Everyone wants to visit Iceland. I mean, how could you not?! It is absolutely beautiful! However, there are a few things you should take into consideration when planning your trip.
I am going to provide you with the top 5 things to know before you go to Iceland! I believe you should take all of these things into consideration when planning your trip to Iceland because each one can impact your experience in one way or another. You can also refer to my 5 Tips and Tricks for Your Trip to Iceland post for more helpful information for planning your trip!
First and foremost, I need to talk about the Icelandic weather. In simple terms, the weather is bipolar. One minute it will be a beautiful, cloudless, 60° day, and the next it will be a rainy, 40° day with no visibility. Yup, welcome to Iceland! And this was the case when we went in the summer months, so I can’t even imagine how crazy the weather is in the winter. But I mean, you are on an island, so what do you expect?
It also rained every single day at some point during the day when we were in Iceland, but we knew this would probably be the case and were prepared. We bought new raincoats specifically for this trip, and they were lifesavers! AND we brought layers, which was also a lifesaver because as I said earlier, the temperature can drop at any moment. Don’t bother bringing an umbrella because the wind is nuts. I mean it is NUTS!! Your umbrella will break if you try to use it. There was one point where it was SO windy we could barely walk. Yeah… I’m not kidding. It was crazy. I literally thought I was going to blow away, so I just rolled on the ground back to the car. The wind is SO crazy that there are warning signs on all rental car doors advising never to leave your car door open and to always hold it tightly as you are opening it. I laughed when I saw it but quickly realized it was good advice. OH, and no matter what type of insurance you have on your rental car, it will not cover wind damage. So be mindful and take those warnings seriously! The place we rented our car from told us there have been many occasions where they received a call from a renter telling them the door got ripped off by the wind. Crazy!!
Moral of the story:
1. bring a raincoat (if going in the summer) or a warm, waterproof coat (if going in the winter);
2. forget the umbrella, it will be more of a hassle than anything; and
3. bring layers, even if you are going in the summer.
Trust me, you will thank me later.
This is VERY important to know. The amount of sunlight Iceland has in the winter vs summer is drastically different. “Well, duh, Nichole! It’s like that everywhere.” Yeah, well, just wait until you read more.
Many people travel to Iceland in the summer because it is warmer and there are about three hours of darkness. If you even want to call it “darkness”. The sun sets for THREE HOURS between May and August!! Just in case you don’t understand… that is 21 hours of sunlight! And Iceland is one of the few places on Earth where you can experience the Midnight Sun.
The Midnight Sun is when the sun is still up at midnight. In Iceland, it peaks in June around the summer solstice, but it will still be light out around midnight in the other summer months. This is when you get to really experience the beauty of Iceland. Because it will be late, not many people will be up and around, so you can have a whole area to yourself experiencing this beautiful phenomenon.
As you probably have guessed, winter is the opposite. December and January only have about five hours of sunlight, which is why fewer people travel to Iceland during the winter. The sun during these months rises between 10:00 AM and 11:00 AM and sets between 3:00 PM and 4:00 PM. Crazy right?! Now, this doesn’t mean it is pitch black during the other 19 hours of the day, but it is obviously a drastic difference from the summer sunlight.
This is something to take into consideration when you are planning your trip to Iceland. Iceland is expensive (read on to hear more about this), and traveling in the winter months will be cheaper. However, you will have less time to see things compared to traveling to Iceland in the summer. It’s a give and take, but it is ultimately up to what you want to do, and how you want to experience Iceland!
Iceland is expensive. Like… $8/gallon of gas expensive. I read somewhere that Iceland was the third most expensive country in the world. Yeah, time to break your bank! Jk, but you will be spending some money here. More than you would other places, but I promise it is worth it!
Because Iceland is an island, a lot is imported, which is why it can be very expensive. Gas was probably the most shocking expense. Even food shopping was a bit more expensive than we thought. However, everything isn’t overly expensive either. I feel like a lot of people make it seem worse than it actually is. However, as I said earlier, you will be spending more in Iceland than you would elsewhere.
There are so many ways to save money when traveling to Iceland which I talk about in my 5 Tips and Tricks for Your Trip to Iceland post, so make sure to give it a read!
4. F Roads
F roads will be the best and worst thing you will come across in Iceland. They are the best thing because they lead you to beautiful places! However, they are the worst thing because of what they are.
F roads can be anything from a bumpy road to a road crossing multiple rivers. Now, these should ONLY be driven on if you have a 4x4. We saw a few overconfident people take their camper van or small car down an F road, and it did not end well. Car insurance doesn’t always cover F road damage because there are huge signs on every F road saying “4x4 Only”. So if you have a small car and bottom out on an F road… you will be paying for those fixes.
As I mentioned earlier, F roads can take you to some really cool places in Iceland. There were so many times when we saw something in the distance we wanted to explore, so we followed an F road until we got there. Or we would just drive on the F roads to see where they led to, and most of the time, it would lead to something beautiful. We found multiple glaciers by doing this. We also drove up the side of a mountain using an F road lol! F roads are sort of crucial to your experience in Iceland, in my opinion, so make sure to travel properly and rent a 4x4.
And as far as the river crossings because I know some of you are like, “You just skimmed right over that little detail!!”, there are a few, but we didn’t pass too many. I don’t think it’s something to worry about. We crossed a few that were more like streams and very shallow, but we also saw some that were insanely deep. We were not brave enough to cross those, but we did watch a few brave souls take the plunge! Some insurance does cover water damage, but I don’t believe ours did which is why we passed on attempting some river crossings. However, if you have a Defender, you are golden and can take on pretty much anything an F road throws at you.
Moral of the story: just be aware that F roads exist in Iceland and be prepared for them if you are doing a self-drive exploration (which I HIGHLY recommend). You can read about some of my favorite attractions we visiting via F roads in my 7 Must-See Sights in Western Iceland post!
5. Gas Stations
This is a simple thing to know, but it is important if you are planning to drive yourself around Iceland!
Gas stations are few and far between once you drive away of Reykjavik. There are areas where you won’t see a gas station for MILES. The last thing you want is to be stranded miles away from civilization with no cell service, so make sure to fill up your tank whenever you can.
We heard stories of people running out of gas in the middle of nowhere on an F road, and it took someone hours to get to them. Although that may be the worst case scenario, you still don’t want it to be you! Alex and I got gas whenever we saw a gas station, even if we were above half a tank. We were always on F roads, so it was a good feeling knowing we wouldn’t run out of gas!
Our GPS was also a great tool when looking for gas. When we knew we would be driving for a bit, we would use our GPS to see where gas stations were and figure out if we needed to get gas now or later. This is another reason I would recommend getting a GPS with your car rental. You can read more about that in my 5 Tips and Tricks for Your Trip to Iceland!
Have you researched any of these things? Which one is most important for your trip to Iceland?