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All you need to plan a fabulous gay trip to Iceland with all the facts and unmissable sights for gay travelers
A trip full of glaciers, waterfalls, spa days, and Iceland puns to drive Seby crazy. What could be better?
“Hey Seb, what do Icelandic dogs say?”
(Bracing himself) “What?”
*Cue evil stare*
“What do you tell the cashier when you have no money?”
“I can’t a-fjord it!”
*Cue him banging me over the head threatening to throw me out of our car rental*
With a population of 360,000, land proximity that equates to the size of Kentucky, and only one major city, we assumed we would see everything there was to see in one trip. Wrong! There is so much to do – and we left wanting to do more, more, more!
We spent 3 weeks touring Iceland by car along the famous Ring Road in the deep winter months hoping to get a glimpse of the Northern Lights (spoiler alert: we did!). Along the way, we were rewarded with giant glaciers, explosive geysers, a multitude of geothermal baths, fabulous fjords, whale watching, and the quirkiest people you'll ever meet (you can't beat Icelandic humor!).
Most visitors to Iceland leave with a heavy heart, hankering to return for more. That includes us! Read why in this write-up of our gay Iceland road trip along with all the practical pointers we picked up along the way.
Getting around Iceland
We highly recommend hiring a car in Iceland. If, like us, you're coming here in the winter months, make sure you rent a good strong SUV/4WD vehicle. The Icelandic roads can get pretty treacherous in the winter months and you do not want to get caught out! Claim a 10% discount from Hertz Iceland by quoting “PINK” when booking.
Gay rights in Iceland
When it comes to LGBTQ rights, Iceland is top of the class! It has some of the most progressive LGBTQ laws in the world. To give you an idea, Iceland legalized gay marriage in 2010, gay couples have had equal access to adoption and IVF since 2006, and in 2015, the Church of Iceland voted to allow gay couples to marry in its churches. Iceland has a full range of anti-discrimination laws to cover everything including hate speech, and gender identity.
Iceland is also a trailblazer by having some of the most progressive laws on trans and intersex rights in the world. In 2020, Iceland introduced laws that allow anyone to seek trans-related healthcare and change their name and gender on official documents without a medical diagnosis. This same law also allows for a third gender on official documents, marked by the letter “X”.
Is Iceland safe for gay travelers?
Heck yeah! Iceland is, by far, one of the most accepting places we’ve ever been to. Rainbow crossings are everywhere, not just in the capital city. We saw openly gay couples everywhere in the country, holding hands, openly showing PDA without batting an eyelid. You just feel a strong air of tolerance and acceptance in Iceland, whether you're in Reykjavik or one of the smaller towns. It's why we rate Iceland as one of the most queer-friendly countries in the world.
You want more? In February 2009, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir became the first openly gay head of government in modern times. The other fact we love: the former (straight!) mayor of Reykjavik, Jon Gnarr, opened Reykjavik Pride in 2010 dolled up in full drag! On the subject of Pride, Reykjavik's August Pride event is one of the country's largest (dare we say, “Best”?!) festivals.
Pinkify Your Passport!
You’ve heard of green travel, but do you know about pink travel? It’s travel made gay! Pink Iceland is all about ensuring that LGBTQ travelers get to experience that extra fabulous va va voom on their trip. They help connect you to LGBTQ-themed tours, throw private gay parties, arrange for you to visit luxurious spas, and so much more!
Gay tours of Iceland
We all love a gay-ole’ time. And with these tours, you can experience Iceland with fellow LGBTQ people, explore the heartlands of the country, have spa days, and enjoy gay-themed parties.
Out Adventures Iceland Northern Lights and Essential Sites gay tour (March)
If you’re like us, seeing the Northern Lights is top of the bucket list. Well, Out Adventures could be your chance to experience them. And whether you’re lucky or not to catch them, this 5-day tour across Iceland will be like no other. You’ll be taken around the astonishing Golden Circle where you’ll find the gushing Gullfoss Waterfall and explosive Great Geysir, walk along the Black Sand Beaches, and dip into the Blue Lagoon.
For winding down, you can chill out in charming accommodations, get to know your fellow travelers at the tour’s “house party,” and venture out into the fabulous gay nightlife scene of Reykjavik. What’s not to love?
Out Adventures Iceland Countryside and Reykjavik Pride (July/August)
When we think of Pride, we think of boldness, vibrancy, color, and music. Well, Out Adventures delivers just that…but maybe not in the way you think. After all, what’s more explosive than an erupting geyser? Or more vibrant than the blindingly blue waters of the Blue Lagoon? Or more musical than the sound of dozens of goats crying on a farm, having been saved from near extinction? Or bolder than taking an ice-walking lesson?
This 8-day gay tour will take you through all that and more. And to cap it all off, you’ll be taken to Reykjavik’s main Pride parade for dancing and a farewell dinner at the fabulous Fiskfélagið Restaurant.
West Iceland Fjords gay tour with He Travel (dates tbc)
The Petshop Boys once said, “Go West!”. Except, unlike the serene land in their 80s bop, Western Iceland is anything but. What can you expect from a land filled with geysers and volcanoes? He Travel will take you on a week-long gay expedition across Western Iceland, crossing over two continents, visiting the country’s newest volcano, Fagradalsfjall, a hike up a glacier, and uncovering parts of the buried city of Vestmannaeyjar, aka the “Pompeii of the North”. This package includes entry into Blue & Sky Lagoons for a relaxing dip in the waters and world-class pampering.
And once you’ve found your zen, try your luck at finding the community of puffins nesting at Storhofdi. They’re adorable!
HeTravel is offering our readers an exclusive 5% discount valid for any cruise and tour you book with them. Click the button below to find out more.
Top Experiences in Iceland for Gay Travelers
We feel Iceland is best explored as a road trip. The most popular itinerary is along the famous Ring Road that goes all the way around the entire country. To help plan your own trip, we’ve highlighted our selection of the best things to do in Iceland and featured our favorite gay-friendly places to stay along the way. Happy exploring!
1. Experience gay Reykjavik
Drag nights at the Kiki Bar. Rainbow crossings. Pride flags in multiple shop fronts. LGBTQ tours with Pink Iceland. Gay-friendly locals. Reykjavik is truly underrated for its gay scene. And we are determined to let the world know how fabulous Reykjavik is for LGBTQ travelers. It doesn't have the extensive gay scene of Gay Barcelona or the gay resort town of Palm Springs, but it’s quiet charm will wedge its way into your hearts. We recommend heading over during their several Pride celebrations for an extra queer flourish!
Stay at Room With A View
Tucked away in the downtown area of Reykjavik, surrounded by cafes, restaurants, and bars, Room with A View offers LGBTQ travelers a quiet refuge away from the busy city. The upper floor suite gives a fabulous view of the city skyline, as well as a TV, kitchenette, and king-sized bed.
2. Snorkel between two continents at the Silfra Fissure
Most gay travelers have to hop on a plane to experience a new continent. In Iceland, you just have to do a backstroke! Snorkel in the Silfra Fissure that sits over the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates (the rocks that the Earth sit upon), aka the official division between two continents. How’s that for a dinner party anecdote? The waters are super clear and at certain points visibility is 328ft (100m) deep. Brace yourself for the freezing water though. Brrrrrrr!
3. Watch a live geyser whilst touring the Golden Circle
As someone who jumps at the slamming of a car door, it was a choice to go see an exploding geyser! The most popular geyser is the Strokkur (sounds like a drag queen saying ‘OK’), located in the Geysir Geothermal Area. It erupts every 5-10 minutes with water often reaching over 65ft (20m) high. How does it all happen? Well, when water deep in the ground heats up, the high pressure caused by overlying rocks forces the water out of the ground in a dramatic blow. Like a Seby temper tantrum!
