Iceland is a breath-taking country with its unique landscape that varies from iceberg lakes to volcanoes! There is nothing quite like it.
I visited Iceland in November 2016 and had such a magical time but here are a few things I wish I knew before I left!
1) Do hire a 4 x 4
It might be a lot more expensive than a car but so many of the roads in Iceland are “f” roads (= only for 4x4s). There IS a road going the whole way round the country but if you wish to explore inside, plus a lot of national parks like Landmannalaugar, you’ll need to go off =-roading! Alternatively you could book bus tours but personally I prefer the freedom of a car – why not plan to go as a 4 so the 4 x 4 hire isn’t as expensive?
Also you should be aware that there is a 0% alcohol tolerance – so no drinking before driving.
For more information on roads in Iceland check out: http://www.road.is
2) Don’t spend too long in Reykjavik
If, like me you’re coming to Iceland for the amazing natural scenery then I wouldn’t spend more than a day in Reykjavik. It’s quite a small city so easy to walk around and see everything in an afternoon, make sure you go up Hallgrímskirkja for a view over the city.
Also it goes without saying – don’t expect to see the northern lights from Reykjavik – you’ll need to get away from the city lights.
3) Do look out for seals at Jokulsarlon
Year-round this glacial lake delights tourists with its numerous icebergs and crystal blue water. Something you may not know is that it is also filled with beautiful and curious seals.
If you head to this lake make sure to either head out on a boat trip or take a walk around the outskirts. We were followed for a couple of miles by a herd of 6 seals!
4) Don’t underestimate the weather
For some strange reason the temperature in Iceland just feels a lot colder than everywhere else. I checked the weather forecast a few days before leaving for Iceland and it said it was 1 degree Celsius, which was the same temperature as where I was. “Not so bad” I thought, luckily I did bring a lot of layers (think vest, thermo long sleeve top, jumper, thick jumper and coat) and still the cold was able to penetrate. So don’t underestimate the cold in Iceland especially if you’re heading there during the winter period.
5) Do book accommodation in advance
Iceland is a very sparse country and so if you’re planning on moving around and heading out to more rural areas do your research before coming! There are not airbnbs and hotels everywhere, so you will need to see what’s available in the areas you want to visit. I would recommend looking on airbnb and also using google to search for guesthouses and hotels.
6) Don’t visit the Sólheimasandur Plane Crash
Or at least know what you’re getting into before walking there! We hadn’t planned on visiting this but we saw loads of cars parked on the side of the road so naturally we were curious! After walking over an hour (in hail) to get there just to spend about 5 minutes to look at it, we then walked another hour back to the car park (in hail and wind). So I am maybe a bit biased due the weather conditions but personally I didn’t think the walk was worth it – and even if you have a 4 x 4 you can’t drive there as it’s private property.
7) Do go chasing waterfalls
The Icelandic word for waterfall is “foss”, so if you see a sign that ends in foss, go check it out! We didn’t research waterfalls too much but luckily we fell upon a lot on our drive!
I would definitely recommend, Seljalandsfoss (the one you can go behind), Skogafoss (pictured below and just a bit down the road from Seljalandsfoss) and Gulfoss (on the golden circle).
8) Don’t come empty handed
Similar for accommodation there are not many supermarkets around, plus you have to remember that everything in Iceland is super expensive! I would suggest bringing snacks with you such as cup-a-soups, crisps and biscuits, I also brought some brioche with me for breakfast!
9) Do bathe in a hot spring
I definitely recommend finding a natural hot spring in the wilderness and bathing in the perfectly warm water. There are several natural hot springs not to far from Reykjavik (“the golden circle”), for example the hot water river Reykjadalur.
Alternatively if you want a bit more comfort (and don’t fancy getting your kit off in the bitter cold outside) you could pay 6100 ISK (around 50€) to swim in the blue lagoon – an amazing experience but there are always lots of tourists!
The water does smell quite eggy but this is just how Icelandic water is – be it showering or filling up your water bottle (you can drink tap water) there is always a loitering eggy smell from the sulphur!
10) Don’t miss out on chatting with the locals
They are seriously so welcoming (and speak perfect English). We had an amazing experience staying in an airbnb with a local who invited us to dine with her and her friends and told us about what it was like growing up in Iceland among other stories.
Generally if you stay in an airbnb or guesthouse the hosts are locals, so make an effort to strike up a conversation.
I hope you enjoy your time in the magical country of Iceland! Please comment what your top “do’s and don’ts” would be and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog!