I am planning a trip to Iceland this summer and to get there I am searching for the most environment friendly way to get there.

What are my options to get to Iceland without flying? My starting location is Germany.

Until now the only way I found is the Smyril Line Ferry which would start from Denmark (2days).


3 Answers 3


Since no-one seems to be actually answering the question, the only public facing means to get to Iceland other than flying is the ferry you mentioned, this is confirmed by Iceland's own webpage for visitors (and, note, the same ferry is also the only way to get to the Faroe islands).

To get to the ferry itself, you can use the train, including several night trains through Germany which will take you as far as Odense (what makes sense depends on where exactly you live) and thus avoid driving.

The journey will take several days as a result. Personally, I would consider that this is too high a price to pay for a theoretically lower CO2 footprint and, instead, fly from Denmark to Iceland, taking the train to either Billund or Copenhagen and reducing your time/emissions in flight that way. You may be of a different opinion.

  • The OP has already mentioned this ferry in his question, i.e. he is already familiar with it. Instead, he is looking for other environmentally friendly options. Besides, in terms of CO2 footprint, taking a ship to Iceland is not better than flying there, which is the whole point of the OP's question. Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 11:40
  • @Johnnyjanko He asks what options are available. This is the only public facing option available there are no others. Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 11:41

As others have pointed out, ferries and cruise ships are not enviromentally friendlier than airliners.

Other than by a sailboat, it's actually possible to travel by a cargo ship. Yes, cargo ships are surprisingly eco-friendly. However, it's not so easy and straightforward. Cargo ships don't have fixed schedules and only take a limited number of passengers. The following website lists useful tips for travelling by cargo ships, as well as other tips for sustainable intercontinental travel: https://arimotravels.com/europe-to-america-without-flying/

  • Cargo ships are mostly not better than ferries. Only sail powered transport is, but those are unlikely to have anything scheduled for Iceland.
    – Willeke
    Commented Aug 1, 2023 at 8:20
  • 5
    @Willeke cargo ships' per-person emissions depend on how you calculate them - the marginal carbon footprint of adding a passenger to a ship that's going anyway is immeasurably small. Commented Aug 1, 2023 at 8:35
  • @Willeke I didn't invent that piece of information. If you click on the link I put into my answer, you can find this website: wired.com/story/… I don't know if that's true and accurate, but it seems legit to me. Commented Aug 1, 2023 at 8:51
  • 1
    @Johnnyjanko It depends. If the ferry is moving goods primarily, the energy per passenger km will look extremely high if you don't account for the goods. For transporting goods ships are fairly efficient per ton.
    – vidarlo
    Commented Aug 1, 2023 at 9:19
  • 2
    @vidarlo it doesn't make much sense to calculate cargo ship's emissions per person, not taking the actual cargo into account... :-) Commented Aug 1, 2023 at 11:31

First, your time in Iceland will have much bigger impact potential than the journey so think more about Leave No Trace principals for while you there (I presume you'll be hiking/camping parts of the trip). Heck, even using mineral sunscreen vs chemical is better.

Choose whichever option costs less because that carries the implication that fewer overall resources were involved per movement.

Cost to provision is a function of resources required, that's basic economics.

Realize you are a minimal delta on every commercial conveyance because they're already going there and are optimized for the journey.

Here's a breakdown of Greta's stunt, yes stunt, a few years back showing it was possibly the worst way to go as it was a small scale special trip using highly specialized, ie. resource intensive, equipment.

Malizia II Boeing787-9
Cost $5,000,000 $125,000,000
Construction CO2 kg 445,000 11,125,000
Cost/kg $11.24 $11.24
Lifetime Miles for vessel 83000 52500000
Lifetime kg co2 per mile 5 0.212
Plymouth/London-NYC 3300 4500
lifetime share kg co2 for New York crossing 584 23
air movements 4 2
CO2 per passenger 1,542 698
total CO2 2,126 721

Construction CO2 is an estimate based on the similar industrisl economies of France and Washington. 349kg is an IATA estimate. 445,000 is an estimate based on information released by 11th Hour Racing Team for yacht construction. 4500 is flight miles from LHR-JFK, but using Plymouth to New York would look even worse for Malizia II. There's only reports of 3 additional air movements but I'm going to presume the prince flew back as well.

You can tweak this or find more accurate numbers but I doubt very much it will close the gap between 600 and 23 or 2100 and 700.

You could consider hitching a ride on a recreational sail craft that's already making the journey and have some seafarer experience. But you'd still need to consider the footprint of the maritime complex that makes that possible.

  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Travel Meta, or in Travel Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Willeke
    Commented Aug 5, 2023 at 6:22

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