These are some ‘off the top of my head’ tips for preparing a trip to Iceland and for traveling within Iceland. There are number of good blogs on Iceland given its recent popularity. In August (peak summer season), we spent 1 week backpacking in the Central/South Highlands and then took a weeklong trip in a rental car around the entire Island. We stuck mainly to the Ring Road (Route 1) but ventured off to hike in East Fjords and to see the mammoth waterfalls in the North. The Icelandic people were extremely friendly and helpful everywhere we went. There are so many outstanding hikes/excursions available all over the country. If you are adventurous and you love the rugged, raw nature, you’ll will fall in love, despite the incessant rain and unpredictable weather! So, here are our top 18 tips for Iceland adventurers:
Iceland Camping and Hiking Tips
- Bring lightweight rain gear (obvious, but some think that just bringing their normal winter coat is enough)
- Bring a tent footprint (this is the waterproof tarp that you put under your tent, vital given how much it rains)
- Bring tent tie down cords (stakes aren’t very useful as it could be very windy, you’ll tie the cords around heavy rocks in most places)
- Don’t worry about bugs too much (too cold at night for those buggars)
- VERY IMPORTANT: If you intend on doing any hiking/trekking bring lightweight water shoes (ideally close toed that fit securely on your feet….not sandals unless they have straps). Aqua socks or Crocs type shoes also work. You’ll need them for walking around campsites in rain, and you will hit water crossings on a lot of hikes….some shin or knee high depending on weather and if its late summer. We didn’t realize how important the water shoes were until I lost my flip-flop twice(?) while crossing a stream. When I had to cross the real river with a decent current, it was hard to get a good footing barefoot due to the sharp rocks and frigid water temperature
- Bring water-wicking, breathable, lightweight base layers and at least one warm mid-layer fleece to wear under your all-weather hiking jacket (and pack a lightweight rain suit (pants and jacket). We picked up $50 ones from Amazon and they worked great…don’t worry if people say they don’t breath much because you won’t care when there is driving snow and ice or pouring rain with 40 mph winds and you are 4 miles from any shelter!
- Bring thick wool socks (they will probably get smelly by the end of the trip if you don’t hit up a laundromat but at least they’ll be worn even when damp)….if you have space-age water wicking socks those might also work
- Bring a wool cap or lightweight skull cap. It can get windy and rainy, and even when it is 50-60degrees your ears and face will get cold
- Bring a large quick-drying towel not a cotton towel….you will need these if you decide to hit up the free hot springs dotted around the countryside or at campsites that have showers (normally these cost $3-5 to use)
- Stock up on camping fuel at the Reykjavík Camp Grounds (campers leave tons of it)
Iceland Driving Tips
- Get a fuel card right away (it will give you discounts and free coffee all the way around Ring Road
- Hit up the DutyFree at the airport (it is easily 50% in some cases less than the country run liquor store, These are pretty much everywhere though in case you need a refuel. I recommend Icelandic vodkas and gins (great stuff). Their beer is pretty awesome also and Viking and Einstok is available most places.
- Do not drive on the F roads without a 4-wheel drive SUV with good clearance. That is just an accident waiting to happen given road quality and the number of water crossings
- Make sure your rental has a flat kit (and ideally includes an air compressor). It is hard to avoid rough roads with sharp rocks off of Route 1 and around campsites
- There are great campsites all around Route 1 and in coastal cities/towns. Most have clean bathrooms and covered eating areas. Some have shared kitchens, so do your research ahead of time if that is important.
- If you need to do a little last minute shopping in Reykjavik or want to hit up a quality food court, the Kringlan mall is very nice, http://www.planiceland.com/kringlan/
- Most of grocery stores are pretty good in Iceland, the Bonus chain is everywhere and is the least expensive.
- You’ll probably read this on many other blogs, but hit up the gas stations for snacks. The gas stations in Iceland are like food courts. Tons of great, relatively low-cost options like bacon wrapped hot-dogs (AWESOME) and deli sandwiches. Their bathrooms are also normally large and spotless if you feel the need to wash up a bit and/or change
Curious how much we spent in our 2 weeks there? Check out our two week expense report!