I have just returned from a tour around Iceland and I can tell you, it was quite an experience! Waterfalls, icebergs, amazing scenery, volcanos, lava rocks, although not many trees or plants, and lots of rain!
It is a very interesting country but if you are planning a trip here, don’t expect much from the vegan perspective! And I strongly recommend that you plan ahead and go prepared!
The country itself
I found the food industry in Iceland, relatively understanding of vegan needs. Which is pretty impressive for a country that uses animals for entertainment and clothing, both fur and wool, and I have never seen so many horse riding centres. However I am not judging this lifestyle, as clearly it is a country where not many plants grow – there were no obvious signs that I saw of agriculture except for one poly-tunnel farm quite near the capital.
Clearly using animals for food and clothing is a key way of life for Iceland, although most of their needs are met through importing – hence the astronomical prices in cafes/restaurants – even the average meal will cost about £20-25 per head, and a bowl of soup with bread coming in at about £12!
Vegan food availability
Prior to my travels I found the advice was simply that in Reykjavik, the Capital, there will be options but beyond that prepare to self-cater as a vegan. Which I did and it worked really well. So I realise there MAY have been more vegan options available in the places I visited, but if there were – it really wasn’t at all obvious!
Generally the majority of ‘towns’ are tiny – with a handful of houses, a shop and maybe a petrol station, so of course choices would be limited. However in the few larger towns that I found where there were many houses, a supermarket and limited shops – I found that in the supermarket there was an amazing choice of specific vegan products including multiple brands of plant milk, plant cheeses, even some burgers and processed products – and these products were clearly labelled ‘VEGAN’!!
So bearing in mind that Iceland is about the scenery, driving, walking and touring – it made it easy to buy foods for packed lunches and to make simple dinners when staying in accommodation with kitchen facilities.
Vegan in restaurants?
Well, there is only one fully vegan restaurant in Iceland which is Vinyl Cafe in Reykjavik. It is a quaint and cosy with a good menu, although sadly the vegetable chips to accompany my black bean quinoa burger were unavailable, so I could only choose from crisps or nachos – and it was a very small handful! The burger was really good and filling, albeit at Icelandic prices!!
I also found that in Reykjavik, there were lot of restaurants which provided clearly marked vegan options – so there really is a good choice here compared to the rest of the country.
What I also found was that plant milk was generally widely available in cafes in the larger towns too, although as I said there wasn’t many of them!
Advice for vegan travellers
My advice for any vegans heading to Iceland is to plan ahead and come prepared! If you are exploring the country, you will want to think about the following:
- Bring vegan snacks and bars from home, they are available in big places but very expensive
- Choices will be limited, so consider bringing chilli flakes or spices to add a bit of flavour to your meals
- Bring a lunch box and flask, it was easy to buy plant milk and having that flask meant we could enjoy a cuppa whenever we needed!
- Book accommodation with kitchen facilities so you can self-cater beyond Reykjavik
- If travelling with a baby or toddler, bring pouches (and nappies!) again they are available but very expensive – I took a supply for the duration, including snacks, so I never had to worry about what to feed my little one (see my other blog of travelling with an infant for further ideas)
- Shop at Reykjavik before your venture further – you will find big and well stocked supermarkets here where you can stock up on plant milks, plant cheese or nut butters and anything else you need before you move onto places where you will only find the basics
Iceland is not the easiest country for a vegan, it requires some planning to make sure you eat properly throughout your stay – especially beyond the Capital. However coming prepared and then making the most of the options that are available, including the plant milks and cheeses – will make your vegan stay much easier!
After all, this is a country to enjoy the endless amazing scenery, not a vegan culinary experience 🙂