Iceland is opening its borders back up to those who have been vaccinated or already infected in the past with COVID. This is exciting news for the country (as most of its revenue comes from tourism) and for tourists. Iceland is the most beautiful country in the world, in my opinion, and it offers the most exciting outdoor adventures out there. From towering waterfalls, to rugged sea cliffs, to glacial volcanoes, to fields of lupines stretching towards the midnight sun, to the northern lights, it’s perfect. It’s one of those places where your jaw literally drops multiple times a day.
My partner and I explored the entirety of it (minus most of the West Fjords) back in the summer of 2019. We camped, hiked, hitch hiked, and backpacked. It was incredible, and absolutely life-changing. We free climbed volcanoes, played in glacial lagoons, watched the arctic seas from black sand beaches, and ate a lot of incredible food.
Contrary to popular belief, Iceland is the best country in the world for vegans. We had no idea, so we planned on cooking most of our meals over an open fire (that was more affordable as well). Our minds were completely changed within the first day of being there, so we ended up trying foods from eateries all around the country. It remains the best food of our life. So if you’re vegan, don’t be intimidated by this country. It’s absolutely the best travel destination for you. If you need some guidance though, read on! Here’s the ultimate vegan guide to Iceland!
Sea cliffs, puffins, waterfalls, wild horses, and endless purple lupines. Yes, this place is magical, and conveniently the home of their largest city—Reykjavik. Because of this, this happens to be the region that’s the most crowded and filled with tourists. Things are most expensive down here as well for that reason, but this region needs to be explored for at least two days. It’s absolutely gorgeous.
Camp in Vik (if you’re wanting more time in the city, stay at a hostel in Reykjavik as they’re clean and inexpensive), spend time on the sea, and enjoy all of the delicious dishes from the greenhouses in the area!
This modern spot is in the city, situated on the most colorful street in Reykjavik. Not everything is vegan in this vibrant eatery, but there are a ridiculous amount of options! They serve build-your-own bowls filled with everything from the best vegan chicken of your life to watermelon to greens to roasted coconut flakes. We loved their “VEGAN SKÁL” bowl filled with sweet potatoes, Oumph chicken, coconut, broccoli, and the best sauces on a bed of greens. Their vegan barbecue bowl and raw brownies were also so flavorful!
This is a great spot for lunch- grab a window seat so you can people watch in the artsiest neighborhood in the city.
If you get breakfast in one place while you’re in Reykjavik, make it be here.
I can’t even stress enough how delicious their food is. Their jam alone is the best I’ve ever tasted! We gobbled up their bagels with vegan cream cheese, spinach soup, vegan sweet scones with Nordic jam, oat milk cappuccinos, and raspberry lemonade. It’s all made in house, and they even have lots of vegan paninis!
It’s a very hipster spot, being covered in monstera wallpaper, quirky art, and old-fashioned light bulbs. The bathrooms are even turned into jungle paradises with the colorful tiger wallpaper and plants!
We loved eating our breakfast there, and then getting the berry lemonade to go so we could walk along the sea with it. It’s perfect for the harbor!
Okay yes, this place is very touristy, but for good reason. We went just to see it, but it smelled so good that we ended up buying a lot of their fries. They were the best fries we have ever had (noticing a theme within Icelandic food? It’s ridiculously good). They are so crispy on the outside, but thick cut so the inside is very fluffy, making these into a good meal even if you are in a rush or are in the area. You can get sweet potato version if you’d prefer as well, and their vegan fry sauce is mouthwatering and creamy. This eatery is not cheap, but it’s definitely worth it and perfect for sharing!
This Neapolitan style pizza place is located in the Hlemmur (which is a bus station food court in Reykjavik). While they don’t have a vegan cheese to top it with, it honestly doesn’t need it. We got their marinara pizza veganized and it was the best. I’ve never had better crust, and it’s among the top pizzas I’ve ever eaten. This is a great options for travelers who get to the city late, and are tired and need a place to sit and gather themselves (because the jet lag is real). The Hlemmur is open very late (we ate here at midnight), and there are plenty of long tables to sit at with outlets. We didn’t have a place to stay that night so as we looked into options we could afford, we made friends with strangers at our table, ate our pizza, and charged our phones. It was honestly very cozy considering how stressful the situation should have been. If you’re wanting to stay a while or just don’t feel like pizza, there are plenty of other vegan options inside this space! We shared vegan croissants, plenty of oat milk cappuccinos, the most amazing carrot soup, and french bread from various food stands inside. The options are endless and it’s a great place to people watch.
Located in Selfoss, this bright yellow eatery is an absolute must. The little town is darling, and there’s a fantastic camping site in town for those wanting a more pampered experience—which for Iceland means having meals cooked by the staff and local bunnies bouncing through the peaceful grounds. It’s all very removed from tourists, which is such a rarity for the south.
The eatery is the best spot to have a quiet dinner at, and their outdoor seating is so pretty with every table being decorated with locally grown flowers. Their “Verdure ‘Vegan'” pizza is topped with vegan mozzarella, tomato, red onion, olives, bell pepper, garlic, vegan parmesan, cashew nuts and oregano, or you can build your own. We loved enjoying their perfectly made coffee outside, served in glass cups!
