The Smyril Line cruise ferry 'Norrona' to Iceland.

The Smyril Line cruise ferry Norröna sails weekly from mainland Europe to Iceland...

The Smyril Line ferry to Iceland...

A Smyril Line passenger & car ferry called the Norröna sails from Hirtshals in northern Denmark to Torshavn in the Faeroe Islands & Seydisfjördur in Iceland, roughly once a week between April & October.  The voyage from Denmark to Iceland aboard the Norröna takes 2 or 3 nights depending on the sailing schedule.  Sailing days and times vary, so see either the Seat61 Ferry Shop or www.smyril-line.com for times, fares & online booking. 

Note that passengers are not carried to Iceland in winter*, presumably as the weather is so poor at that time of year.  The passenger part of the 36,000 ton Norröna is to cruise ship standards, all cabins have TV, shower and toilet.  There is a swimming pool, sauna, children's playroom, restaurant & shops.  The Smyril Line ship used to call at Lerwick in the Shetland Islands, but stopped calling there in 2008.  In the past she has used Esbjerg & Hanstholm as her Danish ports, but currently sails from Hirtshals on all sailings.

(* It's reported that there are in fact sailings in winter, although Smyril Line don't advertise them, because they often have to be cancelled.  Nonetheless they all seem to run through February & March. To book winter sailings you have to contact Smyril Line directly.  You may have to do it last minute, but they're never going to be short of berths at that time).

On this page:  Useful country information   London to Reykjavik

Useful country information

Train operator:

There are no train services in Iceland.

 

 

Bus operator in Iceland:

Long-distance bus services: www.bsi.is

Ferry operator to Iceland:

www.smyril-line.com  Seat61 Ferry Shop

Time zone & dialling code:

GMT all year.  Dialling code +354.

Currency:

£1 = approx 130 krona.     Currency converter

Tourist information:

www.icetourist.is   www.visitreykjavik.is

Visas:

UK citizens do not need a visa for Iceland.

Page last updated:

1 November 2013


London to Reykjavik

It's possible to reach Iceland by comfortable cruise ferry between April and October each year, though you'll need to travel to Denmark to board the ferry and it will take you several nights each way.  Here's how...

  Leaving Iceland on the Smyri Line ferry 'Norrona'.

Leaving Seydisfjördur  aboard the ferry Norröna...

Photo courtesy of Phil Horton.

  The ferry 'Norrona' calls at Torshavn in the Faroe Islands

The ferry Norröna calls at Torshavn on the Faroe Islands...  Photo courtesy of Phil Horton.

How to travel to Iceland from the UK...

You'll need to travel to Hirtshals at the northern tip of Denmark to board the Smyril Line ship to Iceland as she no longer calls at any UK port. 

How to travel to Iceland from mainland Europe...

If you're starting in mainland Europe, the best place to pick up the Iceland ferry is in Denmark.  First check ferry sailings at www.smyril-line.com or the seat61 Ferry Shop.  To find train times from anywhere in Europe to Hjørring (for Hirtshals), use http://bahn.hafas.de (English button upper right).

On arrival in Iceland...

Seydisfjördur is on the east of Iceland, a 9-hour drive by car from Reykjavik.  For long-distance bus services in Iceland, see www.bsi.is.

Traveller's reports...

Traveller Alexander Peace reports (2012):  "I made the journey last week and thought it would be useful to have it up to date.  For those travelling on foot and backpacking, the Norröna remains a great way of getting to Iceland.  I took the slightly off peak sailing in mid June, which is cheaper and more convenient with timings (sailing at 3pm means you can get a 6am train from Copenhagen that arrives with ample time in Hirtshals to find the ferry port), and means you don’t have to stay in Hirtshals, which is not the most exciting town in Denmark.

There are three/four restaurants on board, and the cafeteria prices could be a lot worse – around 80 Danish Krone for a meal. I took my own food, and the staff have no problems with you eating it on board in any of the open areas. There were no fridges though. Importantly, and for anyone who has done the Trans-Siberian, there is no free hot water, so noodles, and coffee just don’t work. Take a small travel kettle... There is also a duty free shop, which sells beer and cigarettes really rather cheaply (as well as all the other touristy bits).