Stay at Grímsborgir Hotel
Nestled in the heart of the Golden Circle is the Grímsborgir Hotel. LGBTQ couples will love the superior suites and deluxe apartments. Whilst the cottage house is perfect for a group of friends, containing four bedrooms, a private hot tub, and a BBQ. The restaurant features live music every night, with a menu brimming with Icelandic and international dishes.
4. Marvel at the Skogafoss waterfall (SW Iceland)
Featured in Game of Thrones, Thor: The Dark World, and in the video of Justin Bieber's song, “I'll Show You”, the Skogafoss is one of the most famous waterfalls in the world. With a drop of over 200ft (60m), the sound of the rushing water is near deafening. Though it’s worth it for the epic and stunning sight it offers. Rumor has it that the Vikings buried treasure behind it when they settled. Maybe that’s why there is almost always a rainbow shining over it!
5. Hike to the Dyrhólaey lighthouse (SW Iceland)
On the southern tip of Iceland, sits the shining white Dyrhólaey lighthouse. A hike up there offers a stunning view of sea arches, sandy beaches, and mountainous glaciers. On a rainy day, the road up the lighthouse can be muddy, so bring a good pair of shoes. While you won’t be able to access the lighthouse, you can explore the grounds. It has sat there since 1927, with its light flashing every 10 seconds helping ships navigate their surroundings.
Stay at Kria hotel
Perched on the southern edge of Iceland is the fabulous gay friendly Hotel Kria. Double room and suite offer tons of space and mountainous views. The Drangar Restaurant keeps their menu fresh, sourcing the highest quality in-season ingredients, and guests receive a scrumptious buffet breakfast as part of their booking.
6. Go Ice Caving on a glacier (SE Iceland)
It ain’t a trip to Iceland without seeing some ice, amiright? On an ice cave tour, you will literally find yourself standing inside the belly of a glacier. Sound scary? Wait until you hear the sound of ice creaking above you! These caves form in the winter when water runs through glaciers, carving out enough space for people to go inside and live out your true Elsa fantasy… Mother Nature sure is amazing, isn’t she? #TheColdNeverBotheredMeAnyway
7. Be blown away by Svartifoss in the Skaftafell National Park (SE Iceland)
The most popular feature of the Skaftafell National Park is Svartifoss Waterfall. It is recognizable for its dark black columns that flank each side of the water like a pair of mean bodyguards. Intimidating? Sure. But the sight of it is so stunning that it inspired the design of Iceland’s National Theatre and the Hallgrimskirkja church in Reykjavik. Water travels from the Svinafellsjokull glacier, dropping over 80ft (20m) onto the sharp rocks below. To reach it takes around 45-minutes by foot from the visitor center.
8. Awe at the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach (SE Iceland)
If you were hoping to show off your beach body, you came to the wrong place! We love beaches (in case you hadn’t heard!). Though Diamond Beach is like no other beach we’ve been to. For one, the sand is black. And second, it’s beside a glacier lagoon, the Jökulsárlón. Looking out onto the horizon took our breath away, with the calm, icy-blue waters, disturbed only by iceberg heads poking up from beneath the surface.
Stay at Fosshotel Glacier's Lagoon
A short distance from the Skaftafell National Park and Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon makes the Fosshotel a nature lover’s paradise. Its rooms are stylish and contemporary, offering wondrous views over the mountains or the ocean. Their onsite restaurant has curated a splendid menu of Icelandic delicacies inspired by the surrounding countryside.
9. Drive through the spectacular landscapes of East Iceland
Whether you are drinking in the vast greenlands of the Icelandic countryside, the far-off glacier shadows, gushing waterfalls, sparkling fjords, playing “spot the reindeer”, or simply enjoying the serene silence, a drive through East Iceland is like no other! We recommend stopping off in the small villages along the way, especially Seydisfjordur. Having become a refuge for artists, it is a colorful town filled with friendly people, great food places, and a rainbow runway.
Stay at the Hildibrand hotel
We love this gay owned gem! Their self-catering approach allows guests to take their trip into their own hands. Ideal for groups desperate for a longer vacation stay, rooms are spacious and fully equipped. Though if you don’t want to cook, their Kaupfélagsbarinn restaurant serves up a menu of yummy food.
