This March my family spent eight days on an unforgettable Iceland road trip. Our itinerary was perfect and I can’t think of one thing I would change…well, maybe just one or two things. 😉 If you’re interested in planning your own trip to Iceland make sure to check out my tips below BEFORE getting started.
1)The best time to visit Iceland is not summer
For some reason spring remains the least popular season for tourism in Iceland…but based on our experience it was the perfect time to go! The roads aren’t too crowded this time of year, you can still see the northern lights, and it’s cold enough for the ice caves to stay intact. My tip? Avoid the crowds and jacked-up prices of high-season and choose to visit Iceland in late fall or early spring instead.
2) You might need to choose between the north and the south
I struggled to make a decision on our itinerary because I wanted to see as much as possible but also wanted to avoid overloading our schedule. I read a lot of blog posts written by people who completed the entire ring road on their visit to Iceland and many of them you need at least 2 weeks (preferably 3) to get the most out of this journey. Now that I’ve completed our trip I couldn’t agree more with this recommendation. Eight days was the perfect amount of time to see the southern side of the country—from the east to the west coast. We were able to enjoy all the main attractions the south has to offer and never felt rushed. We loved the experience so much we’re planning to return to Iceland to see the north too!
3) Get a GPS and find exact location coordinates
If you are planning an Iceland road trip you will definitely need a GPS in your car. Your phone will not have service in some areas and it’s not like there are frequent gas stations where you can stop and ask for directions. I would recommend trying to get the exact location coordinates (example: 63°52’52.9”N 22°27’11.2”W) for the attractions you want to visit. I used GPS coordinates for every single place we visited, even the hotels! Pro tip? When you pick up your rental car make sure to have the company show you how to enter the coordinates correctly into the GPS.
4) Prepare your playlists ahead of time
No Iceland road trip is complete without a good set of jams to enjoy while observing the amazing scenery. 4G coverage is iffy in some areas of Iceland so make sure to download your favorite playlists ahead of time. I believe most cars have Bluetooth (or a USB port) so you can play your music in the car.
5) Bring a car phone charger (with USB cord)
The cold temperatures in Iceland can kill your phone’s battery so have a charger handy in your car just in case. The USB cord may also double as a way to connect your phone to the car’s sound system.
6) Reserve your Blue Lagoon tickets far in advance
The Blue Lagoon is definitely a tourist trap…but they serve beer and my family had a great time so I’d recommend it. 😉 It’s one of the most popular attractions in Iceland and if you wait too long to reserve your package it’s very likely all entrances will be sold out. We booked the premium package ($100) three months in advance. This package includes a silica mud mask, algae mask, bathrobe, towel, flip flops, a drink at the bar in the lagoon (you can drink while you’re in the water), and a reservation + free sparkling wine at the LAVA Restaurant. If you’re not planning on eating at the restaurant then the comfort package ($70) is probably the right choice. Note that most people start to show up after 12pm, so consider going early to avoid crowds.
7) Pack waterproof layers
Iceland’s weather seems to change every five minutes—within an hour we drove through sunshine, rain, snow, and then sunshine again…what!? When you visit waterfalls you’ll get soaked with mist and if it’s snowing those big fat snowflakes that land on your jacket will quickly turn into wet mush. The solution? Pack waterproof layers you can put on at a moment’s notice.
8) Stock up on food at home
Everything is expensive in Iceland so try to stock up on snack foods before leaving home. Keep in mind there aren’t many fast-food joints or roadside restaurants so once you arrive you should visit a local supermarket to buy bread, meat, etc. for lunch every day. We enjoyed having our roadside picnics as we explored Iceland so I’d highly recommend it. Don’t forget Iceland has the cleanest water in the world so bring a refillable water bottle…you can drink right out of the tap!
9)You don’t need cash
Don’t waste time exchanging money. There was not one single occasion where we needed to pay in cash. Everywhere (and I mean everywhere) accepts cards.
10) Avoid itinerary overload on your Iceland road trip
Don’t make the mistake of trying to fit too many things into one day. Our itinerary was organized through Guide to Iceland and we visited a max of six sites per day. Attractions were grouped by vicinity to one another and the first stop and last stop of the day were no more than two-hour’s driving distance. Keep in mind you’ll not only enjoy all the amazing attractions Iceland has to offer, but the ride along the way too. You might spend more time than expected stopping to take photos or investigating off-road areas. Don’t overload your itinerary and allow yourself the freedom to explore the wonders Iceland has to offer.