We went to a trip to Iceland in the summer of 2018. That trip is very possibly at #1 on my top trips taken ever. I can’t wait to go back again!
Here is the link to the photos from our trip.
I wanted to get a post in for posterity’s sake with all the information I collected and curated while planning this trip. Or to help someone plan their own trip.
If you search on the internet, there are hundreds of site on things to do in Iceland. My go-to site was I heart Reykjavik. The main person behind the blog, Auður, started off as a blogger on Iceland and in a few years turned it into a full fledged business. She has been offering thoughtful insights on the good, and bad, stuff about Iceland. The hidden gem you absolutely should visit or the tourist trap you must avoid.
The blog/business now has partnerships with various agencies in Iceland that offer the entire spectrum of activities in Iceland. The activities range from guided day trips to driving around the country for weeks, from watching the Northern Lights to trekking in an active volcano, and everything in between.
We decided that we will not do any self driving on this trip. A friend of mine actually drove around the whole country, Iceland Ring Road, for a week.
This is what we did.
We reached Reykajvik (KEF) early in the morning on Monday, on a direct Delta flight from MSP. Round trip prices were about $300 per person, which is a real steal! Flight time is about 6 hours. There’s a back story about our onward journey, see end*.
For our entire duration we were put up in an AirBnb apartment in west of Reykjavik we had booked months before our trip. It was wonderful! The location of the place, the condition, the neighbourhood (even had a Dominoes pizza across the street!) was perfect. A family lives there and it is only available for a few days a year. We just got lucky.
On Monday we took the private walking tour with I Heart Reykjavik. I liked it but at times Brinda was bored. They go through a lot of the history behind the city. Make sure you have comfortable walking shoes, dressed for the weather (which could mean different things at different times of the day/day of the year!), carry a backpack with a water bottle, snacks, warm hat, gloves, change of clothes.
After the walking tour, we went on a whale watching tour. This was Brinda’s favourite part of the whole Iceland trip! I loved it as well. You get to cozy up in body hugging, warm wet-suits and watch whales. Success rate is pretty high. We saw dolphins and whale. There’s stuff to order and eat off on the boat.
On Tuesday, we went for the Snæfellsnes tour. The Snæfellsnes peninsula is almost a microcosm of Iceland, providing views of yellow (uncommon in Iceland) and black beaches, mountains, fjords, waterfalls, lava caves. This was my favourite part of the trip. Keep in mind this is a 13-hours day trip, with a lot of walking. Brinda was really tired by the end, but was she was a complete trooper for the whole day with great energy. We lucked out as our guide for the day was the best on our entire trip.
On Wednesday, we went on the Golden Circle tour, possibly the most well known attraction in Iceland. The Golden Circle consists of the Þingvellir National Park, Geysir, Gullfoss, and the Secret Lagoon (which isn’t a secret!) geothermal pool. This was possibly Vivian’s favourite part of the trip.
On Thursday we stayed in Reykjavik for the whole day. We went to one of the big public pool Vesturbæjarlaug and spent a couple of hours in the warm waters. You really have to experience it! Sitting in an open air pool when temperatures are 30 degrees Fahrenheit. In the evening we went to the downtown area to celebrate our wedding anniversary and had a sumptuous 3-course dinner, one of my best ever, at Nostra.
On Friday we went on the South Shore Minibus Adventure. Another gem with glaciers, volcanoes (even Eyjafjallajökull, the one that caused month long disruption to flights all over the world a couple of years ago), waterfalls, basalt rocks, beaches.
Saturday we took the flight back home.
Things to keep in mind when visiting Iceland.
- Be prepared for any kind of weather. We went in August, and had temperatures ranging from 37 to 66 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Everything is expensive in Iceland. A burger from a fast food joint could cost you $15 (USD) depending on where you are. It would be best if you planned for meal options – home made sandwiches, deli meat – or at least snacks, with you. For the most part we did not, and we probably would try to do it a little differently next time.
- Sea food and lamb are the most common meal options
- If you intend to do any kind of walking, get appropriate clothing. Outdoor walking pants, shoes, jackets. Woolen socks, warm hat, gloves.
- Depending on the time of the year of your visit, you could have between 4 hours and 22 hours of sunlight in a day.
- Icelandic people are generally friendly and almost everyone knows English. Talk freely to your guides and build rapport. They’ll have gems of wisdom.
- Taxis are available readily in Reykjavik
- Renting cars and going about on your schedule could be a great option. Keep in mind that rentals are expensive (when compared to the US), gas is expensive, and you’ll be driving around in country the size of Colorado, with a population of 300,000. Meaning, there will large swathes of region where you won’t see any living humans.
- Get a mobile SIM from the airport when you land. For a family, you might consider at least 2 SIMS. Mobile, text, data all included packs.
- Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere. Try to have a card handy that does not charge international transaction fees. Bill in ISK (Icelandic Krona) and charge will be automatically converted to USD. When booking tours through I Heart Reykjavik, or any other sites for that matter, make sure you are using a card that does not charge international fees.
- Public pools – You really must go and enjoy the numerous the geo-thermal pools in Iceland. Reykjavik has a lot of public ones. You still have to pay though. Keep in mind this, and this is extremely important – you, everyone, is expected to shower totally naked with soap, then put on swim suits, and then enter the pool. No exceptions!
- Read up on as much as you can on I Heart Reykjavik. It is a treasure cove of information.
- Enjoy and take in all the awe inspiring vistas, panoramas, and the incredible landscapes!
When 3 of us reached the airport on Sunday night to start our journey, Brinda and my passport self cleared. Vivian’s asked to see an agent. The agent looked at her passport and said, “You won’t be able to travel today.” Her passport expired the next month, and Iceland needs US passport holders to have at least 3 months validity. We made the executive decision that Brinda and I would fly out that night. Vivian spent the whole day on Monday in downtown Minneapolis getting an expedited passport and took the same flight Monday night, one day later. She missed out on the activities on Monday and Tuesday.