Ben and I spent 16 days in Iceland from June 5 – 20, 2016. Below is an outline of the city or village we went to each day. In this post, I’ll also give some tips and things we learned along the way. I’ll follow-up this post with each individual day of traveling and all the things we got to do and see. I hope that everything I share will encourage you to visit this beautiful country and help you in the planning process!
Day 1: Reykjavik Day 2: Hella Day 3: Hof Day 4: Höfn Day 5: Lake Myvatn Day 6: Lake Myvatn Day 7: Akureyri Day 8: Thorfinnsstadir Day 9: Flateyri Day 10: Hagi Day 11: Hagi Day 12: Seljaland Day 13: Arnarstapi Day 14: Borgarnes Day 15: Reykjavik Day 16: Flew home
10 Must Know Tips For Traveling to Iceland:
- Money – Iceland is expensive! At least for those with US money. Expect to pay a lot for food and for gas. While there, we used a converter app on our phones to convert Icelandic krona to US dollars so we knew how much we were getting charged.
- Hotels – If you book early enough, you can get decent prices on hotels. I booked majority of our places using booking.com. I started booking places in February even though our trip wasn’t until June. I love booking.com because they offer free cancellation on most rooms which means that your reservation is secure, but you can cancel or change it if needed up to a certain date. Each hotel spells out their cancellation policy for you. Just make sure you book a hotel that offers “free cancellation.” Also, if you are on a budget like we were, you can expect to stay at hotels that have a shared bath where you have to take turns with other guests. We personally didn’t find this to be a problem, but if you prefer your own private bathroom (if offered) then expect to pay a bit more for your rooms.
- Plane tickets – I also booked our airplane tickets in February and we got great rates using WOW air. However, Ben and I pack really light so we were able to just bring carry-on bags. If you plan to check in bags, expect to pay extra money. We flew Southwest Airlines to Boston, then WOW air to Keflavik International Airport in Iceland. Icelandair is another airline that you can check out as well.
- Rental Car – If you are planning on driving around Iceland, I highly suggest renting a 4×4 vehicle. Expect to pay a lot for a rental car (at least for a 4×4). Our rental car cost more than our combined airplane tickets! We rented from Reykjavik rent-a-car located right by the airport, and we had a really good experience with them. We had CDW rental car insurance with our credit card company since we booked the car using the credit card. Check with your credit card company prior to doing this. We took out additional sand and ash insurance, as well as gravel insurance with the rental car company. I would say that gravel insurance is a MUST because there are tons of gravel roads in Iceland!
- Roads – If you stick to the Ring Road, the main paved road that goes around the country, then the roads aren’t too bad. However, if you go off the beaten path a bit like we did in the north and in the West Fjords, then expect rough, mountainous roads. A lot of the roads off the Ring Road are gravel and some are steep since you’re climbing up and down mountain ridges. Some of the driving is not for the faint-of-heart. Some of the roads we traveled were narrow, on the edge of cliffs, and without guard rails. Thankfully, Ben is a beast at driving so we made it in one piece! If you are anything like my husband, you will think this kind of driving is fun and exciting! If you’re anxious like me, you will have some moments where you are cringing and covering your eyes! These road tips that I am providing only apply to summer time. Driving in Iceland during winter is a whole different beast from what I have read and there are many roads that we traveled this summer that are closed during the winter. For all times of the year in Iceland, make sure to check road conditions at road.is.
- Weather – We were very fortunate with the weather while we were in Iceland. We had few cloudy days, only two days of rain, and plenty of sunny days. However, Iceland’s weather is known to change rapidly so it’s hard to know what to expect. If you travel during the summer in June, what you CAN expect for sure is 24 hours of daylight! We brought sleep masks to help block out the sunlight at bedtime. I can’t really speak for winter time since I’ve only been there during the summer. What I do know about the winter is that there’s shorter amount of daylight, snow, and you get to experience the northern lights, which would make it totally worth another trip! On average the temperature while we were in Iceland was in the 50’s.
- Clothing – Make sure to bring layers of clothes because some days are hot and others are windy and chilly. I brought a light puffer jacket, a puffer vest, and a waterproof fleece-lined jacket. I brought fleece-lined leggings, one pair of jeans, sweatpants, and some regular leggings. For tops, I brought just regular long-sleeve shirts. Ben had a puffer jacket, a waterproof jacket, and a cotton hoodie. He wore jeans daily and long-sleeve Henley shirts under his jackets. If you plan to get close to the waterfalls, make sure you wear waterproof clothing. We brought gloves and I wore beanies regularly to control my crazy hair and so my ears didn’t freeze off! Regular tennis shoes will do just fine. I DO NOT like being cold at all, and I was never miserable there as long as I dressed appropriately. For other cold-natured creatures like me…if I can do it, you definitely can!