10. Bathe in Iceland's only floating infinity pools at Vok baths (SE Iceland)
Indulge in the ancient, Icelandic tradition of bathing in a geothermal pool. Explore the baths, moving from the geothermal pools with their infinity view, to the sauna, to the cold-water spray tunnel, and finally, to sit back and enjoy a delicious meal at the Vök Bistro. There are different price tiers, depending on how much you wish to spoil yourself. Premium admission will allow you to enjoy a drink in the pool bar and tuck into a premium platter at the bistro.
11. Whale watching tour in Husavik (Northern Iceland)
…my hoooometown! Bored of Netflix? Why not subscribe to some whale watching instead? Head on over to the stunning town, and marine-lovers mecca, of Husavik. Spot whales, dolphins, and sea birds in all their wild glory. You can hop on board an oak ship to get a closer look, where tour guides will give you all the stories behind life at Skjálfandi Bay. Fun fact: Husavik is the hometown of Anchorman and Regina George (ahem we mean Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams) the main characters in Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga.
Stay at Fosshotel Husavik
Centered in the Whale-Watching capital of Europe, Fosshotel Húsavík offers its gay guests a whale of a time, with its Moby Dick themed restaurant and magnificent views of the harbor from their super spacious rooms. Tuck into the famous reindeer burger after a long day of exploring the majestic Húsavík area.
12. Explore the magnificent lava tunnel of Vidgelmir (SE Iceland)
This takes the game, “The Floor Is Lava”, to a whole new level. But don’t worry, you won’t be walking across actual lava – it’s all dried up now, thankfully. The tunnel is 1585m long. It can get narrow in some parts of the tube, but believe it or not, it is the largest of its kind in Iceland, with parts of the passage reaching 15.8m high and 16.5m wide. It can get cold in there, so bring a hat, gloves, and a heavy coat.
Stay at Fosshotel Reykholt
Once the home of the acclaimed poet Snorri Sturluson, this historic site perfectly lends itself to a gay friendly romantic hotel getaway. Surrounded by lava fields, waterfalls, and mountains, Fosshotel Reykholt has modern, chic rooms, a luxurious heated sauna and spa, and stylish restaurant that serves up Icelandic cuisine.
13. Spoil yourself at the luxurious Blue Lagoon Retreat (SE Iceland)
Who doesn’t enjoy a spa day? A visit to the Blue Lagoon is an absolute must. After all, we don’t use call it “the most fabulous thermal bath in Iceland” for nothing. Kick back your feet in the warm waters at the Blue Lagoon. Not only will it feel incredible, but your body will also thank you for it. Known to cure skin conditions and improve your wellbeing, you can skip the workout for the day and do this instead!
14. Get yourselves a hand knitted Icelandic sweater!
Sweaters never go out of style! They are dynamic, cozy, and fluffy. What other clothing item looks good on both a granny and a buff man? The Lopapeysa is a beloved Icelandic sweater that dates back to the early 20th century, although its knitting style roots back to the 16th century. Made from wool, provided by Icelandic sheep, they are recognized for their yoke design, namely the large circle around the neckline. And putting one on feels like a warm (scratchy!) hug.
15. Chase the Northern Lights
If the night sky is clear (always check the latest hourly weather forecast) and dark (so best in winter months October to March when the night sky is at its darkest), check the chances of seeing the Northern Lights on the Aurora Forecast website to help you plan ahead. Getting a good photograph of them is just as hard! If you want to keep the memory of them forever in your mind, we recommend researching high-quality cameras that have manual exposure and a fast lens.
Pride and gay events in Iceland
Time to get your Pride on!
