When my husband and I were planning our Iceland adventure we had a lot of questions and looked for recommendations on a lot of places. There were some blog posts and a ton of ’12 things to know about Iceland” or “5 things to do in Iceland” lists, but it was hard to find a post with someone’s detailed visit there. It seemed daunting at first but after some time we got the info we needed. Below I have some information that might help you with planning your own Iceland adventure; I hope this helps and relieves some vacation planning stress and a load off your shoulders! I often got overwhelmed and had to step away to collect myself, so take your time, and know that whatever you plan, it’s going to be a fantastic vacation.
Our 9 day trip after everything was in the $3440.00 range. I think that’s pretty good if that’s including accommodations, meals, vehicle, gas, and souvenirs, for two people!
Alright so you’ve picked Iceland… What’s next?
Firstly, know the whole of Iceland is very much a adventurous, road trip, hiking, exploring kind of vacation. There’s definitely something for every type of vacationer out there, but most of that can be found in Reykjavik (their only city).
Know how many days you want to spend in Iceland and what time of year it’ll be and plan accordingly. Print off a map of Iceland and start looking up “things to do in Iceland” on google and you’ll find a list of places and things you can see. Make a list of the places you want to go and figure out where they are on the map. Then You’ll have a better idea of where to go, the time and distance, and if you plan to do mostly the southern parts of Iceland or the northern parts (there’s one main ring road that goes around the entire island). Another great search tool I used was actually Instagram! Nothing like a bunch of traveling hipsters who are amazing and tag their locations and take photos of everything/everywhere they go in Iceland. A few popular hashtags to search for example was #traveliceland or #icelandair, or heck, even #iceland ! Our iceland photos are hashagged as #phillipsicelandtrip2015
Our Air Travel and Time of Year
We traveled from May 25th, 2015 – June 3rd, 2015 and spent 9 days in Iceland. We flew out in the evening from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada #yeg to Reykjavik #kev direct flight on Icelandair. It was a long flight and we landed at the airport close to Reykjavik early that same morning. There is a 6 hour time difference in Iceland and man did it hit me like a ton of bricks. Our flights cost us $1300 round trip for two people (We could’ve even gotten them cheaper but we waited too long to book).
Book a Car Rental
We went through SADcars and were extremely glad we did. I would recommend them a thousand times. Book ahead of time and online to save more big bucks. Most other companies cost twice as much for the same vehicle. Just hope you get a not so beat up one when you get there. Unless its winter or you want to go on roads that go through rivers, get a small car. Also be aware that gas is $2/Ltr there so budget for that. Oh and another bonus of SADcars, you get a discount at certain fuel up stations. We paid 300 (EUR) for the car rental and about $250-$300 (CAD) on gas (we put like 2000+ KM on that little baby). What SADcars does is take 10 year old cars and fixes them up to rent out to people. One of them had some dents in the bumper, but you don’t pay for that unless you’re the one who did it. Another key thing to know is that if you drive stick, you instantly are saving more money than those who don’t. They also pick you up from the airport for free! Hey more savings!
Although Iceland is part of Europe, we were surprised to know that you drive on the right side of the road, which is what we do in Canada. Take some time to learn their road signs and laws and you’ll be peachy!
Check out this super cute driving video for Iceland that has little elves: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGfePqVJE-U
Where We Stayed for 8 Nights
If we had our time back, we would have booked multiple locations to stay at in Iceland, and possibly towards the end of the trip explored more of the northern parts of Iceland. We explored a lot of the southern parts of Iceland, so we stayed In Hvolsvollur and drove back to our airBNB every night. This little town is on the southern part of the island. There’s a café with a bed and breakfast attached to it. We got a room to stay in that was $85 CAD a night (although prices have gone up since our visit there), with breakfast every morning included. There was also a kitchen attached to it, so we were able to make our own suppers and pack lunches each day. Another super convenient thing was that there was a grocery store right next to the bed and breakfast. We booked it through Airbnb which is an awesome website to find places to stay at in Iceland. Another thing you can do in the warmer months in Iceland is to camp the entire time. That would also save a ton of money.
Find our highly recommended AirBnb here: https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/1655199?euid=b78ee409-8957-99dd-2e85-331bcb21125e
What we did for Food
We had our breakfast made for us each morning by the bed and breakfast, and we bought groceries to make our meals and lunches to save money. Everything in Iceland is really expensive. Get ready to be eating ham and Swiss sandwiches to save quite a lot of coin! Also everything in Iceland in terms of food mostly has their native language on it, so you might have to get someone to translate instructions on the backs of instant noodle packages. Over the course of 9 days we spent under $400 on food for the both of us, but we didn’t get to let out the real foodies in us in Iceland. They have a lot of really good dishes at certain restaurants, but they are VERY expensive there, so make sure you budget for food! We even saw a package of cheddar cheese that was $22.
