I finally made it to Iceland! And let me tell you – it is suuuuuch a beautiful place, I cannot wait to go back.
Tip: If you are thinking of going to Iceland, take into consideration the daylight and weather conditions. While it was OK-ish when it comes to the daylight as in February you get a good 6-7 hours of daylight, it was a bit tricky with the weather. Our flight only got to Keflavik 5 hours after the anticipated landing time due to unforeseen weather conditions and half of the roads were inaccessible. It also seemed like a good time of the year for northern lights, but then severe weather conditions prevented seeing them. We did see daylight aurora borealis (or at least I’d like to believe that’s what it was.
From what I’ve heard and read, it’s better to go to Iceland in autumn when you get a good mix of day and nightlight and the roads are accessible.
Iceland – Map
I like to create Google Maps with points of interest for all my trips, therefore I created one for Iceland too, which you are welcome to use.
There are few links I recommend bookmarking prior to your trip:
- Safe Travel – This is the go-to website for weather updates – that’s where I found out about all the weather warnings too.
- Road.is – If you are planning to rent a car and drive around, this is a website that will give you all the updates related to driving conditions
- Icelandic Met Office – This is the official website for Icelandic Meteorological Office and it also gives updates on northern lights predictability.
Where to Stay
Obviously your choice of accommodation will massively depend on your budget, travelling style and needs. Since I so far only stayed in one place, I can only talk about my experience.
If you are looking for a budget, centrally-located accommodation with a cool vibe KEX Hostel is the one. We opted in for a private room which is rather basic but has all the amenities and 16 power points. No joke. If you have ever stayed in hostels you do know how these are often lacking. The hostel itself is big, has a kitchen on every single floor and lovely industrial decor all around. Its bar & restaurant area has a great atmosphere and views on the bay. It also serves pretty affordable drinks and food. It also has a car park right in front of it and it’s 5 mins walk from Laugavegur Main Street which is where the nightlife is.
If you are planning to see the north and far east, I would also suggest looking into accommodation in Akureyri, which is one of the biggest cities in the north of the country and has an airport too or somewhere along the road as there’s a lot of hotels, hostels and guest houses.
Food & Drinks
Iceland is expensive and everyone will tell you that. If you want to save yourself crying over your bank statement after taking the trip to Iceland, prepare yourself for the trip:
- Beer in a pub costs an equivalent of $12/£10. That’s why you see huge queues at the Airport Duty Free upon arrival – everyone stocks up on alcohol there (it costs ½ the price comparing to high street prices). There are also bars that have pretty good happy hour deals and affordable drinks (£5/beer). Marked in pink on the map.
- You’re looking to pay around £20-50 for a main course so bear that in mind when planning your budget for the trip. There is also a range of budget restaurants (marked in yellow on my map) that offer main meals for £10-15.
- If you want to prepare your own meals, make sure you shop at Bonus. It’s the cheapest grocery store on the island. Also highlighted on the map.
Where to eat
Now, I’ve made a list of highly-recommended and budget/vegetarian-friendly restaurants. The list is not exhaustive and it’s based on information gathered from other sources:
- Kaffi Vinyl
- Cafe Babalu
- Julia and Julia
- Kol restaurant (Fish)
- Sushi Social
- Fish Company
- Mar Restaurant
I highly recommend renting a car as it gives you the flexibility to plan your trip exactly the way you want it and the road trip is so magical is a whole new level of experiencing Iceland on its own.
I always use Rental Cars for finding the best deals, however this time around we went directly to a company called nortbound.is that scored us the best deal (£124 for 3 days/nights). Make sure you take out the insurance as a lot of the cars get damaged on the road from the gravel. If you decide not to take it, do make sure you triple-check whether there’s any prior damage.
What to see
I marked all the points of interest in blue on the map.
- Icelanding Museum of Rock’n’Roll
- Gunnuhver – Hot springs and mud pools
- Hallgrímskirkja Church
- Sun Voyager sculpture
- Blue Lagoon – now that’s quite close to the airport so I would recommend doing Blue Lagoon on your way from/to the airport. And I would definitely recommend spending few hours there. This place, although busy, is such a bliss. It is definitely worth the money as the facilities and service are superb.
- Strokkur Geysir – boiling springs
- Gullfoss – Waterfall, partly frozen
- Kerið – this crater formed 6500 years ago is a beautiful crater filled with turquoise waters. Its level rises and falls depending on the weather, entrance 400 ISK
- Seljalandsfoss – Waterfall
- Valahnukur – Volcano
- Skogafoss – Waterfall
- Solheimasandur Plane Wreck
- Reynisfjara – Black Beach
- Landmannalaugar – Mountains
- Fjaðrárgljúfur – Canyon
- Dverghamrar – Stunning Cliffs
- Svartifoss – Waterfall
- Jökulsárlón – Black Beach
- Vik – a small cute town in the south
- Jökulsárlón – the glacier lagoon (Stunning)
When driving around, you will spot a lot of horses on the way and they are cutest. Jade who I got to explore this incredible country with was absolutely in awe and I am sure she will cover the horse situation on her blog extensively at some point! For now though, I will leave you with a pic of these adorable creatures.
- Snæfellsnes peninsula – glacier
- Rauðasandur – Golden-red Beach
Now that’s a part I haven’t seen, which does not mean I haven’t done my research. North is impossible to get to in the winter months due to severe weather conditions and closed off roads. If you want to see it, bear it in mind. Also do bear in mind it’s over a 7 hour drive from Reykjavik so you might as well book an accommodation in the north instead.
- Dettifoss – Stunning waterfalls
- The Arctic Henge – 7 hour drive from Reykjavik but stunning
- Mývatn Nature Baths – Blue Lagoon
- Herðubreið – National Peak
- Lake Viti – Crater lake
Now, we weren’t lucky enough with the weather to have the chance to see aurora borealis at night (just another reason to go back to Iceland), but here are a couple of handy lists of places to watch this phenomenon – one made by Culture Trip and another by Happy Campers bloggers.
Check Aurora Borealis weather forecast on this website too.
If you are a bit of a travel geek and want to dig deeper into the Iceland’s hidden gems, local explorers are constantly tagging these maps – https://www.geocaching.com/map/