Whilst we usually encourage you to strap on a harness, the shortest shorts, and sunglasses, we don’t want you getting frostbite. Remember, you’re in Iceland, darling. Here are the main gay events in Iceland to check out:
Reykjavik Pride (August)
300,000 people live in Iceland. 100,000 attend Pride. 30% of the population! Surely a record for the most proportionally attended Pride event on the planet? The streets of Reykjavik fill up with families, tourists, and people young and old, celebrating all things LGBTQ. And if you want to experience it one step further, sign up for Pink Iceland’s “Pink Package” tour. Learn about the gay scene in Reykjavik, Iceland’s queer history, plus, an expedition around the Golden Circle and spoil yourself in the Sky Lagoon.
Reykjavik Bear (September)
Bear Pride events are becoming increasingly popular. And we can’t get enough of showing our admiration for the burly, hairy gay men of our community. Taking place in September, take a trip out to the Blue Lagoon, kick back your feet, and let yourself be spoilt. Whip off your tops and dance your heart out at the liberating Top-Off party. Then, take an awe-inspiring journey through the Golden Circle, before tucking into a delicious farewell lunch at the popular Jómfrúin restaurant.
Pink New Year’s Eve (December)
They say to start the year as you mean to go on. And by spending New Year’s Eve on Pink Iceland’s NYE package you’ll be signing up for another year of being gay gay gay. Across four days, you’ll embark on a gay walking tour of the city, experience the Golden Circle, where you might see the Northern Lights, and count down the final seconds of the old year surrounded by new friends at a bonfire. Best of all, New Year’s Day will be spent at the relaxing Blue Lagoon.
Food and drinks of Iceland
We can’t get enough out of trying new things. And while our risky food choices don’t always play off, the Icelandic homely palate truly hit the spot for us. These are the foods we think every gay traveler should try in Iceland:
We are in love with this! High in protein, low in sugar yogurt, and full of flavor. It makes for an extremely nourishing and healthy snack. For our road trips, we always factored in a packed lunch and always had our trusty Skyrs to hand. One of the best things about how cold it is in Iceland is that the car acts as a fridge overnight – perfect for storing things that need to be kept cool.
Fish is one of the most popular foods in Iceland. And the best of them all, in our humble opinion, was the arctic char. Fished from the icy Arctic waters, it is similar to salmon and trout, though they tend to vary more in color. It makes for a healthy meal, rich in omega-3s, calcium, and vitamin D, and is typically served with a lemon-honey sauce or garlic, alongside a bunch of fresh veggies.
Kjötsúpa – Viking Lamb Stew
Sometimes, simplicity can be what makes something so special. Kjötsúpa is a lamb soup, made with veggies, and seasoned with salt and pepper. The lamb chops are left on the bone and coated in garlic. Added carrots, cabbage, and rutabagas help color up the dish, but for us, it’s all about the taste. It's particularly great for warming up bellies during the long and frosty winters. It’s tender, juicy, and earthy (just like us when we go camping).
Rúgbrauð – Icelandic Rye Bread
A rye bread, thick and dark, often crustless, that tastes delicious with a slab of warm butter, mutton pâté, pickled herring, and a piece of smoked lamb, known as hangikjöt. It is baked in a pot or by steaming it in a wooden cask that has been buried in the ground near a geyser. Mother Nature really does make the best sous-chef. The bread can be soaked, to make brauðsúpa (bread soup), and flavored with raisins and lemon.
Brennivin – Icelandic schnapps
When Iceland ended their Prohibition of Spirits in 1935, they went all in by inventing Brennivin. A clear, unsweetened akvavit schnapps, which has a 40% strength. Icelandic people love it so much that other countries, such as Denmark, Sweden, and the US, have started importing it. It can be taken in a small glass, dropped in a beer, or used as a cocktail ingredient. No matter how you consume it, it will be a night to remember. Though truthfully, it may be a struggle to remember anything!
Plan Your Trip To Iceland
We've put together all our advice, tips and tricks from our Iceland trip that we think every gay traveler should know before they go.
Travel insurance: If it can happen in our home country, it can happen in Iceland. Lost luggage, canceled/delayed flights or injuries that need medical treatment, can always occur. Make sure you arrange travel insurance before traveling anywhere. We've been using Heymondo Travel Insurance for years and never have any problems making an online claim if something does go pear-shaped. Their cover is very affordable and extensive.
