A land where Vikings rule, strong forces of nature comes to life and ancient folklore beliefs are still very much alive and well. This, is Iceland! And visiting this beautiful country was the highlight of my 2018 year.
If you are planning for a road trip to Iceland, then prepare to get your mind blown by this magnificent country! Having said that, there were so many things I wished I knew about the land of fire and ice prior to my trip. Between reading up on Iceland weather to narrowing down the must-visit spots such as the famous Blue Lagoon, here are some things you should know before planning for your epic Iceland road trip.
1. If you don’t like the weather, wait for five minutes
There is a popular saying in Iceland about the weather, “if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes”. Because the weather in Iceland changes often, checking the weather forecast before starting your journey is very important! And there are many apps that you can download which provides up-to-date information on Iceland’s weather.
My all-time favourite is Vedur. This app delivers latest figures on the island’s weather conditions, predictions and hazard warnings. Another important app you should have is the 122 Iceland. It’s the Icelandic Emergency Services where Police, Fire & Ambulance services are a click away – crucial for road trippers, just in case!
One night, we stopped at Vik, a small town in the south of Iceland to camp for the night. The weather was clear. However, the next day we woke up to a snow blizzard and our rental car was covered in knee depth of fresh snow😱 This was a whole new experience for us!
2. Iceland’s must-visit natural attractions
You will be spoilt for choice when it comes to exploring Iceland’s natural hot springs & man-made pools. Some of the most sought after are the Reykjadalur Hot Springs, The Blue Lagoon and Seljavallalaug, also known as the first swimming pool ever built in Iceland!
Reykjadalur Hot Springs is just 40 minutes from Reykjavik, in South Iceland. It is perfect for a day’s hike! Imagine soaking yourself in this natural hot springs right in the middle of Iceland’s mighty mountains 😍
Although The Blue Lagoon seems super touristy, it is the perfect place to either begin or end your trip to Iceland. I’d say go for it! Located between Reykjavik & Keflavik International Airport, this man-made pool has a fluorescent shade of blue naturally heated waters.
Because pools in Iceland are of natural geothermal water, it is not treated with chlorine or any other chemicals. Getting in one without a proper shower will only contaminate it. You will need to shower and soap up fully nude before entering the pool. This is just a standard sanitary procedure at all of Iceland’s hot springs and swimming pools.
But not to worry, for Muslim travellers, you can find a few shower rooms with doors available. Do make use of the leave-in conditioner in the showers at The Blue Lagoon; it will protect your hair from the harsh water of the lagoon 🤗
The Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool is not only the oldest swimming pool in the country but was also built for locals to learn swimming. Getting to this pool is a two-hour drive from Reykjavik City to the valley of Seljavellir. Once there, park your car and set out for a 30-minute hike.
#HHWT Tip: There isn’t any signage leading to this pool, so don’t be afraid to ask around if you can’t seem to find the hiking trail. You will see many tourists in and out of this area.
3. When to go
One can’t possibly choose to visit Iceland in summer or winter, because this country is just spectacular at any time of the season. If you’re way too excited to catch a glimpse of the northern lights just like me, then you should plan your road trip in winter. Iceland was my first winter country, my first encounter with snow, extreme cold weather (well minus six Celcius was extreme for me) and of course the ever-mesmerising northern lights 😍
But if you decide to go road tripping in Iceland in the summer, it is also another adventure to look forward too. This is when you can experience the midnight sun – when the sun is visible for a full 24 hours (given fair weather) and most Icelanders are awake till the wee hours doing all sorts of cool and extreme activities!
If you are into extreme activities like the ATV ride, be sure to book a slot with Extreme Iceland tour operator where they will take you on an unforgettable epic ATV ride under the midnight sun.
3. Cash? What cash?
Good news for people who dislike carrying tons of cash on their holiday. Everywhere in Iceland takes credit or debit card, even at paid toilets!
It is so helpful especially when you run out of cash and don’t have to look for an ATM machine every now and then. Just be sure to activate your PIN number before leaving for your trip 🤗
4. Budget-friendly options
Being an island in the middle of the Northern Atlantic, Iceland has to import and tax most of their goods. This explains why it is an expensive country not only to visit but to live in as well. But this should not be a reason to give this country a miss. I personally look at expensive countries as a challenge in travel. And with proper planning and tips, Iceland can definitely be done with a budget!
Save a lot of money on food by prepping your own meals! We brought a huge suitcase full of canned, instant and dried foods from Malaysia.
Credit: Supook Supaksaran on Facebook
Another way is to visit Iceland’s local supermarkets like Bonus or Kronan. These are budget supermarkets that can be found almost everywhere in Iceland. My personal favourite is Bonus! Noticed how the logo is of a piggy bank, which means you can save a lot 😜
Credit: Matt Brown on Facebook
As for accommodation, Airbnbs are plenty throughout Iceland. Do keep in mind to do the bookings as early as possible as most places like Reykjavik city can be pretty packed!
Credit: @mmmary_beth on Instagram
That said, don’t give campsites a miss! What would a road trip be if you don’t give yourself the chance to experience staying at a campsite? There are also shower and cooking facilities at most campsites and it is also a great place to make new friends from all around the world.
5. Getting around
If you were planning to explore Iceland for more than three days, then renting a car or campervan would be your best investment.
There are many cars and campervan rental companies to choose from. For instance; Blue Car Rental, Lagoon Car Rental, KuKu Campers, Happy Campers and the list goes on. Most of them are either located near to the Reykjavik (KEF) International airport or the city area.
We went with Blue Car Rental and rented a 4×4 KIA Sorento, which was good enough for two people. On most nights, we slept with sleeping bags in our rental car. Some say low budget but we call it the adventure of our lifetime 😌
7. Drink Icelandic water straight from the tap
Do not buy water in Iceland. Because there’s really no need to! Icelandic water is not only safe to be consumed straight from the tap, but it tastes great too. It’s probably the freshest delicious tap water you will ever taste😋 In fact, bring your own water bottle or tumbler to fill it before leaving for your next destination.
P.S. September is an awareness month for a plastic free environment in Iceland!
Credit: Sigurþór Hólm Tryggvason on Facebook
Fun fact: The cold and hot water in Iceland doesn’t come from the same source. Iceland cold water runs straight from its natural springs, while the hot water is from their awesome geothermal sources.
But don’t be alarmed by the whiff of sulphur every time you turn on the faucet. This only happens for the hot water, which you will notice when you take a shower, but not the cold water. I remember my first shower upon checking into our Airbnb in Reykjavik. I had totally forgotten all about the sulphuric smell in their hot water, which I had read in most articles before my trip to Iceland. And as soon as I turned on the faucet to hot water, I experienced first-hand the pure heated Icelandic water 😌
Credit: Iceland Spring Bottled Water on Facebook
It was truly refreshing! I must say, you will get used to the Sulphuric smell as you go along. It’s not as bad as one might think. But if you’re really still not used to it, get the bottled Spring Water at the local supermarket!
Whether you choose to visit Iceland for a short amount of time or an epic road trip, this country will never fail to amaze you. Every corner and road in Iceland will lead you to another whole adventure 😍 And just like me, you will hate going to Iceland for the first time because believe it or not, we were already planning our next summer trip while we were there!