It’s Here! The Rick Steves Iceland Guidebook Is Now Available

Rick and I are very excited. Our brand-new Rick Steves Iceland guidebook — co-authored with longtime Iceland resident Ian Watson — just went on sale. (In fact, you can buy it right here.)

I am evangelical about Iceland. It’s no secret that the country is hugely popular these days. But who knew that it would actually live up to the fuss? And believe me — it does.

Anytime something gets so popular, so quickly, it’s only natural to be skeptical. But Iceland is no empty bubble, ready to burst. It’s simply an amazing, long-underrated destination that’s finally getting its due. With its spectacular scenery, unique culture, and endearing people, Iceland has a way of getting under your skin. Flipping through the pages of our new book, I find myself fabricating excuses to get back there.

Of course, there are plenty of resources out there for Iceland-bound travelers. But we felt we could offer the destination our special “Rick Steves philosophy.” And we worked hard to design the book with our travelers in mind.

Because we realize that many travelers are visiting Iceland for very short stopovers, we’ve tailored our recommended itineraries to anywhere from 24 hours to two weeks — with detailed plans for everything in between. And we recognize that the biggest hurdle for many Iceland-bound travelers are the high prices. That’s why we gave budgetary concerns a special focus in this book (including our top 10 budget tips for Iceland).

Like our other guidebooks, Rick Steves Iceland is selective and opinionated: If on a short visit, overnight in Reykjavík, but dedicate your daytime hours to the epic countryside (even if it means missing a little in-town sightseeing). Consider skipping the very pricey Blue Lagoon ($100, vs. $10 for a neighborhood thermal swimming pool)…but if you do go, combine the Blue Lagoon with your transfer to the nearby airport to avoid pointless backtracking.

And, while Snæfellsnes Peninsula and the Westfjords have their fans, they didn’t make the cut for our table of contents. They’re a little too far out of the way to be practical for most visitors, and you can see similar (or better) sights elsewhere in the country. (If this sounds shocking, keep in mind that we don’t include Geneva in our Switzerland book, Bologna in our Italy book, or Thessaloniki in our Greece book. We recognize that our readers have limited time for their travels, so we make some of the tough decisions for them.)

Instead, we focused our coverage on the day trips most visitors are likely to undertake in Iceland — and we did those with gusto. The book features mile-by-mile, self-guided driving tours of the Golden Circle, the South Coast, and the West Iceland region near Borgarnes. And, for those who have a little more time, we also included a detailed chapter narrating the entire 800-mile trip around Iceland’s Ring Road, encircling the entire island — including some worthwhile detours you wouldn’t want to miss. We also included our favorite “Back Door” destination in Iceland: the lovely and fascinating Westman Islands.

We tailored our coverage to what we know Rick Steves readers expect: introducing towns with self-guided walking tours to help you get your bearings, scouring the countryside in search of friendly and characteristic accommodations, and providing cultural, historical, and — in the unique case of Iceland — geological context to help you fully appreciate the sights.

Recognizing that Iceland is a popular family destination, we also included an “Iceland with Children” chapter loaded with practical tips. And Iceland is one of only two Rick Steves guidebooks (along with Istanbul) that has a special “Experiences” chapter, outlining the many unique things you can do here — from whale-watching and puffin-spotting, to hiking across a glacier, to spelunking in a volcanic cave, to snorkeling in a fissure between continents, to tracking down the elusive Northern Lights, to simmering in a naturally heated thermal river.

Producing a new guidebook from scratch is no small feat. Once we decided to pursue an Iceland book, we committed ourselves to doing a first-rate job. But we also recognized that what we didn’t know about Iceland could fill several books. We needed to collaborate with the right partner. And the first person we thought of was Ian Watson. Ian has decades of guidebook-authoring experience. (He co-authored the long-out-of-print Rick Steves Russia and the Baltics guidebook, back in the late 1990s, and has heavily contributed to dozens of our other books since.) And he lived in Iceland for many years, where he learned the language, earned his Icelandic citizenship, and raised his kids. In short, it’s hard to imagine anyone better qualified to write about Iceland.

And so, Ian spent last spring writing the core of the book, informed by the savvy of a local. Only someone who lived in Reykjavík could knowledgeably explain the pros and cons of the dozen or so municipal thermal baths in the capital region. (For the record, Vesturbæjarlaug is just far enough out of town to feel more local than touristy, Laugardalslaug is open late, and Ásvallalaug is farther out but the best overall choice for families.) Ian knows which roads freeze over first in the winter, which “tour guide stories” are rooted more in legend than in fact, and which Reykjavík restaurants have the best-value lunch specials.

