Updated: Jun 7, 2019
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Name: Brittany Steinkamp
Instagram handle: @pointednorth_
Based in the Midwest, I'm the writer and creator at Pointed North, but work in advertising by day. My daily interests revolve around spending time with my husband & puppy & planning our next adventure, meal and my next outfit.
Where do you live: Des Moines, Iowa
Why do you travel: I travel to continually broaden my horizons and stay humble. I love learning about other cultures and appreciating all the world has to give us.
5 Tips for Visiting Iceland
We visited Iceland in late September 2017 - what they consider a shoulder season. Summer is very popular as the daylight lasts all day (literally) and the weather is perfect. After August, prices dip and the weather starts to decline and the days grow shorter. Although we wore multiple layers everyday, we enjoyed the thin crowds and even the rainy weather which made our visit feel more authentic. Iceland took our breath away from the moment we began our first road trip stretch. We learned a lot along the way and I’m here to share my 5 tips for visiting Iceland.
1. Rent a car
Even if people warn you about road conditions or tell you bridges are dangerously one-car-only, don’t listen to them. Rent a car in Iceland. Hands down, there’s no better way to see the beautiful, ever-changing country landscape. I get that tours can be informative and somewhat safer depending on where you’re traveling, and I’m not completely ruling them out. There are definitely some areas restricted to guided-only tours. But for the most part, everything is safe. Being able to stop where you want - because trust me, you’ll want to stop every 5 miles for a photo opp - and when you want makes the trip so much more rewarding. We rented a small SUV in late September, ran into snow and rain and never felt unsafe on the road. There are two lanes most of the way, and it’s almost impossible to get lost (the Ring Road is a solo one). Also, it gives you flexibility which I promise you will want. See next tip.
2. Have a plan, but be flexible
Obviously, when you plan a major trip like visiting one of the most especially beautiful countries in the world, you need some sort of a plan. You’ll want to get there, you’ll want a predetermined route to navigate and you’ll want to plan a couple excursions/adventures. But, the best thing we did was leave enough room for a little change of plan. After we got a feel for the country and talked to a few Icelanders (see tip #4), we switched up our route one day and ended up seeing the west coast instead of spending more time inland. SO WORTH IT. And actually, that ended up being one of our favorite days. Iceland has so much to offer for any personalities and likings that you won’t even realize until you’re there - so stay flexible!
3. Pack the right gear
I’m sure any Iceland article you’ve read warns you about the weather. I’m here to reiterate that warning. It will rain, the sun will shine, the flurries will blow and the wind will be relentless. I’m so thankful we took this seriously and invested in weatherproof items. Here are a few must-haves: rain jacket, rain pants, waterproof boots, warm base layers & a hat. I’ll never forget getting out of the car during our first trek and feeling the most powerful wind I’ve ever experienced. Then it started raining. All that gear - worth every penny. Even if you’re visiting in the summer months, you’ll want the protection for walking around waterfalls and trekking glaciers.
4. Talk to the locals
As I mentioned above, our plans (thankfully) changed after talking to one of our very gracious waiters in Reykjavik. There is a common theme with the Iceland people - they are all so very nice. So welcoming and happy to help. Plus, there are so many great, mandatory stops listed on every travel website - Blue Lagoon, anyone? - but the locals know the true must-see spots. And they can tell you where to eat, stop for gas, weather predictions… you know, the good stuff.
5. Stay outside of Reykjavik
One mistake most people visiting Iceland make - only staying in Reykjavik. We spent about fifty percent of our time in Reykjavik (all pre-planned), which was great, but next time, we’ll absolutely take more advantage of the rural areas. When we did stay outside of the city - one night in Reykjavik and one night at the ION Hotel - we had the best experiences. Not that Reykjavik isn’t vibrant, fun and full of amazing restaurants, we were just looking for the desolate Iceland of our dreams. Which is exactly what Reykjavik and the ION delivered. You won’t find hotels or AirBnB’s in every small town or village, but don’t be afraid to hunt something down. I highly recommend Reykjavik and we have our eyes set on Arnarstapi on the west coast for our next trip. You read that correctly - our next trip to Iceland. There are so many wonderful sights to see in the country that took our breath away and the day we left, we vowed to return. We don’t have any set plans, but we’re already excited to start planning a next adventure there someday. It’s even a place we’ve dreamt about taking kids and other family members. It’s just that amazing. Enjoy!