So for all you adventurous travellers out there; Iceland is no doubt on your bucket list. For those who are planning a trip out there, you will come to realise that it is not quite as tourist friendly as one might hope. So here is your ultimate mini travel guide to the land of fire and ice…!
RENT A CAR…and be prepared to drive, a lot.
When you fly into Iceland, most likely at Reykjavik airport, you are going to be awestruck by phenomenal landscapes resembling crazy martian lands. You are going to want the freedom and flexibility to explore and stop for photos (believe me!). A little car (that has the capabilities of some off road driving just in case!) with the tunes blasting is hands down the best way to enjoy the spectacular natural wonders Iceland can offer. From waterfalls to volcanoes and glaciers, most places are about a two to four hour drive away from Reykjavik centre so a car is a must. Also, definitely splurge for full coverage on your insurance if you are renting a car as the roads are rocky and a bit of scruffing up is guaranteed.
DONT BE AFRAID TO STOP ROADSIDE… for some sick photos (and a bathroom break…!)
The drives in Iceland are long and the roads are pretty much empty except for the crazy alien landscape you see. As such definitely feel free to pull up and pop out for a wander and photo, and if you’re desperate, a little bush bathroom break as take it from me – gas stations and their bathrooms are very spread out here, and closed when the sun goes down.
SAVE UP MONEY…because everything is expensive, expensive.
Now onto next part, with all the driving you are going to need a lot of gas. Which in Iceland, comes at a bit of a cost. Every time we filled up our tank we spent at least £40… so it does not come cheap if you are driving up to eight hours exploring every day. Also be prepared to pay a steep mark up for food (think £10 for canteen soup…), I am guessing as Iceland is inland that most food is imported hence the high price. So just be prepared and bring snacks from home for the car rides!
DON’T FORGET TO PUT GAS BEFORE EVERY DRIVE…
We may have attempted to drive through a national park with a half tank…and realised when we were in the middle of the park with the red sign beeping that we were at least an hour and a half drive away from any decent gas stations. As the skies darkened and the clouds filled with rain, we nervously laughed and contemplated our fate of pushing the car through the park in the rain… Finally we stumbled upon a derelict gas station ^photo above (it contained no staff and the only soda I saw was this paper one on the wall), which luckily had working gas pumps and thankfully managed to fill our tanks. I would definitely recommend making sure to pop regularly into the gas stations when you see them as they do come quite few when you are in certain more rural areas.
BRING A CAMERA…the landscapes are everything.
There was a time when I thought I would never stop snapping photos- glaciers, volcanos, waterfalls, black sand beaches… This is the PLACE for crazy out worldly landscapes that you will not be able to find anywhere else. Bring extra battery, film, memory cards, storage space on your iphone. The WORKS. You won’t regret it!
PACK SUGAR CUBES…or carrots in your trunk.
You never know when you may come across a lovely pack of Icelandic ponies, who are soft to touch and extremely sweet natured and as such deserve a little treat! Make their day and yours by giving them a little sugar cube or chunk of carrot to thank them for being the gentle beautiful creatures that they are. The ponies are scattered all around the country and migrate in packs, you are sure to come across them but just be sure not to scare them or put yourself in any danger by angering them!
BRING YOUR BATHERS…for your relaxing dip in the gorgeous blue lagoon.
At the end of your trip, you will most definitely have to treat yourself to a trip to the Blue Lagoon. It is right near the airport and as such you have no excuse at all. Plus who is going to say no to a three hour spa dip with mud masks and the works at one of the most ethereal baths. It doesn’t come cheap at around £43 for a standard ticket but it is WORTH it so save up and go. Also, make sure you pre-book at least a month in advance because it gets booked up pretty full and would be so disappointing to go to Iceland and miss out on the beautiful geothermal blue lagoon.
STAY IN TWO HOTELS; one in city of Reykjavic and one near Vik..
I would recommend a hotel in the city centre for the first and last nights of your trips – first because you want to explore the city and second for the night before your flight. In the meantime I would recommend being based in the little town of Vik (image above of mountains and view of black sand beach!), a two hour drive from Reykjavic and in between the city and the gorgeous natural wonders of black sand beaches and glaciers. The Icelandair Hotels in Vik is my little fave that has beautiful floor to ceiling windows in the rooms to give you full views of the night sky – perfect for the off chance of a glimpse at the Northern Lights.
This is quite a hit or miss experience so do not be disappointed if you miss out!! I have been twice myself and have yet to see them; however the beautiful landscapes within Iceland greatly makes up for any lack of seeing the lights. So do not add too much stress on seeing them as it is magical when you do however not super essential!
From hiking to exploring, you will be a mixture of hot and cold and if you are visiting during winter or autumn, you are going to require a mix of thermals and layers. My go-to would be Uniqlo heat tech thermals, coupled with a sweater, a gilet and a Moncler puffy coat. Also definitely be sure to pop on some warm socks and foot wear. I had my hiking boots on, which isn’t too essential – you can definitely wing it with some Nikes if your socks are warm. Go for sporty gear in case you fancy some hiking.
BEST TIME TO GO IS…
I have been to Iceland twice, once in the summer and once in November time. The contrast was striking and the landscapes are much more spectacular during winter time. The waterfall smoke is larger, the colors of the landscapes more stark and the icebergs are larger. All in all, Iceland is way more impressive in the winter months so visit for then.