Last June, I landed in Reykjavík with Ian’s work in hand. Taking full advantage of the midnight sun, I spent nearly three weeks circling the island (putting about 1,800 miles on my trusty rental car — equivalent to driving the Ring Road, twice). I wrapped up a few of Ian’s loose ends and did some scouting on my own. Then I brought everything back to the home office in Edmonds, where I spent the rest of the summer finalizing the project, in consultation with Ian, our editors, and traveler extraordinaire (and fellow Iceland-phile), Dave Hoerlein.

In late August, I left our new Iceland book in the talented hands of our Book Department. It wasn’t an easy project: Our ace editors and mapmakers had to shepherd brand-new material covering a destination with unique challenges (one sidebar is entitled “The Many Ways Iceland Can Kill You”) and dauntingly long place names (my personal favorite: Kirkjubæjarklaustur). But the team handled it masterfully — including primary editor and project manager Suzanne Kotz, master mapmaker Dave Hoerlein, graphics coordinator Sandra Hundacker, and managing editor Jennifer Davis. (Meanwhile, I was on the road updating our guidebooks in Croatia, Bosnia, and Slovenia. Every morning I received a pile of questions from our editors and mapmakers. Whether in Korčula, Sarajevo, or Kobarid, it became my breakfast routine to mentally retrace my Icelandic travels so I could answer promptly.)

If you’re headed to Iceland, pick up a copy of our book. If you’re not convinced yet, stay tuned. Starting next week, I’ll be posting a blog series on traveling in Iceland, including lots of practical tips, photos of glorious landscapes, a few quirky anecdotes from my Icelandic travels, and some of my favorite discoveries from the new Rick Steves Iceland guidebook. (And if you have Iceland fatigue…check back in a month or so. Coming up this spring: Spain and Sicily.)

Happy travels…and Góða ferð!

22 Replies to “It’s Here! The Rick Steves Iceland Guidebook Is Now Available”

  1. Iceland? Nice, Cameron.
    Is this the first RS guidebook for a country without (as yet) a RS tour?
    And, what about Bulgaria and Sicily? Two locations with RS tours but without
    a RS guidebook?
    Thanks for the tip regarding Ana Adamoae in Bucharest.

  2. Stopped there last year, wasn’t impressed. I hope you can use some magic. The weather was horrible and we are from the Pacifc NW. It’s very expensive as well. The one thing we did enjoy was the Blue Lagoon. Good luck to anyone traveling to this new discovery. We won’t be going back, Cheers!

    1. I have not been, but every person that I know that has gone to Iceland thoroughly enjoyed it! Larry, did you spend some time seeing the sights? Maybe a different time of the year would have been better. The weather is what it is and you can have bad weather anytime of the year. It isn’t for the faint-hearted for sure.

  3. Just returned from a week long trip there. Would totally recommend Snæfellsnes Peninsula if for no other reason to get away from the tour groups. Even in mid March with foul weather buses packed the parking lots of the “Instagram” spots on the Golden Circle and South coast. Can only imagine what it is like in summer. Enjoy it while it lasts. Wow Air will soon be adding cheap flights to Reykjavík from Detroit, Cincinnati and Cleveland.

  4. Went for twelve days in September and we were blown away. The landscape, from its lava landscapes to blue glaciers and floes was unlike any we’ve experienced. We dined on seafood freshly caught from fishing boats moored outside the restaurant, enjoyed farm to table, sea to table, barn to table undoctored fare that was pricey, but I don’t mind paying for “real” food. And we had the perk of amazingly healthy, (in place of greasy fried potatoes, carb and sugar heavy doughnuts, pancakes and/or waffles, french toast, fried meats, we consumed cucumbers, tomatoes, cheeses, boiled (not fried) eggs, freshly baked bread, salmon, liver sausages, smoked meats, fruit) FREE breakfasts at the guest houses we inhabited, which were a treat in themselves, ranging from modern apartment like structures to horse farms and history laden pensiones. Between that start to the day, to some imaginative meal creations of our own, from groceries purchased at “Bonus”, we didn’t overspend for food. I’m looking forward to returning, and will use Rick’s book as another point of departure.

    1. Elizabeth, thanks for your helpful and inspiring comments! My wife and I are doing a 2-night stopover in August, and your description of the food sounds excellent!

    2. We are going early fall of 2018. Any possibility you could give us the places. accommodations . etc that you did?? We are an older couple & doing it on our own- no tours, etc.

    3. Your experience sounds exquisite, Elizabeth! Could you possibly recommend the specific guesthouses and restaurants? We’ll be there in July and are finalizing our itinerary, Many thanks!

  5. Just got back from a 7-day trip to Iceland. It was amazing! Food and nice souvenirs are expensive but I found the tours/day trips to be reasonable. I kept it to one big meal a day to keep costs down. Loved our Guesthouse experience and their breakfast. Awesome people, lovely culture. I can’t wait for a return visit.

