Updated: Dec 1, 2018
A little over a year ago I studied abroad in Iceland and ever since then people have been asking me non stop about how they are planning a trip and want to know all the places to go and how to simply do, Iceland. So I finally decided it was time to write a blog post about how to travel to and through this beautiful abyss. First off, you want to find a cheap airline. I have always flown to Iceland on Icelandair because it takes to quickest route to Iceland from California. But I know that WOW air also has a lot of great deals so it's all up to your preference. I prefer Icelandair because they make the flight very comfortable for you by offering a pillow and blanket to everyone for free and they have a mimic of the northern lights on the ceiling of the plane so it's quite relaxing. Next, another thing to consider when traveling to iceland is where you will stay. If you are going to go to iceland, traveling around the entire island is a MUST. It literally can be done in a day or two, so make sure you do it or you're not doing Iceland right, but that will obviously depend on how long you plan on staying. I suggest staying in hostels which is totally affordable and such a cool way to meet other travelers from all over the world. Also, all the hostels are for the most part very well kept and clean. If you plan to stay in Reykjavik at all (which you should) I strongly suggest staying at the Kex hostel. It is such an awesome environment and you'll meet some of the coolest people there. There are also Guesthouses you can stay in at some parts of the country. The lady who owned the one I stayed in cooked us waffles for breakfast every single morning we were there. It was incredible, I recommend looking into them. Or if you are a camper at heart, there's plenty of places to set up camp but you'll have to rent a car and research camping spots. It's important to figure out transportation because you can book bus rides, taxis, and tour cars to take you places, but if you don't want to do that you can rent a car but you have to be at least 20 to rent a car in Iceland. And If you do choose to rent, please don't be stupid and drive in places you shouldn't. Especially if you are going towards the volcano huts. There are a lot of rivers from glacier water that people think is ok to drive through but they're not. So don't do it if you don't want to embarrass yourself or possibly kill yourself. That's what the big rig ride ins are for. Let the professional, captivating, Icelandic people navigate you through that mess. Now, finally I can talk about the best places to see and fun things to do while you're in Iceland.
The waterfalls of Iceland are one of the many important things to see in this beautiful green oasis. There is absolutely nothing more beautiful and unique than Iceland waterfalls. These are all the waterfalls I recommend: Seljalandsfoss (Justin Bieber music video location), Godafoss, Dettifoss, Skogafoss, Svartifoss, Selfoss, and Gullfoss. All of these waterfalls are amazing and worth seeing if you can. Also note that whatever you do depends on what time of year it is. If you are there in the winter, it is going to be frigid. And you might not even be able to get to some of these. But in the summer, everything is doable. I've been to Iceland in the winter and the summer so everything that I suggest will be noted on which season it's for. Let's start off with winter, because there's not much to do, yet it's unique to it's season. When I went in the winter I went on a 6 hour horseback ride. It was absolutely stunning because the mountains were covered in snow and it started to flurry when we were riding. I felt like I was in the movie Frozen. Honestly, you don't need to ride the horses of Iceland to get the full experience. The ride is quite miserable actually because their stride is super bumpy. I got a stomach ache multiple times. No matter where you go in Iceland, there will be horses. And you can always pull over on the side of the road to check them out, they're super friendly. Another thing to do in the winter is snowmobiling, one of the most incredible experiences you could get from all the snow that falls in Iceland. You get to ride through some of the most beautiful scenery of God's wonderful mountain majesty. I highly recommend doing that. Because there is not much else to do in the winter besides keeping as warm as possible. But you can also do things like book a boat ride to see the northern lights or other tours to see northern lights. The problem with this is the weather is constantly changing between blizzards, rain, or clear skies. You have to prepare yourself for the chance that you might not see the northern lights while you're there in the winter because they cancel excursions all the time if the weather is bad. And it's bad very often considering it's like any other bipolar weather filled island. If you are in Iceland for only a week or two your chances of seeing the lights are very slim unless you're super lucky. I've been to Iceland twice and have still never seen the northern lights. So if you stay for a couple weeks, you'll probably have a better chance. Another thing that you can do while you're in Iceland is experience the wonders of the magical Blue Lagoon. It's actually pretty affordable for a day pass and extremely worth the experience. I highly recommend the Blue Lagoon over other nature baths because it's the only one where you don't have to undress naked in front of everyone and shower off before you go in. The Blue Lagoon is the only place with private stalls, so save yourself now before you get real uncomfortable real fast, I learned that the hard way. Also note that the Blue Lagoon is something you can do in the summer as well.
