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Tips for travelling to Iceland

In August I spent 11 days travelling across Iceland, mostly driving a rental car around the Ring Road. I covered all 3 WHS, 3 TWHS and some places of interest in between on this itinerary. Similar to Namibia or Mongolia, man has stayed on the fringes of this country and nature is intimidatingly prevalent. Find below my top tips for travelling to Iceland as a World Heritage Traveller.

Puffin at Ingolfshofdi

1. Take advantage of all its natural attractions being free to enter

Iceland may have the stigma of being an expensive destination, but the good thing is that all its natural attractions are free. This includes not only the ever-present pretty landscape surrounding you, but also top class sights such as Thingvellir Park, Vatnajökull, the geyser fields, Gulfoss, Lake Myvatn. To be able to enjoy all this without paying is a major drawing card of Iceland. The sites all look well-kept but have few amenities and no visible ranger presence as in the US for example.

2. Don’t expect to meet many Icelanders

In a normal (non-Covid) year, tourists outnumber the locals 6:1. Hotels, restaurants, tours - especially outside of Reykjavik - therefore are often staffed by young people from all around the EU. The effects are similar to that of the working holiday scheme in Australia. It does take away a bit from the authenticity as these youngsters probably know as little about their surroundings as you do yourself. And they don't at all look like that guy from the Skyr advert.

Landmannalaugar imitates Namib Sand Sea

3. Choose your tours wisely

The surge in visitors to Iceland over the past years – combined with the total downfall due to Covid – does not bring out the best in tour operators and beforehand it is hard to decide which one to choose for what, if any. I used them only to get to places where I couldn’t go with my 2WD rental car.

The tours on my trip were: Ingolshofdi Puffin Tour by FromCoastToMountains, Whale watching tour from Husavik by Gentle Giants, a Superjeep tour to Landmannalaugar by Arctic Adventures and the (private) tour to Surtsey by SACA. All come recommended, except the whale tour. These whale tours always seem to disappoint me; the boat also was too crowded and the itinerary unimaginative.

4. Allocate 10 - 14 days

To do a loop around the Ring Road, do some hiking and a tour or 2, see the 3 WHS and all TWHS (I skipped Breiðafjörður) it takes about 10 to 14 days. Reykjavik is often used as a stop-over destination only, but when you limit yourself to the southwestern corner of Iceland for only a few days you miss a whole lot.

Skyr mousse with white chocolate & cucumber sorbet

5. Enjoy the food

Don’t bring all the food with you as some budget tips suggest. I love exploring foreign supermarkets and trying out local snacks; Icelandic chocolate bars filled with salty liquorice taste really good! Especially the fish meals are excellent all around Iceland and the fish of the day usually costs a reasonable 25 EUR. Also expect a lot of hipster food culture (think food trucks, roasted cauliflower, pomegranate seeds), mixed with New Nordic Cuisine in the more expensive restaurants. The Skyr mousse desserts always are to die for.

Els - 20 September 2020

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Els Slots 21 September 2020

Regarding Breiðafjörður - the place to visit there is Flatey Island, but I believe there weren't any boat trips available from a place near the Ring Road when I did my research. It would also have added 1 or 2 days to my schedule.

Frédéric M 21 September 2020

Can I ask why you decided to skip Breiðafjörður? Logistic reasons?

Zoë Sheng 20 September 2020

One more tip: Don't go to the Blue Lagoon ;)