How to get there: Most international flights that go to Iceland will land at Keflavík International Airport. There are dailydirect flights to most cities in the US and Europe. You can get shuttle buses from the airport that will get you into the city in less than an hour. If you want to take your car, you can travel by ferry. Norröna Ferry sets sail once a week from Hirtshals in Denmark, docking in Seyðisfjörður in eastern Iceland.
Visa requirements: If you are from North America, the United Kingdom, or an EU country, you won’t need a visa to visit if you are staying for less than 90 days. However, many countries outside of these territories require one. We recommend double checking your visa requirements before you head off to Iceland.
Getting around: If you're staying in Reykjavik, then your best options are by bus, foot, or bike. As a small city, taxis are fairly affordable. However, the city’s bus system is very efficient and cheap. We recommend downloading the Strætó bus app to check timetables and pre purchase your tickets. Though if you want to explore Iceland further, rental cars are the way to go.
Power Plugs: Iceland uses the same 2 pin plugs that most countries in Europe have (ie type C and F). If you're traveling from the USA or the UK you will need to bring a travel adaptor with you to charge any devices.
Vaccinations: The CDC recommends that all travelers to Iceland should be up to date with routine vaccinations for things like measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, etc., and, of course, COVID-19. You may also need vaccinations for Hepatitis A, B, and rabies (if you're going into the wilderness), so make sure you do your research, and speak to your travel nurse or doctor before heading to Iceland.
Currency:The currency used in Iceland is the Icelandic Krone (pronounced “krona”), ISK. $1 converts to around 130 ISK, £1 to around 170 ISK, and €1 to around 142 ISK.
Tipping culture: Tipping is not expected in Iceland – in fact, it’s rather unexpected. Most restaurants will include a gratuity in their bill. Though, it never hurts to leave a small tip. We always give around 10% of the bill as appreciation for good service.
Accommodation: We love Booking.com. They always have a variety of choices that come at a great price and often with free cancellation – and it certainly delivers with Iceland. Plans can change, so having the option for so free cancellation means you can change your mind as you please. They also have excellent online customer support available 24/7.
Sightseeing and adventure: We get many of our travel ideas from Viator and Iceland was no exception. There are always plenty of tours, experiences, and activities for all tastes and interests. It’s also super easy to book and they have fantastic 24/7 customer support.
When to visit: June to August are Iceland’s warmest months. It’s when the midnight sun is most visible, and between July and August, all hiking trails are open. Although, for those eager to see the Northern Lights, February, March, September, and October are best.
Safety tips for gay travelers to Iceland
Don’t get us wrong, Iceland is extremely safe for gay travelers. And yet, bigots can be found anywhere, so (without sounding like your overbearing Mum), we’ve listed some quick-fire safety tips to keep your trip to Iceland incredible.
- Check official government advice before you go. It’s important to be aware of any occurrences that may create difficulties.
- Homosexuality is legal in Iceland. Iceland is very gay friendly and you're unlikely to ever encounter any problems holding hands, even in rural areas!
- Be aware of your surroundings. Tourists are always seen as “easy-pickings” for thieves. But as long as you stay alert to what's going on around you, you’ll be fine.
- Avoid excess drinking as you're a much easier target when obviously intoxicated.
- Don't wear valuables in public. Pickpockets are everywhere and the more bling flashing, the higher chance you have of becoming a target. Keep your valuables locked away in your hotel.
- Invest in a good money belt. It's always better not to carry too much cash or credit cards anyway but having a good money belt hidden under your clothes is one of the best ways we've found of ensuring your valuables stay safe and secure out of harm's reach.
- In Iceland, traffic drives on the right side of the road.
- Road closures are very common in the winter months, especially during heavy snowfall. So if you're driving, make sure to check the road conditions online as they change every hour.
- Warm up! Iceland can be cold, so make sure you have a good coat, hat, and gloves.