A BEGINNERS GUIDE TO ICELAND

Iceland has absolutely exploded with tourism in the past few months thanks to cheap flights from all over USA and Europe. It is also a relatively short travel distance from sed locations making it even more appealing along with its snow covered mountains and monstrous flowing waterfalls.

The winter time makes it even easier to catch those beautiful dancing lights in the night sky, The Aurora Borealis. Iceland was one of the most difficult trips I have planned this far in my little travel journal, and I only made it along the south coast and back so I thought I would share some tips with you, to get you started:

Essentials to pack:

We visited at the end of February/beginning of March and brought:

  • Winter Boats / Shoes: you won’t be wearing anything else.
  • Winter Coat / Accessories: hat, gloves, scarf (the more waterproof the better).

Any other time of year it would still be a great idea to bring waterproof clothing, especially if you’re going waterfall hunting!

Where to stay:

This was SO difficult for me to decide and it took hours of scrolling through google maps for hotels, Airbnb and my personal favorite for hotel accommodation: HomeAway. Through HomeAway we found this gorgeous fishermans home in the tiny town of Eyrarbakki which was 20 minutes from Selfoss, an hour from Reykjavik, (rye ka vick) an hour from The Golden Circle and two hours to Vik.

For the first few days of our trip we called this place “home”, before we moved to a small farmhouse in between there and Vik and onto a hotel in Selfoss and an Airbnb in Reykjavik to finish up the trip.

House in Eyrarbakki
Our Homeaway in Eyrarbakki

Rental car:

You will absolutely need to do this when in Iceland, unless you plan on staying in the city and taking a tour, which I would recommend if you’re uncomfortable driving in a new place or want to meet others on your visit. It was so difficult to find something affordable, as most places were the same price, but we went with Iceland 4×4 Rental. Make sure you opt for insurance and take good photos of the entire car before you drive off the lot.

Must sees:

  • The Golden Circle (Kerio crater, Gulfoss, Þingvellir National Park, Geysir)
  • The Secret Lagoon (hot spring)
  • Laugarvatn Fontana (hot spring)
  • Vik (good place to stop for gas/souvenirs)
  • Glacier Lagoon
  • Reykjavik
  • The view of the city from Hallgrimskirkja
Secret lagoon in Iceland
The Secret Lagoon
Church in Iceland
Dyrholaey church in Iceland
Lagoon in Iceland
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Restaurants:

You can ask around most souvenirs places for good places to eat around where you are! They might even hand you a map and give you a few suggestions.

Babbaloos in Reykjavik had really great soup and sandwiches at a decent price. Lamb soup is a local delicacy.

Souvenirs to buy:

  • Patches
  • Mugs
  • Chocolate
  • Postcards
  • Money

Best places to see the Northern Lights:

We were so lucky to snag a room at a really awesome renovated farmhouse-made-guest house along the route we took from the Glacier Lagoon to Selfoss. Accommodation books up quickly and is few and far between. This was the only night on my ten day excursion I caught the northern lights and only for about 30 minutes before the cloud cover, but the photos my gopro caught were incredible!! Choose a place away from a large city if you can’t swing the money for a tour- but I would definitely recommend a tour because some of them snap your photo with the lights! So worth it to me!

Northern lights in Iceland
Seeing the Northern lights from a the Rangarping Eystra region

Other tips:

Go with the flow! Pick a few must sees and then let the adventure take you wherever else you’re meant to be!

Try to have some cash on you- exchanging at the airport can be expensive but is convenient, You also may be able to use your debit card in local atms.

Most Importantly a rule of thumb to here and anywhere you travel is to remember that you are a TOURIST. This is someone’s HOME, although you are only visiting, they live here day in and day out. Please BE RESPECTFUL and treat it like your home- although I have always only met amazing locals throughout my travels who helped us with directions, suggestions, even digging us out of a snow pile when our rental car was stuck, not everyone is friendly OR owes you their time of day. Be courteous, kind, and take out what you take in. Don’t ruin a beautiful place for everyone, no matter where you go!

 

 

For more follow me on
@Samanthavisone on Instagram
@TheForeignLocalTraveler on Facebook
@TheForeignLocalTraveler on YouTube

Save for later!

Leave a Reply