Tips for Traveling in Iceland

Ah, Iceland. My favorite country to visit has seen a massive increase of tourists, and I’m happy to see it get lots of love. With that in mind, I would like to pass on some tips and tricks I learned when I visited back in the summer of 2011.

The first thing is that the famous Blue Lagoon is a must. Whenever you hear Iceland being mentioned, odds are this’ll be one of the first things, and for good reason. The geothermal waters are warm and relaxing throughout the entire year, and you’ll feel ridiculously at peace. When I went, I spent a good couple of hours there, and if you’re not careful you could spend half a day there; you really don’t want to get out of the water. That being said, I would recommend going there either first thing after you land (which I did) or going before your flight (to get you in the mood to travel). If you’re worried about transportation to/from Keflavik Airport, fear not: there are plenty of buses to take you to the Blue Lagoon as well as to Reykjavik itself. There also are storage sheds to drop your baggage off, so the Icelanders really have made life easy for tourists. Oh yeah, you can also buy gift vials of the lotion/essence from the lagoon if you so choose.

Depending on when you visit, you’ll have to deal with a lot of darkness or light, so be prepared. Thanks to its unique position in the North Atlantic, winters see only a few hours of sunlight (think 2-3 a day) and with the unique phenomenon of the midnight sun in summer, the opposite holds true. I brought a sleeping mask with me, which definitely enabled me to sleep, but wow, was it a bit jarring. I mean, time felt like it was warped because it was so sunny in summer-you couldn’t tell if it was midnight or 7 AM. And while I have yet to go in the darker months, I’m going to assume it’s jarring due to a constant lack of sunlight. So, the moral of this point is, if you’re a vampire, half of the year is going to be your happy place while the other half is living hell. (Incidentally, I wonder why vampires don’t move to the Nordic countries in winter. It’d be a dream come true for them.)

Regarding the summer weather, you’re going to want to bring some warmer clothes with you. The summer months aren’t super cold, but they can be chilly, especially if there’s wind; hooded clothes such as windbreakers will come in handy for sure. If you’re adventurous and want to take a tour of the Golden Ring (which is gorgeous), realize that there’s a very distinct lack of shelter, so the wind will inevitably pummel you and decrease the temperature. Seguing into what clothes you should take with you, pack layers, hiking shoes, and sturdy socks. It’s a crime not to take advantage of the splendid scenery, but unlike mountains and hills in America, Icelandic nature is a lot more rugged. Therefore you’d want something sturdier and not built to look dapper. The local brand of outdoor wear is 361 Degrees, which I noticed plenty of locals were wearing; it’s the ultimate testament to its quality. Also, I know that Icelandic sweaters are insanely warm, so that would be an option both as a souvenir and practical wear.

The general assumption is that you’d spend most of your time in or around Reykjavik, so I’d recommend public transportation. While I admit that I walked most of the time, due to the fact that the city proper is very walkable, the bus system is decent and reliable. In particular, I’d recommend getting a bus to the harbor, because depending on where you’re staying, it might be more direct. Again, it depends on your mood, as either alternative is equally as sufficient to see the city.

Something unique to Iceland are whale-watching tours, which may sound like a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Be warned that a) you’re going to be out on the cold, windy waters for several hours and b) you aren’t guaranteed to see anything. For me, I unfortunately didn’t have any luck, so it was a chilly two and a half hours on the boat. At least the consolation was getting to be one with my thoughts, in lovely Iceland.

Finally, there are plenty of locals who are happy to help you/give you tips. One such example are the tours provided by I Heart Reykjavik. It’s run by Auður, who is very responsive to feedback and questions, so by all means, go with her for tours! Even if you opt to walk around sans tour, the locals all speak immaculate English and are more than willing to help point you to your intended destinations. If you’re like me, you may feel a bit guilty for not knowing Icelandic to use with the locals. No worries, they do like speaking English, and they’re more than happy to accommodate you.

 

As an added bonus to make you feel excited about visiting Iceland, here’s this amazing drone video featuring the gorgeous scenery: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOrvIiHnavQ

 

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