Now let's talk about summer! My favorite season of Iceland. The list of things to do in the summer is endless. Here comes the long list of adventures to embark on so get ready. The first thing I did when I went was snorkeling between the two tectonic plates of Eurasia and America. Probably one of the most unreal experiences you'll ever get. It's located in Pingvellir National Park. I also went caving through a lava tunnel. It was the cave that the movie Noah was filmed in. They still have the handmade staircase of stones in the entrance, it's pretty cool to see. You can hike up to a mile in, and then it's a dead end. I didn't go all the way in but it was an incredible experience. Another thing you can do is go to the volcano huts and rent out a little cabin there. It's honestly one of my favorite parts of Iceland. There is a 4 mile hike you can do that is absolutely breathtaking in Porsmork. And you'll meet some of the sweetest people on that hike. This hike is probably something you'll want to do when you have more than a week here. Because it takes a little while to get there.
Another awesome thing you can do is go to the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. It is truly one of the most incredible things to see with your eyes. It's basically a bunch of big glaciers floating around in a lagoon and they are stunning. There is also a glaciers you can hike in Skaftafell National Park. You will have to book a tour by looking it up and finding a tour guide trip because you cannot go up onto a glacier by yourself without possibly killing yourself. That is also something you will want to do if you're staying in Iceland for a little while. All of the excursions I suggest that are pretty physical are probably something you want to do if you'll be in Iceland for a while because you'll want time to recoup from all of it. But if you're there for a short time, sight seeing is great especially when it comes to seeing waterfalls! Another awesome thing you can do is whale watching, which is so incredible. You can book a boat ride online and go see up to 5 whales, pods of dolphins, and a puffin island on a really cool boat. Usually that's on the other side of the island facing Antarctica so it's really a cool way to experience the northern part of Iceland. One of the top ranked beaches in the world is the black sand beach in Vík. This beach is unreal because there is a huge cave of basalt rocks everywhere and there are puffins flying all above you. It's a wonderful experience and a great place to relax. Next there is a place in Hvalfjördur to go kayaking in the fjords. It is one of the most incredible experiences I've ever had. You feel like you're floating through glass the water is so smooth. This is another thing you will have to book online with a tour guide because they provide you with all of the gear.
These are pretty much all the things that I have experienced in Iceland and all my recommendations. You can do more research to see if there are other things I didn't mention because there is still a lot of things I wish I could go back and do! So make sure you do your research. Now I can get to the important part of what to pack. No matter what, Iceland is much colder that most places no matter what season it is. It ranges from 30-70 degrees in the summer and 12-40 degrees (which is a guestimate of my experience) in the winter. If you are traveling in the winter, you are going to need long underwear top and pants. This is something that is so important especially if you're camping. Make sure you bring long sleeves and sweaters that are warm and at least one good snow jacket that is waterproof because it rains a lot too. I also would bring layers for pants because that will keep you warm too. I bought a pair of pants that were windbreaker and waterproof pants. They were amazing, so I just wore the long underwear some leggings and those pants and I was great. Another thing you want to do is make sure you bring enough money because the currency there is more expensive than ours. It's pretty crazy how expensive it gets so make sure you have enough. You can get an app that converts the amount that you're paying so you know what you need to pay. Also, you are going to want to make sure you bring a converter outlet charger that works with their outlets if you want to charge anything. Something to keep in mind when you are in Iceland too is that you can fill your water bottle up anywhere. They love making you buy really expensive water bottles for like five dollars. It's pointless to buy since all the water flowing in iceland is purified and straight from the glaciers. When I was there, I filled my water bottle up in the bathroom sink and it tasted great! In the winter, you will also want to bring good socks and snow shoes. ski socks are great for this weather. Summer is pretty easy to pack for compared to the winter so just make sure you have things like hiking shoes if you're going to be active, and a variety of long sleeves, regular t shirts, light jackets, one or two warm sweaters, and a couple pairs of pants. Also, the sun never goes down in the summer. It's called the midnight sun which means you will probably never fall asleep in a dark space. So I recommend packing a sleeping mask in the summer.
And that is pretty much everything you need to know from my experience to Iceland! The final and last thing that I ask if you travel to Iceland, is to get to know the culture. Iceland is a very unique place to travel and not just for it's looks. The people there are incredible and they are so kind and hospitable. I strongly recommend getting to know the people there and get to know the island's history because it is very interesting. Something that I've learned from traveling is that you can't just go to a place and leave with your cool pictures and filled up travel journals. If you want to culture yourself, you have to step into the culture and experience it. It can completely change your experience. So go live, experience, and learn new things! Enjoy the wonders of Iceland and/or wherever you go!