There’s no other destination like Iceland. I feel deep love for that country. It really leaves a mark. Iceland is fascinating, rugged, wild, surprising and a bit odd at times. Every now and then I get questions of what to see, do and experience in Iceland so I’ll share my tips. My compact Iceland guide, here you go.
Go to the nature
Being in nature is my meditation. So the unquestionable number one and first point is that go to the nature. The volcanoes, the glaciers, the lava fields and hot springs. The fjords, mountains, beaches with black stone, deep green valleys, puffins at the Westfjords and the whooshing sound of a waterfall when you walk into it. As I was staring at the waterfalls and breathing in the zesty and clear air I felt pure and undisputed happiness. Iceland gave me goose bumps.
Hiking is one activity worth doing; just remember to take proper hiking shoes as the terrain can be challenging. One peculiarity is that there are hardly any trees in Iceland. So you won’t be resting under a tree but you can take water from a glacier stream and of course admire the views that take your breath away. One beautiful hiking destination is the valley of Thórsmörk in the south: it is surrounded by glaciers and has a camping site and a village of wooden flats.
The fineness or awesomeness of Iceland is definitely in its nature. If you are not a nature person you might still be awestruck. But if you are looking for a city holiday, I would head somewhere else.
Rent a car or hitchhike. When travelling I prefer to be the master of my schedule and hence tourist busses don’t suite that well for me. I like to take detours and marvel at things for an indefinite amount of time.
Doing the Ring Road or Route 1 that goes around the country reveals the changing landscapes, the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, the strong and impressive desert-like views at the north-east and the Jökulsárlón glaciar river lagoon in the south-east, to name just a few. When you reach the west visit Látrabjarg, the westernmost point in Iceland. Lie on the ground near the bird cliff and watch the puffins and razorbills.
When circling the country you’ll find small fisher villages that seem almost deserted as there is no one walking on the streets. I’d reserve at least one week for the road trip.
Reykjavik is compact and picturesque and best explored by foot. Relax, reboot and socialize in a thermal pool (for example at Vesturbæjarlau, Hofsvallagata, 107 Reykjavík), buy some dried fish or works by Halldór Laxness from the Kolaportid Flea Market located in a big old warehouse (Tryggvagotu 19, Old Harbour), walk up the main shopping street Laugavegur, pop in a cute café and admire the personal style of the locals and go out and ask if you and your friend can join the table next to you; you just might end up in one of the epic parties of your life.
Or have a hot dog at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, near the Kolaportid flea market. This hot dog stand has the reputation of an institution. In almost every big or great city there is a place where there’s a queue no matter when you go there. If you are nearby, it’s a proper snack.
Attend an international voluntary work camp
Now this tip is a bit different. You may end up helping in giving birth to a baby lamb on an Icelandic farm, find yourself preparing an Icelandic fish soup for forty people or doing something else you couldn’t have imagined beforehand. I can almost promise you that you’ll be in your discomfort zone from time to time and make friends for life. If you are interested, you can find more info for example from here: wf.is
Weather-wise, be prepared for anything
And I mean anything. The saying goes that there is no weather in Iceland. In one hour one can witness warming sweet sunshine, biting glacial winds and a harsh hailstorm – and all of this in July. So yeah, the weather can be a bit unstable. Nowhere else have I worn long johns for several days in a row in the summer. Which brings me to the next point…
Invest in a lopapeysa
Which is a super warm Icelandic woolly. There is a decorative circle design around the neck. The sweater is warm, light and beautiful, worth opening the purse.
What else? Take your camera, your Fjällraven backpack and long johns with you and go. Admire the fascinating language and everything. And take the detour. You’ll be spellbound.