Sunday, December 11th, 2016

Why Iceland is Perfect for First-Time Solo Female Travelers

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Today I finished my first trip to Iceland: five fantastic days that I enjoyed immensely.  I can’t wait to tell you about all the amazing experiences I had and show you the unbelievable landscapes.

Many women email me telling me that they’re thinking of traveling solo for the first time.  I always tell them to go to the place they dream about, the place that’s been speaking to their soul for years — but if they’re up for suggestions, I’ve got a ton!

And Iceland now tops that list.

So what makes Iceland an ideal pick for a first time solo trip?

Iceland is an easy and safe destination.

Iceland couldn’t be an easier place to travel.  Nearly all Icelanders speak impeccable English, and there are English menus and signs everywhere you go.  The country is built on tourism, and therefore the travel infrastructure is spectacular.

In addition to that, crime in Iceland is extremely low, and travel scams are virtually unheard of.  When you go to Iceland, you won’t have to worry about things like getting overcharged by a taxi driver or struggling to order something you can eat.

Doing your first solo trip in as easy a country as Iceland will give you the confidence to tackle more challenging destinations down the road.

Iceland is all about day tours and excursions.

I love day tours and I always recommend them to solo travelers.  They’re a great way to meet new people and socialize during the day, and sometimes you end up making friends for life!

Iceland has hundreds if not thousands of day tours, and they all focus on the same thing: Iceland’s beautiful and unusual natural environment.  You could hike to natural hot springs like my sister Sarah did, or go whale watching or puffin watching.  On my trip, I went glacier hiking, snorkeling in Þingvellir National Park, and horseback riding.  If you’re more low-key, you could do scenery tours, like the Golden Circle or a South Shore tour.

It’s a surprisingly doable weekend getaway.

I recommend new solo female travelers to go away for a weekend on their own before trying out a longer trip.

The flight is five hours from the East Coast and there’s only a four-hour time difference.  That’s a closer flight from Boston than Las Vegas.  You could theoretically fly out on Thursday night, spend Friday exploring Reykjavik or doing a Golden Circle tour, go horseback riding or glacier hiking on Saturday, and hit up the Blue Lagoon on Sunday on the way to the airport.

Of course, a long trip is great, too.  I’d love to come back, rent a car, and spend at least a week driving around the island.

Reykjavik has a lot of great cafes.

There are so many great cafes in this town!  My favorite?  The Laundromat Cafe, a fun and quirky place with an unbelievable skyr parfait.  But there are cafes all over the place in Reykjavik, providing Icelanders with their daily java jolt.

So, what do cafes have to do with solo travel?

Cafes are a great place to go out alone.  Bring a book, have some coffee, stay for dinner if you’d like, and you’ll fit right in with everyone else.  Cafes can be much less intimidating than going out to a restaurant alone.

Iceland can be easily built into another Europe trip.

If you’re going to visit a friend in London or meet up with a group in Spain, why not add on a few days on your own in Iceland?  If you fly IcelandAir from North America, you can build in a stopover in Iceland for free before or after flying to your European destination.

Icelandair is often one of the cheapest airlines for transatlantic flights, so I suggest you check it out as a possibility.

It’s ICELAND.

It’s impressive.  It’s mysterious.  It’s exotic, in its own way.  When you come home and casually drop your recent solo trip to Iceland into conversation, you’ll get people’s attention — that’s for sure!

I mean, LOOK at that waterfall and double rainbow!!

One thing to keep in mind

Iceland is a very expensive country.  When Iceland’s economy took a nosedive a few years ago, Iceland suddenly became…affordable.  Since then, both the economy and prices have picked up.  Prices are not as expensive as they once were, but they’re still quite expensive.

Expect to pay $25 for a hostel dorm room, $6 for a latte, and at least $15 for lunch.  Most half day tours are $75-100; full-day tours are roughly double that.

That said, I think that despite the prices, Iceland is excellent value.  Iceland has such a unique environment and so many different things to do, many of them top quality.  It’s hard to imagine any other place that could compare.

So tell me —

Would you go to Iceland?  Would you dare to go solo?What is it that makes Iceland ideal for a first-time solo trip?

Many thanks to the Iceland Tourist Board for sponsoring my trip to Iceland.  All opinions are my own.

