Iceland Travel Guide
Since I’m hardly the most spontaneous person in the world pulling off a last minute a trip to Iceland was wayyyyy out of my comfort zone however I couldn’t be happier that I listened to my gut saying just go. Iceland is hands down one of the most beautiful paces I have ever experienced. The untouched natural beauty does things to your soul that you didn’t even know were possible! If you are up in the air about booking a trip, I will tell you that it’s worth every penny and every hour traveling. You will not regret checking this destination off your travel list!
Since some of us like to pack our days full while others may like to take their time when on vacation, I thought it would be best to give you an overall breakdown of my trip and that way, depending on your MO, you can create the perfect itinerary that will fit your vibe. Sound good? Also, please feel free to email me or comment below if you have any questions!
What To Pack:
Let me tell you this, Iceland is not a fashion show nor is it the place to debut your new clothing purchases. I typically pack well when traveling but I received a solid A+ in the “over packing” category. Take my mistakes into account so you don’t haul unnecessary items all the way to Iceland!! Of course, time of the year, plays a huge factor into what you will put in your suitcase so do yourself a favor and look at the forecast before you pull out your suitcase. Leggings, joggers, comfortable jeans, sweaters, rain jacket and a heavier jacket should be on your packing list regardless of when you go. Also, bring a pair of sneakers (that you don’t mind getting dirty) and, without question, pack a pair of waterproof hiking shoes! I would bring very little makeup with you unless you find it necessary to have eyeshadow on when standing on the top of a waterfall. Think comfortable and functional when packing.
Beyond clothes I also packed food. For those of you that are thinking, what the heck?! You brought food to Iceland?! Yes, I did and let me explain why. The price tag on food in Iceland is higher than it is in the states and I find it not only more budget friendly but also healthier to bring your own when traveling! A few items that are easy to travel with are; RX bars, apples, packets of oatmeal, protein powder and trail mix.
Modes Of Transportation
Airline: We flew WOW Air and if you were like me, you may not have heard of this airline before so let me provide some insight before you book your ticket. The fares are reasonably priced but they get you with baggage fees (charging per bag, including a carry on) If you choose this airline, being a smart packer would be ideal! The flight attendants are incredibly kind and they have a decent snack selection. But wait, there’s another catch! This airline charges you for everything including water. My suggestion would purchase water and or snacks before boarding the plane. Also, you ready for this? There is no WIFI or entertainment available * DUN DUN DUN * If the thought of being disconnected while flying makes you break out in hives, this is not the airline you should be flying. Bringing a book onboard is a must if you are looking for something else to do instead of staring at the back of the seat in front of you for hours! Oh, and did I mention the plane is PINK? Yes, you fly to Europe in a pink plane – this is not a drill!!
Having a rental car is a MUST when visiting Iceland. We booked a car through NU car rentals and had a wonderful experience with their customer service team. I would highly suggest getting “gravel insurance” as well a mobile WIFI device. Some of the roads you may venture down are not paved and gravel will be flying so it’s absolutely worth buying the insurance then being slapped with damage charges. Having a WIFI devise was a life saver for us in regards to GPS. In my experience, you can check both of these items off your list when picking up your car – no need to do so beforehand!
Where We Stayed:
During our time there, “home” was Icelandair Hotel at the Reykjavik Marina location. The hotel was comfortable and the delicious complimentary breakfast spread was a plus! Location wise, we stayed in Reykjavik (fun fact: the capital of Iceland) was ideal. I would suggest taking time exploring different hotels and weigh your options, budget wise! Iceland is a destination where you should be spending minimal time in your hotel room so bending your wallet in this category is not necessary!
Where We Explored:
Alright, now to the fun part! Below is a list of all the destinations we hit and a little info about each! All of these spots were equally as jaw dropping beautiful and completely worth going to see. One of the coolest things about Iceland is that the sunset isn’t until 10PM(ish) during the summertime. ISN’T THAT CRAZY?! It’s awesome for us tourist because it gives more hours in a day to explore. Each morning we loaded up the car with our hiking shoes, snacks, jackets and we were off until the moon started to shine.
Black Sand Beach:
Located in VIK, a small town of approximately 300 people. The Black Sand beach is one of the most unique beachs in the world! The black sand was created when lava flowed into the ocean and was instantly cooled as it touched the water. Pretty wild, huh? When standing on the beach you will notice massive basalt cliffs directly in the sea. Legend says that two trolls are responsible for the cliffs but mother nature may say otherwise ;)
This was the first waterfall, of the trip, that we experienced and the breath-taking views made us gasp before we even got out of the car!! There is a staircase that will not only get your booty work in for the day but will lead you to the top of the waterfall.l The path continues following the river upstream where you can view more waterfalls and breathtaking views. Make sure that you also get up close and personal with the waterfall, keeping safety in mind! Walking down under the waterfall sure is a sight for sore eyes!
The Golden Circle:
Driving the Golden Circle is the most popular tourist route in the country. The route covers a tremendous amount of beautiful landmarks in a short period of time. Driving the route yourself instead of joining a tour, in my opinion, is the way to go. That way, you can make stops and take photos as you wish, on your own timeline. We made four stops along the way, all come highly recommended:
Þingvellir National Park:
Our first stop was at the Thingvellir tectonic plates. It’s one of the wildest things I have ever seen!! A result of an earthquake, you can clearly see the continental drift and if you’re feeling adventurous you can even scuba dive in the middle of the two continents!!
