Visiting Iceland has been in my bucket list for years. I mean, what's not to love? Especially if you like a bit of adventure and experiencing something out of this world.
Planning a trip to Iceland can be quite overwhelming with the amount of activities and breathtaking sights you'd want to see. For such a small country, it is possible to explore most of the island; but that also depends which season you go!
For my friends and I, we travelled to Iceland during peak of winter (February). It was challenging to say the least, as the weather was unpredictable every single day.
This was also the reason why we chose to explore only the South of Iceland. On top of that, we rented a car so we could go around at our own pace. It was worth it! Read more below on tips for renting a car and planning your dream road trip to Iceland!
We traveled around South of Iceland for 6 full days, including the Golden Circle. Reykjavik was our starting point before we head on to our road trip.
Before I share you our itinerary, here are some top tips when planning your trip to Iceland.
When to travel
Generally, planning a trip to Iceland can be overwhelming. There are just so many things you can do and what’s crazy is they’re all so different from each other. No waterfall will look the same, some geysers are bigger and stronger, and ice caves are never the same each year. So chances are you will want to hit so many things at once, and it won’t be so enjoyable because you’ll end up driving so much and not soaking it all in! One important tip is deciding on the time of year you want to visit. Because Iceland's weather can be unpredictable, so it's important to choose a season that fits your travel style and interests.
If you're interested in hiking, visiting the highlands, and experiencing 24 hours of daylight, then summer (June to August) may be the best time for you to visit. But keep in mind that this is also the busiest time of year for tourism, and prices for accommodations and tours may be higher.
If you're interested in seeing the Northern Lights like us and experiencing Iceland's winter wonderland, then visiting during the winter months (December to February) may be the best time.
Planning Your Itinerary
Like with any place you travel to, start with researching where you want to go!
Some points of interests to get you started are the Blue Lagoon, famous for its super natural blue hot spring waters. You can visit the lagoon and do a little walk around the area, or book a spa session where you you can swim and fully immerse yourself in the stunning blue lagoon.
Some alternatives are the natural hot springs found everywhere in the country. For an ultimate spa experience, you can even try Sky Lagoon, which we did, as it is the newest spa lagoon close to Reykjavik.
If you’re going on a road trip, definitely do the Golden Circle where you have some great stopovers like the Geysir Hot Springs & the Kerid crater. A visit to the Thingvellir National Park is also worthwhile; probably during spring or summer months!
Then there’s the Southern area of Vik where you can find the black sand beach. The waves are pretty powerful here, but the scenery is stunning!
And, not to be missed especially on winter is the Vatnajökull glacier where you can also do this one-of-a-kind ice cave tour experience. We highly recommend you to book a tour in advance!
Try to shortlist these experiences and prioritize those activities in your itinerary!
Next, decide on the duration of your trip: Iceland is a small country, but there's plenty to see and do.
If you’re there for less than a week then you might want to stay close to Reykjavik area and just book tours from there. But if you want to explore more of the country or even around the golden circle, then I suggest renting a car in Iceland.
It’s also important to consider the driving distance and time to get to some of these attractions: as I will stress it out again - Iceland's roads can be unpredictable and super weather-dependent. So make sure to factor in driving time when planning your itinerary.
Renting a Car One thing to note in Iceland is that there is no good, reliable public transportation - very few buses, no trains. Expensive taxis! So typically people will hire a tour company to either go on public tours or private tours. And of course, the next best option is renting a car in Iceland. A good tip is to go with a reputable car rental company that provides full insurance coverage. We went with HERTZ Iceland, which would cost about 60eur-100eur per day depending on the type of car you choose. On top of that, insurance is 40-50eur per day.
What I like about HERTZ Iceland is that it was a super easy process picking up the car from the airport, plus they equip you will all the safety precautions so you get briefed on the driving rules in Iceland which apparently is really strict.
Before You Go
Now for some practical tips for you to ensure you have an awesome time in Iceland:
Pack appropriately - Bring the right clothing and pack for every season including waterproof gear.
Check weather forecast regularly - before and during your trip so you can plan and also be flexible as you go.
Book accommodations well in advance - believe it or not, winter is also peak season in Iceland because of the aurora lights. So If you still want to get good accommodations at better deals, then plan at least 2-3 months before your trip.
Know your budget - since Iceland is a very very expensive country. Prepare to budget about 100eur/day/person excluding flights and other excursions.
Finally, download these apps ahead of time - Safetravel.is, which is super handy to get alerted on any weather warnings and road closures. If you’re seeing Northern lights, the these aurora apps like Hello Aurora and Aurora Now will be super helpful.
I wish you luck on your Iceland journey! If you'd like a video version of this blog, check it out on our YouTube channel The Travelling Foxes. Until next time, keep exploring!