Iceland: Why Iceland? That was my immediate reaction when my friend suggested to stop over in Iceland for a few days before heading back home. Before I go on and on about this country, I will start off by saying that a trip to Iceland is not for everybody. Without any research, Iceland will seem like a remote country with nothing in it. And it essentially is a country out in the middle of nowhere with not much to it. And for some, Iceland will be a boring trip. No Starbucks. No shopping malls. Nothing. But for the select few, Iceland will be like heaven. The picture above (taken from the plane) was my first real glimpse of Iceland. I had read countless blogs on Iceland weather, ideal (and realistic) itinerary and seen amazing pictures and videos like this one…but even then, I still had no idea exactly what I was getting myself into. They say Iceland will be very expensive – YES. Even though it wasn’t as expensive compared to five years ago, it really was an expensive travel destination. They say the weather is unpredictable and can change really fast – YES. We had sun, wind, rain, snow, hail, cold and really cold all in one day. They say Iceland is a photographer’s dream – YES. The one thing I absolutely regret was not bringing a better camera. But that’s okay because it only meant that I needed to and will be making a trip back to Iceland in the future. So would I go back to Iceland? Absolutely yes, without a doubt.
I would recommend…
- If you’re just spending a day on a layover then a day in Reykjavik itself will already be amazing. Even though there was no big shopping mall, there were lovely local shops downtown that I wish I had spent more time browsing through.
- If you’re thinking about renting a car and driving along the Ring road (the main highway around Iceland), I would HIGHLY recommend asking for the GPS at your car rental place. Even though there was just one main highway and not a lot of roads, if you end up losing track of time exploring the beautiful scenery (which you will, trust me), and need to find your hostel or hotel at night, you will be wishing you had a GPS.
- If you are thinking about driving around the entire Ring road around Iceland, I would recommend taking AT LEAST one week doing that. Because even though on a typical day, driving from point A to point B would only take 3 to 4 hours, you’ll be making numerous pit stops along the way and wishing you had more time to explore the areas. And if you are thinking of driving around, I’d recommend doing that in the summer months because the hours of daylight and weather would be on your side.
Where to sleep…
- In Reykjavik, I highly recommend Hotel Fron. The location was very central – walking distance to everything. The breakfast buffet they provide was amazing. It looks like a small 2 star hotel from the outside, but don’t be fooled! For a budget hotel, the rooms were more than what I had expected.
- If you’re driving from Reykjavik to Vik and need a place to stay in between, I’d recommend Guesthouse Nonni in a small town called Hella. He was very friendly and very accommodating – there was a mix up with the emails and he thought we would be arriving the day before. We showed up late at night at his front door in the rain and he welcomed us in without hesitation. Plus the breakfast he provided was AMAZING. Almost everything was homemade (including home made jam and bread and even the eggs came from his neighbour’s farm!)
- If you’re heading east towards Hofn and need a place to stay nearby, I’d recommend Hali Country Hotel (though it is more of a hostel than a hotel). Excellent breakfast buffet with basic shared accommodations right by the water in the middle of nowhere surrounded by beautiful scenery. Plus it was very easy to find, just right off the highway.
What to eat…
- Since Iceland was so expensive compared to all the other countries we visited, we really had to think about our budget. We took advantage of all the free breakfast from hotels and guesthouses and packed snacks in our cars and had a full dinner.
- You’ll probably see a lamb entree at every restaurant. I didn’t think it was anything spectacular, but it’s worth a try. The Icelandic Lamb Stew from this restaurant in Vik called Strondin Bistro and Bar was quite good though. If you’re making a pit stop in Vik, you’ll most likely end up in this restaurant. Expensive, but good!
- Arctic Char. I’d recommend this because where else will you get the chance to eat this fish!
- Apparently Icelandic Hot Dogs are supposedly popular. I didn’t think it was anything spectacular. But it’s a cheaper option in terms of food.
- Skyr. It’s a type of traditional Icelandic yogurt. They also come in a drinkable form much like Yop. I highly recommend buying a few of these to snack on during the day. It reminded me of really good Greek yogurt. The Pear Skyr was my favourite.