Iceland: Books and Maps

Unless you're on a packaged tour, a trip to
Iceland will involve a good deal of planning and decision-making so you'll want to buy a book and/or map to aid in your trip planning and navigation throughout the country. Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot of literature out there outside the general guides.

Nonetheless, below are books and maps that we've used. We've also included other books in the literature that may help you find what you need. The list is by no means complete, but hopefully it is enough to get you going on your quest to inform yourself on your travels.


Iceland (Lonely Planet): We've been fans of Lonely Planet guidebooks for their thoroughness and organization. They make for great resources when you're just starting out your trip planning, figuring out which local restaurants to go to, studying detailed maps, and even finding budget accommodations. I also like their writeups on culture, the environment, politics, and history. For the case of Iceland, we actually ended up buying 2 versions of the book prior to our trip. The 2004 edition was criticized for lacking in quality relative to their other works. We managed to pre-purchase and receive the more recent 2007 edition of the book just before our trip (though well after we've already formulated our itinerary and planned ahead). In any case, their up-to-date 2007 version is certainly much better and once again served as our trip companion during our travels.

Iceland (Landmark Publishing): Written by Cathy Harlow, this full color guidebook was our primary research material for our Iceland trip before the latest LP Iceland book came out. It's not nearly as dense as the LP guides, but it's rich in photographs and personal information from the author herself. It was a great book that oriented me about the country as I got started researching. My only gripe was that there are advertisements sprinkled throughout the book, which I thought was kind of weird. Eventually, the book fell out of favor once the new LP book came out. Nonetheless, I'd recommend it as a supplemental guide or if LP's current guide gets outdated again.

The Rough Guide to Iceland (Rough Guides): I've learned that when it comes to travelers, you tend to have Lonely Planet loyalists and Rough Guides loyalists. I have to admit that both Julie and I are LP loyalists, but in the case of Iceland, I consulted with this title while the latest LP product had yet to be released. Thus, I got a chance to get acquainted with Rough Guides' content and style. And for the most part, they did an admirable job covering the country and supplemented what I had researched from the Landmark Visitors Guide mentioned above. But eventually, this guide also fell out of favor once the latest LP guide was received as we don't think you can beat their organization, thoroughness, and maps. Still, I can totally see why readers can be loyal to one or the other.

Ensk Vasaorðabók (Orðabókaútgáfan): This is a pocket-sized English-Icelandic and vice versa dictionary. It has about 10,000 translations and they're mostly basic words. Of course in order to make better use of it, you'll have to have some understanding of how nouns assume many different forms (declensions) depending on how they're used. Thus, if you lack this understanding, you may not be able to recognize words that you see in the field nor equate them to what you'll find in the dictionary. I bought this dictionary because it was the only "reasonably-priced" dictionary I could find at $40USD. The rest were easily the equivalent of $100 USD or more!

Icelandic (Teach Yourself): This combination of language book and two CDs was pretty much what I used to try to learn as much Icelandic as I could prior to our trip. I allowed myself about six months without the benefit of knowing anyone Icelandic to practice with. Given these circumstances, I think it did as well of a job as it could do in teaching someone a language as difficult as Icelandic passively. The audio CDs cover all conversations in the 16 units plus selected exercises and pronunciations. Listening to it in the car over and over again was instrumental in training my ears to the language and even building my confidence in actually trying to speak it. The book provided the rest of the details though it could've used more examples and better explanations of declensions (something I still struggle with and is the main reason why the language is so tough).

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Iceland (Mapsource): We purchased this 1:100k scaled map from R. Sigmundsson ehf. and we were thoroughly impressed with how friendly it was and how it made navigating extremely easy. Of course there was a minor detail of getting it to work with our GPS. But we managed to resolve this problem once we visited the R. Sigmundsson dealer in Reykjavík and learned our old etrex wouldn't work so we bought a new Garmin GPS receiver. You have to run this product with the downloadable nRoute in order to have voice navigation, tracking, and trip logging. Prior to the trip, I used the standalone Mapsource product to mark important waypoints (namely waterfalls and hotels). We had such a great experience with this product, Julie insists that we use Mapsource for other countries in future self-driving trips.

Atlaskort (Landmælingar Íslands): Prior to using the Mapsource product, we bought this product online direct from some Icelandic company (whose name escapes me). It turns out that LMI was discontinuing digital topographic maps so all the finer-scaled maps were unavailable and I think we were fortunate to get our hands on this particular product. It's basically a 1:100k map with a 1:750k overview. The interface is a bit clunky and we didn't have any luck getting this map to talk to our GPS. So this map was primarily used for pre-trip researching (it has a decent enough place-name database so I was able to find quite a few waterfalls) ultimately porting the stuff I learned here to the Mapsource product, which we subsequently used in the field. Considering there wasn't much of a choice prior to learning about the Mapsource product, the LMI product did its job.

Kortabók (Edda útgáfa h.f.): This 1:300k road atlas provided additional reinforcement to our trip researching just in case the digital maps didn't work out (you never know what can go wrong with computers). It has pretty much the info you'd expect in a decent road atlas, but the only drawback is the index wasn't all that helpful to us (wasn't made easier by the fact that everything's in Icelandic and sometimes there were multiple places by the same name). Nonetheless, I'd recommend getting this book if you can get your hands on it. We bought our copy online from the same vendor who sold us the LMI map (again, the name escapes me). I highly doubt you could pick up something like this from a local retailer.

Iceland (International Travel Maps): This big 1:425k durable foldout paper map was used as reinforcement if we had doubts about what was stated in the Mapsource map regarding road conditions. This paper map spelled out whether the unsealed road was 4wd or not a little more explicitly. Other than that, we didn't really use this map much more considering how well the Mapsource product worked for us.

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