Another spot that we hit on the Golden Circle was the Kerió Crater, a volcanic crater lake. There is an small admission fee however it’s $4 well spent! It’s said that the crater was created by a huge volcanic explosion and the magnitude of the crater is even bigger in real life!
Gullfoss, “Icelands most famous waterfall” … and for good reason! The two-tiered waterfall will bring chills down your spine! There are “lookouts” places throughout the massive landmark that make for incredible photo opportunities.
This geothermal area can also be found on the Golden Circle route and it definitely makes for a fun stop along the way. The geyser erupts once every 6-10 minutes! If Geysers are your thing then you’ll also love to check out the surrounding geothermal features!
When researching Iceland we had read a ton about the boiling hot springs so wanted to make sure we experienced them first hand! Krysuvík, has a well-maintained boardwalk that makes it easy to view the geothermal area. There is also optional hiking surrounding the area that, if you opt to make it to the top, you will have a clear view of the surrounding hills!
A true hidden gem. The 25- metre outdoor swimming pool nestled is in a narrow valley below a waterfall. THIS IS REAL LIFE PEOPLE. THIS IS NOT A DRILL! Seljavallalaug was built in 1923 and is one of the oldest pools in Iceland. No description will do this justice so take my word for it and add it to onto your “must do” list. Now, let’s chat about how to get there so you don’t pass it like we did! When driving from Reykjavik take the 1 to the 242. You will spot a small road called Raufarfellsvegur which will lead you to a sign that says Seljavellir – follow that! From there, take the road all the way down until you hit the “parking lot.” Grab your things, hop out of the car and embark on a 20(ish) minute walk. You will cross over the stream a time or two which means you’re almost there! Since the pool is on a smaller scale , in size, it won’t appear until you’re actually there! Below is a map view of the location. I would recommend wearing waterproof hiking shoes and taking a plastic bag with you to put your wet bathing suit into. Another tip would be to visit the pool first thing in the morning to avoid any sort of crowds! Plus, it’s pretty cool to say that you had the pool all to yourselves!
This was the farthest destination (approx. 5 hours from ReykjavÍk) that we went to. We made stops along the way to break up the drive which I highly suggest doing! The Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon borders Vatnajökull National Park. We had personally never seen glaciers in real life before so the drive was hands down worth it! We opted to simply park and walk around however there are tours offered.
One of the 25 wonders of the world! Visiting Iceland without a trip to the Blue Lagoon would be a travesty. Before you go you should know ….
1. Book In Advance
The Blue Lagoon is one of, if not the, most popular attractions in Iceland so having a ticket is non-negotiable. You can book our ticket directly from this website
2. The Not So Blue Lagoon
I’m not telling you this to burst your bubble but the blue lagoon is not actually blue. * SAY WHATTT? I know. Trust me, when I walked up to the lagoon my heart shattered just a litttllleee bit when I saw that the water was actually a cloudy milky color. Let’s just say that the saturation is turned up on many photos you may have seen on google and or Instagram. So, where does the blue color come from Well, it actually comes from the silica and the way it reflects in the sunlight.
3. It’s Man Made
Yes, you read that correctly! One of the most popular destinations is not even entirely natural! Before your brain explodes let me break this down a little further for you. The lagoon is located in a lava field, which is created naturally, however the water is a result of an over spill from a nearby geothermal power plat. Interesting, huh?
4. No Wallet Necessary
Upon check in, you are given a security wristband which is borderline inspector gadget high tech stuff! The wristband not only acts as your credit card to purchase food, drinks, etc but it also locks the electronic lockers in the changing room. Pretty nifty, huh? Word to the wise; make sure the wristband is on snug because there is a hefty fee if you lose that sucker.
5. Face Masks
Oh yes my friend, those swanky face masks are included with a purchase of a ticket! Swimming around a lagoon while exfoliating your skin, does life get any better? Note: towels and robes are extra and can be purchased at check in.
6. Hair Care 101
If you pay attention to anything I write in this article – THIS would be it!! The Blue Lagoon has very high levels of Silica. So, what does that mean? Well to be honest, I’m not a scientist so I can’t break it down for you BUT I do know that if you get your hair wet it will become extremely dry and difficult to manage. Before you freak out there’s an easy solution: messy bun and conditioner. Before you enter the lagoon make sure your hair is up or you can be super trendy and buy a swim cap! Once your time in the lagoon is up lather on the conditioner and if needed, repeat this process a few times!
7. Waterproof Phone Case
Don’t make our rookie mistake and show up to the lagoon without a waterproof phone case. You are absolutely going to want to take photos so hop on Amazon and order a case before you embark on your trip.
Located in Grindavik is the most darling lighthouse! The lighthouse was built in 1928 and is now a popular recreation area for hiking and or biking. It was pretty chilly the day we fell upon Grindavik so we opted to drive the trail instead of walking, don’t judge us! Along the path are remains of various shipwrecks each sharing a piece of history. I would suggest making this stop before or after your time at the Blue Lagoon since they are relatively in the same area.
Driving in Iceland is an adventure in itself. No matter which route you take, the scenic beauty will have you drooling out the window! Between spotting lava fields, waterfalls, Icelandic sheep and horses as well as the natural landscape being in the car isn’t so bad!!
There is an enormous amount of information to share and even though this only scratches the surface, I hope I didn’t overwhelm you! This travel guide is meant to give you a taste of what you can experience when exploring Iceland! If you have further questions or are curious about something in particular feel free to email me :)
Safe travels and make sure to tag me in your photos so I can follow along your trip!