A visit to Iceland: 13 tricks to help improve your visit
Any visit to Iceland, whether it’s in summer or winter, along the coast or going inland, you will have a most spectacular trip. The sheer amount of geological, cultural and natural features is just tremendous on this relatively small island.
In this post we want to give some tips and tricks from our personal experience.
By geocaching a “player” goes looking for places or objects published by other players. Especially in Iceland this is a great way to find places “Off the beaten track”. Because there’s a great many of them, a good quality standard is to select “Earth caches”. The goal isn’t necessarily to find the cache but to find nice locations. More info can be found here: www.geocaching.com.
Tip! We use the Garmin eTtrex 20x walking GPS for it’s ease of use.
Visit a hot spring in the middle of nowhere!
There are tons of hot springs all over Iceland. Some are commonly known, others are well-kept secrets. Bathing in a hot spring in the middle of the wilderness, with no one around is a very special feeling. To find them use the internet, geocaching, … If you happen to come across one by accident: Most hot springs are ok, some are not. Do some research on the internet or go slowly. People have been burned as the temperature at the top can be ok while at the bottom it’s not.
Tip! Looking for a good guide to Iceland? We really like Frommer’s Easyguide to Iceland!
Rent a 4×4!
While it is not absolutely necessary, renting a 4×4 is a BIG add-on to your Iceland trip. Some of the nicest places can only be reached via dirt roads. If you’re planning to go inland, rent a BIG 4×4 and inform yourself. Getting stuck in the middle of the island will cost you a lot of money. Check road.is for road closures and dangers.
Even though a 4×4 will get you a long way, some places are only reachable by foot. Be prepared to go hiking. Some places take a 10 minute hike, while others take 3 days or more. Hike according to your level and never go somewhere dangerous without at least letting someone know where you’re going.
Tip! Looking for a place to stay inside the golden circle?!? Check out: ION adventure hotel
Connect with the locals!
Icelanders are commonly not the most open type of people. Once you get through to them they’re the probably friendliest around. They’re the ones who inhabit these extreme lands. They’ve got tons of stories to tell. Wether you’re visiting a Reykjavík bar or staying in a small town B&B, there’s plenty of opportunities to connect.
Tip! Looking for an overnight stay near the airport? Check out A. Bernhard Guesthouse
Visit Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk!
If you’re short on time you’ll probably want to stay on the highway and visit the highlights along the coast. If possible however, go and visit one or both above locations. They’re some of the most spectacular scenery to be found in the world!
Tip! Looking for a place to stay near Landmannalaugar? Check out Glacier View Guesthouse
Walk / ride / … on a glacier!
Iceland’s glaciers are among the biggest and most unique in the world. Pay them a visit. There are many super jeep, snowmobile, hiking and other tours. They’ll probably set you off some of your precious travel money, but trust us, it’s really worth it.
Don’t… visit The Blue Lagoon!
Here we are, telling you not to visit Iceland’s most popular attraction. Although this “spa” looks nice, you’re actually paying a lot of money to be swimming in a factory’s waste water. If you really came to Iceland to do this, maybe you should have gone to Ibiza. We’re not saying a visit is really bad, but saving the money to do a trip to a glacier or an ice cave is a much better idea!
Know the seasons!
In Iceland seasons are extreme. Use them to your advantage. In winter everything is white, places are closed, but you can see the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). In summer there are no Northern Lights but there’s Midnight Sun, providing daylight all day and night and enabling you to visit a waterfall in daylight at midnight!
Tip! As in summer it tends to stay light at night, you might wanna use a sleeping mask. We’re BIG fans of Jerry Slumber’s 100% silk sleep masks.
Don’t behave “like a tourist”!
Of course every visitor is by default a tourist. Do yourself a favor and don’t behave like one. Visit places, but take your time. Try to look for some adventure by going off the beaten track. There’s still tons of hidden gems where you’ll be all alone, enjoying the most spectacular scenery to be found on our beloved planet. Most of all: respect the locals and their beautiful lands.
Don’t worry about the weather!
Weather in Iceland can be bad. Even in summer. When I visited in July 2014, I had 10 days of rain. When we visited in March 2016, weather was good. There’s just no telling how it’s gonna be. It’s part of the experience. There’s an advantage to all types of weather: When it’s raining you might get some spooky foggy sights. Be sure to bring a raincoat and waterproof pants as you will get wet. Even if it’s not raining the Seljalandsfoss waterfall will get you! The Icelandic Meteorological Office website can be found on vedur.is.
Iceland can be a dangerous country. Although this applies even more to winter time, know what you’re up to before you do it. Ask around, there’s probably other tourists with the same plans and the locals know their lands. If you’re not sure if something’s safe, don’t do it!
Bring your own GPS
Iceland maps are almost never included in European map collections. In other words, your Garmin, Tomtom or any other make will be useless in Iceland. For Garmin users there’s a solution: Garmin Openstreetmap. They provide up-to-date maps. Just select Iceland and click the download now button. Select gmapsupp and extract the file to your device. For those without a Garmin: use apps like HERE or Maps.me, maps and navi can be used offline.
No matter what you do, you’ll have an extraordinary stay in one of the world’s most beautiful countries. With the above tips you’ll make the most of it. Enjoy!