- Attractions – Thankfully, in Iceland most attractions are free because they are natural areas of beauty and open to the public. However, there are a few activities that we did such as a glacier hike, swimming at the Blue Lagoon and Lake Myvatn Nature Baths, a cave tour, iceberg lagoon boat ride, and a few others things that we had to pay for. When you do have to pay for an attraction, expect to shell out a bit of money to do so, but know that it is always worth it! I found out about the attractions we did through Pinterest, Google, and Iceland travel books.
- Hiking – If you are going to Iceland, expect a hike to just about any area of natural beauty you plan to visit. As I posted pictures to social media throughout our trip, one thing I kept thinking was that my pictures were a bit deceiving because no one could really see the amount of work behind the scenes that it took to reach each place. Some hikes were easier and shorter than others. Some were strenuous and all uphill or up a ton of stairs. I did a lot of research when in the planning stages of this trip, and I didn’t really come across many sites that talked about what to expect in terms of getting out to each attraction. For example, we went to a plane wreckage located on the beach and I read that you could park and walk to the wreckage site. However, what was NOT mentioned was that it was a 5 mile hike (2.5 miles each way) to get to the plane! Since I want this information to be helpful to you, I want you to expect some hiking if you’re planning to get up close and personal with the sights. Ben and I are no fitness gurus, so don’t be deterred by the physical expectations, but be prepared, be careful, and take your time.
- Necessities –
- Food/Water: Iceland has a few towns that are bigger in nature, but majority of the places are tiny villages out in the middle of nowhere. Some of these villages have a couple of restaurants, some may have one, and others have none. We are not foodies, so we didn’t do much research about where or what to eat before we left. We went to the grocery when we got there and stocked up on peanut butter and jelly supplies and relied on PB&J’s for some meals if there wasn’t a restaurant in the village. The gas stations often double as restaurants, so we ate at several gas stations. We ate a lot of hamburgers and pizza since that was the most reasonably priced items on the menu. Iceland has the coldest water! Also, because water is so prevalent since there are waterfalls just about everywhere you turn, you can just fill up your water bottle at one of the falls. At least, that’s what we did. Of course, you can stock up on water at the grocery as well like normal people.
- Gas Stations: I would not say that gas stations are scarce, but if you see one, just go ahead and fill up for peace of mind. It’s really not a problem though, especially around the Ring Road.
- Medication: I would suggest bringing some headache, tummy, allergy, and whatever other medication with you because Iceland does not carry common brands and well, you can’t read what their medicines are. I got a migraine our first night there and if it wasn’t for Ben being prepared and bringing migraine medicine, I would have been in some serious pain. Their gas stations and grocery stores do not carry medication like ours in the US do because they have separate pharmacies (with the green cross) that carry these items. I got some weird allergic reaction on my hands and we couldn’t find a pharmacy that was open and anyone I used the word “Benadryl” with looked at me like I had two heads. Our hotel owner ended up giving me some cream where I couldn’t read any of the words on the tube. I just trusted that whatever she gave me would mean that I would still have hands the next day! Thankfully, that Icelandic cream was some good stuff and cleared up my allergic reaction! I am not typically sickly, so I didn’t think to bring any medicines with me. So, make sure that you are prepared for any unexpected ailments!
- Toiletries: No one talked about this when I was researching, but let’s be honest…nature may call while you are out in the middle of nowhere! Just pick up some toilet paper at the grocery in case you need it. For the most part, you will be able to stop at a little village to use the bathroom. Some of the bigger attractions that get a lot of tourists typically have bathrooms near the parking lot, BUT I found that a lot of these bathrooms were out of toilet paper so you might as well bring some in with you just in case. You will go periods of time without seeing a town or bathroom, so best to be prepared.
- Language: Icelanders learn to speak english in school so the language barrier is no problem at all for English-speaking people. Restaurants typically have items listed in both Icelandic and English.
I hope all of these tips will be helpful to you in your planning or dreaming stage! Message me using my contact form if you have any further questions!