Being Vegetarian in Iceland
Okay, let’s break the myth. It is not difficult to find vegetarian food while traveling in Iceland. I’m a pretty strict vegetarian (I won’t eat gravy from a meat dish, I won’t mix cutlery, and I don’t eggs), but I had no problems being vegetarian in Iceland! Everything I had read online had scared me into thinking I would need tons of snacks (so I packed A LOT of food) but it was really quite okay! Sure, I didn’t have tons of variety or couldn’t try anything very exotic or exciting. But you can definitely find enough vegetarian in Iceland. And you certainly won’t starve (which is what I had imagined for my week in Iceland).
Here are some tips for being vegetarian in Iceland:
Buy groceries and cook
As you probably already know, Iceland is notoriously expensive! I literally spent USD 25 on a vegetarian baguette sandwich at a café, and USD 16 on SOUP. Not even soup in a fancy ceramic cup or anything; literally soup in a plastic cup like you’d get at a Hale and Hearty or something. It’s very easy to lose track of how much you’re spending on food in Iceland. So whether you’re vegetarian in Iceland or not, try to cook at least one meal (if not two) in your Airbnb (I highly recommend choosing an Airbnb over a hotel to save some $$$).
Bonus is the best (and cheapest) grocery store in the country; we stocked up on groceries right outside of Reykjavik. The town we stayed in for the rest of our road trip had one grocery store, which only sold cheese and wine. So it’s probably best to either do some research before you head out, to ensure that you will have access to some grocery stores on the road, or stock up when you’re heading out of Reykjavik.
Stock up on snacks for the road
Being vegetarian in Iceland is not the biggest problem. Rather, the bigger difficulty is finding food – period. If (like most people) you’re doing a road trip in Iceland, you’ll invariably be driving for hours without much around. The country is gorgeous, but empty and (kind of) eerie. That’s just Iceland for you! As a result, there are no gas stations to pick up some food, no vending machines, no McDonalds or Taco Bell’s! So, stock up on tons of snacks for the road – granola bars, nuts, chips and chocolates, biscuits, cheese. You can even consider packing some leftovers from your cooking the previous day.
Have some Skyr, sandwiches and soups at tourist hotspots
If you’re doing a traditional road trip in Iceland, your itinerary will cover stops that most tourists hit up. Most of these places will have a café or tourist center attached, where you can pick up some food. This was the case along the Golden Circle, at the Blue Lagoon, and at Skaftafell National Park. And there will always be at least one vegetarian option. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised at the number of vegan options available too! Seems like Iceland’s vegan culture is rising. Try some Skyr (Icelandic Greek yogurt) or some sandwiches and soups, which are readily available everywhere. Keep in mind, however, that this will definitely be expensive, so don’t be too surprised.
Plan in advance with Google Maps and TripAdvisor
For most other stops along our route (Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls, Solheimasandur Airplane Wreck, Vik’s Black Sand Beach and Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon), there weren’t any cafes or restaurants closeby. Hence, it’s best to do a bit of prior planning on Google Maps or TripAdvisor. Iceland just isn’t one of those places where you can be spontaneous. You can’t leave meals to the minute you’re hungry. You definitely won’t find something right away! So it’s best to find something in advance, and plan your route accordingly.
Hit up vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Iceland
Here are some vegetarian-friendly spots that you can hit up –
- Hverfisgata 12: Excellent pizzeria, one of the best in the city
- Culiacan: Good Mexican food, with a separate vegan menu
- Italia: One of Reykjavik’s oldest Italian restaurants, with plenty vegetarian options
- Durum: Relatively inexpensive spot, serving wraps, sandwiches and soups. Great for lunch
- Coocoo’s Nest: Adorable and cozy spot, serving an eclectic menu. Sandwiches and soups through the day, happy hour in the evening, tacos on Tuesday’s, and pastas in the evening. Heaven for vegetarians!
- Cafés: Explore one of Reykjavik’s many homey cafés that serve vegetarian breakfast and lunch
On the road trip:
- Eldsto Art Café: this is an art gallery, a café and bistro, and a guesthouse, all-in-one. It’s on your way from Reykjavik to Vik on the Ring Road.
- Fridheimar: A tomato farm, where you can tour the greenhouse and have a fully-tomato themed meal i.e. being vegetarian in Iceland just got a lot easier! They serve tomato soup and bread, fresh pasta, salads and wraps (all with something tomato), and tomato-themed dessert (think tomato pie, tomato ice cream and tomato cheesecake). COOL! It’s not exactly on the Ring Road, but it’s worth the detour.
- Tryggvaskali: A cozy little home serving Scandinavian fare, between Reykjavik and Vik on the Ring Road. They are extremely accommodating of vegetarians!
- Sudur Vik and Halldorskaffi: Vegetarian-friendly, great pizzas, pastas and general European food
There you go! Being vegetarian in Iceland wasn’t as difficult as I thought. It was just extremely expensive, so I would highly recommend cooking 🙂 I hope these tips come in handy!