Let me start off this post by telling you that I stand ready – at the drop of a hat – to lead any trip to Iceland you’d like to launch.
But if you want to ignore my offer and go it on your own, Iceland is an easy vacation to navigate.
First, I want to abolish that fallacy that the country is just too expensive for tourists. Yes, there are things here that are much overpriced, but if you do your homework ahead of time it is a trip you can make.
Here are the top 10 things I’d advise you to consider.
1. You can look for airplane bookings from different areas or at different times to keep those costs down. I, for example, drove to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and got a round-trip ticket to leave from there for $400. If you take Icelandic Air, the airlines allow you to check on two bags free, so you have plenty of room to take other things.
2. You can also bring some of your own food. I brought plenty of granola and protein bars, applesauce, trail mix, coffee, tea and dried fruit. I was able, then, to buy one nice meal a day and eat on my own the remainder of the time.
3. You can look into other accommodations. Camping is very cheap, $9 to $12 a night. There are also numerous companies that offer camping vans and motorhomes for the traveler. Inexpensive accommodations to be had at guesthouses (which equal our bed-and-breakfast establishments) and at hostels (one of them is pictured to the right). There are also any number of “farm holidays” offered and you can find them online. Check them out online before you go. Hotels are the most expensive place to sleep. Although I never had any trouble booking any of these at the last moment (I had booked nothing before I left) I can see that in either very touristy spots or places that had very limited accommodations it might be harder.
4. Consider renting your own vehicle. There are plenty of tour agencies here willing to take your money but traveling in Iceland is so easy — why take the bus? At one point I was speaking with a bus tourist and asked what she had seen that day. She replied that the bus travelers had “seen” three waterfalls and “even stopped at one!” On that same day, I had started out with a hot soak in my secret, secret lagoon, visited an out-of-the-way Viking excavation, visiting a reconstructed turf village, stopped in several small towns, and seen numerous water falls, stopping at least three! I also opted to forgo a GPS (which the rental car agency offered) and had no problem what so ever. All the roads are very well marked. Now, if you’re going on remote backroads it might be a different issue. But I never got lost (except in Reykjavik). Not even once.
5. If you are booking a car, book a four-wheel-drive vehicle. I did not and many times regretted that decision. Although I didn’t have any difficulty where I traveled (there are lots of excellent paved roads and very good gravel roads) it did prevent me from traveling some places where I would have liked to have gone.
6. When you’re considering what to pack, make sure you bring plenty of clothes of different weights. The key here is to layer, that way you can discard clothes to get cooler or put more on to gain warmth. Wool sweaters are a great idea, although Iceland stores stock beautiful ones made with Icelandic wool so you might want to buy it here. Make sure you bring a light, waterproof jacket. I’d also suggest a hat and gloves. Hiking boots are a must if you’re doing anything out of doors. Make sure you waterproof them before you come. Bring an eye mask or even a wide headband to cover your eyes when trying to sleep during the endless sunlight. If you plan on taking in the nightlife of Reykjavik, bring some nice clothes. The dress is very cosmopolitan and urban in this capital city. Finally, bring a swimsuit for all those hot pots.
7. Feel free to bring your laptop or smart phone. Wifi is everywhere. I never ate at a single restaurant that didn’t offer free internet. Even campgrounds have Wifi, sometimes even a separate one that services the tents and campers themselves.
8. Get a good guidebook or two. I made a habit of every night before bed reading up on the area I’d be encountering the next day. Because of that I saw many out-of-the-way places that I might otherwise have missed.
9. Other transportation inside the country is also readily available. Hitchhiking is not uncommon. There are buses most places. Hiking, of course, is one of the favorite modes of traveling. There are trails all over the island. Bicycles are even available for rent (although after seeing bikers huffing and puffing up these mountains being buffeted by strong winds, I’m not sure of their sanity). Heck, I even saw one skateboarder!
10. Be adventurous. This is a different country with different cuisine, different countryside and different customs. Enjoy them all!
That’s about it. This is a very easy country in which to travel. The people are friendly and accommodating. You need worry about very little.
But always remember that if you call on me to lead a trip I’d be happy. Because, believe me, I’d come back here any time.
At the drop of a hat.