What I would have done differently in Iceland

IMG_1230.JPG

Now that I’ve officially returned from the Land of the Nice for more than a month, I think it’s apt to share what I thought I missed out during my 10 days there. Like what I would have done differently if I had an undo button in my life.

1. Stay at off the beaten path places

Much of my itinerary was heavily influenced by the posters on tripadvisor who were warning me against driving the Ring Road in winter without winter driving experience, so I went for places that were more accessible. As a result we missed out on some unique accomodation that were off the beaten path, which could have enhanced our stay in Iceland more.

0b1c895f_original.jpg

Source: https://www.airbnb.com.sg/rooms/947086?s=E14BsKqX

We missed out on this lovely apartment in Akureyri, and there were a couple more places too that were equally outstanding outside of the Ring Road which would have given us some good memories for sure.

2. Touring the Snæfellsnes Peninsula

We had to skip this particular area of Iceland due to time limitation, so if you have more than 10 days I believe this would be a great area to go.

I’ve read that there’s a couple of great hiking trails, beautiful scenery, and some great choices of accommodation in Hotel Budir and Hotel Egilsen.

c01f887f352d107c.jpg

Source: www.hotelbudir.is

3. Checking out the seal colonies

Seeing a seal pop its head out of of the cold waters at Jokusarlon was definitely one of the highlights of our trip.

If you are there, my advice would be to walk all the way to the end of the beach to see if you can find more of these amazing animals in their natural habitat. It is said that in winter they are often spotted in Jokusarlon hunting for fish.

I believe there are other seal spotting places around Iceland as well, near Osar Hostel (North of Iceland), and the beach near the farm Ytri-Tunga (Snaefellness Peninsula).

It’s not often you can see animals in their natural habitat, undisturbed.

4. Explore the less traveled roads

IMG_0749.JPG

One of the things in Iceland is that you can almost certainly find some unknown waterfalls, mountains or scenery not mentioned in guidebooks, if you choose to go off the Ring Road. The only questions are whether the roads are closed or if you have the appetite for roads that are narrow and some, dangerously close to the cliff edge.IMG_0725.JPG

As always, keep your wits about, be safe and make sure that you do the necessary preparations before wandering off to lesser visited places.

5. Try the Traditional Icelandic Foods

While I did try the Hakarl, which honestly wasn’t as bad as what most people say (or react to, like Gordon Ramsay), we did miss out on a couple of types of Icelandic food.

The Icelandic dried fish would have been our list had it not being hideously expensive for something which we didn’t know how it would taste.

icelandic_dried_fish_fillets_300gicelandic_2954big.jpg

The national liquor, Brennivin, would have made a good souvenir back home, though I suspect I wouldn’t have enjoyed drinking it, since its said to taste like vodka and that’s not really my thing.

Still, the bottle itself is classy it its own right and hey, how many people in Singapore can proudly say they have a bottle of Icelandic liquor back home?

IMG_5498.JPG

6. Buy a gift for the Icelanders

Well, certainly not a gift for every Icelander I met but more for the Airbnb hosts or guesthouse owners as a token of appreciation for their hospitality during my stay.

I think it would have been nice to have brought a taste of Singapore for these lovely people, like a small bottle of kaya or something along those lines, since it’s likely most Icelandic people wouldn’t visit Singapore that often. The Icelandic people, while known for their apparent coldness towards strangers, are actually friendlier than I expected. You won’t experience any hostility or racism of any sorts in my opinion and every Icelander we met were really warm and helpful whenever we needed any sort of assistance (with the one exception of the receptionist at Fosshotel Nupar, may I add)

It’s a resolution that both me and Pari have made for our next adventures in future, to bring something from home to others.

So these are the couple of things that I would have done had I knew in advance.

Like all trips, there’s always something that you wished you did or didn’t do, but there’s no reason to beat yourself over it. It certainly gives you a good excuse to visit the place again!

Sometimes we all tend to be influenced by what people say, especially over internet forums and stuff but at the end of the day, no one will take any responsibility over the decisions we make except ourselves. Go with your instinct always, and be safe based on your own limits.

Have a enjoyable trip, and explore!

 

 

Advertisements

17 thoughts on “What I would have done differently in Iceland

  1. Ryan January 4, 2016 / 9:41 am

    Hey, your Iceland posts are fantastic! May I just enquire if you felt safe driving there in October? Were there snow on the roads? I’m planning to do a self drive there as well. Also, how much daylight do you have per day given that it is winter time? I’m also planning to go in October but would hate to be stuck in the hotel at 5pm.. Lastly, can you advise if 12 days is sufficient for the ring road plus golden circle? Thanks for all the information!

