Ever since I was a little girl, I’d always wondered how those green lights in the sky appeared and whether I’d ever be able to go see them. Fast forward 20 something odd years and I’m actually in Iceland in search of the Aurora Borealis (aka Northern Lights)
The amount of preparation we had to do to come here was insane … although I don’t think any kind of organisation can actually prepare you for how cold it actually is here…let’s just say it’s called Ice Land for a reason. As Jon Snow kept trying to explain for years and years, winter is coming and it’s going to be the coldest this land has seen for years! As much as I’d like to say “you know nothing Jon Snow” I do actually think the man had a point!
I am a very deep sleeper and definitely not a morning person, so early morning flights are physically painful to me. I left my house at 4am! But actually it meant we got to Iceland with enough time to chill (pardon the pun!) and still had the whole day at our disposal.
We rented a car from Ice Rental Cars. They were fully professional and the service we received was great. They picked us up from the airport, took us to their offices and handed over the car, which was a Honda SUV. It was perfect for all the icy conditions we were driving in over the course of our trip.
Top TLH Tips
Hire a car – I can’t recommend this enough! We hired a car and drove around Iceland with the help of our trusty Google Maps (not sponsored), but if you’re travelling from UK your mobile data works exactly the same as it does here which is a huge bonus. Bearing in mind Iceland is SO expensive and I mean SOOOO expensive, so we weren’t really in the mood to pay £100 for 5 different tours. Driving ourselves meant yes, it was an extra cost but also cheaper and quicker than touring in groups. But more importantly, whilst driving around South Iceland we saw some amazing views that you really wouldn’t be able to make the most of whilst on a tour bus. If you do decide to hire, make sure it is an SUV or some kind of 4-wheel drive. I wouldn’t recommend getting a smaller car, especially if you’re travelling in the winter. Some shots from our road trip: (apologies in advance for my taste in music!!)
Wrap up warm – Of course if you’re going in winter you’ll know its going to be cold. But make sure you’re prepared for the amount of snow, ice and sleet. Wearing a thick coat isn’t going to cut it unfortunately – make sure you have thermal vests, thermal leggings, fat socks and a really good hat! But most of all be sensible with your shoes – Both my friend and I wore Timberland boots, and even though there served us well, they aren’t made for hiking up solid ice either. BIG TIP – If you’re going to be hiking or plan on going to any of the waterfalls (such as Skaftafell or ) I would really recommend you getting spikes for your shoes. You won’t be able to climb up the ice without them as we very soon realised (after falling over a few times).
Food – Iceland is known to be pricey, but no one really tells you how pricey it really is until you’re there and quickly running out of cash. If you’re driving around, there really aren’t many places where you can stop and eat apart from gas stations. There were times when we were driving with no cars around or any sight of a service stations for 100 km (yes along with driving in the wrong side of the road they also work in kilometres instead of miles just to confuse us a just a little bit more)! Alot of the places we ate at were mostly in the evening, Bearing in mind that Iceland has the smallest Muslim population in the world, you’ll be searching a while if you start looking for halal foods. (Check out Iceland Travel Food Diaries for more food recommendations.)
Plan Ahead – the days during the winter are so short that if you’re driving a few hours to go to the main attractions in South Iceland, you’ll need to plan your trip properly. The sun rises at around 10am and sets by 4.30pm. Some of the places we were driving to were 4 hours away (without stopping) so by the time we got there we really didn’t have much leway with the sunlight. Also the roads are dark and cold at night, so if you’re staying at Reykjavik, you wanna start heading back before sunset. We made the mistake of spending too long during the journey and massively struggled driving in 3 hours of snowstorms and blistering winds in pitch black on our way back. (Learn from our mistakes oh wise one!)
Cash vs Card – even though we exchanged almost £800 worth of Icelandic Kronos between us before our trip, cards were accepted everywhere in Iceland so we really didn’t need to carry all that cash with us. It’s up to you but make sure you check the exchange rates on your credit cards before you travel so you’re not stuck with an unexpected bill upon your return.
In my next post, I’ll be talking about our itinerary and what we did on each day, including the MUST see places to visit!
Lots of Love,