What an amazing trip! Our first big adventure as husband and wife was definitely one to remember. Here is our top tips, tricks and highlights plus what we will plan for on our next trip:
1. Northern lights. This was awe inspiring from the Snaefellsnes Peninsula – specifically Hotel Budir. Use this site to check the aurora forecast in Iceland: en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/. Note the usual aurora season is late Dec through March. The lights only looked green to the naked eye – but our camera picked up great colors!
2. Be sure to check the road conditions when you are driving around: http://www.vegagerdin.is/english/road-conditions-and-weather/
3. Speaking Icelandic is not phonetic, but they appreciate (as would anyone) when you try. This was my favorite YouTube video (and set of videos) for learning a few helpful phrases. I was shocked to know that two Ls together made the “dt” sound. So “Hella”, as in the city to the South, is actually pronounced “Hedtla”. Don’t make the same mistake I did when I asked how to get to “Hella”. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GxzhWkMD3co
4. The fantastic Icelandic people are amazing to chat with. We found the best people outside of the city to get advice from and just get to know. We are heading home with lots of new Facebook friends and personal invitations for people to come join us in Seattle.
5. Renting a car is a must. They drive on the right, have great roads and easy signage. We used a GPS pretty heavily. We were glad that we weren’t stuck on the tour busses and could make our own schedules.
6. We loved the Icelandic culture of personal responsibility. If you are late the bus left without you, there are few warning signs at clearly dangerous spots and the general attitude was, “Its your decision to do this – up to you if you want to take the risk!”.
7. If you want souvenirs – all of the typical ones are at the airport. Save the effort of lugging stuff around and purchase it all before you head home. This includes the beautiful wool products, animal furs, Brandivin and chocolate!
8. The food was so amazing. We tried a little of everything and found it all AMAZING – Lamb, seafood, Beef, Pork, Duck, ect ect ect. Plan on eating about 10 times the meat you usually do. Also note that the skyr is amazing – but also high in protein, so consider bringing along some fiber gummies! Also to note – the beer was exceptional as well – there was a really great selection everywhere we went. Bring your appetite!
What we will plan for our next trip:
1. Things we will book in advance: a stop in Greenland, a fishing trip, diving in the arctic waters, an actual personal food tour / cooking class, active volcano fly over, Flatey island to see puffins and ice climbing. There is also a non-tourist hot spring that you can hike into. This will be high on our list in Sept.
2. Other than heading back for concerts or a specific museum, we will probably spend most of our time outside of the city. Reykjavik was fun, but nothing compared to the beauty and adventure of the more rural towns and areas. No need to see the Blue Lagoon again even though it was pretty amazing once.
3. Exploring the other side of the island. The whole thing is 1200km round trip, so our next trip will be to discover all kinds of different aspects of the Island. Also, there are TONS of hiking trails and other waterfalls and grottos off the beaten path. I keep hearing about the one near Gullfoss that we will visit when the hiking isn’t as treacherous.
4. I think it will be fascinating to experience Iceland when there is 24 hours of light. Countless people told us how cool it is to visit the sites when most other people are asleep.
5. What to bring: Swimsuit, long underwear, hiking boots, sunglasses, euro plug adapters (and converter if needed – they are on 220), camera with extra batteries and a spirit of adventure.
6. We will eat more hotdogs – they were SO DELICIOUS!
7. Iceland has an excellent “stopover” program where you can book fights to many places in Europe, but stay in Iceland on your way there without an extra charge. With the fast direct flights, we will enjoy this program for as many European flights as possible.
8. I recommend reading the Icelandic Sagas before you go. I’m about 100 pages in and wish I would have this context before going. http://www.amazon.com/Sagas-Icelanders-Penguin-Classics-Deluxe/dp/0141000031/ref=sr_1_1/190-8074289-0876760?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1427668307&sr=1-1&keywords=the+icelandic+sagas