Where we visited
See more Elena Evelyn’s Blue Lagoon photos here: https://www.elenaevelyn.com/blog/iceland-blue-lagoon/
The first thing we did after we landed was go to Blue Lagoon, one of the 25 wonders of the world. It’s a geothermal oasis of relaxation. We went there first because it was close to Reykjavik and we landed a few hours before they opened. Bring your own towels/robe to save money, don’t get your hair wet, and expect it to be expensive. But so SO worth it. It was also a good idea to go right when you get to Iceland because it gets busier as the day goes on. We went early in the morning so we were one of the only ones there for a little while which was really nice. Expect it to smell heavily of eggs! and make sure you COVER yourself in their sandy clay that forms on the rocks from the water. We covered our faces and let it dry. it hardens and turns white and makes your skin so so soft.
For those who don’t want to pay the expense, you can actually walk around the grounds outside of Blue lagoon and see it that way. I’m not sure if you’re allowed in the water outside of blue lagoon though. Ryan and I took some photos with the volcanic rock there just outside of blue lagoon.
on the way to my favorite waterfall in Iceland, we stopped at Seljalandsfoss. This is a waterfall you can walk in behind, it’s truly a mesmerizing experience. One thing you’ll notice is that there will be a lot of tour busses of people, so you kind of have to get there before them because people in those tour buses aren’t usually the most polite. Make sure you wear a rain jacket because you will get wet at some point, especially if it’s windy! Wear good hiking boots as well as the rocks are quite slippery.
Skogafoss Waterfall. This was one of the main reasons I wanted to travel to Iceland. One of my favorite photographers – Gabe McClintock – posted an image of a couple in front of this waterfall. It was simply magnificent! I knew I would somehow one day travel there and do the same. Once we parked and got out of the car I was shaking with excitement. After we took in its beauty, walked over to the falling water, and took some shots, we headed up the stairs on the right side of the waterfall. We climbed to the top and took in the amazing view. Later on during our time in Iceland we came back and climbed the stairs again. We hiked from the top in another 3 km’s and turned around, not knowing that if we had kept going we would’ve gotten to the glacier. We were pretty tired though at that point. My legs were hard as rock the next day, let me tell you..
Vik town was quiet and relaxing. You could just sit on the beach in the sun and watch the steam from the cold water roll up the hot sand. There’s also a place there to get burgers with beef that weren’t crazy expensive. A great place to sit and think. At the top of the hill there’s the famous church that’s in all the photos with the purple flowers. The time of year we went though there wasn’t any flowers. Still we went to the church and inside it. The thing that intrigued me the most was the massive doors on the front of the church. I love old doors and windows!
See full blog post for Vik here: https://www.elenaevelyn.com/blog/the-black-sand-beaches-of-vik/
First swimming pool in iceland: Seljavallalaug
To get to the pool, once you’ve parked it’s about a 20-25 minute walk into the mountain. You do have to cross a stream of water, but there are rocks to climb on to get across. I was lucky and had rubber boots on. The pool is also not the cleanest thing, as I believe it’s cleaned once every summer (we must have gone before they cleaned it). When you step in you’ll notice the floor and walls of the pool are slimey. It get’s more hot the deeper you go in as the stream of hot water is falling down some rocks on one end. There’s also a pipe that carries hot water from another source that feeds into the water. It’s free to go swimming there, but enter at your own risk. There are change rooms, but they aren’t in the greatest shape either. This pool was actually the first pool in Iceland, and in 1927 it became compulsory to learn to swim in Iceland.
To get to this canyon was a little bit harder than driving on a nicely paved road out in the open. It was also pouring rain when we went and it’s very windy there. Definitely a place to spend some time as it takes a bit of time to get there.
See more from here: https://www.elenaevelyn.com/blog/fjadrargljufur-iceland/
To get to this waterfall, it’s a bit of a hike. Make sure you wear appropriate clothing for a mostly uphill hike!
Gluggafoss and wild horses
There’s a few other places but that’s the jist of where we went during our 9 days there. Do lots of research and google every place you plan to visit 🙂
Interesting things about Iceland
- A majority of Icelanders believe in elves. They believe they live in the boulders and rocks and would rather build a road around a fallen boulder then move it.
- The horses are so much more friendly than those in Canada.
- There are no forests or wild animals, except for the wild horses. Just sheep, goats, some dogs, and cows.
- On average there’s a volcanic eruption every 4 years.
- You definitely won’t find a Mcdonalds.
- THERE’S NO MOSQUITOS – reason enough right there to go.