As many asked, here’s every technical points about my trip to Iceland. From my dos and don’ts and all the things I think might be useful to plan an amazing trip to Paradise island. We didn’t plan as much as we should have, but we still figured out a way to see everything we wanted to see.
The first thing we did was obviously buying our flight tickets. I know Wow Air has really nice deals for flights to Europe including Iceland, but they are only profitable on certains dates and since we wanted really specific dates, we weren’t really getting a deal with Wow air. So we took Iceland Air and had an excellent service, so I would really recommend it. We paid approximately 700$, but you can get way better prices if you wait until your departure date.
We rent a car, mostly for transport, but also to sleep in. Since 2010, it is illegal to park overnight with a trailer or a camper in public parkings. Since we only had a car, we didn’t know if it was illegal or not so we chose specific places where we knew that we could at least justify our stay. We slept most nights in park areas next to the main road. You can fin those areas but looking at the road signs, the sign is blue and has a table and a pine tree on it. We also brought a tent for the nights that we wanted to shower (yeah, kind of gross, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯), but campsites are expensive too. Hostels and hotels are honestly out of price (well, at least for my budget), so if you are planning on only sleeping in hostels and hotels, I recommend you to plan a good amount of money for it. The average cost for a night in a hotel is 20 000ISK which is 272,59 Canadian dollar (on june 6th 2017).
Both of us is 18, so it was kind of hard to find a company that allowed people under 21 years old to rent a car, but Rental 24h does and it only costs 6 or 7 dollars a day for the extra insurance.
The gas here is crazy expensive but, what can you do… It’s at least twice the price we pay in Quebec. If they don’t already give it to you, you can ask for the N1 discount card that obviously gives you discounts. It’s not a lot but a discount is still a discount.
We didn’t rent a 4×4 and we didn’t need too, but that depends on what you want to do. There is some roads that are only accessible by 4×4, and if you go with a normal car, you get a fine for it.
The food in restaurant is also crazy expensive, but like even more than gas. Charlie and I brought most of our food, like protein bars and canned tuna. It was doing the job, until we came to the point where there was no more bars or canned tuna. When then bought some food at the groceries store, but anything that needed to be cooked. There’s three chain store that sell food to a suitable price; Kronan, you can recognize it by the lemon that smiles in the « O », Bonus, which can be recognize by the pink pig, also in the « O », and Netto, that can also be recognize with the apple in the « O » (I guess Icelandic people have something with Os)
We were doing to Road Ring, which is the road that goes around the whole island. We didn’t get quite good weather so we kind of did it fast. If you get nice weather, there is plenty of places where you can just enjoy yourself and hang around, but when it rains, things are different. We didn’t want to get all wet because we were sleeping in the car and the clothes would never have dried. So when it rained, we would just run to see whatever waterfall or volcano or hot springs there were and then go back again in the car. That sucks a bit because we didn’t take the time to enjoy and read all the signs that explains when and how the « thing » got there.
We arrived at Reykjavik, our final destination 6 days before we planned to, so we just decided to knock at the door of the first farm we saw in the city of Borganes, approximately 50 kilometers north of Reykjavik. At first, the owners looked a us a bit weirdly, but finally said yes and let us help them on their farm the next day. We had the chance to sleep in their house and taste the typical Icelandic food the next day, which made us really happy because we clearly needed to sleep on a horizontal position instead of seated in the car.
There is not many « activities » to do in Iceland, every activity that you can do is around a landscapes or something to see. It is to you to decide if you want to see the landscapes by yourself or with a guide and a bus full of (mostly) Asian tourists. Here is MY top ten of things to do, but it is totally subjective with my taste and mostly my hate for passive things.
My top 10 places to see/things to do:
- The Blue Lagoon
The classical thermal bath in Iceland, located in Grìndavik. Yes, it is a little tourist trap and it’s really expensive for what it is, but it’s really worth it. The bright blue water and the black shiny rocks make an amazing view.
- The Black sand beach
Located in Vìk, the black sand beach is surrounded with sharp and/or holed rocks. It is objectively (well not really objectively) the prettiest beach I have ever seen.
- The icebergs of Jokulsàrlon
The gigantic pieces of ice that fall from the mountain and travel to the sea give an amazing show to the eye. You can walk around the « lake » or watch them go up to the sea. Either way, it is probably the most mesmerizing thing I have ever seen.
Surfing in Iceland is definitely not what most people think of doing first, but I think it is a really nice activity to do. There is not a lot of places where you can surf without getting eaten by a riptide or just getting hit on the rocky shores. Artic Surfers and Iceland activities offer some really nice tours, from 1 to 5 days. You can also rent boards and just ask for the bests spots around.
This waterfall is the biggest one of Europe. Depending on what side of the road your are coming from, you can walk a 4 kilometers hike next to the river and watch the amazing rainbows that just lay there all the time.
- Whale watching in Akureyri
This is definitely the most passive thing I’ve done in Iceland (still really nice tho). There is a lot of places to go Whale watching in the north part of the country, but we went to Akureyri mostly because of the people of the company we chose. We went with Ambassador and had a great tour. They have two locations; one in Akureyri, in the north part of the country, and one in Reykjavik. They guarantee that you are going to see whales, and if you don’t, you can come back whenever you want for free. The chances to see whales are higher in the north than in Reykjavik and there are less tourists there so I would recommend Akureyri. We saw a lot of whales. Mostly Humped back whales, but also minke whales. It is possible to see Blue whales but it is really rare, consider yourself lucky if you do.
- Visiting a local farm
Either you just go say hi or you offer our services on the farm, getting around local is really nice if you want to see the real face of the country and to get to know the culture a little better. If you’re lucky they might even invite you over for diner.
- The Ring road itself
Eve tho some moments might be a little long, I think doing the Ring road is a must when visiting Iceland. It gives you the opportunity to see absolutely every treasures Iceland hides.
- The many many hot springs
It can be either a natural bath or a public pool, all the water is heaten up by the hot water that travels underground. So you can spend the cold days in a hot pool for approximately 10$.
There is many hiking spots you can go to enjoy the even more beautiful landscapes from above the mountains. The weather makes it super fun because it never gets too hot to hike. But make sure to bring a extra jacket because de wind makes it freezing a the top.
I strongly recommend Iceland to everyone. It is clearly the most beautiful place I have ever seen, and I also think that it’s really nice to be this close to nature for a while. We went 3 weeks and I wouldn’t go longer than that, but I wouldn’t go less than 2 weeks, because there is a lot to see. 10 days is a little short if you want to do the ring road, but 14 days is perfect.
I think Iceland is one of the places you have to visit before you die, so hop on the plane before it gets popular and before the tourists take away the magic of the country.