Solo Travel in Iceland: The Verdict

 

I am the first to admit that solo travel for women is not always easy. As wonderful as it is to have the freedom to do as you please, go where you please, and hang out with anyone you please there are always extra considerations to ensure personal safety.

But in general, travel is not always easy. Things can go wrong whether you are alone or not.

When I made the decision to travel to Iceland on my own it was not without hesitation. It was my first trip to any of the Scandinavian countries and I knew that deciding to travel to Iceland in the off season meant that it would be difficult to get around without a car.

 

 

 

open road Iceland

 

 

Would I be brave enough to rent a car and drive around this wild and isolated island on my own? I thought not.

 

Despite the considerations to safety, I secretly LOVE travelling on my own. (Don’t tell my travel friends!)

I enjoy the freedom of deciding when and where I am going to go, of staying longer if I love a place or leaving if I don’t.

 

I enjoy the fact that you tend to meet more people when you travel alone. You are more likely to strike up a conversation with someone when you don’t already have travel companion by your side.

 

Having said that, there is nothing better than travelling for a few weeks alone, and then meeting up with friends for a while.

 

 

Gulfoss Falls

Gulfoss Falls

 

 

It turns out Iceland is the ideal place for women travelling on their own and particularly first time solo travellers. These are some of the reasons why:

 

Language

Despite the fact that Icelanders had a tendency to assume that I was one of them and hence were constantly speaking to me in Icelandic, most people speak excellent English! Not having to worry about making yourself understood, or being misunderstood, is a load off your mind.

 

 

Street sign in Reykjavik

 

 

Safety

Iceland has a ridiculously low crime rate. You would be hard pressed to find a safer place to be. I walked around Reykjavik late at night without any qualms whatsoever. By comparison, I would not do that in my home city of Perth.

 

 

Rooftops of Reyjavik

 

Day Tours

If you have the cash, there is an abundance of Day Tours to all of the most sought after destinations on the island. Day tours are perfect for solo travellers – they take the pressure off organising transport and are a great way to meet other travellers. They are pricey though.

I must admit, I am not a big fan of tours if there are alternative options so didn’t actually go on any of the day tours when I was in Iceland.

I opted for renting a car because I wanted the flexibility of going exactly where I wanted to go and to stay as long as I liked. I didn’t like the idea of only have 30 minutes at Gulfoss Falls for example.

 

 

Gulfoss Falls

Gulfoss Falls

 

 

Renting a Car

I really didn’t think I would do this on my own.  It was only a very last minute, I-don’t-want-to-go-on-day-tours tantrum that really made my mind up. Driving in Iceland is incredibly easy and it allows you the freedom to stop wherever you like and spend time in those out of the way places that the tours miss.

I ended up hiking up mountains, photographing behind waterfalls, and driving through blizzards….I never once felt anxious about doing this alone.

If you do drive alone, make sure check you the weather before you set out, tell someone where you are headed and try to take a cell phone with you.

 

 

Western Iceland

Western Iceland

 

 

Accessibility

Iceland is only a 2.5 hour flight from London, even less if you fly from Scotland as I did. Icelandair offer a free stopover to or from any European destination.  A free trip to Iceland on your way to London? You really can’t beat that!

 

 

Grotta Lighthouse, Reykjavik

Grotta Lighthouse, Reykjavik

 

 

Weather

It’s not as cold as you think. Really!! And this is coming from an Aussie. The big thing about Iceland’s weather, or any place that far north, is that it is likely to change about a thousand times in a day.

You need to be prepared for all kinds of weather and keep an eye on daily reports, but apart from really extreme weather it shouldn’t hold you back.

 

 

Snaefellsness Peninsula

Snaefellsnes Peninsula

 

 

If you are a first time solo traveller, Iceland is great place to start your travels – it’s safe, easy and one of the most amazing countries you will ever visit. Start planning :)

 


Author's Note

I wrote this article not long after my trip to Iceland last year with the intention of encouraging women to travel alone. In light of the tragic death of American woman, Sarai Sierra while she was travelling alone in Turkey recently, I felt that now would be a good time to publish it.

The backlash of this news has been incredible! Solo female travel is under scrutiny and has been labelled as “risky” and “foolish”: women have “no business travelling alone”. The implication is that this tragedy occurred because Sarai was travelling on her own.

