After one short trip to Iceland, I’m not even trying to claim to be an expert about the country. There are, however, some things that I noticed during the trip, things that I did not even think of before travelling, or things I would have liked to know before heading off, or while planning the trip. I know that there are several people considering travelling to, or making actual plans for their trip to Iceland, so I thought that as the last post about our recent trip, I’d share my top tips for Iceland here:
Rent a car
I cannot emphasise this enough. Without a car, your trip will end up being mostly about Reykjavik and its vicinity. This means you’ll miss out on many cool experiences. Whether you are staying in the country for two days or two weeks, it is still recommendable to rent the car as the public transport in Iceland is pretty nonexistent. There are of course plenty of tours starting from Reykjavik that you can take, but having your own car makes the whole trip just a lot easier. Driving in Iceland is super easy. There is barely no traffic, the roads are in good condition and the scenery along the roads is simply amazing. There are plenty of car rental agencies at Keflavik airport and the prices are very reasonable. Our 4WD car for five days with gas, for a trip of 1100kms, ended up costing just over 400 euros. In comparison, just the taxi from the airport to Reykjavik and back would’ve been half of this..
Do not stay only in Reykjavik
Trust me, Iceland is not a country where you go for a city-break. The cool stuff is outside the capital. And there is plenty of it! I already mentioned previously that I did not find Reykjavik that amazing. Surely the city is all pretty with the wooden houses along the main streets and with all the excellent restaurants, so the city is not terrible. It is just that with all the amazing places in the country, the capital just can’t compete with the other places.
Blue Lagoon is heavily over-rated
I did share my personal opinion about Blue Lagoon earlier. Seriously, I just would not recommend it to anyone. Go and find a less known thermal pool, there are plenty of those around. With less people, less hype and more authenticity, I’m sure you’ll enjoy a much more relaxing bath than what Blue Lagoon can offer.
There are more waterfalls than you can ever count
Friendly advice: do not get excited about the first waterfalls you see, they are probably those with just drops of 2 meters (like I did). Trust me, there are hundreds of high and cool ones you’ll see during the trip, regardless of which part of the country you are travelling to. If you do, you’ll most likely end up feeling pretty ignorant about even the cool ones after a few days. I mean, there is a seroius risk of waterfall overdose here! There are more waterfalls than you can even count in the country, and most of them are simply gorgeous. They are around every single corner. Just like sheep. And churches. There is actually a good chance that you’ll end up seeing tens of waterfalls and sheep for every person that you see on the trip.
Just forget about jeans and high heels
Let’s face it. You’ll spend hours sitting in the car and walking outside. And by outside I mean on trails, hills, cliffs and fields. So you’ll want to have something comfortable on and have sturdy shoes with you. Also, bear in mind that Iceland is not really well known for amazing weather. It is a well-known saying that if you do not like the weather, just wait five minutes. Seriously, there must be rain on every single day of the year, but there is some sunshine between the showers too. So the weather changes quickly. It is also extremely windy out there most of the time, and I’m not meaning any small breezes, but real, full blowing winds that make you want to hold on to your hat with two hands. These two things combined, you’ll want to pack more woolen underwear and wind- and waterproof gear, rather than the fancy clothes that will eventually make you feel wet, cold and uncomfortable. Oh yeah, and do not forget the sunglasses, not even if the forecast says it will rain every day. It most propably will, but just like mentioned already, there most likely will still be some sunshine too after each shower.
You can pay with a card everywhere
Seriously, you do not need much cash, if any. You can pay with credit card everywhere. And by that I really mean everywhere. When arriving at the airport we withdrew some 200 euros worth of cash for the five days (for two people) and ended up having actually think of best ways to get rid of the last notes on our last day.
Keep the country clean
Surely, this is something that applies to any country and something that should go without saying everywhere. Iceland, however, is well known for the beautiful nature and people are proud of it. The country is amazingly clean and there is hardly any trash anywhere, not even at the most popular tourist attractions. And this is even despite the fact that there are no trans cans to be found around every corner. So if you take something to the trip, make sure you take care of it finding its way back home, or to the nearest trash can.
Plan your trip well in advance
Iceland is home to hundreds of interesting places. And most likely you’ll only have a limited time in there. In order to make the most out of your trip, it is strongly advisable to plan the route in detail before you go. The road to most famous attractions is clearly marked, but for all the smaller ones, you need to know where you are going. The interesting places are spreaded all over the country, and without good planning, you’ll end up either driving around like crazy, or miss out on most of the places. With good planning, it is easy to create a good route that passes by the attractions you want to see in the right orders, so you won’t end up driving back and forth, nor driving right past the most gorgeous places, only because you did not know it was there.. So with the help of Google, a map and some planning time, you make sure that the upcoming trip will be a success.
I personally found TravellersPoint to be the best tool for this trip. After finding an interesting place on Google, I marked the point in the planning tool. After finding all the places I wanted to see, it was easy to just select the right order to go through these places with minimum driving distance. Usually I hail Google Maps on my travel planning, but in this case, it just did not work. The reason? It allows you to create a route with only up to ten points of interest. And let’s be honest, ten places would be enough if you only had one or two days to use, not five. Also the good thing with TravellersPoint is that you can save the plan and use it during the trip to check out where to go next. You can also share the link with your friends so that they can see the plan too and even modify it when needed. Super cool for planning longer road trips with many people!
Iceland is not expensive
For some reason, Iceland is regarded as a super expensive country. Surely this strongly depends on the country you compare it to, and surely it can’t compete with the prices in SE Asia, but when compared to the northern European countries, I found the prices not to differ significantly from those in Finland, Sweden, or even Germany.