Last week I gave you a glimpse into my extraordinary Icelandic adventure. I still have a blissful holiday hangover after experiencing the plethora of nature’s magnificence. As I was running 33 kilometers the other day in preparation for my upcoming marathon, my running coach told me to harness my happy moments and focus on them when the “discomfort” becomes too intense. I immediately transported myself back to Fjallsárlón, the glacier lake where I felt the most mystical energy and tranquility.
Iceland really is so special. As our guide Gunilla exclaimed, “Mother Nature was having a good day when she created Iceland!” After posting snippets on Instagram and my blog I have had many people ask, what the logistics are for a visit to this dreamlike country. I decided to provide my recommendations based on our experience and itinerary including the hows, whats, and wheres.
This trip has been something I’ve wanted to do for years, spurred on by my desire to see the Northern Lights. Did we actually get to see them? Nope. And here’s the kicker…Iceland is not the most ideal place to catch them due to her extremely temperamental weather activity. If your timing is right, then you could get lucky and see them. We were there for 8 days and barely received a glimmer. According to our Iceland guru, our guide Gunilla (who happens to be Swedish), Norway is a much safer bet for the lights.
When I was planning this expedition I decided to go through the luxury tour operator, Lightfoot Travel so that every detail would be taken care of and there would be no hassles in Iceland. They managed our trip based on my input of where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do and see, booked our accommodation for the duration, and arranged our guide. They also had fantastic suggestions to help make our adventure even more special. Everything was taken care of from start to finish with the exception of meals. If you plan your Icelandic adventure on your own, I advise doing a lot of research and preplanning so you get the most out of your holiday.
Here are my tips on incredible Iceland:
MOTHER NATURE IS THE STAR
Iceland is not for people who prefer to go shopping on their holidays. The draw of this country is reveling in the environment, breathing in that invigoratingly fresh and unpolluted air, and the magnificence of landscape.
IT’S A ROAD TRIP
Be prepared to sit in a car for hours each day, as it really is the only way you can get around and see Iceland. There is so much to see, so I recommend at least 5 days, more if you can spare them.
FLEXIBILITY IS KEY
Iceland is known for its tempestuous weather. The only predictable condition you can bank on is rain. We experienced all 4 seasons in 1 day. You may have a full itinerary organized for each day but you really have to go with the flow because your activities do depend on the weather.
IT’S NOT REALLY FOR KIDS
The long car rides, the cold and wet climate, and the fact that all you are doing is taking in nature’s artistry translates to boredom and irritation for most young children. They won’t really appreciate the splendor and you might not be able to focus once the complaints start rolling in. I definitely don’t think it’s a good vacation choice for anyone under 10.
You’ll be outdoors for most of the sights. You don’t want to be cold or wet while you’re trying to enjoy them. Thermals are a must for winter. I also had bags of hand warmers that saved me when I was outside and it was wet and bone-chillingly cold.
DRINK THE WATER
I have never ever drunk water that tasted as good as it does in Iceland. Bring a stainless steel or glass water bottle on your trip so you can refill your water anywhere and anytime. You drink straight from the tap. Don’t buy plastic water bottles!
BOOK YOUR HOTELS
I personally advise going in the winter months as there aren’t quite as many tourists as there are in summertime. You also stand a chance to see the Northern Lights in winter and not summer. I’ve heard horror stories about the amount of massive tourist buses that block the roads (especially in the Golden Circle). However, the solstice season does have its own special brand of attractions and if you want the long days, better weather, and variety of physical activities, go for it. Just be prepared to face hoards of people looking to do the same. You must book your accommodation months in advance (especially if you plan to go during summer).
GET A GUIDE!
Yes you absolutely can go and drive yourself everywhere and that is an adventure in itself. If you decide this is the way you want to see Iceland then make sure you do your research. I highly recommend getting a guide because they map out your days, take you to hidden spots, have the inside scoop on which places are packed with tourists and which aren’t, and give you invaluable information about Iceland, its history, folklore, and sagas. Having a guide was truly the best part of our trip and was worth every penny and more.
Iceland is hands down one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. You get to see our planet in its best light. Iceland really showcases the majesty of Mother Nature.