I believe the matter is a far more complex than that. As long-time solo traveller, Jodi (Legal Nomads) suggests, the issue that is far more pertinent is one of violence against women in general.

Rather than get too involved in the debate, I decided instead to publish this article simply as a reminder of just how fabulous travelling alone can be.

Millions of women travel the world and return home safely with endless tales of their adventures. Measures to ensure your personal safety must be taken no matter where in the world you are. Even, and often more so, when you are home.

So, having said all that…see you in Iceland!

 

What other countries would you suggest for first time solo women travellers?

Would you travel to Iceland alone?

 

 

Are you visiting Quiet Wanderings for the first time?

Check out what it’s all about, sign up for email updates, subscribe to the RSS feed or follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

 


About the Author
Author

Quiet Wanderings

Comments (34)
  • Avatar

    Olivia - young on the road Feb 12 2013 - 7:56 am Reply

    Sweden!! Glad to see you’ve set foot in to Scandinavia, you bring up a bunch of points that I too think are great about these northern countries. Safety and language are on my list of “reasons to visit Scandinavia” as well. http://youngontheroad.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/10-reasons-why-you-should-visit-scandinavia/

  • Avatar

    jenny@atasteoftravel Feb 12 2013 - 1:38 pm Reply

    I find it quite incredible the fuss that has been made about women travelling on their own. As so many great articles have pointed out is it just as dangerous, if not more, to travel in your own backyard.
    Your stunning photos show Iceland to be a beautiful country to travel around and as you say fairly easily.I’d love to visit one day.
    jenny@atasteoftravel recently posted..Tuesday Travel Bite: Bukhara Restaurant in DelhiMy Profile

    • Avatar

      Quiet Wanderings Feb 18 2013 - 8:04 pm Reply

      Thanks, Jenny. I agree, there have been some great articles floating around advocating for solo travel. Like you say, there are far more dangerous things that going on a trip to Europe on your own.

      It is seriously difficult to take a bad photo in Iceland….I really hope you get there sometime soon! :)

  • Avatar

    SineadF Feb 12 2013 - 9:35 pm Reply

    It makes me SOOOOO mad to see how judgemental people are of a woman traveling alone – despite her tragedy. I solo travel a lot and have never had any real issues (other than the usual stuff I get at home.)

    Don’t believe me? Then meet me and let me explain … http://www.wandermates.com/profileview.php?profileuserid=21 … I promise u, solo travel is fine with all the usual precautions. So if u judge her, judge me too.

    • Avatar

      Quiet Wanderings Feb 18 2013 - 8:01 pm Reply

      Me too, Sinead. I actually think it’s quite ridiculous. Thankfully, I think most people are a little more open minded…

  • Avatar

    Aworldtotravel Feb 14 2013 - 11:43 am Reply

    Canada! Safer than any other I know.. (except for Iceland of course :)
    Aworldtotravel recently posted..Around Iceland in less than 48 hoursMy Profile

  • Avatar

    Solomate Travel Apr 17 2013 - 3:54 am Reply

    Sounds like Iceland was amazing!

  • Avatar

    Sherry May 5 2013 - 4:46 am Reply

    I’ve been in and out of motivation for travel this past year due to my unexpected family tragedy. But I always meant to go to Iceland this past year, and yet somehow, I never made it. Awful! One major reason is also because of my hesitation to visit this country as a solo traveler. I felt really nervous to explore such a raw place on my own. But having read what you said here, most of my qualms are gone. I think this year might just be the year I make it. And, if nothing else, to at least take some good photos, as you always do. Thanks for the Icelandair tip … that’s a good treat.
    Sherry recently posted..Alien Life on the Big IslandMy Profile

  • Avatar

    Cj Thapa May 5 2013 - 3:55 pm Reply

    Courage and confident, both you got to be solo traveler. I appreciate for your beautiful pictures and information :)

  • Avatar

    Chris Jun 15 2013 - 9:58 pm Reply

    I wanted to add a vote for traveling solo, and specifically in Iceland! I just returned from a solo trip to England and Czech Republic, and on the recommendation of a friend I decided to stop over in Iceland for a few days on the way there (coming from the US, this is also very easy to do on Icelandair – it’s about a 7 hour flight from Seattle) and later wished I could have made this a much larger part of my trip! Since my time was limited I did do the day tours, which were excellent as a “teaser” (totally concur with needing more than 30 minutes at Gulfoss!) but next time, based both on my impressions while there and on your experience, I will have no qualms about renting a car and going deeper into Iceland on my own.

