I cannot *believe* its been 9 months to the day since we left for Iceland. It seems like just yesterday & also a lifetime ago. Those 10 days will forever be some of my favorite of my life. This post seems late but really its just a recollection of some of the things we learned while in Iceland – for those that might be planning a trip. For those toying with the idea – trust me when I say – GO! You will not regret it! And now – onto the nuggets we learned!
Check every plug & button before leaving w/your rental. We didn’t do this & it cost us time on our first day. So press every button & plug something into every outlet before leaving. Also, insure you have the appropriate plugs for whatever your rental is equipped with. There was some confusion on what our van had which lead to an additional rental. Not the end of the world but had we known we would have been prepared.
Bring an extra towel – Iceland’s weather is notoriously inconsistent – this often means precipitation. Precipitation means mud. Climbing in & out of your living space with muddy shoes means an inevitable mess. You don’t want to use your body towel for the floor so bring an extra!
Gullfoss is worth the drive.
Bring bungee cords & miscellaneous rope/string & plastic bags – Iceland believes in their speed bumps (more like humps) & isn’t so big on signage, which can mean lots of last minute slamming on the brakes. Also if you have lots of gear you’ll need places to attach/hang things you use regularly. Also – silica gel packets (those little packs of stuff that say ‘do not eat’ that you get in nearly every shipping box) these will help with the inevitable wetness. Throw them in your shoes at night, in camera bags etc to help soak up the moisture.
Watch out for mud holes – taking the road less traveled is a great part of an Icelandic adventure – however the mud holes are no joke & may very well test your van’s clearance. Better to drive where you can see & save yourself the heart attack.
Have a plan – but leave room for meandering. The unexpected turns were some of our very favorite sights & moments.
Check for facilities & hours. This is especially important in the winter. Businesses have strange operating days & hours in Iceland. More than once we headed for a bath house or other facility based on what the website said only to arrive & find it closed, despite the posted hours.
N1 gas stations are readily available (for Iceland) and are usually well equipped – groceries, small electronics (think chargers & cables) and some even had cafes & small auto sections.
There’s some sort of restricted airspace near Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik that won’t allow for drone flight.
The Phallic museum is overpriced for admission but humorous. It has great souvenirs for those with that sort of taste.
Trawire mobile wifi is worth EVERY penny. Seriously!
Seljandavoss is lit up at night! I’ve never seen it during the day but I can vouch for its beauty at night.
The early bird gets to see things by themselves. This is especially true for attractions on the south western ring road (where most of the tours go) – so if you dislike crowds or just want that photo minus the masses – get there early.
Think of the Bonus grocery stores like you would an Aldi – the basics are covered & its the most affordable, but you won’t find any specialty items.
They aren’t lying when they say that Iceland roads aren’t made for speed. Plan your travel time accordingly.
Really think about what it means to pack for living in a vehicle that isn’t yours – meaning your creature comforts aren’t going to be present & you have to think of everything you want/need being able to fit & function inside a vehicle.
Take the time to set-up your van while still in Reykjavik. This will hopefully illuminate any missing must-haves and you have a much better chance at locating those in the city.
Wind advisories are no joke! Remember if you’re in a van you’re in a relatively high-profile vehicle & the wind can come out of nowhere. Be safe!
The Glacier Lagoon is otherworldly – but be prepared that you most likely won’t be alone, even at sunrise. Also, don’t be alarmed by the popping – its just the ice.
Ice Caving is EVERYTHING its cracked up to be. Absolutely worth the time, the money & the effort. Have a sturdy tripod & sturdy shoes.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help – after getting stuck behind a protest we arrived at our next stop later than anticipated, which meant the bathhouse in town was closed. We were desperate for a shower so we went to the nearest hotel & I (very sweetly) explained our situation to the receptionist who let us use a room to shower, for a fee of course. But, hey, when you’re desperate to get clean money seems of little consequence.
Breiddalisvik is a great little town on the eastern side. Its the perfect place to watch the Northern Lights dance. See if you can find the beached boat!
If you want to photograph the Northern Lights – have a set of ‘go’ clothes ready & set your ISO, aperture & shutter speed ahead of time. Take a light source, manually set your focus to infinity & let it go! Trust me – if you’ve never seen them you’re going to be so torn between shooting & watching – its magical.
On the eastern side opt for 96 & 92 instead of the ring road – if you enjoy amazing, desolate drives that is. Gorgeous.
Myvatn was fun – beware the mud!
Don’t attempt to drive up to Viti & Krafla in the snow – watched too many people get stuck & attempt to turn vans around on one small, curvy road. Hike it if you want but be smarter than us & realize if there’s significant snow – there won’t be anything to see in the crater.
Believe the warnings about Grotagja – its SO. FRIGGIN. HOT. We braved it – we got in – for about 12.7 seconds – just long enough for a photo, because DANG. It was so hot we both climbed out of the lava tube & walked across the parking lot to the van in our bathing suits & weren’t freezing!
The horses are basically just big dogs. They love snacks!
Myvatn Nature Baths are the way to go! We skipped the Blue Lagoon for many reasons but Myvatn was perfect – while our hair frosted over our bodies were toasty & even in the evening its beautiful.
The drive from Akureyri is full of the most picturesque harbor towns & marinas – simply enchanting.
Objects in Iceland are further than they appear – case in point – the ship wreck off the side of the road on the northern shore.
Pee every chance you get – even if you don’t think you need to. Once you leave the Myvatn area the bathrooms/civilization is SCARCE.
Finally – don’t try to cram so much in that you feel rushed – Iceland is such an AMAZING place – beauty around every single turn – take the time to absorb it.