Iceland is one of those countries that I had never actually wanted to go to. Then there suddenly started to be quite a bit of hype, as well as the allure of extremely cheap flights. A friend (that I had met in Italy when we studied abroad) and I were trying to figure out where to go to celebrate our 10 year "friends-versary", and Iceland got thrown in the mix. We decided to go to Iceland for 4 days, Rome for 2 days (we stayed where we first met), and then 3 days in Tenerife.
Below are my top 10 tips if you are planning a trip to Iceland.
1. Stay In Downtown Reykjavik For At Least A Few Nights.
We stayed at an AirBnB that was very close to the center of Reykjavik, the entire time we were there. I recommend staying somewhere central at one point on your trip. It is very easy to walk around downtown (a 10 minute walk to Laugavegur, the main shopping street), and the best part was that most of the excursion pickups are at nearby hotels- If you booked where we stayed you are also close to Centerhotel Thingholt (a common pickup), and it’s easy to find. The bus stops are also very central, if you want to utilize public transportation.
2. Book Most Of Your Excursions Before You Go.
Iceland is really trendy right now, and even two years ago excursions got filled up and were booked fast. We booked a Northern Lights Tour, a Golden Circle Eating Tour, as well as the Blue Lagoon. It was easier than being disappointed, and also saved us tons of time (believe me – the Blue Lagoon line is NO JOKE.)
Here are some sites that are helpful in booking tours in Iceland:
3. Visit The Blue Lagoon, And Get A Underwater Massage.
The Blue Lagoon was one of my favorite things that I did, but we decided last minute to get an underwater massage. It is about $70 to get into the Blue Lagoon, and for 30 minute underwater massage, it is an additional $100. If you want to double your time and get 60 minutes, it is about $160. I’ve had many massages, but never anything quite like that. 100% worth it.
4. Buy Alcohol At Duty Free In The Airport.
Buy alcohol at Duty Free, right by baggage claim when you get off the plane. Alcohol is SO expensive on the island. We bought a bottle of wine and a bottle of champagne, but wished we had bought more. A beer costs about $18 USD in restaurants, and cocktails were usually priced at $25+. This island makes New York cocktail bars seem cheap. Also, while we were at the airport liquor store, there was an unsupervised "wine tasting" station. After snapping a photo, you better believe we took advantage!
5. Pack For All Types Of Weather
I experienced snow, rain, sun, and hail, all in one afternoon – and all while bundled up and wearing sunglasses. Luckily I came prepared. I went in March, so it was still really cold, but I made sure to buy insulated thermals, and I packed a hoodie, and three different kinds of jackets ranging from light to heavy. Make sure to pack a jacket with a hood, something warm for your ears, and shoes that can take you through all the elements!
6. Be Ready For Extra Expenses.
Iceland is extremely cheap to get to. I got my ticket for about $400 round trip, and it was surprisingly only 7 hours from Seattle! Once you get to Iceland though, everything is extremely expensive. From alcohol, to meals and hotels, you will be paying quite a bit more than you probably would have anticipated.
7. Go With Adventurous Taste Buds.
I tasted some very interesting dishes on this trip. I’m a pretty adventurous eater and I will try anything once. Every time I travel, I like to ask restaurant servers what are their favorite dishes on the menu, and what is actually a local cuisine. I tried puffin (poor little guys), fermented shark, a lobster dog, and whale steak (actually tasted like steak, and don’t worry it was not extinct). I also got to go on a really cool food tasting tour.
I HIGHLY recommend this food tour. It is called the Golden Circle Gourmet Food Tasting Tour, and you can find more information here: Viator Food Tour. It's an entire full day tour through the best of Iceland's cuisine. You get to visit a farm, where most of the meal is produced; go to really beautiful natural springs and waterfalls, and meet farmers at a greenhouse. I LOVE LOVE LOVED this tour so much.
8. Drink The Tapwater.
I remember being at the airport, and not being able to find a water fountain anywhere. I finally went to an airport kiosk and asked where I could find a fountain, and the woman told me to go to the faucet in the bathroom. I was SO confused, and then I realized that you can totally drink the tap water in Iceland! Bring a reusable water bottle, and get ready to taste the freshest water of your life!
9. Exchange Cash At The Airport.
Exchange money at the Reykjavik airport - because there is no fee. BUT, don’t exchange too much. You can typically use credit card for 99% of your purchases. I collect foreign currency, so I had to exchange something. :)
10. Visit the Flea Market.
One of most interesting things that I got to experience was something that I stumbled upon - The Kolaportid Flea Market. It is located in the old harbor area, a few minutes from the city center, and is indoors and opened every weekend. They sell antiques, knick knacks, and vintage clothing. I got some really cool Icelandic kids books (in Icelandic), and gifted them to my niece and nephews. A lot of locals frequent the market, and there is also a portion of the market where you can try delicacies. We tried fermented shark (I did NOT like it), because it was really bitter. Also, if you go, know that they do not take any credit cards and it is cash only.
I hope these tips help you as you plan your trip to Iceland! If you've been, what else would you add?
Bellisima = "Extremely Beautiful" in Italian, and how i would describe the world, and how I view it through travel.