Why did you choose this destination?
I saw a story on one of those Sunday morning news shows and the journalist talked about renting a car and driving the 800 mile circumference of the country on Ring Road. I thought that sounded like the ultimate (and do-able) road trip so it was always in the back of my mind to visit. When my husband and I were trying to figure out our honeymoon, I threw out Iceland as an option and he was game. With three trips under our belt, we plan to return again in a few years.
disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that I have recommended. While clicking these links won’t cost you any extra money, they will help me keep this site up and running!
How long were you there?
I’ve traveled to Iceland three times since 2016 for a grand total of 25 days during the months of December, February, and July. Although it is easier to travel the country in the summer, I loved exploring in the winter too!
What’s the estimated cost of the trip?
Each trip was a bit different in terms of expenses and accommodations but overall each cost between $1,500-$2,700 USD (for each trip I’ve traveled with my husband so the expenses are combined). I’ve been really fortunate to find affordable round trip flights out of Toronto, Canada for $350 (December and February) and $650 (July). In the winter, one of the best ways to save money is staying in AirBnBs with a kitchen for under $100 USD/night and purchase groceries at BONUS. If you plan to visit in the summer, I highly recommend renting a vehicle and tent camping throughout the country. A spot at one of the many campgrounds can be reserved for under $20 USD/night.
Must do attractions?
If you’d like a tour of the variety of natural wonders of the country, spend a day or two on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula enjoying the waterfalls, hot pots, glaciers, rock formations, and mountains. Don’t skip out on the small towns scattered around the country or Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik. If looking for quiet, isolated experiences around the fjords, visit the West Fjords or East Fjords. Their stunning views, cliffs, and isolated valleys are more impressive than anything I have ever witnessed before.
Things to know before you go
- Every place I visited used credit cards.
- If you rent a vehicle, ensure you have a 4-digit pin for your credit card so that you can pump gas at the unattended fill stations (5- or 6-digit pins are not accepted).
- Especially when traveling in the more remote West Fjords, North, and East be sure to fill your gas tank any chance you get. You don’t want to be stranded on the side of the road.
- Weather can change quickly and there is damaging wind and sandstorms- opt for all the coverage on the rental car just to be safe, and hold the door when you get out of the car.
- There are so many beautiful things to see in Iceland, even from just outside your car window. If you’d like to pull over for a photo, find a designated pull off spot. There are not continuous shoulders on the side of the road and if you do not pull off in a designated spot you jeopardize the safety of yourself and other drivers.
- If you’re planning to stay in Reykjavik, there is no need to rent a car. Take the Fly Bus from the airport to the city for about $95 USD/round trip and use public transportation or walk.
What was your least favorite part of the trip?
Despite the warnings and ample receptacles, visitors continue to walk off the pathways and litter. When I visited Thingvellir, one of the popular national parks and Golden Circle stop, there were busloads of tourists that were walking outside the marked path and onto the moss-covered lava. Some of the lava takes decades to grow, so visitors can cause considerable damage that might last beyond their own lifetime. Despite there being numerous trash cans available in the park along the walkways, there was a considerable amount of food wrappers, to-go coffee cups, and cigarette butts that were caught in the rocks and in the low-lying bushes. Since Iceland’s population is so small when you compare it to the number of travelers that visit each year, it’s vital that we all respect nature, follow the rules, limit our trash (or at the very least dispose of it properly).
What was your favorite part of the trip?
Driving up and down the winding roads in the remote West Fjords, while listening to Sigor Ros was one of my favorite moments of the trip. There are so few people that travel to this region, we barely saw other cars during the 9-hour drive. Hitting the highest points of the road brought us into the low hanging clouds and fog and driving on the lowest points had our noses alongside the fjords.
Make sure you try
I have not met a lamb stew or seafood soup that I did not enjoy! Some of the best are in small cafes in the towns around the countryside. One of my other favorites was rye ice cream (like the bread) that we tried at both Loki and Valdís in Reykjavík. I’m also a huge fan of Icelandic beer (so much so that I visited in February for the Annual Icelandic Beer Festival) and I recommend trying any craft beer from Borg Brugghús or Austri Brugghús, or the lava smoked imperial stout by Ölvisholt Brugghús.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Aurora Schunk is a travel blogger who believes your next adventure is more than simply checking off a list of the “most” or “best” places on this big blue planet. If you’re going to charge those well-earned vacation days, then you want more than just surface-level experiences! Your next adventure will have you exploring a bottomless pint glass of tastes, sounds, and cultures while traveling as zero waste as possible.
Ready to book a trip to Iceland?