In the past few years Iceland has become a tourist hotspot. It used to sound so far away, so foreign, so unknown, the elusive…Iceland. However, nowadays I hear of more and more people making the trek to the sparsely populated country of only 320,000 people. I’ll admit, this past year I was one of those people who jumped on the bandwagon. I wasn’t going to let 2015 pass by without making my way to the faraway Nordic land.
Although Iceland is a very functioning society and everything is pretty straight forward, there are some things to keep in mind when planning your trip. Here are 10 things to help you get the most out of your Iceland experience!
1.Plan for the season that works best for you
Plan your trip during the time of year that makes most sense for you. It’s pretty straightforward; the summer months are warmer and the winter months are cold, cold, cold. The summer months have almost all-day sunlight while the winter months are dark for the majority of the day. Lastly, the summer months are almost double the price as the winter months. You would think it would obviously make more sense to spend more money and go during the warmer months but that’s not always the case. For instance, the best time of year to see the northern lights is during those dark, dreary winter months so it all depends on what you want to see.
If money doesn’t matter to you and you want to go in the summer just know that the summer is their high season and prices skyrocket. I went in August and although it was pricey I would recommend that time of year based on the fact that in the winter it’s dark for most of the day.
2. Budget accordingly
Don’t be surprised when everything seems very expensive. Be prepared to spend a good amount on money even if you try budgeting and cutting costs. Buying groceries will help if you’re trying not to spend an arm and a leg on this trip but it all adds up very quickly when you’re moving around. Our one-day car rental was well over $100, and that didn’t include gas or the tolls.
3. Buy alcohol in duty-free when you land
This touches on my last point. If you’re renting a car and/or will have a place to store alcohol and that’s something you know you’re going to want, I highly suggest purchasing the alcohol in duty-free. It’s much cheaper than anywhere else you can find it. We were meeting friends who lived in Reykjavik and they asked us to even get them booze from duty-free before leaving the airport. When the locals ask you to do that for them you know it’s the smart thing to do.
4. Rent a car
If you want to see the country you need to be able to move around easily. Some people do guided tours but if you’re anything like me and want to go at your own pace I think renting a car is your best option. If you book far enough in advance you can find some killer deals. As stated above, the summer months will have competitive prices all across the board so the earlier you can book the better.
5. Give yourself enough time to explore
I have this tip in here because I thought it was an awesome idea to squeeze Iceland in between my trips to Sweden and Norway. It wasn’t. Although I had plenty of time to go to the fish festival up north I wanted to go to, The Fiskidagurinn Mikli (which I suggest everyone goes to if their trip falls in August) I didn’t leave much more time to explore. Getting around Iceland takes some time.
6. If planning on driving, always fill up on gas when you can and pack snacks.
Iceland’s total population is less than many towns in the U.S., for this reason; if you’re driving around there aren’t a lot of places to get food, water, or even gas. Make sure you plan accordingly and always have some reinforcements if needed.
7. Plan for cold weather and pack layers
When I went to Iceland I strategically planned the trip in August, their warmest month. Don’t let this fool you, it can be cold in Iceland all year long. The Icelandic family I was staying with was actually worried about me I was so cold. I was thinking it was August and so a few jackets would do the trick but I was wrong. The family gave me wool undergarments and layered me with legit full-body ski outfits. If you think I’m joking I’m not, it was faaaa reezing.
Whatever you think might keep you warm, throw in your bag. Everything from wool undergarments to hats, scarves and plenty of layers, bring it all!
8. Skip the Blue Lagoon and see something natural
The Blue Lagoon is the ultimate tourist rip off. For more on that, check out this post: What No One Wants to Tell You About the Blue Lagoon.
9. Don’t spend too much time in Reykjavik.
I might get some hate for saying this but two days in Reykjavik was plenty of time…actually way too much time. The city is much smaller than I imagined and everything was so expensive. I would focus more on seeing the raw beauty of the country than the capital. Although I don’t think you need to spend that much time in Reykjavik, do spend at least a day there. It’s very quaint and charming, just small.
10. Stop and smell the roses
Enjoy your time around Iceland. In most cases this will be the only time you’re ever going to be here. Take your time and really let yourself enjoy every minute of it.