Comments

120 Responses to “Why Iceland is Perfect for First-Time Solo Female Travelers”
  1. DebbZ says:

    I’d love to visit Iceland. It’s on top of my bucket list.
    Thanks for sharing the informations

  2. Amanda says:

    I totally agree that Iceland is a fantastic solo destination for women! Like you said, it’s safe and very easy to visit. I LOVED my trip there (even though I didn’t have nice weather like you seem to have had!), and can’t wait to go back.

    And I totally agree about The Laundromat! Such a cool cafe!

  3. Alex says:

    I can’t wait for my trip in June! Did you get a chance to experience the runtur? I imagine it would be right up your alley!

    • Charlene says:

      Alex, I did a couple of runturs on my Iceland trip a couple years ago, also in June. They were wild. Not only do Icelanders know how to party, but the fact that it’s day light 24/7 helps you keep partying through the hours of the night!

    • I could have, but I didn’t — between feeling sick and the extreme jetlag aggravated by the midnight sun, partying was the last thing I felt like doing! The only drink I had was part of the tasting menu at a restaurant.

  4. Elle Croft says:

    I’d love to go back to Iceland, and now that you’ve said it, I completely agree that it’s so do-able as a first-time solo female traveller. It really is safe & easy…and such an unusual & awesome place!
    Glad you enjoyed it…can’t wait to read more about it…

  5. Adrienne says:

    I love hearing about Iceland! I thought about doing the Iceland marathon this year, but picked a different race. I wish I could do both this year. After reading this, I am definitely thinking I’m going to have to run it in 2013!

  6. Giulia says:

    I kinda have a job offer for the summer as a waitress in Reykjavik but I am not sure if I want to do that… I may just go for a tour! It’s always been on the top of my travel list 🙂

  7. I’ve been and I’ve gone alone! But only for two days. I agree with your point above- with Iceland having a crazy amount of day tours and excursions, you are never truly alone! Looking forward to the next posts in the series!

  8. Shermika says:

    Now, it looks like Iceland makes for one exciting trip! I’m a frugal traveler, so the expensive nature doesn’t scare me…I’ve been to Tokyo girl and it was crazy expensive. The snorkeling pic looks absolutely perfect. Makes me want to try it again, but I’ll pass. I’ll def have to add Iceland to the list!

  9. Alouise says:

    Iceland looks beautiful and I love that Iceland Air offers stopovers for people going to/from Europe.

  10. Ashley says:

    Wow, reading that Iceland is only a 5 hour flight from the east coast makes me super jealous from over here on the west coast…

  11. Heather P. says:

    Kate, I completely agree! I have been to Iceland twice, granted never alone, and loved every second of my time there! I hope to go back as soon as possible. I wish I could post a picture of my travels here but sadly I do not have them on this computer. Next time!

  12. I just returned from Iceland and travelled there for 2 weeks with 2 other girls. We, too, found it incredibly safe (to the point where mothers leave their sleeping babies in prams outside restaurants while they dine!). We hired a 4 x 4 and drove round the country. It was economical because it included 14 nights accomm, all breakfasts and the car hire, plus you can access parts of the country that you can’t on a bus.

  13. Obviously (or at least I hope it’s obvious) I’m not female but many years ago when I was the managing editor of a large travel magazine, we ran a cover story on Iceland by a photojournalist whose work I enjoyed. Ever since then I’ve been wanting ti travel there. I think the time is now. Good post Kate!

  14. A helmet, ice ax, and crampons. I need no further convincing. I’ve wanted to go to Iceland for years. We were hoping to make a long weekend of it a few years back … but opted to go on our honeymoon instead. One of these days, (sigh) one of these days … Glad you had a great time!

  15. It looks wonderful. Reminds me of New Zealand actually. Great that you can do so many outdoor activities. You have just added one more place to my bucket list now. 🙂

  16. Kat says:

    This is a great post and the pictures make me want to get there right away! Magical colours! My only gripe is that I fail to see the solo adventure female aspect when everything is as a result of tours and organised trips from tourist boards.

    • A lot of the stuff in Iceland you CAN’T DO without a tour. You don’t have the right equipment or the expertise to climb a glacier or snorkel Silfra on your own, and you sure as hell can’t bring your own horse to Iceland! The terrain is volcanic and in most areas, you really need guidance. And doing a group tour doesn’t make it any less solo travel. Solo travel doesn’t mean you’re always alone and you refuse to be around other people.

