Iceland Travel Expert Shares Experience
By Josh Liu @ The Parking Spot
Volcanos. Glaciers. Hafthor “The Mountain” Bjornsson from HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”
What do these things all have in common? You can find them in Iceland!
Home to generations of rough-and-tumble Vikings and adorable puffins, Iceland is a beautiful destination that combines the ancient and modern - where fairy spirits and trolls still roam to this day.
Iceland is a land of duality. The capital city Reykjavik holds old-world charm combined with modern city amenities; drive less than an hour and you’re deep in the rustic countryside, surrounded by herds of sheep and horses. Beautiful waterfalls and black volcanic beaches are some of the most iconic attractions, set against stark yet humbly elegant landscapes!
Some Iceland Thought Starters
Buckle up as we give you a crash course in the top attractions and travel tips for a trip to the land of ice and fire.
Some ideas for places to see during your visit:
- Lagoons! Iceland is famous for its geothermal lagoons, including Sky Lagoon and the Blue Lagoon with its iconic milky-blue waters. Take a relaxing soak in the healing waters, enjoy a Gull (an Icelandic beer) or glass of wine at a swim-up bar, and restore yourself with some spa treatments and sauna time. It’s highly recommended to book your visit ahead of time since these hotspots can become rather busy.
- Reykjavik has many varied and interesting neighborhoods. Aside from a wealth of shopping (including the very fashionable 66 North), there’s so much urban exploration to be had. We highly recommend walking tours from local tour guides. These tours are easily found on Airbnb, and the locals can fill you on the hidden insider history of this city. If history isn’t quite your thing, there’s still boundless fun spots to find and something for everyone – whether it’s the Kattakaffihúsið cat café or DJs spinning late night beats at Pablo Discobar.
- Get outside! While full of history, Reykjavik is on the smaller side. Rent a car and drive through the southern and eastern part of the country, taking in the hauntingly beautiful landscape. The Golden Circle is a classic traveler’s route that takes you to all the top geographical sights – geysers, waterfalls, glaciers!
Some other gems include:
- The tomato-based cuisine at the farm Friðheimar
- The Gluggafoss waterfall
- The Reynisfjara black sand beach on the southern coast: For beer lovers and people who enjoy good food, stop by the Smiðjan Brugghús brewery while you’re in the area
- The hidden (and possibly controversial) origins of the famed Caves of Hella
Things to know before you plan your Iceland:
- Most vendors and shops will accept credit cards! But cell phone reception can be spotty, especially if you’re out in the boonies of Iceland exploring the natural wonders. As such, it’s a good idea to get a little bit of cash from ATMs or banks in Reykjavik airport (KEF) after you land. Make sure to get receipts for all your touristy purchases, since you can file for reimbursement at KEF prior to returning home.
- Alcoholic beverages can be expensive! It’s best to buy your spirit of choice at the duty-free shops in the airport. While you’re there, you must try Brennevin also known as “the Black Death.” A delightful aquavit distilled with Iceland’s famously soft and high-PH water; this herbal distillation is perhaps the most famous Icelandic spirit of all.
- Pack for rain. Leave the umbrella at home (the winds in Iceland will beat the living daylights out of it) and opt for a water-repellent layer (such as a rain jacket or lightweight shell) instead. Similarly, hiking boots (or at least waterproof shoes) are a good bet.
- Be prepared for sticker shock – Iceland is an island, after all, so many goods need to be imported. Expect things to be a bit more expensive than they are back home.
- Learn some Icelandic ahead of time. Nearly everyone speaks English to some degree, but a little Icelandic goes a long way, and the locals appreciate it. ‘Takk takk!’
- Try the local food. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the hearty satisfaction found in a humble lamb soup or savory fish stew. Yogurt lovers (looking at you, Terry Crews!) should definitely indulge in some skyr, a cultured dairy product, while they’re in Iceland. Check out a local grocery store (Bonus, Kronan) and grab some paprika potato chips!
- If you plan on renting a car to drive through the countryside, get one with 4x4 or all-wheel drive (especially in the winter). We also highly recommend purchasing gravel/cosmetic damage insurance - gravel roads are common as you get into the rural areas, and they can certainly do a number on the paintjob.
- Ahead of time, reserve your rental car, of course, your hotel room, and your airport parking space.