Ask any adventure-seeker or photographer what area of the world tops their travel bucket list and I guarantee you that you’ll see Iceland near the top. The island is a hotspot for adventurous travelers, boasting active volcanoes, glaciers (10% of Iceland is covered by glaciers and it is home to Europe’s largest ice cap), geothermal pools, incredible mountains, and some of the best hiking and camping throughout Europe. It’s no wonder that the “Land of Fire and Ice” has become one of the top destinations within the adventure community. If Iceland is definitely on your radar, what should you expect? I just returned from an amazing trip there and I have a lot of insight to share! Check out my top tips below:
The “Ring Road:”
Route 1, also known as the Ring Road, encircles Iceland. Most tourists will only cover the south coast or the Golden Circle. However, if you have the time, it’s worth it to travel the entire Ring Road to see all that Iceland has to offer.
Weather: Prepare for all seasons! Gray and rainy days are normal in Iceland and it is rare that you will see sunlight. However, the most unpredictable factor in Iceland is the wind. Don’t be surprised if you encounter average wind speeds of 50mph or more (hold on to your car doors!). Bring layers (especially windproof) and dress warmly, expecting average temperatures of 45-55 degrees in the summer and 30-40 degrees (Fahrenheit) in the winter. Don’t forget to pack your swimsuit for the hot pots scattered across the island and your Yaktrax gear for exploring icy trails.
Money: Airfare is definitely cheap, but the island is expensive. If you are looking to travel on a budget, consider renting a camper van or staying in guesthouses/hostels. Use booking.com to book your accommodations; you can book the hotel and pay later, and they offer free cancellations on most places. Also, check out grocery stores like Kronan or Bonus and stock up on food that you cook yourself.
Cars: Do you need a 4x4 vehicle? Yes, if you are going to explore F-roads (roads that lead inland that require 4-wheel drive; only open in summer months) or visit Iceland in the winter. A snowstorm could pop up or you could encounter a river crossing while traveling any F-road. Also, if you don’t have off-road driving experience and you plan on visiting the highlands, book a tour. Icelandic F-roads are rough and known to damage cars, even with the most experienced drivers. When you rent a car, definitely consider insurance because your personal car insurance in the states will typically only cover rentals within the U.S. and Canada. Good insurances to buy include collision damage and gravel protection. Most importantly, be aware of the wind. Hold on to your doors when exiting your vehicle because they have been reported to fly off of a vehicle in high winds. No car insurance you purchase will cover this kind of damage (or damage to the undercarriage while crossing a river). So how much does it cost to fill up a gas tank? On average, gas costs about $8/gallon in Iceland, but it is measured in liters on the island. When converted to USD, it can cost nearly $100 to fill up a normal tank and that will last you around 300-500km, depending on the vehicle. If you choose not to rent a vehicle, Iceland does offer bus services through FlyBus, but it doesn’t cover all desired locations.
When to visit:
Summer: hiking in the highlands, longer days, green hills, puffins
Winter: snow, northern lights, ice caves
What to see: Everything is expensive, but tourist attractions are free (except for tours)! Iceland is famous for hiking on glaciers and in the highlands, hot pots (geothermal pools), camping, waterfalls, beautiful national parks, etc. Make sure you research places to see well in advance and don’t plan on hitting up just the touristy spots; Iceland has innumerable hidden gems scattered across the island.
Ice caves are only accessible in the winter due to flooding and safety issues. Make sure you book a tour and don’t try to find the ice caves alone. Professional guides are a must and will keep you safe by only taking you to structurally sound ice caves.
Thanks for reading and enjoy your Icelandic adventure! If you have more questions, check out my Instagram page or message me in any of the ways below!
Instagram: @cathyandersonphotoEmail: firstname.lastname@example.org