    Like

    • ◄the honest explorer► January 4, 2016 / 2:48 pm

      Hi Ryan!
      Thank you for reading and the kind words!
      Before the trip I was really nervous about driving having read about the horror stories on tripadvisor regarding having no winter driving experience, dodgy car rentals, etc.
      In the end I decided to give it a go, since I really felt the best way to see the country was to drive.
      I was there from the 31 Oct till 11 Nov, with actual driving on the 1st Nov onwards.
      Fortunately, the weather was kind and I experienced only strong winds on one day, and fog on another. Weather in Iceland usually changes pretty fast, and it’s quite unpredictable so good weather this year might not mean the same the next. Still, I don’t think you will encounter heavy snow in October. We didn’t encounter any snow during our drive, just some slight ice on the roads at times. I think the most dangerous thing to me was driving on the city roads since Icelanders or I dare say other tourists drive really fast!
      As a whole, I think it’s safe to drive at least till early November.
      Daylight started around 9am and sunset was around 430pm, so around 5pm it’s still possible to drive though out of safety, we tried to avoid driving at night whenever possible. You can also choose to move earlier, say around 830? Sky would be beginning to get bright already. Typically we would sleep around 930-10pm and wake at 630am, to have breakfast or something but this really depends on your own style and preferences. You can choose to hang out later at night to catch the Northern Lights, if you are lucky!
      We did the ring road excluding Snaefellness Peninsula. I’m not sure about your definition of 12 days, because my trip was 12 days as well but the first two days was in Reykjavik and the last was heading back to the airport, so technically I took 9 full days. Assuming you have 12 full days on the Ring Road, you should be able to include Snaefellness as well.
      At the end of the day, don’t rush through the sights, leave some extra time always for that extra glacier or waterfall you might have missed, and for safety reasons, don’t drive too fast!
      Always check the road.is website before traveling, and remind yourself to keep below the speed limit always, especially on gravel roads and when the paved road turns to gravel. It’s tempting to speed to catch up on lost time or when you find you are the only car on the roads, which well be quite a regular occurrence. Make sure you have a phone connection, in case of emergency.
      Enjoy the trip and do let me know how it went! Feel free to drop a note if you have more queries, or you can download my itinerary as a rough guide!
      It will likely be the best trip you have had in your life Ryan!

      Like

      • Ryan January 19, 2016 / 6:24 am

        wow thanks for your detailed reply! It made me feel much better about driving there 🙂 Can I just ask if a 4WD is necessary? I have read that its safer to get a 4WD but the cost is really much more expensive as compared to a normal sedan.
        Hm, I plan to be on the road for 10 days, I guess its sufficient to complete the ring road and the golden circle then! Its just that my friend was advising me that 10 days would be too rush.. Did you feel rush with 9 days? Thanks so much for the advise!
        Feeling excited about buying my tickets soon, will be going by icelandair as well 🙂 So far the prices I get is about 90 pounds one way per pax. is that reasonable? Thanks!

        Like

      • ◄the honest explorer► January 19, 2016 / 3:29 pm

        Hi Ryan!
        If you are going mostly on the ring road, I think a normal 2WD with winter tyres would be enough.
        If you are not comfortable driving a bigger car then I think better to go with the kind of car you are used to driving. I think Lagoon Car Rental has a couple of suitable ones, like the Toyota Auris. Initially I booked that but they were out on that day and upgraded me to a Subaru Forester. That went pretty well for me too.
        It didn’t feel very rush for me but I wished I spent more time just sitting down and enjoying the sights. It’s tempting to take photos and videos but don’t ever lose sight of why you are there-to relax and marvel at the wonders of nature so do sit back and relax ! I think 10 nights on the road, excluding Reykjavik would be more than enough !
        90 pounds is a good price! Going to BKK which is about the same distance from London to Iceland costs around the same too.
        You will have a blast. And I’m glad my blog came in handy. Have fun!!!

        Like

  2. Trish January 26, 2016 / 7:42 am

    Hi there! I chanced upon your blog just as we were starting to research/plan for our year end trip. Thanks for sharing such helpful detailed information. Am still unsure about left-hand drive in winter though…argh!