      The Tourist Board arranged for me to do a few activities. The rest I arranged on my own with individual operators.

  17. jardness says:

    Would love to visit Iceland. Just don’t think Malaysian airlines cater any flights going there from Kuala Lumpur yet. hu hu hu.

  18. I agree completely! Great place for a female solo trip and gateway into another solo trip in mainland Europe. That water pic is amazing!!!!

  19. Ohh, so much active stuff to do there – that’s exciting. You can’t beat the great outdoors.

    Now I see why a friend of mine ended up living there for years…

  20. Sabina says:

    I went to Iceland in 2004 as a solo female traveler and just adored it. I agree this is a great destination for other women to travel alone. It sounds like the country is a little bit more built up and tourist oriented now than it was when I traveled there, as I wouldn’t have described it as so tourist friendly, with English-speaking people everywhere. It sounds like it’s an even more comfortable and welcoming place now. This is one country I am definitely returning to.

    • Yes, I didn’t run into any problems whatsoever — but for the record, I was based in Reykjavik the whole time. That might not be the case around the whole country.

  21. Looking forward to seeing all your shots from Iceland!

  22. Ayngelina says:

    Apparently it’s pretty easy to go from Toronto to Iceland as well, every time I see the ads I’m tempted to go.

  23. Ava Apollo says:

    I’ve had some friends go there for the climbing right after the economic collapse. I was pretty jealous (because it looks gorgeous and unique) but apparently didn’t jump on it quickly enough.. those look like American prices!

  24. Andrea says:

    I have always wanted to go to Iceland–I’ll definitely be remembering your tip about Icelandair and adding it in to or from Europe. I love that idea!

  25. Cherina says:

    I have just finished a trip to Iceland on my own also (I think we may have been there at the same time?) and I totally agree that it is the perfect destination for solo female travellers. One of the best. Apart from being completely awesome 🙂 it is easy and safe as you say.
    Kate, I would’ve liked to have had the chance to meet you at TBU in Umbria! So many people, so little time. Next time, I hope!

  26. Thanks for this, Kate! Will include Iceland on my travel plans for next year 😀

  27. Britany says:

    Looks amazing – hard to believe it’s such a short flight!!

  28. Thats cool pictures 😉

  29. inka says:

    I travel the world on my own, just like you but I’ m more than twice your age. I visited Iceland a few years ago in the course of a North Atlantic cruise, looking very much forward to fire and ice. But, I have to say, I was somewhat disappointed. I have seen far more spectacular waterfalls and geysirs and I found Reykjavik unbearably drab. Only Greenland was worse. So, here it is, one comment which differs from all the praise, but then people’s tastes are different.

    • Really! Thanks for sharing, Inka. I do appreciate your perspective. At what time of year did you visit?

    • Megan says:

      Just curious to know where you saw more spectacular waterfalls and geysirs. Iceland was my first time seeing waterfalls that massive and a geysir in general, so I’d love to see bigger and better if they exist!

  30. I would absolutely go to Iceland on my own. It is one of my dreams, though currently even the flight is very expensive for me to take from Israel – but one day it will happen!

  31. Megan says:

    I went to Iceland last summer for two weeks and had the most amazing time of my life. I definitely plan to go back (and soon), and would love to do a solo trip there!

  32. Sky says:

    I honestly never even considered Iceland as a possible destination for one of my first solo trips…but after reading some of your posts on the subject, I’m adding it to my list and looking into the possibilities some more!

  33. I’m heading to Iceland on Monday for my own personal solo trip! It’s been a dream of mine for years and a few months ago I put all my power + effort into making it happen. I bought a one-way ticket to Reykjavik, resigned from my 9-5 job, and moved out of my apartment to pursue my passion of photography full time. I rented a small apartment in the heart of Reykjavik and will be there for 2 + months.
    Your blog has been a big help, so thank you! I encourage anymore tips you may have.
    Happy travels 🙂

  34. Great post! I agree, it’s pretty safe and you can easily add Iceland to your Europe trip. The prices scare me off though. What was your budget per day if I might ask?

  35. Holly says:

    This is so great to read! I’m going to Iceland in June as a solo female traveler, and this is just encouraging me more. 🙂 I can’t wait to go!

  36. Couldn’t agree more ! 🙂 Iceland, along with Canada and a few other countries, is a safe country to become confident as a solo female traveler

  37. Navin Kumar says:

    Hey Kate, Thanks for this post.

