaking languages such as Danish, German, Spanish, and French, and they often embrace the chance to hone their language abilities.

Can I camp anywhere while backpacking in Iceland?

Iceland has specific rules regarding camping. While there are many designated camping areas, camping in the wild is restricted and often requires permission from the landowner. Always check local regulations before setting up camp.

What should I pack for food while backpacking in Iceland?

Packaging dried foods such as pasta and rice for your trip to Iceland is highly beneficial. These staples offer versatility, allowing you to create various main or side dishes. Their long shelf life and ease of preparation make pasta and rice invaluable for sustaining you throughout your journey.

Are there any cultural norms I should know while backpacking in Iceland?

Icelanders value nature and environmental protection. Visitors should respect natural sites, follow local guidelines, and engage with Icelandic culture and locals openly and respectfully.