Iceland is a beautiful country, but also one hard to describe in words, so if you haven’t seen our Top 10 Things to Do in Iceland video yet, definitely watch that first before reading on.
I traveled to Iceland in July of 2017 with my brother Sean, who had invited me to tag along on a bachelor party trip for a friend of his, Colby, along with another mutual friend, Alex (nickname Buffer). We rented a 4WD car in Reykjavík and spent the week driving around the country, basically doing an extended version of the Golden Circle route, clockwise around the island.
These were my favorite 10 sites from the trip:
1. Reykjadalur Hot Springs ★★★★★
2. Dettifoss ★★★★★
3. Seljavallalaug swimming pool ★★★★★
4. Seljalandsfoss ★★★★★
5. Abandoned DC plane on the black beach at Sólheimasandur ★★★★
6. Viti Crater ★★★★
7. Skógafoss ★★★★★
8. Húsavík ★★★
9. Solheimajokull Glacier ★★★
10. Geysir ★★
The video gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect from each place, but obviously they will all be quite different if you go during a different season. Additionally, the order is subjective and will vary from one person to the next, but I would recommend seeing everything on the list if possible, and if it’s not possible, anything with 4 or more stars really shouldn’t be missed! You may also have noticed that my list doesn’t include the Blue Lagoon which we decided not to visit because it is really expensive, crowded, and a lot of locals told us it wasn’t worth it. Now would also be a good time to point out that every single item on this list is free--that may change in the coming years, but when I visited in 2017 you could just walk right in, which is a pretty amazing experience. Instead of going into detail about each site--something you can easily find by googling the ones you’re interested in--I thought I’d pass on some tips (and stuff I wish I had known) that hopefully will be helpful if you’re planning on visiting Iceland in the near future. So, here we go:
My Top 5 Tips for Your Trip to Iceland:
Iceland is expensive!
We rented a car, and stayed at Airbnb’s, which meant we got to split of the cost of all these expenses between 4 people, but even still it’s not a cheap place to visit in any sense. That being said, filling up a rental car and splitting sleeping accommodations will definitely help make it more affordable. Since I’m vegan, I also packed all of my staple foods for the whole trip, along with tupperware to bring on the road, so I only had to buy some veggies there--and we ate two meals out that week.
The light can be tricky to photograph!
If you’re a photographer, getting good shots during the summer months can be a little more difficult than you might be expecting for such a photogenic country. In July, the light didn’t really get nice until around 9pm, and stayed beautiful well until 12am, when it gets really blue out--as long as it’s not overcast or rainy. If I were to come back with Dana in a campervan, I think we might try and adopt an alternative sleep schedule for the trip, sleeping in until about 6pm, then having breakfast and starting the day, because the light is actually really beautiful from 6pm until the morning. This would also help with crowded spots like Dettifoss, where going in the middle of the night would allow you to get shots without anyone in the background. There’s plenty of light all through the night, and I really liked the blue tint you got after the sun set.
Iceland has become touristy!
I tried to show the crowds a little bit in the video but also cut them out of a lot of scenes, so beware, many of the spots on my top 10 list can feel a little like Disneyland. If I go to Iceland again, I’d go during the off-peak season, and try to explore more of the Eastern part of the country, though this might not be possible in our campervan.
Rent a car and prepare for a road trip!
Iceland is a country best seen by car, preferably one with good four wheel drive, and because you might be spending a good amount of time driving it’s worth packing all the road trip essentials like good music (offline-only), sunglasses, a map, and a good day pack for jumping out of the car and hiking up some random mountains.
Not all beer is really beer!
The beer they sell at grocery stores and gas stations contains only a tiny amount of alcohol, as per law, so if you want the real stuff you’ll need to find a proper liquor store where beer and wine are sold--these don’t come around too often, and are closed on Sundays, so make sure to stock up when you find one. Beer is also quite expensive, so if you’re with a big group and want to have something to drink in the evenings it’s definitely a good idea to bring your own hard alcohol from home--we brought some scotch and whiskey, seeing as this was a bachelor party after all.
So those are 5 tips to help you plan your trip to Iceland. If there’s only one thing you remember from my top 10 sites list, let it be the Reykjadalur Hot Springs. I can’t overstate how amazing it was to bath in a hot river after hiking up the side of a mountain for 45 minutes--also, even in the summer it’s cold at the top, so the water feels nice. If I ever get the chance to go back to Iceland I want to find more hiking trails and hot springs like that, where you get to really explore on your own, and get a feel for the blend of diverse landscapes Iceland has to offer.