It is such a beautiful, cottage-core place, and it’s ideal for those who don’t want to fight crowds.
If you’re in Iceland, you need to see Reynisfjara Beach. Its ebony sand and Game of Thrones geometric cliff faces are unique and breathtaking. This place can be swarming with tourists, but again- it’s worth it. If it looks super crowded, leave and see the nearby Dyrholaey sea cliffs (my favorite spot in Iceland), the wild ponies in the sea swept fields all around, or walk around the closest town of Vik for a bit (my favorite town in Iceland). Either way, while you’re there, there is a beautiful eatery right on the beach. Its cool modern architecture is meant to mirror the natural landscape around it, and it’s such a stunning effect. Enjoy their heartwarming vegan turnip soup (made with local turnips) after being soaked in the icy sea spray (though don’t get in the water—it’s the most dangerous beach you’ll ever visit, and the death rates are very high among those who turn their back to the waves or get in). They also have tofu salad, french fries, Indian tofu and rice, tagliatelle, onion rings, and delicious blueberry juice.
Your best bet for a grocery store: Kronan in Vik
As mentioned, cooking is affordable, so if you’re camping I highly recommend renting a mini propane tank for cooking outside.
This grocery store is where we filled up our car with most of the food we needed for the next month. They had so many options! This would be a good place to splurge, as they have vegan sandwiches and meals, but we went for the cheaper options. We got lots of jugs of blueberry juice, wheat bread, cereal, apples, different types of beans, our favorite Icelandic boxed soup (which essentially is veggie broth, a few veggies, and cheerio croutons), salt, rice, tortillas, canned tomatoes, peanut butter, and rice cakes. It kept us going for most of the month.
We made enchiladas, peanut butter sandwiches, soup, chickpeas and rice, and many other dishes with these ingredients. Aim for items like that if you don’t want to spend a lot!
Few tourists make it out of southern Iceland, since they don’t see the other areas as often on Instagram. Because of this, we found the rest of Iceland to be even more delightful. Eastern Iceland is filled with national parks, glacial lagoons, volcanoes, ash fields, more waterfalls, and the only forest in the country (situated beautifully on a lake that supposedly is home to a giant worm monster).
It’s extremely remote and perfect for hiking. Halfway through the eastern region, you’ll need to drive up a very small and steep dirt road, so if you’re renting a car make sure to either get a 4×4 or “gravel insurance,” and be so careful.
This is located in the Skaftafell Visitor Center and is a cafeteria. They have a lot of options for vegans, including amazing apple pie, sandwiches, squash soup, and lots of nordic juices!
Enjoy surreal views of icebergs and volcanoes out the giant glass wall (get a window seat if you can) as you eat the heartwarming food—maybe after a beautiful hike in the Icelandic wilderness there—just watch out for quicksand! There is also a food stand on the premises that has a few snack options. Skaftafell is among the most remote of the regions, so if you don’t eat here just make sure you have food with you because it will be a few hours before you see anything else.
After driving into the most isolated part of Iceland (after you climb the dirt road mentioned), you’ll drive along cliff side roads overlooking the cerulean icy seas. It’s breathtaking, and by the time you enter Vallanes (home of the monster lake and only forest) you’ll be ready for a hearty meal. Móðir Jörð is an organic farm and mostly vegan bistro, and makes everything from what they grow. It’s my absolute favorite eatery in the world, and I think about it almost daily—it’s that good. They are not stingy on the portions either! When we went, we ordered their turnip soup and they put a giant pot of it on our table. We were able to eat as much as we wanted for no extra charge. We feasted on the soup (the best of my life), handmade flatbread crackers, pesto from the garden, and the richest cappuccinos. It was all so beautiful and clearly made with love. Even the water had lovely green plants in it.
This place is just dreamy, so if you eat out only once while in Iceland, come here! It’s very undiscovered (so rather than going to the popular tomato bistro in the south filled with tourists, come here), and it boasts wide open views of the serene mountains and Icelandic trees.
Their greenhouse is fun to walk around, and it’s filled with unique wooden furniture made by a famous Icelandic artist!
They also sell jams, crackers, and other delicious goods.
Seydisfjordur is among the most secluded towns in the country (which is saying a lot), and happens to be where the volcano scene from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was filmed! Drive from Vallanes into the mountains, and drive the curving road down to the sea on the other side. Even in the summer, there will be ice on the waterfalls along the road so keep your eye out for those! The town itself is a little, whimsical, rainbow town (there is literally a rainbow road) at the edge of the water.
Aldan is the restaurant of Hotel Öldunn—a stunning, victorian hotel along the rainbow road. Its roses and intricate decor make this feel like something straight out of Anne of Green Gables. It’s stunning. Their oat milk cappuccinos are the best we had in the country (those were our go-to’s), but they also serve Nordic dishes like oven-baked pumpkin and bread with bean spread.
