Iceland gets in your skin both literally and figuratively. Sulfur runs through the veins of the country both through the landscape and the water pipes. The vastness of landscape feels peaceful but also like it could swallow you up suddenly and without explanation. I took 4000 photos in 17 days but none of them capture the vastness or diversity of the landscape, the power of standing close to the biggest waterfall in Europe, the constant smell of sulfur, the changing winds, the cold wind on a sunburned face or the quietness. Taking photos was a failed attempt to capture our movement through the landscape.
Enjoy the following images. After the images, I have a list of helpful links about visiting Iceland. If you have any questions or need suggestions or tips, please feel free to contact me.
Helpful Links for A Trip to Iceland: (click on the websites)
1. Wow Airlines (http://wowair.us/): This airline has reasonably priced flights from Boston and Washington DC to Reykavik and other European destinations. You have to pay pricey baggage fees, but even with the baggage fees and paying for a bigger seat, this airline is less than half of Icelandair. We reserved seats on row 24 which has an immense amount of leg room.
2. Accommodations: You need to plan ahead especially if you travel in the summer. We booked our accommodations in February for a June trip. Hostels and Guesthouses fill up fast during the high season. Most towns along the Ring Road are small and have limited lodging. Another good option especially if you don't want to worry about being in a place by a certain time is renting a Happy Camper: https://www.happycampers.is/. There are many places that you can stop and camp. Apartments, on average, are between $150.00 and $200.00 a night and hotels are usually the most expensive type of accommodation. You may find better deals on Air BNB: https://www.airbnb.com/s/Iceland?s_tag=QjDHISzq
3. Helpful Blogs and Tourist Websites: (1) I Heart Reykavik: (http://www.iheartreykjavik.net/). This blog is written by a local, and this company also does a great walking tour of Reykavik. (2) Expert Vagabond (http://expertvagabond.com/ring-road-trip-iceland/). This blog helped me to see the big picture of the Ring Road. There is one thing that I would change in his trajectory. Plan to spend 3-5 days doing things in the Eastern Fjords (instead of just one day of driving between Hofn and Akureyi). (3) South Iceland: http://www.south.is/ (4) Eastern Fjords: http://www.visiticeland.com/discovericeland/regions/east-iceland (5) Snaefellsjokull Peninsula (I suggest 2-3 days here. We only spent one): http://www.visiticeland.com/things-to-do/national-parks-in-Iceland/SnaefellsjokullNationalPark (6) Reykavik (Capital and Largest City): (http://www.visitreykjavik.is/) (7) Akureyi (2nd largest city): http://www.visitakureyri.is/en)
4. Tours: If you rent a car, many tours are unnecessary. You can do routes on your own. Off road routes are off-limits to rental vehicles so an off-road tour is worth it. In Akureyi, check out iceak: (http://www.iceak.is/). In Reykavik, check out Extreme Iceland: https://www.extremeiceland.is/en/activity-tours-iceland/super-jeep-tours Choose a route that you cannot drive. We also did a "Meet the Locals" tour www.meetthelocals.is which I would highly recommend because you learn something about local culture.
5. Food: I did not research a lot of places to eat in Iceland. Most restaurants are expensive. A single meal in a restaurant can be between $25 and $50 per plate. In Reykavik, you find some fast food options like Subway, KFC, Taco Bell, and Quiznos. There are no McDonalds or Starbucks. The most known and famous fast food is the gas station hot dog. We ate a lot of hot dogs. Hot dogs are about $5.00. In addition, the cute cafes in the bigger cities are about the same price as Starbucks in the USA and feature pastries and bread. Baejarins Beztu Pylsur (which in English means the best hot dog in town) is a famous hot dog stand in Reykavik (http://www.bbp.is/information-in-english). I ate at this location twice. I also learned on our Reykavik walking tour that Icelanders love ice cream. Our tour guide said "We even like to go to the ice cream shop before we go to bed." Ice cream shops stay open until very late at night. In Reykavik, we enjoyed Cafe Loki (Icelandic dishes: http://www.loki.is/) and Cafe Babalou (http://www.iheartreykjavik.net/2014/04/cafe-babalu-reykjavik-quirky-and-cool/). Most accommodations have kitchen facilities so many people go to Bonus, the cheapest supermarket in Iceland, and cook meals. If you stay in a hotel or guesthouse, breakfast is often provided.
6. Other tips: 1. Do not plan too much in one day. Take your time and really look at the landscape 2. Pick an area and really focus on it. We did more of an overview trip of the Ring Road but wish that we would have spent more time in certain areas. 3. If it is important for you to go to the highlands or to see more of the interior of Iceland, you should go between June 15 and September 15. Before or after this time, this part of the country is even off-limits to off-road tour companies. 4. Do not drive too far in one day. Take your time and stop after 3 to 5 hours and enjoy that area. 5. Iceland is a European country, and you should realize that some cultural practices and behavior may differ from what you are used to. Most people speak Icelandic, English, and a couple of other languages. We did not have any problem communicating with any person and found everyone that we met very helpful. 6. Iceland is more expensive than other destinations, but this can be offset by good planning which includes limiting restaurants, staying in hostels, searching out cheaply priced Air bnb, or camping, eliminating tours, planning meals, researching the Ring Road bus or other public transportation, and picking limited places to explore. 7. If you go in the Summer, take an eye mask to sleep. There is 24 hours of sunlight and some accommodations do not have black shades. The first few days I woke up every hour thinking it was time to get up. Also, be aware that if you travel in the Winter there are only 4-6 hours of sunlight and many places in Iceland cannot be reached.
If you have any questions or suggestions, please comment below! Thank you for reading.