The ship itself is large and comfortable, with plenty of space to lounge around, and they do not mind you sitting in the bars/restaurants and not buying anything. It does not roll too much in the swell, though the weather was rough on the first two days of sailing.  There is a large (heated) covered area up on deck to smoke/drink/enjoy the scenery, and there is even a small swimming pool and sauna in the lower decks which are free to use.  I stayed in a four berth cabin, which was fine (single travellers can book just one bed and share). I would not recommend staying in the larger dorms. Though cheaper, they are in the bowels of the ship, and a lot more crowded. It is not a lot more expensive to stay in the four berth cabins.

The journey itself if great fun, passing through the Shetlands and stopping for a morning in the Faeroes, which allows a chance to stock up on food (atm and supermarkets are near the tourist info office) and to stretch one's legs – I walked up into the hills behind Torshavn, which was very pleasant. You can stay/go hiking in the Faeroes, then pick up the ferry again later to carry on to Iceland – I would recommend it, I wish I had. However, the ferry continues slowly on a scenic route through the Faeroes, so you get a wonderful view of the islands.

On arrival in Iceland, it leaves you on the east coast, in Seyðisfjörður, which is a beautiful little town of about 400 people. I stayed in the Hafalden Youth Hostel, which is a nice old building, pretty cheap, and very well run. They accept advance bookings by phone (which I would recommend, especially in the summer when it gets busy with everyone off the ferry). There is also a decent supermarket and ATM, a few hotels, etc. Mainly the town is wonderful because it’s so remote, and working along the fjord and up the mountains around it is glorious.

Moving on from there – which I found no information about when I researching on the internet before – is actually extremely easy.  There is a bus to Egilsstadir, the regional hub (basically an aiport and a few car rentals), every morning at 7.55, which costs 1000 Icelandic Krone, and takes half an hour. From Egilssatdir, you can fly or rent a car (I rented and drove across Iceland, which I would really recommend). The road to Egilsstadir is paved, so not difficult to drive up, and from there you are on highway 1.

However, and very importantly – there are bus services that cross Iceland. When I was researching in March, the Iceland travel website said there were no buses. This is the winter schedule. By June, the summer schedule comes into play. So you can take a bus to Hofn, (about three hours south), then take another one the next day to Reykjavik. They are not cheap though, and you cannot do the journey in one day."

Traveller Martin reports (2010):  "When booking, it's considerably cheaper to pay in Danish Krone than in Euros.  Smyril Line's Faroese sales office speak excellent English and reply promptly to emails.  The ship is pleasant, the only downside is the Scandinavian prices for drinks & food onboard, though you can buy alcohol from the duty-free shop and drink it in the covered area on deck. You could instead bring food with you and keep it in the fridge that is provided in outside cabins. There's a discount for pre-booked meals, but seasoned travellers recommend against this, since if the sea is choppy you may not want anything (though we found the Norröna remarkably stable).  Ship-board announcements are in Faroese, then Danish, then English.  An alternative to a cabin is to take a couchette berth. I would recommend against this - it's usually nine berths stacked 3 high in a room beneath the car deck, with very little space.  You aren't allowed to sleep elsewhere on the ship.  I would recommend travelling during the off-peak timetable.  Not only is it cheaper, but the ship leaves and arrives at more sociable times.  Also the ship pauses in Torshavn in the Faroe Islands for 9 hours on the way to Iceland and 6 hours on the way back.  If driving, when you book the ticket tell the ticket office and the check-in staff that you want to drive off the ship in Torshavn, so that they place your car in the right place.  This means that rather than pay a lot of money to take the official bus tour, you can drive around at your own convenience, taking in some of the most fantastic scenery you'll ever see.  The ship travels close enough to Fair Isle and Shetland for an excellent view (mist dependent), and a half-hour window to make mobile phone calls on a British network.  But the most amazing views are as Norröna passes through the Faroe Islands, waterfalls tumbling down steep cliffs on both sides, and puffins diving out of the way in front. Iceland itself isn't bad either."

UK to Iceland by freighter...

Freight ships run by Eimskip used to have a limited number of passenger places on their regular weekly sailings from Rotterdam to Reykjavik in Iceland, calling briefly at Torshavn (Faroe Islands). However, sadly they no longer carry passengers.

More information...

