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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

8 TIPS FOR TRAVELLING IN ICELAND // TRAVEL

I recently returned from a week-long summer vacation in Iceland, and while I'm still poring over the 1,500+ photos on my DSLR (thanks mom!), I wanted to post a few preview shots and a handy list of tips in case you're planning your own trip! Read on for some of my top tips on what to see, how to prioritize, what to wear, and how to get around.

iceland drive travel to Glacier Lagoon/Jökusárlón and Diamond Beach and fjallsarlon
Me at Fjallsarlon glacier lake, which ended up being much more majestic than Jokulsarlon in July

TIP #1: Have a plan...

There's so much to see in Iceland that you have to seriously prioritize. What I did was pick 3 or 4 things I really, really wanted to see, and we did those first (as much as was feasible). If you're driving and know you will be doubling back on the same route, that makes it easier. Also, you'll be encountering many tour buses on the routes, and they stop at absolutely everything. If you skip a few sights to save for later, you also might just beat the tour bus crowds as a bonus! On the way to Vik, we skipped Dyrholaey and Reynifsjara (which are just outside the town) in favour of getting settled at our AirBnB and exploring town, and instead hit them on the way back to Reykjavik. Similarly, on the way to the Glacier Lagoon/Jökusárlón and Diamond Beach (my top two destinations!), we skipped the Fjallsarlon iceberg lake, but made sure to stop on the way back to Vik.

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View of Reykjavik from the top of Hallgrimskirjka Church

TIP #2: ...but don't be too strict.

It's logical to have a loose idea of what you want to see on any given day (see tip #1), but sometimes it's the spontaneous stop that proves to be the most interesting. For instance, while touring the Golden Circle, we saw a small parking lot at the side of the highway that appeared to be quite full, but there were no signs to advertise what was there. Curious, we stopped, parked, and started hiking. Two kilometres later (and a bit of rugged terrain!) was a beautiful teal waterfall in the middle of nowhere. It was stunning, and we would have missed it if we hadn't taken that chance! The same is true for seeing all of the beautiful Icelandic horses. They roam so much that if they're close to the road, you better pull over!

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Me and a new friend on a spontaneous stop! 

TIP #3: Rent a car.

Now, this tip only really applies to those who (a) can afford to rent a car; (b) can drive; and (c) can drive well and confidently. Granted, renting a car (or camper van) could very well be the most economical option overall - some of the day tours I saw were running upward of $200 CAD, while a well-planned car rental can be a few hundred dollars as well, plus gas. On points (b) and (c), I note this because the Ring Road can often be treacherous (not to mention the gravel side-roads as well!), and nervous drivers are a danger to everyone. I encountered several drivers going well below the speed limit and stopping/braking erratically. I also encountered too many reckless drivers trying to pass five cars at once (see tip #7 below).

Our tiny car, that also was not very mighty... but it did the job. 

TIP #4: Plan your meals, because that ish is expensive!

The main sticker-shock I experienced in Iceland was the price of food. Nearly any and every meal was going to cost at least $20 CAD, which is absolutely bonkers, so we decided to only go out for dinners. We went to the grocery store (still expensive!) and made our own lunches every day. I got a bit sick of cheese sandwiches for lunch, but to save $20 per person per day, it was totally worth it, and it made me enjoy the dinner meals all the more.

lunch in reykjavik at snaps travel blog
The one day we did buy lunch... and my goodness was it ever pricey! 

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Some traditional Icelandic food from Cafe Loki in Reykjavik

TIP #5: Wear layers.

The weather in Iceland is nothing if not unpredictable. It can be sunny, windy, and rainy all in one day, and a big sweater with only a sports bra underneath can quickly turn into a regret. I also suggest keeping extra socks and a fresh pair of leggings in your backpack just in case.


TIP #6: Bring your sunnies and hiking shoes everywhere. Seriously.

See tip #5 - the weather can be unpredictable, so chances are at some point during the day you will need sunglasses. Even if it's overcast or raining when you're leaving your accommodation, throw those sunnies in the bag. Just trust me.

Also, further to tips #1 and #2, if you've rented a car, keep your good walking/hiking shoes in the trunk, because you never know when you'll come across something exciting, and you don't want to miss out because you don't have your Merrells and opted for your Vans instead.

 DC3 plane wreck in Sólheimasandur iceland travel blog
Me in both my sunnies and my hikers at the DC3 plane wreck in Sólheimasandur

TIP #7: Don't be a jerk.

This applies in everyday life as well, but even more so while on holiday in Iceland. Don't drive like you would back home if you're an aggressive driver - chances are, there are some nervous drivers on the road, or people who are just trying to get from point A to point B in one piece. Look up how traffic circles work if you're unsure, because there are tons of them in Iceland. Also remember your common courtesy and how to wait your turn when you encounter single-lane narrow bridges on the highway. Again, there are many. Don't shove in front of others when trying to get a photo. This may seem like rational, obvious advice, but somehow certain social norms go out the window while on holiday. The moral of this story? Please be mindful, and don't be an asshole.


TIP #8: Have fun, and enjoy the moment :)

Iceland is gorgeous and majestic, so don't forget to stop and take it all in! Sure I took a lot of photos, but I made sure to put the camera away after a few moments so that I could enjoy and admire without thinking about camera settings or composition. There's nothing quite like seeing something with your own eyes!


xo Chloë


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