Saturday, 17 March 2012

Iceland: Do's and Don'ts!


Reflecting back, I'm not really sure why it took so long for me to visit Iceland. Packed with activities, gorgeous landscape and interesting history, I feel as though I've only scratched the surface of what it has to offer and look forward to a return trip soon. In the meantime, here's a few tips I picked up on the way:

Do's

- Bank on changeable weather, and pack/plan accordingly - in just one week we experienced lashing rain, blazing sunshine, snow storms, icy winds and blinding fog! Road conditions and activities can be heavily affected by the conditions, particularly during winter. However, the colours the weather brings to life, the many rainbows dotting the sky and the drama it adds to this small country make it all worthwhile, and is definitely part of the charm.

- Hire a car. Like other places we visited, Iceland is perfect for jumping in a car and exploring at your own pace. Rental fees can be high, but when we compared it to taking day trips a few times instead, we broke even. Shopping around also helps - ignore the over-priced international companies and look for a local or family run business, and prices are slashed almost in half. The freedom a car brings is worth every penny, and the island is easy to navigate.

- Plan in a reasonable budget. There's no denying that Iceland is a pricey country. The high import costs result in staggering expensive food and drink, and hiring guides/taking trips means reaching deep into the pocket. However, avoiding restaurants, visiting during low season and using guest houses helps, as can balancing expensive day trips with free exploration of the countryside.


Don'ts

- Have a completely rigid itinerary. Being able to move around or head to a different place at short notice helps when trying to find the Northern Lights or get a cheaper deal on an activity. Again, having the luxury of our own car really assisted with this.

- Forget to check out which activities are available at the time you plan to go. They roughly fall into seasonal categories - summer and winter. We were more interested in winter ones (ice caves, Aurora), but on the flip side the weather prevented us from doing much hiking and low-lying fog and snow restricted views of volcanoes and stopped us from spending much time on the coast. Snow fluttered all around us whilst bobbing in the blue lagoon! Other activities, such as diving at Silfra are year-round, but it's worth considering carefully your priorities.

- Forget to keep your eyes peeled at all times. Elf doors painted on large boulders at the side of the road, small chocolate-box churches in the absolute middle of no-where, waterfalls crashing down everywhere we looked, rainbows popping up, colours bursting into life before fading away...there's always something to see and experience.


Want to read more about our time in Iceland? Check out these posts:

Driving through Iceland: A photo-blog
Ice cave exploring and glacier walking - Iceland's incredible south coast
What I learnt from chasing the Northern Lights
The hunt for the Northern Lights
Waterfalls, volcanoes and horses
Becoming a human bridge between continental plates at Silfra

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