This article is intended for anyone planning a trip to Iceland. There are more cautions included here than highlights and praises because those are typically the most useful for travelers, but Iceland is 100% worth the trip. Below is a helpful list of tips, tricks and things I would have done differently.
Iceland. It’s the hottest travel destination since Disneyworld 20 years ago. Everyone and their mother seems to be going on the trip. And I myself, jumped onto the chilly bandwagon. Now let me start by saying, Iceland was not my first choice. I haven’t spent much time outdoors in my life and tend to prefer vacations that include poolside mango daiquiris and lavish tropic clubs. I remember packing my bag for Iceland almost begrudgingly; snow boots, hand warmers, protein bars and a pair of borrowed hiking boots. “Is this even a vacation?” I wondered in the days leading up to our departure.
I still wonder how my boyfriend ever convinced me that this would be a fun trip, but I trusted him. He’s a camping, hunting, G.I. Joe extraordinaire and I was confident that under his supervision and thoughtful preparation, I’d survive. And survive I did! Looking back now, I wouldn’t have had our first vacation together any other way. If you’re going to Iceland, here are some tips for other bandwagon-ers like me and any girls who’ve spent way less time outdoors than they’d like to admit.
1. Rent a car.
Exploring on your own (sin tour guide) is empowering. You’ll discover things about yourself you never knew before (I can read a map!) and you can relish in the spontaneity of not having a set schedule. An SUV or 4X4 is recommended for exploring more remote routes. Plus, Iceland is small and there’s one main road that’s pretty easy to follow so don’t fear venturing out on your own. Maybe I can’t really read a map then…
Along with renting the car: You should stop and get gas when you have the opportunity. There are some pretty long stretches of land with no prospects of fueling up, and you don’t want to find yourself in a pinch. This may or may not have happened to us. Hint: it did. Also, stocking up on some snacks and non-perishables is much recommended as you might find yourself in some pretty remote places.
2. Accept that you may not see the Northern Lights.
It’s the first question everyone will ask you when you say you’re going to Iceland and the first question everyone will ask you when you get home. It’s actually surprisingly difficult to see them. I won’t get into the science of it, but the conditions to see the aurora have to be just right to get a glimpse of the famous bright green sky. On our trip, we met multiple groups of people who’d been to Iceland 5+ times trying to see the Northern Lights and had yet to do so. If you make seeing them the #1 goal of your trip to Iceland, you may be disappointed and waste a lot of time watching the weather conditions and driving out into no-mans-land in the middle of the night. And if by chance you do get to take in this supernatural wonder, soak it all in.
3. Book The Blue Lagoon in advance.
This is the top tourist attraction in Iceland and it will be fully booked by tour groups and buses and people who are far better planners than my boyfriend and I were. If you want to take a dip, plan your trip. In peak season, you’ll want to reserve your lagoonin’ 4-6 weeks ahead of schedule. There are other hot springs and lagoons throughout the country but they’re less well known, require a little more effort to find, and may not get you that crystal blue Instagram pic you’re looking for.
4. Plan for 9-10 days.
If you travel to Iceland for a week and a half, you can comfortably make it the whole way around the country. Apparently the north and south and very different and both are worth checking out. We wish we would have known this tidbit before planning our flights.
5. Do not eat the shark.
Simply put, you’ll regret it. And this comes from someone who fully embraces YOLO when it comes to trying different things, especially when traveling. Take it from me and pass on this one.
6. Go with someone special to you.
Either bae or your besties or your family are all good choices. Iceland is a place you’ll want to explore and adventure with someone you love. Also, Iceland is quiet. Like really quiet. There’s a lot less hustle and bustle than we’re used to and you’ll find that it’s an opportunity to discover many new things about your travel companion, no matter how long you’ve known each other. You’ll find comfort in long life talks and the enchanting nothing-ness of this place. Here also a Travel Couple’s Bucket list if you and bae have a lot of traveling you want to do together.
You can check out some photos from my own trip to Iceland below, and feel free to comment your own tips!