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Viking country beckons – Survival guide to Iceland

When our traveller Sukanya returned from her vacation to Iceland with Pickyourtrail, she had a few things Dos and Don’ts to share with us. Here are her words of wisdom born of glorious experience, along with other useful pointers to survive, and truly enjoy Iceland. Here’s her survival guide to Iceland.

Iceland. The Land of Ice and Fire. Home to beautiful glaciers, hot springs, snow-capped mountains, the magical Aurora Borealis and so much more. While the country’s breathtaking natural beauty and the Icelanders’ youthful spirit left us in awe, there were a few things that we were quite unprepared for. Here are some things that you should know before you visit Iceland.

1. The Blue Lagoon

guide to Interest

Visiting Iceland and not taking a dip in the iconic Blue Lagoon’s thermal pools is a wasted experience. Even though we went for one of the last admits – around 8 PM, the lagoon was still crowded. One thing we failed to notice until after we stepped out of the pool was that there’s a shop near the entrance that sells plastic phone cases/covers that allow you to take pictures in the spa/pool/underwater. Remember to get the cover so that you can shoot pictures of you chilling out in the thermal pools and underwater.

2. Get To Know The Locals

guide to Iceland

Icelanders are some of the nicest people we’ve met. With a lot of tourists frequenting the beautiful country, the locals help them with directions, getting around and helpful tips. Further, talking with the locals will give you a greater insight into what Icelandic life is all about. And when you get back home, you can brag that you have badass Nordic friends from the land of the Vikings.

3. Iceland Is Road Trip Heaven – But Plan Ahead

guide to Iceland

Road trips are one of the best ways to explore Iceland and its natural beauty. People usually take the iconic Ring Road, which is a roadway that covers the entire perimeter of Iceland, covering a whopping 1332 km. The route takes you through waterfalls, volcanoes, the Northern Lights, fjords, glaciers and icebergs along with numerous beautiful villages and off-road trails. While the road trip is a must-do and deserves a blog post of its own (Soon, me lads), here are a few pointers that will help you.

  1. Plan your trip to last atleast a week. Anything lesser means you’ll be missing out on a lot.
  2. Invest in a nice rugged SUV. Some of the smaller gravel roads can be unforgiving and you DON’T want to regret settling for a smaller car then.
  3. Try to reduce driving at night, since getting hold of a repair service in case of a flat tire at night can get hard.
  4. Use a credit card with a PIN so you don’t need to get a gas card to fill up.
  5. Speaking of fuel, gas is pretty expensive in Iceland, so make sure you factor it in while you make a budget.

Read more: Free things to do in Iceland.

4. Food is Expensive – But there are ways around it

guide to Iceland

Food can be expensive in Iceland, depending on where you’re getting your grub from. Food at hotels and gas stations are generally pricey, so stock up on groceries at Bonus, Kronan and other cheaper stores and bring your own food. The bakeries have great food and snacks. And as point #2 noted, the locals are more than happy to let you know of cheaper food options.

Here are some of the amazing food that Icelanders eat!

5. Beat the crowd by carrying your own water/ snacks

guide to Iceland

Here’s another reason to carry your own food even if you aren’t doing a road trip. Most of the tours have frequent stops between places and there are snack/lunch bars available. However, we found long lines greeting us in most places. Therefore it is advisable to carry your own water bottles/snacks to avoid standing in the lines.

6. Reservations at Restaurants

guide to Iceland

After you’ve tried Iceland’s delicious Hangikjöt (Smoked Lamb), Kjötsúpa (Meat Soup) and the Ein með öllu (the iconic Icelandic hotdog), you might be yearning for some good old Indian food. Not to worry, as Iceland has many Indian restuarants. However, reservations are a must at most, if not all these restaurants.

7. Waterproof shoes

guide to Iceland

In Iceland, most of the sites you visit will have a lot of water or ice nearby. Having seen some of our co-passengers have a lot of difficulty with this, I would recommend that you pack waterproof shoes for your vacation.

8. Ice-Walking Shoes

guide to Iceland

If you plan to hike or go on a glacier hike (highly recommended!) in winter, ice-walking shoes or boots are a must. Your Nikes and Vans might look swanky, but won’t do you any good when the ice-cold water and snow seep in and freeze your socks off.