These are on the same hill as each other, and have plenty of options. Since this region is very isolated, take advantage of that and stock up on anything you’re missing. This is where we picked up more blueberry juice, bread, white beans, and vegan butter popcorn.
There are also a few gas stations in these area, so we went there to grab free coffee (they have a deal with most car rental places that you’ll be using), grapefruit soda, and Icelandic sour candy.
In Iceland gas stations often have full blown markets inside with fresh produce and vegan cheeses galore! They’re all super clean and have plenty of options, so keep that in mind (they’re often cheaper than grocery stores too).
Driving from eastern Iceland to the north feels like you entire a new planet. The trees and lakes give way to a Mars-like landscape filled with mist and red and the smell of sulfur. This is where Iceland gets its energy from, and it’s also where the most powerful waterfall in Iceland exists (in the middle of nowhere, but such a spiritual experience worth having).
Once you reach the very top of the country, that gives way to weathered arctic towns, whales, stormy waters, fjords, and lots of great food!
This historic blue eatery is located in Akureyri, the northern-most town in Iceland (though for Iceland standards, it’s a city), and is where the “beyond the wall” area from Game of Thrones was filmed! Lake Myvatn, the lake the city sits on, happens to be home to the Yule Lads of Icelandic folklore!
While you’re visiting, you need to stop in Blaa Kannan for some vegan banana cake, more oat milk cappuccinos, and Icelandic hard candy! We were the only Americans they had had in a while, so they gave us a lot of free samples of traditional (and accidentally vegan) dishes! They’re so kind and the food is absolutely heartwarming.
This is by far the most original place I have ever eaten at. Part hostel, part laundromat, part bar, part tour desk, this eclectic spot also serves amazingly hearty vegan food! Meet fellow travelers and watch soccer matches on the TV’s as you enjoy your food seated in old 1970s pilot chairs.
We loved their veggie burger (without the honey sauce), the vegan Thai burger (the curry sauce is so flavorful), potato wedges, cider, and Icelandic beer!
They also serve other international dishes like veggie tacos (get without sour cream), Greek salad (without dairy), and mojitos!
Also in Akureyuri, this place is great because it has a lunch buffet filled with vegan options! We cooked mostly when we were in the north, so we didn’t end up trying this spot but we heard incredible things! They have flavorful and colorful food creations like mushroom sandwiches, open face rainbow sandwiches, and numerous juices!
Your best bet for a grocery store: Netto in Husavik
Yes, that Husavik (from Eurovision)! This is a beautiful little whale watching town, and it’s the best place to do it from if you plan on it during your trip. It also has a really good grocery store while you’re there. They have a huge selection of juices (including apple raspberry and carrot blackberry), vegan deli meat, Violife vegan cheese (every type!), and lots of bread and produce!
There are plenty of options in Akureyri, but they aren’t quite as cheap.
Land of Game of Thrones filming locations, famous mountains, fjords, puffins, and grassy sea cliffs—this region is a bit more frequented than eastern Iceland but still very remote. You’ll want at least a few days to explore this place, and if you’re able, try to make it to the West Fjords (the one area we were unable to get to).
This is the best region for hikers, skiers, and people who love sheep (seriously there are even more here than there are in southern Iceland- except they’re wild and run along with cars). There are also same great places to eat and scenic picnic spots!
This modern cafe is situated in the harbor town of Stykkisholmur (where the Greenland scenes were filmed in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty). It’s the perfect town for morning walks and puffin sightings, and if you’re going to get souvenirs, get them here.
There are lots of little local makers who sell lava bracelets, paintings, and Icelandic goods along the harbor.
After, come to Cafe Nu to warm up! The baristas really know their stuff, and the inside is filled with local art and armchairs! We loved to sit at the outdoor tables and enjoy the sun, as we enjoyed our oat milk cappuccinos and ridiculously pretty tea (served in glass, no less).
They also serve vegan apple cake, various pies, and savory vegan pastries!
This is located beside Kirkjufell on the Snaefellsness Peninsula. It’s technically a grocery store, but they carry great vegan picnic food so it’s worth looking at it as more than a market and gas stop.
Grab vegan cheese and bread (or if you have the funds, they have lots of spreads and fresh veggies to add to your sandwich), Icelandic candy, Lingonberry jam, crackers, and fruit soda!
This was honestly one of my favorite spots to eat, not going to lie. We grabbed our ingredients and made a picnic on the hill overlooking the famous mountain. Sheep walked by us constantly, the sea breeze felt magical, and the food was incredible. Food is best eaten outside, so in a place as scenic as this volcanic peninsula, it would be a shame to spend it inside one of the few restaurants in the area. Do yourself a favor and either cook outdoors or have picnic food! We did that the entire time we were in the area.
There are so many places to eat vegan in Iceland (the tiny airport alone is filled with really fresh options), and everything is local and flavorful. People don’t usually think of Iceland being a vegan food destination, but you should, because it definitely is. It’s one of the many reasons Iceland became my favorite country in the world while we explored the wild there in 2019.
Photo: Emily Iris Degn