    Like

    • ◄the honest explorer► January 27, 2016 / 3:11 pm

      Hi Trish!
      Thanks for reading and glad you found the information useful. That was my main objective for setting up this blog because I couldn’t find objective information on the internet at times on Iceland!
      Which month will you be going? I went in early November so it was really safe. I had a friend who went in late December and drove to Snaefellness and Golden Circle and came back safely. Icelandair and other instagram pages of Iceland always show road trips on winter as well. There’s a lot of stuff written about the dangers of driving in winter on tripadvisor, but at the end of the day, you are responsible for your own actions. It’s always easy to just write something on the internet so if you are not comfortable, take a tour instead or choose another month to go.
      If you have decided to do it, don’t blame anyone if things go wrong! Go for it as long as you have done your due diligence.
      Driving to me is the best option because you have maximum flexibility compared to tours. If you are nervous about driving in winter, why not choose another season?
      Left hand drive isn’t that bad-I felt a little scared too initially but I constantly reminded myself and visualized how it would be like before the trip and got my partner to remind me once on the roads as well. It turned out okay in the end!
      Good luck-either ways, you will have a lot of fun!

      Like

      • Trish April 18, 2016 / 7:31 am

        Hi Hi! May I just ask if you took up the comprehensive insurance bundle for car rental? I read that Theft and SAAP insurance are really optional whereas Gravel and Windscreen insurance are absolutely necessary. Any advice you can dish out on this would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

        Like

      • ◄the honest explorer► April 21, 2016 / 12:55 pm

        Hi Trish!
        Thank you for visiting my blog.
        I took up the Gravel insurance upon recommendation from the car rental, Lagoon Car Rental.
        In my personal opinion, if you are going on the Ring Road only maybe the insurance isn’t necessary. But to have a piece of mind, I would recommend spending that extra bit of money, so you don’t have to worry when you hear the crackle of gravel onto your car each time (which happens very frequently).
        Hope this helps!

        Like

  3. Trish February 2, 2016 / 7:10 am

    We are thinking of November too (as soon as the school vacation commences) and we have decided (I think) to go with self-drive. Fingers crossed! Thanks again for this invaluable resource page!

    Like

  4. Ding Ding March 1, 2016 / 3:18 pm

    Hihi, just want to know how much you spent for the entire trip.. Planning to go this November to catch Northen Light, probably will plan for 10days trip 😊

    Like

    • ◄the honest explorer► March 4, 2016 / 3:16 pm

      Hi Ding Ding!
      Thank you for the message!
      Here’s the rough breakdown of my spending for 2 persons:
      1) Flight tickets (SIN to LON to REY) – $3,356

      2) Car rental and petrol – $1,172

      3) Accommodation – $1,823

      4) Food – $1,034

      5) Gifts and souvenirs – $208

      6) Entertainment – $142

      7) Others – $100

      I hope this helps!

      Like

      • Alan Ng April 14, 2016 / 3:49 am

        Hi, so total all in all you spend 7.8K with flight ticket back to singapore? need to plan out my budget too. Start saving. hehe

        Like

      • ◄the honest explorer► April 16, 2016 / 4:12 am

        Hi Alan!
        I think a budget of $4,000-$5,000 per person would be more than suffice.
        You probably can do it at a much lower rate if can find cheaper accommodation or a smaller vehicle!
        Have a great trip!

        Like

  5. jayjamil May 25, 2016 / 7:47 am

    thank you for this link from tripadvisor.

    Amazing post on Iceland which helps me to plan for the next trip. 🙂

    Like

  6. Vic May 25, 2016 / 1:17 pm

    Thanks a million!

    Like

  7. Mei Leong September 9, 2016 / 7:41 am

    Hello
    You have captured Iceland so nicely and very informative on the lodging, food and journey. I am planning a family trip (4 of us) to Iceland in December and like you, have been demotivated by the kind comments of TA who advised against driving. Driving will be more flexible and economical given the high prices in Iceland and the weak ringgit.
    Question:
    Do you encounter any difficult stretch from Jokulsarlon to Vik and then to Reykjavik? Any super winding road and sheer cliff drop segment along the route?? We are planning to drive to South Iceland up to Jokulsarlon and then back over 3 nights 4 days.

    Thank you very much

    Mei L

    Like

    • ◄the honest explorer► September 10, 2016 / 4:54 am

      Hi Mei Leong!

      Thanks for coming by.

      Well December will certainly be more tricky as it’s winter and you would likely encounter snow and possibly ice.

      When I was there in November, conditions weren’t bad so it was easier for me. However, I am pretty sure that the roads from Reykjavik to Vik and back are all sealed and no winding roads along the way.

      I would recommend driving cautiously, and always check http://www.road.is to see the road conditions before departing. If you are unsure, then don’t drive and wait first!

      I have friends who drove in late December and made it! Just don’t take any unnecessary risks and always be cautious.

      Have fun!! Let me know how it went when you are back.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s