    • Avatar

      Quiet Wanderings Jun 15 2013 - 10:04 pm Reply

      Hi Chris! Great to hear that Iceland inspired you enough to return and explore further one day. Iceland is definitely conducive to solo travel – one of the best I’ve seen to yet. I am super excited about returning there in the fall this year. Hope you loved your travels through England and the Czech Republic too. Did you get to visit Cesky Krumlov? Love that town. Keep in touch :)

  • Avatar

    Michelle Jun 16 2013 - 2:19 pm Reply

    Hi Cherina,
    I had my doubts about flying solo to Iceland (never done it before!), but you’ve definitely inspired me to jump into the fog 😉 One question though – I’m a really inexperienced driver, so I don’t plan to rent a car/drive, do you think it’s still possible to explore Iceland i.e. the less tourtist-y parts?
    Thanks!

    • Avatar

      Quiet Wanderings Jun 16 2013 - 8:57 pm Reply

      Hi Michelle. Kudos for taking the plunge and travelling on your own! Yes, I think you will still be fine. It would help if I knew what time of year you were planning to go? In summer access to all the out-of-the-way places will be much easier. Off season, not so much.
      TinyIceland.com is a fabulous blog / resource for travel to Iceland – check it out. Email me if you have any more questions, Michelle! :)

  • Avatar

    Jimmy Chong Jun 28 2013 - 8:52 pm Reply

    I really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really want to go to the Blue Lagoon!!! It looks awesome!!!!

  • Avatar

    Nick (theboywander) Jul 10 2013 - 2:35 pm Reply

    Amazing! I’ve heard nothing but brilliant things about Iceland and props for doing it solo!
    I agree, the freedom and opportunity that solo travel presents us is second to none.

    • Avatar

      Quiet Wanderings Aug 7 2013 - 1:17 pm Reply

      I can confirm that all the awesomeness is true! :) Hope you get there someday, Nick.

  • Avatar

    Salika Jay Aug 5 2013 - 5:48 pm Reply

    Hi Cherina, Iceland seems like a place a woman can travel alone. These are some really good tips. I too like the flexibility of traveling on my own time rather than taking tours. But if you’re pressed for time, tours can be a good thing. Beautiful photos! I also vote for Canada :)
    Salika Jay recently posted..Top 16 Travel Destinations In Asia [Infographic]My Profile

    • Avatar

      Quiet Wanderings Aug 7 2013 - 1:09 pm Reply

      Thanks, Salika. Yes, Iceland is such a great place for female travellers. I vote for Canada too – on all counts! :)

  • Avatar

    Andy Aug 23 2013 - 7:10 pm Reply

    Good article, you have great travel experience on your own. You’ve shot great picture of this country, I really like the waterfall photo.
    Andy recently posted..A Holiday Destination at Albany Western AustraliaMy Profile

  • Avatar

    Varun Kumar Sep 26 2013 - 8:14 pm Reply

    Simply i say you are very adventures. This one post show you love nature very much. If i am right you also visit in India once a while surely you will find great comfort and natural beauty.

  • Avatar

    Pam Stucky Oct 24 2013 - 1:26 am Reply

    I completely agree about Iceland. I took my own solo Ring Road journey this summer (and wrote a book about it – Pam on the Map: Iceland http://www.amazon.com/Pam-Map-Iceland-Stucky/dp/1940800005/ ). A couple times on those narrow roads (especially the 939!) it did occur to me how far I was from anyone or anything, how far I was from help. But that’s why I brought a cell phone with me! Theft was the furthest thing from my mind, as were most other types of crime. I don’t think I met one person who didn’t speak English, not even other travelers.

    As for other countries in which to travel solo, Ireland is fantastic (both the Republic of and Northern). I traveled Switzerland with a group but would do it solo too, no problem. New Zealand, Australia, Scotland, definitely Canada … so many options!
    Pam Stucky recently posted..New series: Pam on the Map!My Profile

  • Avatar

    Jasmine S. Nov 3 2013 - 9:44 am Reply

    I’m so glad I found this. I’m heading to Iceland in 7 days for my second solo trip this year (my first was to Madeira Island, Portugal in July — astoundingly beautiful and I felt quite safe as a solo traveler). I’m glad to hear that Reykjavik is so safe, especially at night (given that there’ll only be 6 hours of daylight while I’m there). Do you or other commenters have any thoughts on a solo trip to Patagonia?

