Where to go on your first trip to Iceland

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As some of you may know, it’s been a while since I’ve lived in Iceland. I moved here about 2 years ago when I left for work and a different lifestyle.

I started working in the south of Iceland, on a farm that turned it into a hotel. There I worked as a housekeeper, a waiter and sometimes as a repairman, just doing what was needed.

After one year, however, this position ceased to suit me, so I moved to another hotel, this time just outside the town, where I have only one position and a quiet life.

WHY I TRAVELED TO ICELAND?

Since I have been working here, I have been asked a few questions about how I can go on a trip to Iceland on my own and how to make a trip here.

Most people who have asked or even arrived do not want to pay for a trip to Iceland, where they are limited by their itinerary, and it is not exactly the cheapest thing.

At the same time, you can go to Iceland with a much lower budget, and ultimately it depends only on you, what you spend all the money on and how much you spend such a holiday in Iceland.

Of course you can get to tens of thousands of crowns very easily, but I have also experienced cases where a short trip for several days went up to 500 USD.

Today’s ticket prices only help. Although WOW air went bankrupt, this is not a problem for most people in Europe.

Even cheaper than Easyjet is Wizzair, which currently flies from Poland, Vienna and Budapest.

I flew for example in April 2019 and because I was just deadline, the ticket to Iceland and back came to  125 USD (unfortunately only with hand luggage, with suitcases the price of course increases).

You can fly by air to Iceland at Keflavik Airport, which is about 40 minutes from Reykjavik. You can arrange car rentals at the airport or take a bus to get to the city.

There are no trains in Iceland, so if you don’t want to spend a taxi unnecessarily, a bus or a rented car is probably the best option.

GETTING AROUND ICELAND

getting-around-icelandThere are several ways to travel around Iceland, depending on you and how much your wallet can bear. Most tourists hire a car in Iceland and then have the freedom to choose where and in what weather they want to travel.

Of course, you can also travel on foot or on foot if you have the courage.

Hitchhiking in Iceland works relatively well, but only as long as you stick to the main roads. Once you want to get to less-known places and are away from civilization, there is less chance of being taken.

Another way to enjoy Iceland is to travel on bicycle. This option is likely to be chosen only by those who already have experience with it, so they probably do not need much advice from me.

Traveling by bike is different in Iceland but the wind is almost always there and the wind can often get stronger so that you have to step down the hill (without exaggeration).

I personally traveled “punk” by bike in Austria, Slovakia and Hungary and I would have liked it again. However, I have respect from traveling to Iceland by bike, mainly because of the weather. Wind and rain can fiddle with your mood, and it may not be easy to get motivated into the next tiring journey when you’re freezing and wet.

Those of you who do not have a driving license and do not want to hitchhike or pedal may think that Iceland will travel by bus (see Straeto.is). It works too. But I would try to think of it differently.

In Iceland, public transport operates in Reykjavik, but as soon as you want to get to more interesting places, there is actually only one line that runs two or three times a day and takes you only to towns in the countryside.

But the main beauties of Iceland are mostly off the bus routes, so you have to hitchhike in the end, because it’s just far away for hiking.

Car rental in Iceland

best-car-hire-icelandSo we get to the most used method of transporting Iceland and it’s in a renting a car. There are many rental companies in Iceland that can lend you from a small Toyota Yaris, through a 4×4 SUV or jeep to a caravan or caravan.

Car rental is a good business in Iceland, which you can see right after you look at the prices for renting almost any car in Iceland.

Prices for renting a car in themselves are perhaps not such a deterrent, but perhaps everyone arranges for insurance of various types, which I would probably recommend.

Personally, I am not an expert on what kind of insurance when I rent a car in Iceland, but from what I have heard it is advisable to choose insurance against gravel, sand and stones. Sometimes it may happen that you get worse weather and wind with particles of sand can scratch the car.

The insurance, which on the other hand 99% does not make sense here, is insurance against theft, because in Iceland it almost does not steal at all.

Now to the important – credit cards. A credit card (and I mean a credit card, where you spend the money first and then pay it back) is needed for almost all car rental companies in Iceland.

Can I hire a car in Iceland without a credit card?

rent-car-without-credit-cardIt is very difficult to find a company to rent a car for your debit card. However, if you do, they will either ask you to make a deposit or pay the highest insurance they have on offer, which will make your loan considerably more expensive.

An alternative to “expensive” car rental companies may be to rent a car from the locals.

I recommend everyone to go through the offer on Carrenters.is, which is a portal that arranges lending between tourists and Icelanders. Maybe you will find a car that you will be satisfied with, which will save you thousands of crowns.

If you are trying to get your trip to Iceland as low as possible, then think about what the car will be like.

Prices of gasoline and diesel are now in 2019 about 235 ISK out of season and in the season probably rise.

So think about a smaller car, just with front-wheel drive, so you can save a few hundreds or a few thousand on less fuel for mileage.

