So, Cris and I are JUST getting back from Iceland and we’ve only got three things to say:
- It is SO MUCH MORE AWESOME than we’ve ever expected it to be.
- I didn’t know much about the country before visiting it now for the first time
- Unless you have a lot of money to spare, whatever you do, DO NOT speed when driving in Iceland (more on that later)
Planning Our Trip to Iceland
Cris surprised me with a trip to Iceland for my birthday. As a travel photographer, Cris is always traveling to remote countries (my guy has spent one month camping with both the Eagle hunters and Reindeer people of Mongolia— no joke).
Because of him, I am now traveling to places in the world that I’ve never before considered (such as Sri Lanka).
If I can be completely honest, I was a total ignorant about Iceland before going for the first time.
Considering how Iceland tourism is blooming, it’s not uncommon for us to stumble upon some spectacular Iceland pictures on social media.
Honestly, I had no idea what to expect besides some Instagrammable places I had seen around my feed.
Our trip was meant to be short and intense: we had 4 days to cover as much as we could of Iceland by car.
- Early-morning wake up calls
- Breakfast and lunch inside the car
- And LOOOONG hours of driving from one destination to another.
We couldn’t be more excited!
Being that Cris and I are constant travelers, we managed to have a very comfortable and romantic trip, all the while saving money whenever we could (and seeing everything we wanted in a short amount of time).
But being that neither of us had ever been to Iceland before, we committed some horrendous rookie mistakes.
Had we done some basic research before going, we could’ve avoided some unpleasantries during our trip (such as getting our infamous 800 € fine for speeding).
So, in case you’re planning a trip to this fantastic country, I truly believe the valuable tips for traveling around Iceland will be VERY helpful (be it summer or winter time).
12 Iceland Mistakes I Wish I Knew Before Going
Do Not Speed
This was so shocking that it had to be number one on this list.
Buckle up and get ready to hear our story being fined in Iceland (pun intended).
When it comes to speeding in the driveway, Iceland rules can be very strict ($$$$$$).
(and, mind you, it’s easier to get caught by speeding than you would think).
There are two ways in which you could get royally screwed by speeding:
- The infamous speeding machines (spread out around the highways).
- Police cars that go around the highways, just waiting for their next tourist car to fine.
Considering the road speed limit in Iceland is 90 km/h (62mph), you can understand why it’s not a challenge getting fined for speeding.
As previously explained, when we visited Iceland we had very little time to spare. We wanted wanted to discover as much as we could of the country with the time we had.
This meant speeding up a bit.
This also meant an 800 euro fine.
Book the Blue Lagoon in Advance
But careful not to plan too much in advance. Being that Iceland is such an unpredictable country, I would never suggest over-planning (especially if this means paying for anything in advance).
This means that, if you book to go to the Blue Lagoon at 15h and you are in the other side of Iceland, you might end up missing your appointment
(especially if you face a snowstorm on your way there—which is not uncommon, I might add).
But a word of advice: Cris and I did not book the Blue Lagoon in advance so by the time we got there, we were informed it was fully-booked during the day. Our only alternative was to go back the next day at night time.
Needless to say, I was crushed. This meant that I would not be able to enjoy the famous Blue Lagoon to its full potential (that’s because you can’t really appreciate its turquoise water color in the nighttime).
Stay Outside of Reykjavik (better deals for accommodations outside the city)
Wanna know how long we spent in the city of Reykjavík ?
Half an hour.
We literally just arrived, bought something to eat… and drove away.
You’re in Iceland!!! The country is all about nature and exploring.
Not only is the town quite small and overly-expensive, but there is SIO MUCH more to Iceland than Reykjavík.
Also, you can get better deals in AirBnbs that are located outside of the center. This means you will get a more interesting experience sleeping surrounded by nature (with fewer tourists around you).
PLUS, better accomodation rates (win-win-win).
Stay at A Cottage
Each day, we slept in a different part of Iceland. This also meant, each day we had a different cottage in a remote location to stay.
We would explore during the day and, when there was no more light left, we would go to a local supermarket to buy food to cook inside the cottage’s kitchen.
With that, we were saving precious money from eating out in expensive Icelandic restaurants. What’s more, it was so nice to relax after a busy day inside a comfy cottage.
It’s the perfect ending to a perfect day in Iceland.
Tip: We would buy some chamomile tea and some veggies to throw into a pan and make a nice, yummy veggie soup.
Eat in Gas Stations
Unless you have a lot of time (and money) to spare, I would NOT recommend interrupting your day of exploring to go eat in a restaurant.
Not only restaurants are not exactly easy to find, but keep in mind that, depending on what time of the year you go, the amount of daylight can be quite limited.
