Iceland Travel Guide
Iceland is, hands down, the most beautiful place I have ever seen. The best way Tom and I have been able to describe it, is that it is not just another country, but another planet. One moment the weather is clear, sunny, and calm, and the next it's windy, rainy, and overcast, only to clear up the next moment. It's unpredictable, but depending on when you go, it's manageable. Visiting during any of the four seasons would have its perks and drawbacks, but I'm personally happy with our choice to go in the fall. The roads weren't bad (besides some bumpy, unpaved ones), and the temps were enough to merit only a couple light layers, rain jackets, and boots.
Things to note:
- The currency of Iceland is the króna (ISK). We never took out cash, and never needed to. Cards are accepted everywhere along the Golden Circle.
- The language of Iceland is... Icelandic! It's beautiful, but incredibly complicated.
- Sinks are small - not unusual for Scandinavian or European countries, but worth noting.
- Their tap water is very clean and so good. Some have mentioned sulfur smells with the water, but we did not come across this.
- Iceland is expensive. Over $7/gal of gas, most restaurant meals are over $15-$20 per person for nothing extra special (like some soup), etc...
- The Northern Lights are most viewable September through April, but of course it still depends on cloud cover, solar activity, etc.. so it's not guaranteed.
- IcelandAir is a great airline and had phenomenal customer service. I highly recommend them!
- Download maps of Iceland before you go. The service can be spotty, so you'll be glad to have off-line versions of directions.
- Accidents on roundabouts in Iceland involve tourists 22% of the time. When going through a double lane roundabout, it is custom for the outer lane to yield to the inner lane when they are exiting the roundabout. Meaning, you have to let the inner lane cut you off! We almost got in an accident in this situation, and had to do some digging online to discover this is an unwritten norm in the country! Here's an article outlining some of their traffic rules.
- Be aware of one lane bridges, and be sure you're not going to go head-on with oncoming traffic - take turns.
- Most of the roads on the Golden Circle are paved and not that scary to navigate, but be sure the vehicle you've rented is okayed for certain road conditions, or perhaps upgrade to 4WD just in case.
- The Icelandic people are very friendly and we didn't meet a single one who didn't speak clear English. However, they do tend to keep to themselves, so don't expect long-winded conversations.
- Even with the plethora of tourists at some places, you won't talk to a lot of people. Everyone is there for the sights and the isolation. We did have a great chat with a mom and daughter from the U.S., but that was about it!
Food & Drinks
- Coffee shops and bakeries in Reykjavik are great, but as mentioned, restaurants are pricey.
- If you're staying somewhere with access to a few kitchen amenities, buy groceries and cook a little. We found the cost of groceries to not be as grossly overpriced.
- Also, try staying in a hotel where they serve continental breakfast (which in our case was absolutely delicious and nothing like the cheap continental breakfasts in the U.S.)
- Eat the yogurt!!! Skyyr is the main one, but we also loved "abt." I'm not even a big yogurt eater, but it was seriously amazing.