This summer we went to Iceland for 10 days. It’s truly a nature wonderland and we had such a marvellous time there. It lived up to my expectations as a dream destination and we’d wholeheartedly recommend a holiday there to everybody! Having been, there’s definitely some information worth relaying, so here’s my top 10 noteworthy pointers to you future travellers from a person that’s been there.
- The blue lagoon tips
- Icelandic Money tips
- When flying IcelandAir
- Airbnb it! (with £25 discount!)
- Food and things really are expensive!
- Places to visit and not to visit
- Rent a 4×4 car
- About car navigation
- What to wear
- My rant
1. The blue lagoon tips:
Although pretty much every tourist to Iceland visit there, the lagoon still manages to control the touristy vibe and is definitely visit-worthy. We stayed there for over 3 hours, and was still sad to leave. But…, we must warn you that their changing room suck. You’d think that the pricey ticket of £70 per person (!) would warrant you a spacious and luxurious room to change in, but on the contrary, you’ll get a small, cramped locker room reminiscent of youth days at school. The locker itself is small too so leave your big bags in the car.
Time it: The tickets for the lagoon is sold at hourly intervals, and so people promptly arrive at those given hours. As you’d expect, such ticketing system creates a surge of people suddenly showing up at that same time, creating snaking queues at the entrance desk, and heaving the small changing facilities. So I suggest going there at a non-hourly time like 20 minutes before. We did this and we queued only for a couple of minutes. This tip also applies to the timing to get out of the lagoon too – it’s best to get out at half-past o’clocks when the changing rooms will be less crowded.
At which time of day is best to visit the Blue Lagoon? Our ticket time was 4pm, and we thought that it was truly magical as we were there as the sun set.
Take a waterproof camera cover: It makes the experience doubly fun. But prior to your holiday, buy one that’s cheaper on Amazon. I bought “this one” and it was great, no leaks and no plastic reflection in my photos. The blue lagoon drink bar sells one for 2900kr. That’s £20. The one on Amazon is £6.
(Panorama picture at around 6pm in the Blue Lagoon.)
2. Icelandic Money tips:
Exchange very little currency or not exchange at-all. You’ve read it elsewhere I’m sure, and it’s true, Iceland really is a cashless society. Absolutely ‘everything’ can be purchased via card. And even with ApplePay too. – Before you go, do a bit of homework and just check on your bank website on how much they charge for using their cards overseas, as all cards and banks have different fee rates. This way you’ll figure out which of your cards is the most cost-saving to use.
3. When flying IcelandAir:
Don’t expect to be handed out meals. We didn’t realise this until we were onboard, but it’s like those budget airlines such as RyanAir, where you’d have to pay for your meals from the in-flight trolley (with expensive Icelandic price tag!). The non-alcoholic drinks are free though but alcohol is not.
(Panorama picture of Jona’s Airbnb cabin! It’s 360 degrees of view, view, and view!)
4. Airbnb it!
Don’t stay in hotels. For this holiday you’ve got to have a kitchen. I truly recommend staying at where we stayed. Jona’s place is in between the golden circle and the famous waterfall Seljalandsfoss, where you can walk behind. It’s also close to Gjain and Haifoss waterfall which are less touristy. The link to the house we stayed in is this. And if you like, before you make the booking, I can refer you to Airbnb so that you get a discount of £25 toward your stay at ANY acommodation. This is a Airbnb referral-initiative, where I get a credit toward my future stays if you get referred through me, so it’s a win-win for both of us!^^) Just to let you know, you’ve got to be a new customer to the site for this offer though. So, if you’re interested in getting a discount, use this link.
(Panorama picture on-board the Laki Tour in Olafsvik. We spotted over 100 whales!)
5. Food and things really are expensive!
And I’m sure you’ve read about this too, and it’s true. So don’t bother eating out, unless it’s for the experience to taste the local speciality like lamb stew and treating yourself to a double ice-cream at The Erpsstaðir creamery. (We did treat ourselves to cake at one point though to nourish our souls! See next tip.) We cooked dinner every night for ourselves and made sandwiches and chopped fruit (like apples) & veg (like cucumber, carrots) into sticks every morning to take with us on our day trips. Pack these things in your suitcase to take with you:
1. Stainless steel lunch boxes for sandwiches (I took one box per every family member plus another for the chopped fruit & veg into sticks which are great for snacking on in the car).
2. Thermos flask and favourite tea bags (we love drinking green Rooibos because it’s caffeine free and even the kids could drink it).
3. Reusable water bottles to fill up with Icelandic tap water.
(Pic of food we ordered at a cafe at Gullfoss. It was one of the very few occasions when we splashed out on eating-out.)