ISLANDS ATTRACTIONS AND BEAUTIES

Most tourists who come to Iceland on their own spend their first or last day in Reykjavik while visiting the Blue Lagoon, which is an artificial pool that looks like a natural spa.

It is one of the biggest attractions near Reykjavik and almost every tourist who is not trying to save, Blue Lagoon visits. If you look at the photos of this attraction, you may understand why.

Other beauties of Iceland that you should not miss may vary depending on whether you are going to Iceland in summer or winter.

If you are traveling in winter, I would recommend that you try to travel to the countryside because of the aurora (northern lights). Outside the city is much more likely to see the northern lights during the evening.

Traveling in South Iceland

The most popular part of Iceland is the south in all seasons. There are many places to visit and the further you are from Reykjavik, the better it is.

It starts in Hveragerdi, a town about an hour’s drive from Reykjavik.

The surrounding area is part of the Hengill central volcano, and is geothermally active and experiences very frequent (usually minor) earthquakes. The town is known for its greenhouses, which are heated by hot water from volcanic hot springs. These springs are the site of occurrence of certain extremophile micro-organisms, that are capable of surviving in extremely hot environments. Close to the church is a hot spring called Sandhólshver, formed during the violent South Iceland earthquake of 1896. A fenced-off geothermal area in the town has numerous hot springs and fumaroles.

Here you can make a “mountain trip” and after about 4 km walk you will reach the Reykjadalur River, which is known to be hot and suitable for swimming all year round.

Moreover, the whole place is adapted for tourists, so there is a wooden path around the river and you will find something like a place to change.

The next stop on your journey should be the city of Selfoss, which is about the fourth or fifth largest in Iceland.

iceland-kerid-crater-selfossAbout 20 minutes from the hotel you will find the Kerid Crater, which has made a lake that plays all colors in summer.

Entry to the crater or parking is paid, but it costs about 150 CZK.

The further east you travel, the more waterfalls you can see. There are a lot of waterfalls in Iceland and if you are attracted, he recommended that you do your own research and plan a route accordingly.

Keep in mind, however, that not all of them are easily accessible, as they can often be difficult for smaller cars.

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In every tourist itinerary around Iceland there is a so-called Golden Ring. It is actually an area between the Thingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss Waterfall and the Geyser area, where you will find the well-known Strokur, which runs at regular intervals.

In season these places are mostly full of tourists, but still worth a visit.

Other attractions in Iceland include beaches (eg Reynisfjara), glaciers and glacier lagoons or various treks, whether for a day or several days (eg Landmannagur trek).

If you are traveling around Iceland outside the winter season, it is worth seeing the fjords, either in the east or northwest.

Much popular is also the area in the east, around Lake Mýtn, which is also perhaps the most distant place of Reykjavik. So if you are just out for a few days or have a trip as an extended trip, I’d rather stay near Reykjavik and enjoy the natural beauty there.

What is the best accommodation on Iceland?

iceland-cottage-for-rentDepending on how you plan your trip and trips in the areas of Iceland, it is appropriate to look for accommodation in the localities. You can actually choose from several options.

Either try to travel with the lowest possible expenses and sleep in the car or camping, or you can sleep under the roof either in hostels, hotels, guest houses or in various cottages. Everything has its pros and cons.

Personally, I would choose cheaper guesthouses (for example Vatnsholt guesthouse in the south) and if we were at least 4 I would think about renting a cottage, which may ultimately come out cheaper.

Almost all accommodation facilities can be found on Booking.com, where you can book your room directly. If you are sure of your way, I recommend not hesitating, especially in the case of cheaper accommodation. In high season, the accommodation is sold out quickly and the hotel or guesthouse may soon be occupied for your date.

GROCERY STORES, FOOD SHOPPING AND EATING IN ICELAND

kronan-iceland-grocery-storeFood is another necessity for which you will have to spend money. Imports of food from the other countries are allowed, but if I am not mistaken the limit is about 5 kg and it is possible that there are certain rules, what ingredients and what not.

If you do not eat in restaurants, you can really save noticeably. The main course in a restaurant usually starts around 20 USD and at this price you often get only soup.

Dining in KFC, Subway and similar facilities is a bit cheaper but still very expensive.

There are several shops in Iceland, such as Bonus, Kronan and Netto. Keep in mind, however, that most of the accommodations have no cooking facilities in the rooms, so you can only cook your food at the hotel’s microwave.

For this reason I prefer accommodation in cottages, which mostly have a kitchen with stove and basic kitchen equipment. You can cook hot food and often enjoy the hot tub, which is right next to the cottages.

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CONTINUED ON NEXT PART

This is the basic information you should know before going to Iceland on your own and planning your Iceland holiday.

Of course there is much more information and various details. Therefore, I have decided to publish further advice and tips, such as clothing or what to take on vacation, in the next sequel to this article.

If you have any questions about Iceland, whether you are on the road or on holiday, just write me in the comments. I will try to answer all the questions as best as I can.

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