I am excited to recount and reflect on our recent trip to Iceland. I think it is so important to document memories and experiences, and while I usually do it with photo books, pictures and journaling….I wanted to share this experience here on my blog for all of my friends and family to enjoy. And to maybe offer some tips for those who are thinking about heading to this incredible island in the future. We were in Iceland for 9 days.
That was probably the most asked question we got when we shared that we chose the “cold” vacation over the “warm” (Peru) vacation.
Since I started hiking, I have become aware of some of the most beautiful places on this earth. Iceland was one of them. I saw the most amazing breathtaking pictures of this island, and in the hiking and outdoor population, Iceland is considered one of the most “otherworldly” experiences and a MUST see destination.
(A cold vacation is much different than a warm vacation, so take that into consideration when deciding and Iceland weather is an experience in and of itself. So when you read, pack layers….like seriously, pack layers because you will spend 15% of your time dressing and undressing)
Iceland is also an up and coming tourist destination and with the direct flights from LAX with WOW airlines, I wanted to go to the island before tourism literally takes over and the rawness of Iceland is replaced with guardrails, rules, and entry fees.
To put tourism into perspective: Iceland has a population of approximately 325,000. Tourism is triple that number in one year. So almost 1 million people visit the island. The footprint being left is fragile now. Most of the current tourist population is from Europe, Canada and China but the U.S. is catching on. We were able to identify the spoiled, obnoxious Americans at stops we made. So embarrassing. Here is something to consider when traveling abroad Americans – You are going into their culture, so respect it and stop complaining that there are no venti sized coffee cups or snacks you like.
We started our research, and because we do not really like the crowds, we always opt for the off season. The summer season in Iceland is when most people go – end of May – August, but it is also the most expensive. So save your pennies because if you are an American, your dollar is only worth about .70 to their krona and Iceland is NOT cheap.
We landed going in late April, early May right before the summer season kicks off. We knew it would be a bit colder, and that we probably wouldn’t get to see all parts of the island because of the weather.
These were the only two resources we bought.
This is a “MUST” buy book. It has so much information in it, and almost every tourist we saw had this book in their possession.
This map was great once we got to Iceland, but it is large and you can not see the whole island at one glance. It is printed on both sides, so I did a lot of folding and unfolding. HOWEVER, it has a ton of detailed information that partnered well with the Lonely Planet book. And it is durable. Which helps a lot when you are dealing with snow, wind, mud, etc….
The next thing we needed to decide was how much of the island we wanted to see. Iceland is divided up into these areas:
- Southwest Iceland
- Southeast Iceland
- East Iceland
- The Highlands (unless you rent a 4×4, forget this part of Iceland in the winter and spring)
- North Iceland
- The Westfjords
- West Iceland.
Each of these areas, has LOADS of things to see and do.
Most will say to focus on 2-3 areas and do as much as you can for the time we were staying, BUT we knew we probably would never ever go back, so we wanted to see the entire island. And 9 days ended up not being enough time to see all of Iceland. We did not get to drive up to the Westfjords.
We looked at accommodations. Again, not cheap. It is very rare to find anyplace to stay for less than $200, unless you are traveling off season. So keep that in mind. There are guesthouses situated all over the island and you can choose whether you want a bathroom or not, some offer breakfasts, and others a discount if you bring your own linen (sleeping bag). Hotels are rare….unless of course you are in Reykjavik. We did see a lot of construction though of new hotels going up around the island. There are also the hostels, but they too are not cheap. You are looking at $80-$100 a night. We stayed at one in Hofn with a private bath. $130.00.
And there are several campgrounds around the island, and the one we stayed at in Akureyri was wonderful. (Can you say HOT SHOWERS) Though most camp grounds again only open in the summer.
(NOTE: Everything in Iceland is CLEAN!! Even the gas station bathrooms are sparkling)
Again, taking into consideration how we like to travel – (no plan just go) we opted to rent a camper van and just hit the road. Renting and traveling in campers is a huge thing in Iceland. We saw them every where and laughed as we recognized people as they were on the same path we were in traveling the island. We rented from this company: KuKu Campers. And we highly recommend them.
(We ended up driving more than our contract allowed and would have had to pay more than $200 upon our check in, but the owner was so cool, he said if we bought two cases of beer for them at the Vinbudin, he would call it even)
Mike had a day of business that he needed to get done in Reykjavik, so we did stay our first 2 nights at an AIRBnB. And then we splurged on a hotel the night before we left Iceland.
So that is my intro to our travel in Iceland. Everything else, we learned along the way.
We really did travel the island with a blank slate.
It was quite the adventure.
Chapter 1 coming up.