6. My opinion on the sites we visited:
The Thingvellir National Park (Þingvellir) was underwhelming. There’s quite a lot of tourists, and the path is nicely graveled, which is nice but too nice when you’re in Iceland for the nature. Save time and don’t bother going there. That’s my opinion anyway.
The Kerid Crater was okay. The water’s not as blue as you’d see in pictures though. We thought we’d beat the crowd by going early (9:30am-ish), which turned out to be a good move as there were not many people nor coaches there yet so we managed to get pictures without any tourists spoiling the view.
Gullfoss Waterfall was again touristy, but what a magnificent waterfall! And the cafe was nice. We got a tasty lamb stew and treated ourselves to cakes for each of us. (£13 for bowl of lamb stew, £4.60 for hot chocolate, £6 for a slice of cake.) The children also bought a souvenir in the shop.
Geysir Hot Spring Area and Strokkur is worthy of just a quick stop-over before or after Gullfoss as it is very closely located. Again super touristy, but we had fun waiting for the main Geysir to shoot up.
Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfurárfoss waterfall. This was the place we went to first on our Iceland trip. And it was a great way to start it! The Gljúfurárfoss, where you skip-step stones to get to is super fun (as the people who go in has to get out the same way, navigating your way can get tricky though). Here, expect an orderly queue forming. My top tip would be to just go early and beat the crowd. We arrived there just before 10am, and there were already lots of people (plus coaches), and we wondered how it would’ve been like if it was mid-day!
Dyrhólaey cliff and the black sand beach, fab. The Abandoned DC Plane on Sólheimasandur, gave up walking as it started to rain heavily, plus the walk was un-scenic anyway. Gjain & Þjófafoss waterfall, the best waterfalls in our opinion! (Make sure you have a 4×4 car!) Sólheimajökull glacier, beautiful. Hjalparfoss waterfall, boring. Deildartunguhver thermal spring, no special point to visit unless you’re going to the spa. Hraunfossar & Barnafoss, good. Eiriksstadir Viking Longhouse, magical, plus the roads on the way is scenic. The story is interesting too. Sheep’s Waterfall, super amazing. Kirkjufell Mountain, a quick stop to take a picture.
(Panorama picture at ‘Sheep’s Waterfall’ off route 56. It’s a magical place that shall live in my heart forever.)
7. Definitely rent a 4×4 car, even in Summer.
First of all, you’ve got to consider wether you’d like to rent a car. We wanted the freedom to go to non-toursity places, and not be governed by tour coaches, so car-hire it was. When choosing the type of car to rent, definitely choose a 4×4, because as soon as you get off the main roads it is gravelled and raggedy.
Also, please be careful on the roads. During our 10 day visit, we saw two car accidents…! Both were collision with another vehicle. From what we gathered, the parties involved were tourists. One of the accident was just by the Kerid crater entrance.
(The Eiríksstaðir Viking Longhouse in West Iceland! The grass on the roof swayed in the wind and it was so beautiful. If you’re visiting, check the opening times. It’s only open from June until end of August. We went on September 1st and it was closed!!!! Lol!)
8. Car navigation.
There is no need to hire a GPS unit (costs around 2000ikr per day). We downloaded google maps on to our iPhones at home, then used that offline. It’s great because you don’t need mobile data for this to work. And the beauty with this is that you can drop pins on your map to favourite the locations too. So rather than spending money on renting a GPS unit, invest in buying a phone holder instead (like this one from Amazon).
9. Make sure to take appropriate clothing, hat & shoes.
For the shoes, get hiking shoes or boots that has good grip. It’s important for your safety near the waterfalls, as most of these places won’t have a guard rail, and it’s simply too risky! And make sure it’s waterproof. The weather in Iceland changes quickly. FYI, before our holiday, we bought these shoes/ trainers for our family: mine, my daughter’s, my son’s, Mr D’s. For clothing, take a waterproof jacket with a hood, and lots of warm clothes. We went in the end of August, and it was only 10 degrees, with winds that felt much colder!! Forget fashion, wear clothes that mean business!
10. My rant: the drones are annoying & unsociable!
Now that you’ve read this far, I’m gonna make you read my rant. Those flying drones are Annoying! Please consider the places you use them! We were at the most serene place called the Sólheimajökull glacier, and there they were – two of them – buzzing like annoying bees, and getting in the way of our pictures. What a kill-joy for the rest of the visitors. If I were a rude person, I would’ve thrown a stone at it to shoot it down. – And then there it was again, this time at the famous Strokkur geyser, hovering literally above the main attraction. This is despite the sign saying not to… Needless to say I kinda wished the geyser shot water at it to render it unusable. Now that’d make a good video won’t it. – There really are all sorts of travellers aren’t there? When we were on the whale tour, I saw a passenger throw his sick-bag over board, polluting the otherwise perfectly beautiful sea. Why this guy with such disrespect for nature came to see the whales is beyond comprehension. – Rant over and out!