I was recently reminiscing about my trip to Iceland and thought I would tell you a bit more about it. I would say that Iceland is very comparable to New Zealand in the types of activities that are available. Both are worth a visit, but read below for the most important differences between the two.
I made a trip to Iceland in 2018. At that time, it was a new destination for us at Down Under Endeavours, so I was intrigued by everything I had heard about this small island. Known for glaciers, geysers, and hot springs, it almost sounded like a mini New Zealand! My top reason for traveling to Iceland was to see the Northern Lights, but I was also interested in seeing how this destination would stack up to New Zealand, one of my favorite places in the world.
The bottom line is Iceland is an amazing destination for your dream trip with your family or for a special occasion.
I did find several similarities between Iceland vs New Zealand, but there were some key differences as well. Key difference for 2021…Iceland is currently open to US travelers, while New Zealand is not. Iceland does require a negative COVID test in order to enter.
Icy waterfall at Skalakot in Iceland
The biggest difference is the time! So your flight to Iceland is only 5-7 hours depending on where you are flying from in the US. Iceland Air is main carrier, and they do offer three cabins of service. Additionally, the airline has many connections to Reykjavik from the US. Because your flight to New Zealand is much longer, at least 12 hours from LAX, the service on an Air New Zealand flight will have superior service.
Nature and Experiences
Iceland is a beautiful country with a lot to offer: glaciers, lava caves, volcanoes, waterfalls, black sand beaches, geysers, hot springs, and lots of natural beauty. It is a relatively small island and I found that 8 days was plenty of time to explore everything I wanted to see. On my trips to New Zealand, I have always stayed at least 2-3 weeks, so in comparison, Iceland is a nice week long getaway.
In Iceland, highlights are the Golden Circle (Thingvellir National Park, The Geysir Thermal Area and Gullfoss Waterfall), which is easy to do in one day from Reykjavik. Each area offers great activities for families. How about snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure and seeing between the rift between the tectonic plates?
I recommend spending just a few days in Reykjavik and then hitting the Golden Circle before venturing out to Reynisfara, the Black Sand Beach to the South and Diamond Beach to the East. Self driving is definitely an easy way to get around, just be careful depending on the time of year as those roads can get icy. We can assist you with a driver if you would prefer that route for your family.
Iceland is a wonderful mixture of ice and fire. And the Lava Tubes are another beautiful installment. We visited the Raufarholshellir Lava Tube, very accessible from the Golden Circle Area.
New Zealand has many similar attractions—glaciers on the West Coast, volcanoes and interesting geothermal attractions in Rotorua; fascinating glowworm caves in Waitomo; plenty of waterfalls in Milford and Doubtful Sounds; and black sand beaches around Auckland.
Left: Me hiking on a glacier in Iceland. Right: Some of our clients hiking on a glacier in New Zealand
Both countries are affected by weather. I traveled to Iceland in the middle of winter (February), as this is the best time to see the Northern Lights. But based on my experience, I would recommend traveling to Iceland between March and October. If you travel during our summer, the weather is quite temperate in Iceland and you do get light 24 hours a day! Just imagine golf at midnight.
Conversely, there is no wrong time to visit New Zealand. In their winter months (June, July, August) you will be limited in some areas and some of your scheduled activities may be cancelled due to weather.
While the flights to New Zealand will be more expensive than those to Iceland, New Zealand is more budget-friendly once you land. Meals and land arrangements in Iceland can be pricey, so just be mindful of your budget for meals and such.
Based on my experience, if you have 2 travelers with a total budget of $8,000 (including flights), that will probably be sufficient for 7-8 days in Iceland.
Iceland vs. New Zealand
At the end of the day, I’m am so glad I visited Iceland and saw some of the spectacular scenery here, as well as the Northern Lights (although I wasn’t aware that in real life, your naked eye doesn’t capture those bright greens and pinks you see in the photos—it’s more of a white glow). I will definitely return to New Zealand when they open their borders, but for now, I love Iceland as a place to travel with your family or for that big birthday celebration.
I would love to chat to you about traveling to Iceland vs New Zealand! Give me a call at (312) 951-8517 and be sure to ask for Shannon.