This was our second visit to the majestic country so we came better prepared and were most excited to see new areas that we missed last year. We’ll start off with the recap video and 360 experience, followed by a few recommendations.
A day behind? No problem, just have another espresso
Our trip began with an unexpected engine problem causing us to miss our connection from Toronto to Reykjavik. This put us a day behind so we decided to load up on caffeine and make up for it as soon as we landed. This was easy to do because Iceland has close to 24 hours of sunlight in the summer, which leads me to my biggest recommendation.
Explore after hours
Visit popular locations during off hours. If you visit the places you read about online during normal business hours you’re going to see many busses and even more tourists. This might not bother you, but if you’re a photographer or filmmaker you’re not going to get the shots you want during the popular times. Instead, take a nap during normal hours and do your exploring from 6:00 pm until 3:00 am. Don’t forget your sleep mask though!
Where can this Defender go?
After a few days in a Happy Camper exploring the popular areas, it was time to meet up with Petur from HL Adventure and Kate from Travel 6 Degrees. They brought along the Defender so we were pretty excited to test it out and explore some of Iceland’s more rugged and unknown terrain.
Where to visit
If you’re planning a trip to Iceland I’m going to assume you’ve spent hours looking into places to visit. There are plenty of blogs and resources that tell you where to go and most of them are going to tell you about the Golden Circle. You’ll also have a nice list of stops between the Golden Circle and Jokulsarlon Lagoon. I think the locations on those routes are definitely worth visiting but the most beautiful places we saw were in locations most people don’t know about (like the ice cave and glacier waterfall shown above). For more information regarding traditional places to visit take a look at Guide to Iceland.
Exploring on our own and getting lost is something we love to do. If you plan to do the same in Iceland, make sure to stay on the roads, don’t walk on moss and avoid walking on glaciers without a guide. It’s very possible to fall into a sinkhole if you don’t know where you’re walking on a glacier. Trust us on that one.
Recommendations on how to explore Iceland
There are many ways for you to explore Iceland in the summer. Budget will definitely be a deciding factor for most people so I’ll break it down by a few different experiences we had.
Rent a vehicle and camp
The cheapest way to explore Iceland would be to rent a vehicle and sleep at campgrounds. You can either rent a tent in Iceland or buy a cheap one and bring it with you. If you go the tent route, I’d highly recommend using one that is waterproof because the weather in Iceland can change at any given moment. I’d also bring a mat to sleep on in addition to a sleeping bag. The evenings are still cold in the summer so some sort of padding that reduces the chance of you freezing is a smart idea. If you tend to be cold you should plan on packing a few sweatshirts, thick socks and warm pants even though it’s the summer. Bonus points if you bring weather resistant gear.
Even though you’ll have a decent amount of winter clothes packed you’ll still want to bring a bathing suit because you’ll have a lot of thermal pool options. I’m already missing them just by writing this.
As for the type of vehicle, a 4×4 vehicle will cost more, but I would recommend renting one because you’ll have more space and will be able to drive on more roads. There are campgrounds everywhere but my favorite was Hamragardar located at Seljalandsfoss (shown above). Unzipping my tent to that view was one sweet experience and something I’ll always remember.
Rent a Happy Camper
This is a great way to include your vehicle and sleeping accommodations in one. You’ll still need to park at a campground since you can no longer pull off the road and sleep anywhere. The other consideration to think about is that Happy Campers are not 4×4 vehicles. That means you won’t be able to drive on some of the roads. This isn’t a big deal if you only plan to visit the popular locations and some exploring along the Ring Road. The price will vary depending on the type of camper you rent, but any choice will be more comfortable than your basic tent.
Work with an experience focused company
The price for this option will vary depending on the budget you tell them, but the experience you have will be completely different than what you read about online. We’ve also found that some trips were cheaper going through an agency than doing it ourselves. This is because the agency typically receives a much better discount than you could and passes some of the savings to you.
One reason your experience will be different than what you read about online is because companies like HL Adventure have scouts that are constantly searching the country for new locations and experiences. Since Iceland’s landscape can change often, there are many opportunities to come across new experiences. For example, we visited a small ice cave and glacial waterfall with nobody else around. It took a bit to get out there but was an experience I’ll always remember. It’s possible that in a few years the ice cave will be gone due to the current melting rate so experiencing something like that before it’s too late was pretty memorable.
Stay at luxury hotels
When we think about Iceland, luxury hotels don’t immediately come to mind. Until recently, there weren’t many options but as tourism continues to boom, luxury options continue to increase. One of the nights we were fortunate enough to stay at a luxury farm. I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels around the world and this was one of my favorite experiences. The room was stunning, but what I liked the most was that it still felt like I was in Iceland. This will definitely be one of the most expensive options when exploring Iceland, but if luxury travel is your thing then I’d highly recommend checking out the boutique farm hotel, Skalakot. They currently do not have a website, but if you’re looking for additional information you can email email@example.com. Below is a 360 picture of the room.
However you choose to explore Iceland, I’d recommend going soon. Since our visit last year, we’ve seen a big increase in tourism at the popular locations, drones are forbidden in some areas, you can no longer pull off the road and sleep anywhere and prices have increased due to demand. Who knows what will change next year.