Aching to try Iceland’s renowned adventure activities? Here are some of the country’s epic adrenaline-pumping activities.

9. Windbreaker Jackets

guide to Iceland

Iceland is famous for its winds. While you don’t need to worry about flying cows and trailers (mostly), not stepping out without a windbreaker or a thick warm waterproof jacket will leave you cursing the cold. The icy wind was more of a challenge for us than the cold. It might take you a couple of days to warm up to (pun intended) Iceland’s famous winds. So invest in a decent jacket that provides ample warmth. You can even get great ones in Iceland itself.

10. Swear By Layers

guide to Iceland

If we haven’t stressed it enough already, here it is again: It gets realy cold in Iceland. While you may prefer jeans for all seasons, it is a better idea to wear layered clothing. Long johns are a nice option, since they are a quick-dry option. Woollen socks and hats are also a great way to beat the cold and look great.

More tips from the locals

If you hate crowds skip the Blue lagoon and head over to the Secret Lagoon or Myvatn Nature Bath instead. They are cheaper, too.

Don’t drive off the road; it is very dangerous.

Buy all your alcohol from Vinbudin – government owned liquor store. The beer in grocery stores are non alcoholic.

Vinbudin
Image credit – thealeinkaleigh
When taking pictures, don’t walk backwards. You may run the risk of falling into a geysir, off the cliff or even into a waterfall. Incidents like these are not uncommon.

Always keep your phone charged. In case of volcano eruptions, you will at least get a warning.

Mobile on charge
Image credit – telecomtalk
Don’t stand too close to the glacier on the beach. They are pretty, yes. But in case of strong waves, the 5 tonne ice berg will fall on you.

Now that you’re all set up, get packing and go conquer the land of the Vikings on your next vacation with certified Iceland Experts Pickyourtrail.

Intrigued by Iceland? Here’s another good read – our traveller Vijay Ram’s beginner’s guide to exploring Iceland. And check out the Pickyourtrail blog for more epic guides, from Australia, Norway, New Zealand to Bali, Thailand and lots more.

Planning your vacation, fixing agents, flight bookings, hotel bookings, activities and the other things getting to your head? Fret not, fellow traveller. Sit back and chill out, as our expert vacation planners will get your dream vacation going in no time.

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Abimanyu Srikanth

2 comments

  • She missed the 10 golden rules of survival: more important than food even if my husband may disagree.
    1. Meeting another car on a onelane bridge is a killer.
    2. The 15th wave is probably coming from the south pole when it meets the current wind coming from USA southwesterly. It makes it bigger….lot bigger. So don’t cross the waterline on our south beaches. Be alert.
    3. When talking photos don’t walk backward. You fall in to a Gyser and get cooked. I am not joking was talking to 18 years old from USA last week that had his shoes melt. 2 degrees burn. He was lucky it was only a foot. Or you fall in a waterfall like hapend 2 weeks ago, SAT still looking for a body. Or of a cliff.
    4. Always have your phone charged if there is a eruption. So you get a warning. They is now in a warning alert. So it’s not a time to wonder of on the black sands to look at a stupid airplane. If the locals don’t do. You don’t do.
    5. Don’t stop on a midel of a road to take Northern Lights picture. You get run over in the darkness. Da….
    6. If you take a trip on a glacier. You need 6 people on the b…. cord. If you fall you dye. If there is only 3 people on the line the one that falls pools the other down. We never found the Dutch menn they were 25 and 26 years.
    7. Way do you think the locals never ever jump in a ice lagoon?
    8. Way do Icelandic never jump on a floating Ice.
    9. Way do you not stand on a Iceberg stranded on a beach? Because it’s a 5 tons and the 15 wave is going to role it over you.
    10. Always let a local cross rivers first, they know the river. Where it’s depp and stony botom. Don’t flood a engen. Your car is not insured in rivers. No car is.

    Iceland is the safest country in the world because we care about you. We warn you but don’t fens you in. Be smart traveler. With love from Iceland
    Matthilda (CoolFox campers)