Advice on Iceland

Everyone I know (slight exaggeration) seems to be heading for Iceland these days, so I thought I’d gather the advice in one place so I wouldn’t have to repeat it! My husband P.J. and I spent 6 days in Western Iceland at the end of August 2016, so this is based on our experiences there and as usual, YYMV.

General

iceland_driving

Yes, it is amazing. If in doubt, see this video.

Yes, it is expensive. You can save some money by using AirBnB and going self-catering (self-catering is often the only option in rural areas anyway).

There’s very little public transport outside Reykjavik, so it’s worth hiring your own car. We hired an ancient Toyota Yaris from SAD Cars. It got us where we needed, except it needed a lot of encouragement to get up hills and a lot of control getting down them!

Some good advice on driving in Iceland in this video.

If you don’t fancy driving, a number of tour buses go from Reykjavik to most of the main attractions.

Credit cards are accepted pretty much everywhere, but they usually require chip-and-pin.

Icelanders are generally friendly and open-minded, but there are a few tourist faux pas you should avoid.

Weather in summer is not dissimilar to Ireland, except a bit colder and drier. We were lucky enough to avoid rain and it was mostly clear and sunny; the temperature reached 18C one day, but was mostly around 12C. Wear layers.

The tap water is perfectly safe to drink.

The hot water will sometimes smell of sulfur, but that’s just because it’s geothermally heated so it’s quite safe (and environmentally friendly).

Golden Circle

geysirs

Includes Thingvellir (tectonic plate boundaries and ancient parliament), Geysir (the original), and Gullfoss (impressive waterfall). Very popular, but for good reason and definitely worth doing.

Bourganes

Blómasetrid

Good stop-off on the way to the Snaefellnes Peninsula.

We had a lovely lunch in Blómasetrið cafe and flower shop.

The Settlement Museum is interesting enough but predictably pricey and not as good as the Reykjavik one. If it’s a nice day you could skip it for a stroll along the shore.

Snæfellsnes Peninsula

snae_park

Probably the highlight of the trip. Plenty of unworldly scenery and hikes through lava fields. It’s also a stopping point for many migrating birds, but we were at the wrong time of year for that.

Like most of Iceland, Snæfellsnes is sparsely populated and there aren’t many services. It’s a good idea to fill up on petrol and stock up on food before you hit the peninsula.

I can highly recommend Gunnar’s farmhouse at Öxl for accomodation (self-catering).

The supermarket at Olafsvik closes at 6pm, although the nice cashier let me in a few minutes after that.

The information centre for the Snæfellsjökull National Park is very helpful. Maps for hiking trails are 600kr and worth getting. Also has probably the only public toilet in the park!

Reykjavik

reykjavik

Nice place, but more like a provincial town than a capital city. Most Icelanders (228k out of 320k) live in or around Reykjavik, although these days you’re likely surrounded by tourists.

Must-sees are the Hallgrímskirkja Church and the Settlement Museum.

We skipped the Blue Lagoon and went to the local hot baths, which were a fraction of the price and probably just as nice.

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