If anyone has any more information. photos or travel reports that would be useful for this page, please e-mail me!

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The Thomas Cook European Timetable

Thomas Cook European Timetable -  click to buy onlineThomas Cook Rail Map of Europe - buy onlineThe European Rail Timetable - highly recommended!

Formerly the Thomas Cook European Timetable, this has train & ferry times for every country in Europe plus currency & climate information.  It is essential for regular European train travellers and an inspiration for armchair travellers.  Published since 1873, it had just celebrated 140 years of publication when Thomas Cook decided to pull the plug on their entire publishing department, but the dedicated ex-Thomas Cook team have set up a private venture and published the first edition of a reborn European Rail Timetable in March 2014.  You can buy it online with worldwide shipping at www.europeanrailtimetable.euMore information on what the European Rail Timetable contains.

Two excellent maps of the European rail network...

The Thomas Cook Rail Map of Europe (no longer in print, but 2nd-hand copies available via www.amazon.co.uk) and the Travellers' Railway Map of Europe (buy online for €13 + €5.50 worldwide delivery at www.treinreiswinkel.nl/railway_map_of_europe with worldwide delivery) are the two best & most comprehensive maps of train routes right across Europe, from Portugal in the west to Istanbul, Moscow & Ukraine in the east, from Finland in the north to Sicily & Crete in the south.  High speed & scenic routes are highlighted.  Both maps are highly recommended.  A new edition of the Thomas Cook Map is likely to be published by the European Rail Timetable team in 2014, see www.europeanrailtimetable.euMore information on rail maps, including free online maps.


Find hotels in ...

 

◄◄ Hotel search & price comparison.

www.hotelscombined.com checks all the main hotel booking sites at once to find the widest choice of hotels & the cheapest seller.  It was named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site at the World Travel Awards 2013 and I highly recommend it, both to find hotels in even the smallest places and to check that another retailer isn't selling your hotel for less!

www.booking.com is my favourite booking site.  It's really clear and you can usually book with free cancellation and so confirm your accommodation at no risk months before train booking opens.


Travel insurance & health card...

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Get travel insurance, it's essential...

Never travel without insurance from a reliable travel insurer with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover loss of cash (up to a limit) & belongings, and cancellation. An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year (I have an annual policy myself).  Don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, though, see the advice on missed connections here.  Here are some suggested insurers, Seat61 gets a little commission if you buy through these links, and feedback from using insurance for rail & ferry travel is always welcome.

In the UK, use www.confused.com to compare prices & policy features across major insurance companies.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65 (no age limit), see www.JustTravelCover.com.

        If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get an EU health card, it's free...

If you're a UK citizen travelling in Europe, you should apply for a free European Health Insurance Card, which entitles you to free or reduced rate health care if you become ill or get injured in many European countries, under a reciprocal arrangement with the NHS.  This replaced the old E111 forms as from January 2006.  The EHIC card is available from www.ehic.org.uk.  It doesn't remove the need for travel insurance, though.

Get a spare credit card, designed for foreign travel with no currency exchange loading & low/no ATM fees

Taking out an extra credit card costs nothing, but if you keep it in a different part of your luggage you won't be left stranded if your wallet gets stolen.  In addition, some credit cards are better for overseas travel than others.  Martin Lewis's www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-travel-money explains which UK credit cards have the lowest currency exchange commission loadings when you buy something overseas, and the lowest cash withdrawal fees when you use an ATM abroad.

You can avoid ATM charges and expensive exchange rates with a Caxton FX euro currency Visa Card, or their multi-currency 'Global Traveller' Visa Card, see www.caxtonfx.com for info.

Get an international SIM card to save on mobile data and phone calls...

Mobile phones can cost a fortune to use abroad, and if you're not careful you can return home to find a huge bill.  Consider buying a global pre-paid SIM card for your mobile phone from www.Go-Sim.com, which can slash costs by up to 85%.  Go-Sim cuts call costs in 175 countries worldwide, and you can receive incoming calls and texts for free in 75 countries.  It's pay-as-you-go, so no nasty bills when you get home.  It also allows cheap data access for laptops & PDAs.  A Go-Sim account and any credit on it doesn't expire if it's not used between trips, unlike some others, so a Go-Sim phone number becomes your 'global phone number' for life.

 


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