    Would like to follow more posts from Iceland (Its my dream destination)

    Any tips for budget travelers?

  38. Laura says:

    Hi Kate,

    Been following your blog for a few months now, but only just decided to go back through your archives. I’m doing my first ever solo trip at the end of July and it just so happens to be to Iceland, so I’m absolutely delighted to stumble upon this post!

    Kudos.

  39. Audrey says:

    Thank you for this lovely portrayal. I stumbled upon it as part of my extensive research of Iceland, as I am considering moving there with my family.
    One of the primary purposes of the move is to get away from my of the violence in other parts of the world- especially the kind directed at girls and women. I have read many reports saying that Iceland is extremely safe, and ESPECIALLY so for females- that is largely why I am considering choosing it as our new home.
    However, in total contradiction to these stories and reports, in my research I stumbled onto the growing topic of rape in Iceland- especially gang rape. I have even read it referred to again and again as a growing rape culture. I have read countless reports of this in The Reykjavik newspaper as well as from other sources. Disturbing, to say the least. So, what I am am trying to figure out is, HOW can this contradiction can be happening? Which information is true? What sources do I go to to get to the bottom of this bizarre contraction on the state of misogynistic crime in Iceland?

    • Audrey, I hadn’t heard anything about rape in Iceland, so I can’t attest to that. I felt extremely safe in Iceland and I absolutely recommend it as a safe destination.

      The truth is that no matter where you go in the world, no matter how safe places are, sometimes bad things happen. Nothing is ever 100% safe.

  40. camille says:

    what time of year did you go? looks like summer but just want to be sure. i’m already thinking ahead for next year. this has been a destination in my heart for a long time, gonna make it happen. did you see northern lights by any chance, or not in the summer?

    thank you for sharing your story! 🙂

  41. Amy says:

    Thanks so much for this blog!! I’m flying to Paris in February and had thought about adding a few days in Iceland but was unsure how I would feel being a solo female traveler. You put my mind at ease and I’m definitely excited for the trip of a lifetime!

  42. Kim says:

    It was this post that inspired me to travel to Iceland earlier this year. I stayed at Kex Hostel as well loved every single minute of it! Thanks for continuing to inspire 🙂

  43. Jennifer Campbell says:

    I am heading off to Iceland on the 24th Oct and its a solo trip . great to read this. so looking forward to it.

  44. I just booked this trip for myself. I was terrified at the prospect of going alone, but with this article, I have a new found confidence. I’m so excited! I’ve wanted to go for years and can’t wait to finally have the chance!

  45. PS says:

    Hi, i’m planning to have a solo trip to iceland this January! May I know how did you travel within Reykjavik itself? Is it worth to rent a car? Or is it all within walking distance? It’s my first solo trip, and i’m a female. That’s why I’m a bit worry. Hope to hear from you soon!

    • PS, Reykjavik is small enough that you can walk nearly everywhere. To further places, you can get around by bus or taxi. I wouldn’t rent a car unless you’re leaving the city.

  46. Valerie_uk says:

    Thank you, this is just the sort of blog I was looking for. I’ve always wanted to go to Iceland, for years wanted to travel alone somewhere to see how I get on, and have always wanted to see the Northern Lights. And today I thought… no time like the present, so have booked and combined the three wishlists:-)

    I did book before reading this, but it makes me glad I did – thank you so much and thanks for the tips.

    V

  47. Loria says:

    This is a great blog! I traveled to Alaska solo last October and am really thinking about Iceland as my next destination. I have a new passport that’s calling my name. When you visited

    Is Iceland typically a summer only tourist season?

    • I have some friends who went in the winter and enjoyed themselves, but do know that it’s very dark then. I felt like May was perfect — lots of light and adventure, but not crazy crowded.

  48. Vanessa says:

    Nice article!
    I’m going to Iceland in July for 3/4 weeks, this won’t be my first time traveling alone but this time around will be slightly more challenging as I intend to buy the Ring Road Bus pass and go hitchhiking and wild camping! I’ve been wanting to go to Iceland for years, as a waterfall lover it has always been at the top of my bucket list.

    • WOW! Sounds like quite an adventure! Do make sure you do a lot of research and have backups when camping isn’t possible — the weather in Iceland can be brutal at times.

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