But worry not, my hungry friend. You’ll be happy (and perhaps even surprised) to know that the food at gas stations’ convenience stores are quite amazing!
Cris and I were obsessed with a tuna sandwich that you can literally find in any gas station there.
It was so tasty and had so much tuna that it became our go-to-meal during the day time (we would occasionally vary it with a ham and cheese sub, but the tuna ones were the trips’ MVP)
Don’t waste your time and money having lunch in restaurants during your time visiting Iceland. Just buy something to go in any gas station and carpe diem!
You’ll Get Wet
Oh yes, you will (most probably) get wet.
Regardless if you visit Iceland in winter or summer time, staying dry really doesn’t seem to be an option.
If I were you, I wouldn’t even bother checking the weather forecast for Iceland before going. Everything is so unpredictable that you could have all the 4 seasons in one day alone.
Add to that the vast amount of majestic waterfalls and a magical sea full of ice, you’ve got yourself a perfect combo for getting soaked.
Wear Adequate Clothes (including waterproof boots)
It Can Get (Very) Windy
Adding on, I wouldn’t be too bothered either in bringing an umbrella.
Once you arrive to Iceland, you’ll quickly notice that, even though there is a lot of rain, no one wears umbrellas.
Why is that?
Simply put, the wind in Iceland is known to be crazy unpredictable and violent.
It can get so strong that car doors have a word of caution to be aware of strong winds that could quite literally crack your car door away.
A poor umbrella would be of very little help when you visit Iceland.
Best to stay warm with a waterproof vest + hoodie.
No Alcohol on Weekends
I don’t know about you, but I would love to share a nice bottle of red wine inside my cottage at the end of a cold day out exploring.
What’s more, Cris and I were celebrating our one year anniversary, so I was really looking forward to a glass of red with some cheese before dinner.
However, it seems that they do not sell alcohol in Iceland during the weekends!!!!!!
You won’t find alcohol of any kind in any supermarket during the weekends (the most I found was light beer!!!!!).
I was so disappointed that I wanted to cry.
There are a few solutions for this though:
- Go to any restaurant and ask to buy and take away a bottle ($$$)
- Buy it in advance, before the weekend
- Buy it in the Duty Free upon arriving to Iceland
Don’t Buy Water In Iceland
Did you know that the water in Iceland is one of the purest in the world??
So drinking water directly from the tap is just as delicious as drinking a freshly bought mineral water.
When Cris and I were in the airport of Barcelona going to Iceland, I told him to keep the water bottles we had so we would just refill them during the trip.
As a result, we never spent one euro in water during our whole time in Iceland (mini wins to compensate the 800 euro speeding fine).
Winter Days Are Very Short
Keep in mind that if you go to Iceland in winter time it can be especially hard to explore. that’s because winter days in Iceland are very short.
A full day of fun in December can mean a good 3h… and not much more.
This little detail is especially important when you don’t have a lot of days to enjoy the country.
No Need To Take Out Cash in the ATM (but know your conversion rate)
You can pay anywhere in Iceland with card.
I kid you not when I say that I didn’t even see Icelandic currency during my time there. It is very easy and convenient to use your card in Iceland (even to directly pay the 800 euro speeding fine).
The Iceland Plain Wreck
LOL, LOL, and more and more LOL
The plane wreck….
Ok, don’t get me wrong, it is AMAZING and an absolute must-see if you are ever in Iceland. If I had to walk again to see it, I most certainly would.
However, Cris was misinformed when we went. This random guy told us that we would have to park the car and walk around 10 minutes to the site of the crash.
And so we went…
1h later, all wet from the rain and cold from the wind, we arrived to the crash.
No. It was most definitely NOT a 10 minutes walk.
It is not even a half an hour jog (we jogged twice on our way back to the car ha ha).
What you face is actually an endless path of black terrain, under a strong current of winds, and an occasional rain right on your head.
Ahh, and did I mention we went in February? (so not exactly the warmest weather either).
I cannot emphasize this enough: the walk really is endless.
You walk, you jog, you laugh, you cry and you’re still not there…
Take a sneak peak inside the plane wreck.
The Plane Wreck Shuttle
Good news for you, ma friend, is that there IS an alternative.
(the Iceland tourism board does not want to kill all of its tourists).
There is a shuttle that goes by every hour and takes you to the crash, and brings you back to the warmth of your car in no time.
Enjoy the comfort of the ride and laugh at the people who are making their way walking to the plane.
This is it guys. My 12 absolute valuable tips that can for sure make a whole difference to your trip to Iceland.
It is such a fantastic place and I really was not expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. I really can’t wait to go back ASAP (hopefully this summer again with Cris).