10 Things to Know Before Going to Iceland

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Up until last year, my holidays have consisted of sweating it out in a hot country so when my brain made the decision to book my fiancé and I a holiday to Iceland I assumed I’d lost my mind. It turns out, Iceland is an incredible place and I can completely understand why it’s become an extremely popular holiday destination lately.

Hallgrímskirkja view

Due to my desire to be in a warm country over a cold one, I wasn’t exactly sure what Iceland would be like and when you throw in the fact this was my first holiday without my parents, I was a little lost. I did a lot of research on Iceland before going but the things I learnt were useless. There are only a few things you need to know before going to Iceland and luckily for you, they’re all right below this sentence.

1. Things in Iceland are significantly more expensive than you originally thought:

You know how people say Iceland is expensive? Well, take the price you think things are going to be and times it by 3. My fiancé and I were fully aware that we would be spending a good bit of money on food and drink but we didn’t anticipate how much it would actually be. A meal at an average restaurant in the UK would cost around £40 for my other half and I but in Iceland, expect to pay well over £100.

2. America made it before you:

I assumed Iceland would be this cute, quirky place that was a little behind on the times but oh boy was I wrong. My assumption was completely squashed around 15 minutes after leaving Keflavik airport when I spotted American fast food chains had beaten me here; we even had a Dominos across the road from our hotel. Don’t get me wrong I love America (and I’m happy to have pizza in close range) but the Americanisation of Iceland grated on me after a few days.

Thingvellir waterfall

3. Venture further afield to get away from the tourists:

The Golden Circle tour is one of the many things Iceland has to offer but you have to really fight your way through the crowds if you want to see any of it. Our first stop was to the Thingvellir and while most tourists looked over at the area the Vikings held the first parliament, we walked a mile down the hill towards a rather impressive waterfall. There were around 7 other people with us and it was so nice to be able to experience an awesome piece of nature without hearing the click of 50 cameras at once. The area my fiancé proposed to me at was actually only a few miles away from Thingvellir and it was totally deserted because it’s not part of the Golden Circle.

4. Iceland does cater to vegetarians

As a vegetarian, my biggest worry about going to Iceland was whether I’d be able to eat proper meals or not. I had a look at quite a few restaurants before we went and I was rather concerned when I noticed very few had vegetarian options but it turned out, I was being an idiot. You may not find the things you’re accustomed to but the majority of restaurants will have a vegetarian option. I’d highly recommend the falafel salad from Meze (42,, Laugavegur 32, 101 Reykjavík) but would advise you to stay clear of the Lava restaurant in the Blue Lagoon if you’re not keen on celery root.

Iceland proposal sites

5. It’s not as cold as you thought it would be:

We went to Iceland in November and figured it would be colder there than in Scotland but actually, it was warmer in Iceland. Of course, this isn’t going to happen for everyone but the chances are, you’ve over-packed and you won’t need the majority of clothes you’ve brought. So long as you have a waterproof jacket, a couple of cosy jumpers, sensible shoes, a hat, gloves and a scarf you should be totally fine. After all, you’ll probably be wandering around Iceland so the exercise is going to keep you warm (seriously, I was sweating profusely after walking up a slight hill as I was wearing so many layers).

6. The Blue Lagoon really is a tourist trap:

We had a great time at the Blue Lagoon. We rented the exclusive lounge, experienced the 2 hours of wonder (which includes an in-water massage) and had lunch at the Lava restaurant but we were almost hit in the face by 20 different selfie sticks while in the water. The Blue Lagoon is one of the main attractions of Iceland and there are regular tour buses coming straight from the airport so expect there to be people everywhere. I knew it would be busy but I didn’t think I’d end up in the background of 100 different videos during our time there.

Blue Lagoon

7. A Northern Lights tour is a must if you want to see them:

Guided tours irritate me but I booked a Northern Lights tour regardless as my other half really wanted to see them. The tour guides really know their stuff when it comes to the Northern Lights and they’ll take you to spots where you’re more likely to see them. The Northern Lights forecast was on 3 when we were standing in the freezing cold waiting for them so we were extremely lucky when the lights made their appearance.

Our tour was booked as a package with our flight and hotel through Reykjavik Excursions. They’ll send a bus to your hotel that will then take you to the bus station. If you book through Reykjavik Excursions and your tour is cancelled, you can email nl@re.is to book the tour for the following night.

8. The Northern Lights aren’t always what you expect them to be:

Hands up if you thought the Northern Lights looked exactly like they do in pictures to the naked eye? I feel you! I totally thought the sky would flash with green but in reality, the lights actually looked like fog moving quickly. The lights weren’t very strong the night we saw them but don’t be disappointed if the sky doesn’t light up with flashes of colour.

Iceland road

9. Renting a car is the way forward but be careful about what insurance you get:

We rented a car through Avis as we didn’t want to be stuck in just Reykjavik and, like I said earlier, I hate guided tours. Driving around Iceland ourselves was incredible as it meant we could venture away from the tourists and do our own thing but Iceland doesn’t exactly have a lot of roads. We ended up on a few questionable surfaces that made us thankful we opted in for the gravel insurance but, if you plan on sticking to just the ring road, don’t bother getting the full insurance package. It’s atrociously expensive and completely unnecessary if you don’t get lost like we did.

10. You’ll never have enough time to see it all:

We only had 3 full days in Iceland and, although I planned our days out to the minute, we just didn’t have enough time to do everything. Our Wednesday was derailed by the Reykjavik Art Museum which we didn’t mean to go into (if you have even the tiniest interest in art you need to go here), we spent the whole day in the Blue Lagoon on Thursday and each bit of the Golden Circle took a lot longer to take in than we originally thought (plus we drove off course and ended up in the middle of nowhere). The good thing about not doing it all in one holiday means you have an excuse to return.

We had an incredible time in Iceland and I really want to go back in the summer now. I’ve done a good chunk of the things I wanted to while there so next time, I can spend a bit more time relaxing and not worrying about the time. If you're heading to Iceland, I hope you have an amazing time (and if you’re thinking about proposing soon, Iceland is a memorable place to do it).

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