Are you sick of Iceland posts yet? I hope not, because we fell madly in love with this country and are already thinking about when we can go back. Planning our trip to Iceland, especially from Hawaii, proved to be a little bit difficult just because every blog we read said something just a little bit different in terms of what to pack and expect. This makes total sense, because everyone has a completely different travel style. If you are planning a trip, here’s what I wish I knew before going to Iceland.
What I Wish I Knew Before Going To Iceland
Invest in good waterproof hiking boots.
Thankfully, my friend Casey told me she was ordering these hiking boots, because the ones that were in my cart weren’t fully waterproof. I cannot stress enough how essential it is to have completely waterproof boots (and clothing/outerwear). The weather in Iceland changes on a dime (think sleeting one minute and sunny the next, all while the wind whips 30mph), so you really never know what you’re going to encounter on any given day. We would leave the house and wind up in a sleet storm, or have it start pouring rain in the middle of a hike. I would have been completely miserable without these boots! I wore them every single day and even walked across a stream in them with absolutely no issue.
You’re going to spend a good bit of money – just know that ahead of time.
Everyone always says “Oh Iceland is expensive”, but I live in Hawaii, so I thought “How expensive could it really be?” (What It Costs To Live In Hawaii) The answer is a lot. Gas for our car was around $90-$100 per tank (I think we filled up 4 times), a bowl of soup (the most popular Icelandic meal) ranged from $20-25, we split ice cream one day for $18, and sandwiches were around $20. Ultimately if you decide to go, you need to know it’s expensive and not let that dictate what you see or do, because trying to constantly track ISK to USD will make you a little loony. Further, in most places we visited outside of Reykjavik, the options were very limited, so if you didn’t want the $25 soup bowl, the alternative was to go hungry.
The house we rented was over an hour away from any grocery stores, shops, cafes, etc, so we stocked up at a grocery store on our way there (moderately more affordable) to make quick breakfasts and dinners in our house rental.
Just as a side note — I wanted to bring home one of those adorable wool sweaters you always see or think of, but the cheapest one I saw was $400 and we saw them as pricey as $800. Eeek!
Be prepared for all sorts of cold weather.
I was prepared for the cold, but what I was not prepared for was the bone chilling wind. Even in photos where it looks very sunny, trust me when I tell you – it was freezing. When we picked up our rental car, the attendant told us that it was still summer weather in Iceland and the temperatures were in the 30s most days and into the 20s at night. The wind made it feel extra cold, for sure, and we saw sleet several days we were there. The one tidbit the car rental attendant had warned us about is that the wind comes out of nowhere so to always watch our car doors. We assumed she was being overly cautious until it absolutely happened to us. We stopped to take a look at a waterfall and it went from calm to gusty and the car door went flying!
The food isn’t bad.
I said before that I was a little bit nervous about food options before our trip. I had heard lots of chatter about hot dogs and fermented shark…uhh, no thank you! I was pleasantly surprised by every single meal we ate; it was delicious! We ate a lot of soup for meals out(always with a vegetarian option), were thankful for the free breakfast included with our hotel stay and then cooked 3 dinners at our home rental with food from a grocery store. While none of us tried the fermented shark, Dane did get a hot dog (known as pylsur) and said it was one of the best he has ever eaten! I also had a kale and quinoa ‘burger’ at a brewery in Vik that was so full of flavor and probably one of my favorite meals of the trip.
The Blue Lagoon is touristy, but worth it.
We had heard conflicting reports on the Blue Lagoon prior to our trip. Some people said it was too touristy and not worth it, while others said it was worth a shot. Because our flight landed so early in the morning, we decided to make that the first thing we did in Iceland and oh man – it was awesome. We booked the PREMIUM package, which means we got extra spa masks, robes, slippers, drinks and a lunch reservation at Lava.
After visiting, I can see why people say it’s touristy, because the line was out the door when we were leaving and the lagoon is filled with people. That said, booking the premium package makes it worth the stop and that is the only way I would do it again. Otherwise, you’re kind of scrambling in and out of the lagoon in the freezing air without a robe and the included drinks were pretty tasty (and not something we would have paid $15 for otherwise). To note: The lunch reservation at Lava was delicious. We all had the 2-course meal and agreed the quality to price was excellent. I had a beet salad with a cauliflower steak – so good!
The Northern Lights might not look how you expect – and that’s okay!
We had zero expectations of seeing the Northern Lights, because we were visiting Iceland during a week of a full moon, which makes visibility somewhat difficult, because the sky is illuminated regardless of where you go. We had decided to split our time between Reykjavik and the countryside to get as far away from city lights as possible to increase our chances of seeing them.
One night it was around 10:30 and the guys were outside in the hot tub and Casey and I were sitting on the couch when I saw a green streak in the sky. We hustled outside to see if it was the Northern Lights and what we saw was incredible. It was the prettiest green streaks against black night sky. Was it beautiful? YES. One of the prettiest sights I’ve ever seen. Did it look like the magnificent purple, green and blue photos I’ve seen on the internet? Absolutely not. Our photos aren’t great, since we were lacking a tripod, but they were divine in their own special way and a memory I will cherish forever.
I have told countless people who have asked – I did not expect to fall in love with Iceland the way that I have. It’s such a stunning country filled with endless beautiful places and natural landscapes to enjoy. Have you traveled to Iceland? Was it what you expected?