Ever since the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano (pronounced AY-yah-fyad-layer-kuh-tel) thrust Iceland’s amazing landscape into global media, the country has been on everyone’s bucket list.
There’s so much to do in Iceland; it literally has everything geological you could think of; glaciers, volcanoes, earthquakes, geysers, hot springs and countless others. There are also a tonne of tours and activities to go on throughout this fantastic looking country.
With all this is can be pretty hard to decide what to do and how to plan your holiday! Well you can relax, all is well, TheWanderingBroski has provided you with your comprehensive guide on how to plan your trip to the land of fire and ice baby!
You’re going to have to fly to Iceland as it’s pretty much in the middle of the northern Atlantic sandwiched between Greenland and the UK. Unless you fancy a chilly swim of course.
Flying into the capital Reykjavik from London you can fly with a few budget airlines. Norwegian, Easyjet and Icelandair are your best bets! It’s a 2 1/2 hour flight so you can easily put up with being cramped in you’re 6ft 4 like myself! We flew with Norwegian who give you free WiFi :). Flights from New York to Reykjavik are around 5 hours 45 mins. It looks like WOW or Icelandair provide the best deals direct!
Whichever route you take, if you have a night flight try to book a seat on the northern side of the plane. If you do you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the northern lights! A fellow traveler I met in the hostel flew from Canada and was mesmerized by a two hour light display outside his plane window! Saves money on a tour right? 😉
The airport you will fly into is Keflavik International Airport. It’s very cute and modern but 50km from the City! If you don’t feel like walking over lava fields you will need a transfer to your accommodation. Buses operated by Grayline regularly run from the airport and they will drop you off outside your chosen hotel! You don’t have to book in advance, just when you land!
Renting a car;
OK, now this is a big topic and i’ll be following this post up with another about renting a car in Iceland! Renting a car gives you extra freedom, but be warned the petrol prices are pretty high and driving conditions can sometimes be tricky. If you don’t rent a car fear not – all the major destinations can be reached through tours and taxi’s.
Months to rent: It’s probably not advisable to rent in the winter months. It’s very windy and there will be ice and snow on the roads. You need snow driving experience, even if you do you should definitely rent a 4×4. In the summer months (May -August) its a definite yes. The roads will likely be clear of snow but of course weather can change so you should check this!
Where to drive: The island has a ring road all the way around it which is 1332Km long and provides access to everywhere you would want to go. You should leave a week at the minimum, preferably 2, to complete this if you don’t want to be driving all the time! If you’re going to do this plan your journey before to make the most of it!
Speeding: A Canadian guy I met was speeding in his camper van and fined $140 on the spot, I think its because the Icelandic police have nothing else to do as their crime rate is so low -It’s officially the most peaceful country in the word!
If you don’t rent: Fear not, it’s so easy to get around through tour operators! All tours provide a pick up from and drop off to all accommodation in Reykjavik so it doesn’t really matter where you stay.
Where to stay;
In Reykjavic there are many hotels catering for all needs; from budget to luxurious. There are also hostels which are great for solo travelers and if you want to meet people. They also have their own kitchens which you can use to cook your own food and save money (see below).
Outside of Reykjavik there are many houses and chalets to rent as well as hotels in the middle of no where. These are great as they’re smack bang in the middle of nature and you feel distant from civilization. Just remember tours are less likely to pick up from these remote locations so if you choose outside of Reykjavik renting a car is a very good idea, you can just pick it up from the airport when you fly in and drive to your accommodation. If booking a chalet/house do it as far in advance as possible to save money!
A third great option is glorious camping. Across Iceland there are tonnes of camping sites with some being very basic and others having amenities such as showers and a kitchen. Camping is cheaper than hotels and hostels and can really help you feel like your in nature, you will most likely need a car for this option. Just remember that Icelandic weather can change quickly and that this is really only a summer time option!
The prices and how not to go bankrupt;
You’ve probably heard Iceland can be expensive, here’s some tips to save money.
- Eating out is going to be expensive but if you look carefully there are some restaurants that may be a bit more reasonable. High street food such as a foot long subway is £10 (I cried but still bought it) – so limit the amount you eat out.
- Cook your own food; The countries most popular supermarket is called Bonus (it has a weird ass pig as a logo), here you can buy a decent oven cooked pizza for £2.50 and lots of other food and drink for a lot cheaper than small independent shops!
- Alcohol is also expensive; a pint of Guinness was £11, with other brands being around £7. Alcohol isn’t essential (for some) so try to reduce your intake. Your liver will thank you 😉
- Camping is also a great alternative in the summer months and a great way to save some extra money!
- Tours are the prices they are and booking in advance doesn’t really change this. The best you can do is search different operators for variations in prices, but always check the reviews first!
What to do;
Everyone goes to Iceland for the nature and landscape so you need to go on excursions of course! There are literally a myriad of tour companies offering different excursions; so many it’s hard to make your mind up! You should choose 3 major things that you want to do and just book them. You’re always going to see something that you think is cooler and you’ll never actually book anything! All the tours we went on we booked a couple of days in advance. There’s one exception to this; The Blue Lagoon – you really need to book weeks if not months in advance.
Lots of excursions can include little extras at the end like spas or wine tasting which is a great way to finish off the day. After we went horse riding we went to the Laugar Spa which was honestly the coolest spa I will ever go to in my life, it was just let down by poor customer service. After our trip to a lava cave we went to the Hotel Husafell thermal pools, and after the golden circle tour we went to the Secret Lagoon which was so bloody hot I could only stay in there about 20 mins.
Obviously if you’ve rented a car you can do a lot of these excursions without tour guide if you do your research on where they are!
Reykjavik City itself isn’t really all that; there’s a few art murals, some cool bars and a big church but other than that its a bit grey and dull. So leave at most a day to see it.
You need this for two reasons; no 1 you should always have it anyway, especially in Iceland as there’s a lot of adventure activities that carry an inherent risk. Secondly, in case a volcano erupts. Seriously, this happens every 4-5 years and they’re due one since the last one (Eyjafjallajökull) was in 2010! Most of Iceland’s volcanoes are situated under glaciers which contributes to making the ash really fine which is terrible for planes and causes groundings! Volcano cover is usually not included in policies and you have to tick a box to include it!
So there it is! It’s a pretty long read, so well done if you got this far ;). If you have any questions that weren’t covered in this post leave them in the comments section below and i’ll get back to you ASAP.
What are you waiting for?!!
Go to ICELANDDD!