Iceland has risen in recent years as a popular destination amongst travellers, young and old. It’s not hard to figure out why: the ever-changing scenery and all the beauty this country has to offer seem almost fictional. Whether the growing popularity can partly be attributed to television shows and films being filmed in Iceland is up for debate, but it is difficult to ignore Iceland’s beauty in scenes of HBO’s Games of Thrones or Netflix’s Sense8. Personally, Iceland has always been on my bucket list ever since I first saw a picture of Vik’s black beaches.
After my ten-day road trip, I was compelled to agree with overall consensus: Iceland is breathtaking. It is hard to describe how vast and overwhelming the mountains and changing scenery is without having witnessed it firsthand. Below are a few recommendations and insights I gained from my time in Iceland.
Do Not Skip Car Rental Research
It’s a bit boring to start off with, but researching what car to rent is very important when planning your trip. Some roads in Iceland are off limits to those without a four-wheel drive car or are simply not doable if you’re not in a decent car. Make sure you do your research and know exactly where you’re going so you can ensure to get the proper insurance add-ons but also avoid getting stuck in the middle of nowhere.
If you’re more adventurous and don’t mind camping, some companies offer little campervans up for rent. Although it could be a little pricier to rent initially, it is ideal for those travellers wishing to keep costs down. In the end, you’re saving massively on accommodation, something that doesn’t always come cheap in this country.
Obviously, car rental isn’t required. There are many touring operators offering daytrips or longer trips from Reykjavik if you are only over for a few days.
Photo Credit: Christine Zenino
The airport is conveniently located near Iceland’s capital Reykjavik. Whether you are visiting for just a few days as an extended lay-over, or whether you are embarking on a long road trip, Reykjavik is the first and pretty much only major city you will encounter and thus many people start or end their trip in the capital.
Reykjavik is has a host of cultural experiences on offer, including a museum delving into its origins. If you are up for a different experience, visit Iceland’s phallus museum. If you are not much of a museum buff, then just strolling through the centre of Reykjavik is exciting enough. There is a plethora of unusual, quirky shops with interesting trinkets and souvenirs. Not far from the centre there is a little bakery offering cinnamon and other buns. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not try an iced bun with liquorice from Braud & Co? I’ll have to warn you, it’s not to everyone’s taste.
Iceland’s Famous Spas
Photo Credit: Johannes Martin via Flickr/Creative Commons
One of the most recommended things-to-do in Iceland that I have encountered is to visit one of Iceland’s geothermal baths. South from Reykjavik you will find the ever-popular Blue Lagoon Spa. This is the most famous and well-known geothermal bath. The mineral-rich water is supposed to do wonders for your skin, and due to Blue Lagoon’s popularity, they are even expanding their spa with a hotel. However wonderful that might sound, we actually skipped the Blue Lagoon as we felt it was too “touristy”.
We opted to visit a geothermal bath near Vik instead. Supposedly a “hidden gem” but gaining quickly in popularity, hot spring pool Seljavallalaug is hidden away in the mountains and cleaned once a year by volunteers. You’ll need a GPS to find it, and we actually looked it up online beforehand to understand where we were going. Once you’ve parked the car, you will have to walk for about 10 minutes to reach the pool. We found it easy to find as there were people on their way back from the pool. We found it so magical: swimming in a warm pool whilst it was raining slightly. Be warned: there is a lot of algae. We emerged slightly slimey.
A few days later, we opted to pay to visit Myvatn Nature Baths, a geothermal pool in the north of Iceland. The mesmerizing blue waters and sunny skies made it a great experience. It was not too busy and it was the perfect way to relax.
Seeing the Aurora Borealis
Usually, the Northern Lights are visible from August to April, although you have better chance of seeing them during the winter months. We were lucky enough to visit at the end of August and got even luckier when the lights were beautifully visible one night. Should you be really keen to see the Northern Lights, take a short winter holiday to Iceland – if you need some more inspiration on winter holiday destinations, don’t forget to check this article over at A Couple for the Road! If you are able to go to Iceland for seven days in a row, you will increase your chances of seeing the lights as they are only active for a few nights a week.
These are just a few things we’ve done in Iceland. I could write on for days about the Northern Lights, the many waterfalls, the hot dogs, seal watching or snow mobile tours. If you get the chance to visit Iceland, take it. You will not regret this!