Iceland 2014 – Travel Tips

A few tips and recommendations based on my short time in Iceland:

– Take the Golden Circle Tour, it’s an established route for good reason, with some fantastic views and photo opportunities

– The IcelandExcursions tour/travel company (AKA Gray Line) proved themselves reliable during our stay, we used them 4 or 5 times over 6 days and they always left in good time, and provided additional transfers back to our hotel, even though it was further than the other passengers.

– Selandjafoss and Skogafoss waterfalls on the south side are fantastic, but check the weather if you plan on going as far as Vik and Dyrhólaey, high tide and high wind will make your trip worthless as it blocks off access to areas, unless you fancy wading through the ocean that is.

– You can get away with not changing any currency to ISK, almost all shops have a card reader and accept card, even the hot dog stand. Feel free to use your card to pay for that single cup of coffee, you may need to as currency exchange shops are hidden away if they exist at all.

– Don’t get ill, I have no idea where Iceland is hiding it’s medicines, but I went looking for cold and sore throat medicine in a multitude of small and large supermarkets but couldn’t find anything. It may be worth packing a box of paracetamol and box of cold/flu medicine just in case.

– Beware Liquorice in disguise, especially chocolate. Many of sweets are packaged without pictures, check the ingredients if in doubt, do not let nuts on the surface fool you.

– Be prepared to spend a lot on food, the average dinner meal will probably set you back £20, with a lunch of soup and bread averaging in at around £8-12

– Water is served in all restaurants, free. Similarly, tap water is supposedly very clean in Iceland, so don’t be afraid to pick up a cup in your hotel.

– If staying in Reykjavik, pay attention to the church at the top of the hill, it can be seen from most places around the city, and is useful in estimating your location in the city.

– Bring a unique/bright towel to the Blue Lagoon, or don’t bother. I took a plain blue one there, and ended up bringing a strangers towel back home.

– Photographers should keep a small absorbent towel (I used paper towel) as well as their usual lens cleaning cloth. Your camera WILL get wet if you venture anywhere near the waterfalls, as long as you aren’t there for too long the camera itself will be fine, but wiping down your lens between shots will be required.

– Similarly, Photographers will probably want to bring stabilizing equipment if you want to shoot at night or do long exposures on waterfalls, the latter you can get away with doing by hand if you have something to lean against, but anything longer than 1/8 is going to blur without a tripod or equivalent.

– Hiking/climbing shoes are overrated unless you are doing some serious adventuring. I’m not saying your high heels are fine, but trainers and the like will be adequate, they may get a little muddy though depending on time of year. (If you are going when it’s snowing, this advice is probably irrelevant to you)

– Hiring a car is very useful, sights are prettier with less people cluttering about taking pictures and will let you get some better pictures of your own. When we took this picture there were maybe only 8 other people in the area, and would likely be an impossible feat with a tour group. It goes without saying also that you can spend as long or as little time as you want in a spot without worry of your bus leaving. As an added bonus, you now have storage space and don’t have to worry about people stealing it – great for carrying your hiking boots, tripods, liquorice filled chocolate bars, etc.

– Go to sjávargrillið near the rocket church on the hill, their 4 course meal is a fantastic offering at a reasonable price (for a fancy meal), it also includes small portions of puffin and minke whale.

– Following on from that last point, DO NOT BUY A WHALE STEAK MAIN unless you are sure you like it already, the small strips of meat we were served at the seafood grill meant we could at least sample it without fully committing, I would hate to see someone spend £20 on a whale steak only to find out they don’t like it.

– The famous hot dog stand probably has the cheapest fizzy drinks in Reykjavik, also hot dogs.