Five Ways to Make the Most Out of Your Iceland Trip
If you are considering a trip to Iceland, do it. It will be the trip of a lifetime. It has been a few months since our trip, and we still talk about it every day. Here are five ways to make the most out of your trip:
1. Stay in Iceland as long as you can, and spend your time on the Ring Road.
We stayed in Iceland for 11 days, but spent about three of those days on flights or in Reykjavik. Unless you are really into the party scene, one day in Reykjavik is enough. We saw everything we wanted to see in the city, walked every block, ate lots of food and shopped for wool items… all in one day.
The View of Reykjavik from the Top of Hallgrimskirkja
We had time built in to the end of our trip to see more of Reykjavik, but we didn’t need it. Unfortunately it was too late to extend our campervan reservation since it was already booked solid. The Ring Road is where it’s at. If you go all the way to Iceland, make sure your time is well spent.
2. Don’t over plan.
It’s really important to not rush your Iceland trip. We had two events planned on the Ring Road: whale watching in Akureyri and an Inside the Volcano tour near the Golden Circle. We loved both of these excursions and were so glad we had booked them in advance because they fill up fast! But it was hard enough for us to make it to those two events in the right time frame. It can be stressful to try to be in a certain place by a certain time. Fortunately, most of what we wanted to do didn’t require reservations (hiking and exploring). Avoid over-booking or over-planning.
Of course you should take in all of the major sights. But don’t just follow someone else’s Iceland guide. Stop in a town you didn’t know existed. Pull over on the side of the road and hike up a random waterfall. Get off the beaten path and just follow your heart. That’s what Iceland is about.
Our Favorite “Off the Beaten Path” Stop
3. Use a paper map.
Our campervan came with a GPS, which was great! But it can be difficult to spell things correctly and find addresses for natural wonders. Before our trip, we made a list of all of the sights that we definitely didn’t want to miss. Then we marked each one on a paper map. This is also helpful because we did the Ring Road clockwise, but many blogs we had read did the Ring Road in reverse. Mapping it out helped us see where everything was. When we drove, I followed along on a paper map to make sure we didn’t miss anything. And honestly, we would have missed things. If you are just following signage, you will miss even some of the biggest natural attractions unless you know you are looking for them.
Enjoying the Drive
We never needed the map because we were lost, we just needed it as an itinerary of sorts. I know it feels like 1990, but just get a paper map and mark it up before you go! You won’t regret having it.
4. Get a Campervan.
I hear people talking about booking hotels in Iceland to do the Ring Road. I honestly don’t know how they do it. The towns are so few and far apart, that it’s impossible to know where you will be and when. For example, we thought we would spend a lot of time in the southern part of Iceland, but we fell in love with the north and spent a lot more time there. We were glad we didn’t have hotel reservations waiting for us, which would’ve made us rush through the trip. Plus, the cost of a camper van is only slightly higher than a rental car. Since you would need a rental car AND hotel rooms, the cost would be so much higher than just getting the van!
A Rainbow over our Van
We absolutely fell in love with our campervan. It was cozy, and we seriously never wanted to leave it. My boyfriend had originally thought that he would want to stay in hotels a few nights along the way for a “campervan break”, but once we got the van, we dreaded giving it back.
Our Cozy Sleeping Quarters
5. Stay dry.
We got very lucky. The first half of our trip on the Ring Road was sunny and dry. This means a greater chance of seeing the Northern Lights since there are no clouds blocking our view!
The Northern Lights on a Clear Night
I had read many travel blogs before the trip cautioning against the sudden change in weather and the need for waterproof clothing. I didn’t understand until the weather suddenly changed (as I had been warned), and we were drenched. In Iceland, you don’t stop your trip just because of the rain. You go on the hike and visit the waterfalls and walk through the towns anyways. I never knew how much I wanted or needed waterproof pants until Iceland. Fortunately, we had each taken two pairs of good shoes (hiking boots and tennis shoes) so that we could switch between the two while the other pair was drying. And I had a waterproof rain jacket. But I would never, ever do Iceland again without waterproof pants as well.
Exploring Lava Fields in the Freezing Rain
If you are staying in a campervan, it is really hard to get everything dry once it gets wet. The van can get humid inside, so even though we could hang stuff up front while we slept at night, our non-waterproof clothes never dried out completely until we got to a hotel again. We also made the mistake of handing wet items over our bed while we drove. This helps to dry the clothes some, but left us with a wet bed. You’ll only make that mistake once!