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Published: December 30th 2017
My family loves to travel together and see new places as much as possible. We recently visited Iceland in the summer of 2017 for two fantastic weeks. It was not just another place to check-off on a list, but, a life-changing experience. I hope to return there someday. This vacation was the first time I went on a road trip across a whole country. One of the most memorable parts of this vacation was that we planned the entire trip ourselves. Or rather, my mother planned the entire trip herself. Because of this, we went where we wanted to when we wanted. We had complete freedom to explore at our own pace, and that made the vacation so much better. If you ever have the chance to go to Iceland, make sure you go and try to plan the trip yourself.
When we go on a vacation, we do not take package tours as we like to feel the place that we are visiting, not just check it off a list. We talk to friends who have visited those destinations and take the help of locals when we are lost or need any advice or tip. Our trip to Iceland was no different. Further, me and my brother, Vibhu, decided to document this vacation. I was going to write a blog about our trip, and my brother was going to take photos. Many websites and books help you plan your vacation to Iceland. We read several firsthand reports and blogs about the beauty of the country. In particular, Lonely Planet Iceland’s Ring Road – Road Trip and Lonely Planet Iceland were very helpful in planning our trip. These books were handy references while we were traveling there as well. I have an Iceland Travel Diary post to share the details of our trip. This post is to share some useful travel tips. I hope it will also help you plan your trip and give you a better feel for the place when you see the pictures my brother took during our two-week trip https://www.flickr.com/photos/154547622@N05/collections. Check out my youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCn6VxfVc0FOgLUB84-dbmVQ/playlists for the vlogs. Check out my post for the Iceland travel diary.
You can travel clockwise or anti-clockwise. We chose the latter and enjoyed it thoroughly. Nothing comes to mind for me to compare the two. My post-Iceland Travel Diary: The Beginning, Destinations, and Conclusion have our itinerary. You can also check out the google maps link to see all the places we visited - https://drive.google.com/open?id=1X4WUl4ncPlqH_67XGOLDes1NSSHt0ZqW&usp=sharing . You need a google account to view this map.
1. Iceland is a paradise for taking pictures. Take a good camera, but do not buy an expensive video camera. A Phone with 4K video is good enough (e.g., iPhone SE). For those of you who don’t have a professional vlogging camera, buy the Osmo Mobile for smooth, steady video. Binoculars are essential to enjoying the beauty of the place.
2. Rent a 4-wheel drive if you are planning to go on any F-Roads. Iceland is all about driving from place to place to see the country. There is going to be a lot of driving time, so make sure you get a comfortable car. The diesel-powered Hyundai Tucson we rented fulfilled our needs. There are plenty of car rentals available at the international airport, but, book ahead of time to get the car of your choice.
3. We are strict vegetarians. For us, food was not an issue. We took a bunch of heat and eat packets from home, and in Iceland, we rented camping stove and some propane. My suggestion would be to carry snacks with you as the drives can get long. The multi-grain loaves of bread we found in local Icelandic markets were some of the best we have ever had.
4. Break out of the old habit of buying water. Fill your bottles with faucets (hotels/roadside etc.). The drinking water is genuinely refreshing. The only time we used packaged water was the bottles we bought at the Airport or the complimentary bottle we got when we toured the Icelandic water bottling plant. However, while drinking water, keep in mind that bathroom stops can be quite distant and you have to pay to use at most places.
5. Pack raincoats, hats, gloves, and flashlights in addition to wind resistant jackets, comfortable and warm clothes, and hiking shoes.
6. Download the full Google map of Iceland on your phone. The wireless signal is very sporadic and not available everywhere.
7. Get an Iceland SIM card for local calls. No matter what the people working in the shops tell you, make sure to get Siminn SIM cards. It is the most reliable network available in Iceland.
8. Iceland is a small country, and you can see more than one place in a single day. Create a plan for each day to map out all the locations you want to visit. In this plan, make sure you think about how much time you will spend at each destination and how long it takes to go from place to place. Remember, the breathtaking journey is equally important as the destination, so leave some room for unexpected stops along the way as well.
9. In summer, it doesn’t get dark. For us, each day was about 12-14 hours long, which included meals and naps during the day/night. We started our day around between 10 AM and noon but did not get to our hotel before midnight. Even such long days of travel could not tire us due to the purity of nature. I recommend taking naps during the day to recharge so you can admire every place you visit.
10. Who thought Iceland could have bugs? I didn’t. Although the bugs are harmless, they are annoying. Always carry a mosquito face net and bug repellent.
11. Icelandic people are helpful and kind. Repay their kindness by calling your hotel or other accommodations ahead of time if you think you are going to check in after the regular hours.
12. Always talk to the local people wherever you are. It is amazing how different their life is.
13. Iceland nature baths are a must do. The Blue Lagoon near Reykjavík is very expensive. Lake Myvatn has a similar experience at a much lower cost.
14. Last but not least, carry your garbage and dispose of it at designated places. Remember the Boy Scout principle: “Leave no Trace.”
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