  6. We love Iceland! We went there many years ago when son had a journalism internship with the Reykjavik Grapevine. This was our first trip abroad, and we have now been bitten by the travel bug!!, We have been back to Iceland a number of times since! Our goal is to drive the ring road some day! We love the chocolate covered licorice( a must try, even if you don’t think you would like it) and licorice ice cream! Thanks for your GREAT guide books! We pick one up before each new adventure!

  7. We went to Iceland a couple years ago as a family with 2 teenagers. It is, by far, our favorite trip, and we travel A LOT. Beautiful scenary, wonderful people, and lots of exciting adventures! While very expensive, the quality of the food was outstanding and delicious. We really enjoyed the Snaefellsnes peninsula, so I hope that is considered for a future version. In Reykjavik, I really enjoyed the tour of the Harpa concert hall to see the architecture and how they designed it for the best acoustics.

  8. I visited Iceland for three days a few years ago as part of the Icelandair stopover opportunity. I spend one day exploring Reykjavik (museums and walkabout), and the next day on a waterfall (Foss) and geyser bus tour. It only whetted my appetite to go back and this year I will! Looking forward to purchasing and using Rick’s book! BTW, the hotels serve a very good smorgasbord type breakfast and by buying my food at the grocery store (I am a vegetarian) and Subway (yes!) I had good food at an affordable price.

  9. I have visited Iceland twice now. My first trip (January-February 2015) was a solo trip on an Icelandair Northern Lights package deal for 8 nights. I added on several tours (7 tours in total), met new friends from around the world, and made sure to try a new food at every meal. It was the best thing I have ever done for myself. Later that year, I found another 8 night Icelandair package advertised, so I phoned my dad, who is in his seventies, and asked if he wanted to join me. He agreed instantly. We went on 5 tours on this trip, many local museums, and took in an Icelandic Symphony concert at Harpa. I can’t recommend travelling to Iceland enough. On both trips, breakfasts were included, and I combined eating out with snacks purchased from Bonus. If you are travelling by yourself, I found it more economical to take guided tours than renting a car for the week. with tours, you also get to meet other travellers and locals. I can’t wait to return.

  10. we went to Iceland a few years ago went on our own loved it. we rented a jeep for about 4 days than we had a guide bring us up the volcano Hekla ready to erupt one day soon. It was a very adventurous trip. Iceland is a world you have never been to. We saw people camping up in the volcano areas wondering how they got there. We ate at different places food was wonderful. We want to go back one day again soon.

  11. This guidebook was released the day my daughter and I returned from our week-long Iceland holiday, but your earlier blog posts helped our planning in lieu of the book! We chose Airbnb rentals so we could have flexibility with locations and to make our own meals, and we rented a car because we wanted to focus on off-the-beaten-path locations. We started in Reykjavik, then moved to the Borgarnes area, and finally ended on the South coast. In the Reykjavik area, I highly recommend the free city walking tour. We weren’t able to go, but through encountering it several times, we could tell it was engaging and a great way to learn about the city’s history. Vegan and vegetarian visitors cannot skip Kaffi Vinyl, located just off the main Laugavegur shopping street. Also, I highly recommend hiking Mount Esja, just a 25-minute drive from downtown Reykjavik (and visible across the bay). The public bus system also goes there. Most people take routes to the summit, but we were captivated by the hike through the experimental forest. Astonishing views, either way. Near Borgarnes, there are some great local museums that are more affordable than those in the capital. There also are some good options for interacting with and riding Icelandic horses. Our morning at Jóreykir, the Visiting Horse Farm at Sturlu-Reykir, was the highlight of our trip. Finally, consider getting a portable wifi unit if you’ll be driving through remote regions and want reliable GPS and/or internet access. Iceland Camping Equipment has a good selection and was easy to work with, even off-season. We can’t wait to go back, next time with the Rick Steves guidebook in hand!

  12. I loved Iceland, even the touristy Blue Lagoon. One of my favourite spots was Jokursalon, where baby icebergs are borne, even though it took a whole day of driving to get there. And the jewellery was lovely. Bought several unique pieces that remind me of my try every time I wear them.
    If you are passing through for the day, we took the 2 hour walking tour with I Heart Reykjavik. Lovely lady runs this small tour company and shares her unique perspective on her city.

  13. Great book as always but prices for Blue Lagoon out of date. Rick says 7,500 ISK (about $75 usd) and that’s what the website says “prices from.6,900ISK..”

    Pick a random day in June on Blue Lagoon website and it’s 9,950 ISK ($100).

    We’re looking forward to our trip. Best advice has to be forget about exchange rate, forget about prices and just enjoy!

  14. Has anyone ever been in October? I have a week off then and want to go, but it sounds like the weather isnt exactly optimal then.

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