  • Avatar

    sam Nov 25 2013 - 5:04 am Reply

    Hi, I’ve travelled with groups previously around America and have decided to spend a few days in Iceland. As a UK nurse i’m really limited to the time i can get off and felt that Iceland would be a short enough flight with amazing potential. I’ve decided to spend my 28th birthday away in March and try and cram in a few day trips. Does anyone have any suggestions? Its unlikely that i will be hiring a car. Thank you. Sam

  • Avatar

    Izzy Oct 27 2014 - 1:40 pm Reply

    I’m so glad I found your post on this. I’ve been contemplating renting a car for my trip to Iceland but was having doubts being a solo female traveller driving alone, and now I know I absolutely must (and can) do it. Thank you!

  • Avatar

    Ariel May 13 2015 - 9:35 am Reply

    I’m planning a 1 week solo trip to Iceland coming up in 2 weeks. I’m debating whether or not to rent a car and explore the country or stay in Reykjavik and stick with day tours. I don’t drive manual and read that rental cars are manual. This will also be my first time traveling solo internationally. Do you have any recommendation or suggestions on what you think would be the best for me?

    Thank you!

    • Avatar

      Jessie Sep 12 2015 - 1:38 am Reply

      Hi Ariel,

      As someone who will soon be doing a 1 week solo Iceland trip, I am interested to know how your trip worked out. Did you rent a car? Any recommendations?

      Thanks!

      • Avatar

        Ariel May 10 2016 - 4:34 pm Reply

        Hi Jessie!

        I ended going with a friend due to the rental car cost. It’s too much for one person. We went with Route 1 Rental. For an 2 wheel drive automatic, 8 days rental was about $800 including gas. I would recommend getting gravel protection – it’s not much but definitely worth it if you plan on driving around the country.

        For solo travel, it’s inefficient to reach some of the spots such as glacier lagoon. If you plan to stay around Reykjavik, you probably won’t need a car. Definitely go on a day tour for golden circle. Let me know if you have more questions! So excited for you! It’ll be fun!

  • Avatar

    Liliane Jul 13 2015 - 6:02 am Reply

    Thank you for publishing this. I travel by myself quite often. A trip somewhere once a month and always welcome it. That is until my trip
    to Istanbul. I really felt my life was in danger, personal space violate, wven the hotel guy (I was staying there) was aggressively hitting on me. I would have checked out and went somewhere else but it was so late whn I got back to my hotel. I end up stacking all my suitcases against my door and sleeping with a pen in my hand. After that horrific trip, I vowed never to set foot back in Istanbul. I dress pretty consevative and am not glashy when I travel, so I was quite taken back with all the advances! My bidy would literally start shaking if I even have to fly as a layover in Istanbul. I am thankful for this blog as I am going to Iceland and trying to do the drive by myself as well. Thanks for taking the time to write it and keep solo travellers and travellers alike informed!

  • Avatar

    Lenise Aug 9 2015 - 12:13 am Reply

    Hey!

    Thanks for the advice, gives me confidence to go to Iceland solo!

    Are there any special lisence requirements to hire a car, and how much did it cost per day roughly? I have an Australian lisence currently.

    Do you have any reccomendations on low-budget accommodation?

    Thanks :)

  • Avatar

    Shah Oct 13 2015 - 5:09 pm Reply

    Hi!

    I am planning a solo roadtrip in Iceland for May 2016. And yes, I am female. I have been on solo trips before, either for work or vacation.

    Occassionally I would get this tiny doubt in my mind about this trip. I have never driven on the wrong side of the road before (we drive right hand side where I am) and I guess my bigger fear is the unpredictable and unfamiliar weather. I’ve driven in New Zealand (both islands), and I was pretty scared when I came across thick fogs, blue fog (OMG I really freaked out on this one), weird weather stuff that I don’t understand as someone who lives in the tropics.

    And then I also have doubts if it is safe to go out hiking on my own (I would very much like to do light hiking just so I could see better views).

    But I must do this!

Leave a reply

Name (required)

Website

CommentLuv badge