I went to Iceland last winter thinking of all the Instagram spot I wanna go and amazing things I’ll be doing while there. I wanted to go winter time because It looked so beautiful on photos and online.
I wished someone has told me what to expect. All my plans for this trip was shattered because of the lack of preparation – actually I did prepare but unfortunately the weather was so unexpected. I didn’t know how IMPORTANT the weather plays a role in Iceland. I booked a stay in ION Adventure Hotel and planned on going to Vík & Diamond Beach to see the gorgeous Ice along the beach and see some glaciers. We rented a car as well ahead of time as you need a car to go around. We arrived late afternoon around 2 pm and the sun was already setting. We decided to check out Reykjavik to stay overnight and go around the next day in nearby Gullfoss Falls and check out Geysir the next day. We stayed at HOTEL which was located right in the center of the city – right across us was a grocery which made it so perfect as we have a cooking place in our place and we’ve been missing home-cooked meal after travelling 1 month straight and eating out all the time. I made some pasta and salad with a bottle of wine over some candles ( candlelight) I found around our room. Our hotel is pretty cool!
On our 3rd day, we were supposed to go and make our way to ION adventure hotel and the next day leave for Vík & Diamond beach when we were stopped and advised by the locals that roads are closed and there’s crazy windstorm OTW. We literally had no option but to go back to Reykjavik. This continues for the next 3 days. The wind outside was crazy, I’ve never seen the strong wind like that in my life. We had an SUV and tried going again but then roads are close again on our 7th day. I’ve never felt so defeated in my life. I felt like I wasted my time and got nothing from what I imagined it will be. I still wanna go back tho despite this experience. We end up just going to Blue Lagoon for one whole day on our last day. We did, however, go to the museum and roamed around Reykjavik.
So here are my tips/things I wished knew before going to Iceland:
- CHECK THE WEATHER AHEAD OF TIME – If you have the liberty of booking your flight last minute (saying this so you can avoid the bad days) – check the weather first. This is so important if you’re going during wintertime. The weather here can be so intense. The wind can do big damage on your car or worst flip your car. it changes from time to time.
- RENT AN SUV/ALL WHEEL DRIVE/RUGGED CAR – It’s so crucial that you rent an SUV and a car like Jeep/land rover that can survive crazy weather and slippery road/rocks etc. I have a friend who tried being cheap and rented a small car and her car almost flipped and she literally thought she was gonna die. Make sure to check out your route with “F” roads as this involve driving thru water literally river crossing or something. ( see what I mean for renting a rugged car). I also recommend making sure you have insurance coverage as raining stones is a thing and can do damage with the car. I use my American Express Platinum which pretty much saves me every time. NOTE as well that Gas stations are far from each other so make sure to have an extra gallon or so of gas if you know you’re travelling far. Check out driving conditions here: www.road.is
- IT’S EXPENSIVE – Everything in Iceland is expensive when it comes to eating out or actually pretty much everything. So be prepared to bring extra cash when travelling here. Some people preferred renting a place where they can cook and make your own meal. Hotdog on a bun was about $5USD. I was so shocked when tried going to KFC to get a take out and it was $80 USD for a bucket of chicken. LIKE WHAT???
- EVERYTHING IS FAR – Pretty much all the places you wanna check out are far from each other ( 2-8 hours) away from each other. You gotta factor in the daylight time too. You wouldn’t wanna be on the road at night time. You never expect what comes around and there’s basically no light to guide you.
- IT’S SUPER COLD– I’m from Canada and I thought it’s the coldest place on earth I was wrong. Iceland is super cold mostly at night that I needed to wear two parkas one time when we went Northern lights hunting. Bring warm clothing or buy the local Icelandic sweater they sell. Its made of wool and magically warm you up. Bring mitts, fleece, hats, snow pants and Heat tech(undergarment) products. Also, make sure you have proper shoes that you can use on Ice and it’s warm! (Very important)
- YOU NEED TO GO TO BLUE LAGOON AND BOOK IN ADVANCE – I was told many times to not visit Blue Lagoon as this is so touristy and should check out other local natural geothermal places. But I honestly think this place is so worth it if it’s your first time. This place needs to be booked in advance online. Also, make sure to tie your hair up as the water is so bad for your hair. Do not dip your head. My hair seriously suffered and got damaged from this place. Bring conditioner and put it all over your hair before going in. Blue lagoon is so near the airport that you can do this as soon as you arrived and got your car. (book a week before online) I booked the VIP one and loved it.
- BRING WATERPROOF STUFF – It rains a lot and sometimes crazy weather will come across you. I wished I brought some snow pants and waterproof pants. Also, bring waterproof bags etc to protect your gadgets.
- NORTHERN LIGHTS SIGHTSEEING IS NOT LIKE A WALK IN THE PARK – Probably this is the most disappointing part of our trip hahaha I thought it was easy to see northern lights. We tried twice and failed twice. This experience was so intense. I recommend going further away from the city as it only shows up when the weather is clear and no pollution. The skies have to be clear. There’s also an app for Aurora readings and will help you locate it. I don’t recommend doing the group tour if you could find a local guide who only takes a small group of people you’ll have more chances. It was also so brutal as we had to drive far and move around and it was so cold – like the crazy crazy cold so be prepared for this. Check this for weather forecast HERE
- FREE TRIP TO ICELAND – If you’re already travelling around Europe, some Airlines are actually offering a free stopover in Iceland for as long as 1 week ( that’s the max), so like this, you save money on flights. This Trip was sponsored with WOW Air but they’re no longer around. Iceland Air still offers this and this actually what I did before going home to Toronto since my flight had a stopover at Iceland.
- ENJOY YOUR TRIP – Iceland can be so intense and probably will take you out of your comfort zone but it’s such a magical place and so BEAUTIFUL. I totally felt like I was in another world/ planet while I was stuck in such a twilight zone moment. Every experience you’ll discover here will be extraordinary. Take pictures with the horses and take your time when checking out the sceneries.