When you start organizing a trip to Iceland it may seem like a real undertaking, after all we know little or nothing about this remote island in the north …
Quite right! What do we know? It’s cold … they suffered a severe economic crisis … the eruption of a volcano with an unpronounceable name has paralyzed the skies of half of Europe a few years ago … at the 2016 European Championships they beat England very well … And then?
The problem is perhaps not that we are not well informed … there is simply not much to know!
But this does not mean that it is a boring place or where nothing happens, on the contrary, it is without a doubt the most exciting place among those we have visited. Rightfully among the 3 most beautiful trips we have ever done. The most extreme land we’ve ever found ourselves in!
Before planning a trip to Iceland, however, you need to know a few things …
Here is our list of 10 things to know to better organize a trip to Iceland
The first thing to keep in mind before planning a trip to Iceland is that the real and only attraction of this country is Nature, with a capital N. There is nothing that has been created by man to be minimally interesting. Forget about museums, churches (perhaps the most unsightly we have ever seen) or any other art form.
The real show will be under your eyes during every kilometer you travel. And this is a good advantage if you think that almost all the natural attractions you will see are absolutely free!
2. How to move
Iceland must be turned all over. At least for your first trip we advise you to rent a car and travel the entire “ring”, the main road, number 1, which goes around the island.
This is entirely paved and there is no need to have a 4 × 4, but it will allow you to see the essentials to make the journey already so unforgettable.
Did they ever tell you that Iceland is expensive? Do not hope that we tell you it is not true: it is much more expensive than you can imagine!
But there are some things you could do to save something, especially on food. Being a journey on the road, for example, you can always take some shopping with you (Bonus and Kronan are the most popular supermarkets) to eat without going to the restaurant every time.
Along the roads there are rest stops, often in panoramic places, with tables and benches on which to “lay”. The guesthouses then often make the kitchen available as if you were at home. While the farms are the healthiest and cheapest choice to eat if you want to know some local life.
4. Off road
If you plan on traveling to Iceland in the summer, like 99% of tourists, consider visiting the interior (totally inaccessible in winter). In this case, however, you must forget the asphalt. Almost all the roads that start from the ring towards the heart of Iceland are in fact dirt roads, in many cases they cross-streams, real rivers and lava fields and are therefore passable only with a 4 × 4.
Before moving, however, always take a look at the site that monitors the streets and tells you if they are open and practicable … in Iceland it’s like a Bible!
Consider that we had a medium-small jeep (Renegade) and some roads we had to avoid because they were suitable only for large jeeps equipped for camel trophy or real Big Foot. However, if you do not want to venture alone, it is also possible to do private or group tours. We have been in Askja, a magical place that we will tell you about in the next posts and is perhaps the most indelible memory of the whole trip.
Beer in Iceland is crazy! We noticed this as soon as we arrived in Reykiavik during Culture Night (Ed. A party held at the end of summer every year), where the cost of a can bought on the street touched 10 euros. Unfortunately, the rest of the trip was no better, at least for the “real” beer. Yes, because in supermarkets they only sell “light” beer. In this case very cheap (€ 1-2), but really undrinkable.
In the end we understood the reason for all this: beer in Iceland was illegal until 1989 and after this date the Government, while admitting it, maintained a policy of disincentive by taxing alcohol handsomely. And this is a real problem if you think that the Icelandic beer, the craft one, is really good!
In Iceland, it is cold. Yes, we know that it is not a novelty, after all it is called “ICE-land”, but even in summer the average day temperature is around 12 °, which quietly drops to 8-10 in the absence of sun and which reaches to maximum 23 in exceptional cases (we have touched just 21 ° once).
So the only solution is to dress in layers (onion!) And face the day with the awareness that time is very variable. We were lucky and on 11 days, we found a single day of heavy rain, while for the rest there was always the sun alternating with the clouds. Always carry a warm fleece, light jacket and light down jacket, wool hat and hiking shoes, just as if you were going for a walk in the high mountains.
We have to dispel a myth: before leaving we had continually read how gentle, warm and friendly the Icelanders were (In the land of the ice? Mah).
This obviously left us a bit perplexed, after all it is still a Nordic country (and a lot too!) And moreover constituted by an island that is really not very hospitable. By this I do not mean that they are grumpy bifolchi (maybe some yes), but let’s say that they are limited to being gentle enough with an overall feeling of slight annoyance towards “invading” tourists.
8. The territory
Iceland is divided into several regions, which we have reduced to 5 for practical reasons : the West from Reykiavik to the fjords of the west, the North whose capital is Akureyri, the East to Egilsstadir and the fjords of the east, the South that goes from Hofn to Sellfoss and also includes the Golden Circle and finally the interior (the highlands), extreme and mysterious. We, except for having skipped the fjords of the West, visited them practically all, making a single stop inside up to the Askja crater, and it was the perfect lap.
You can feel the power of nature in Iceland even in stones. It is a land that never stands still and is in constant transformation. Volcanoes are scary, but even seeing the geothermal areas with the sulphates and the smoke that comes out of every crack in the ground does not leave them completely calm.
On the contrary, however, it is an extremely peaceful place for everything else. We had no problems whatsoever and we always felt safe both in the capital and in the countryside. We have always found people available to give us any information and the amount of tourists is never excessive.
10. How much do you stay?
If you want to follow, our advice the minimum number of nights to be budgeted so as not to be left with regret for having lost something is 10, to be reduced to 9 if you want to give up on the inside, but we highly recommend it.
To organize a trip to Iceland to the fullest, take a cue from our travel story. Without wishing to presume, it was absolutely perfect, for the number of days, for the chosen itinerary, the accommodations … in short, reading to you … and let us know your impressions!