The saying ‘It’s not the destination, but the journey, that matters’ was definitely written about Iceland…
…Okay, I made that up, but it may as well of been! The adage rings nowhere truer than the Nordic Island Nation, defined by its surreal landscapes that change with every corner you turn - making the ‘journey’ of an Iceland road trip the ultimate bucket list experience.
Home to a vast variety of dramatic sceneries, I’m calling Iceland to be Mother Nature’s finest masterpiece. From snow-capped mountains that watch over powder-blue glaciers to lava fields that mingle with bubbling geysers, this country is nothing short of a road-trippers dream. So clear all your phones memory space and prepare yourself with these Dam Essential Do’s and Don’ts:
#1 DO spend time creating a worthy playlist
You’ll be spending a lot of time in your car, and good music is critical. Whether it’s 90’s hip-hop or the latest Justin Bieber album that does it for you (no judgement), make sure you’ve prepared a playlist that would make a karaoke book jealous and get ready for those sing-a-longs – especially if traveling for long hours or in the evenings.
#2 DON’T only do an organised group tour
I know, I know, sometimes (especially for a solo traveller) group tours can be convenient and appealing with the whole ‘everything’s-organised-for-you’ allure. Though trust me when I say that sight seeing Iceland is best done at your own pace and not on a strict schedule.
On an organised tour there will be times (meaning every 2 seconds) you’ll look out the bus window and want to scream ‘STOP!’ at your driver, but instead you’ll end up cursing him under your breath because you just missed the chance to Instagram an amazing landscape that would have made everyone back home really jealous.
Do yourself a favour and hire your own car, which will give you the freedom to stop whenever you want a snack… I mean, whenever you see an Insta-worthy photo opportunity.
#3 DO plan popular activities in advance
No one told me this, although in all fairness it’s pretty obvious, but the Blue Lagoon sells out really quickly - I’m talking weeks in advance. We tried to book the attraction on our first night, for the next day before we started road tripping down south. Not only was it booked out that day, but for the entire week. Luckily we were doing our own thing, and could be a bit more flexible, but it ended in us booking an 8.30am slot on our last day (the only availability that entire week). Now by this time we would have already driven quite far South, so it meant we had to wake up super early that morning and drive 4 hours to make it on time… not ideal, but definitely worth it.
#4 DON’T expect the weather to stay the same
It wasn’t unusual for me to experience all 4 seasons in 1 day. Rain, hail, snow and sunshine… yep, Mother Nature definitely likes showing off her skills in Iceland. In saying that though, don’t get discouraged if you pull up to a sight and it’s raining - just wait a bit. When we had driven almost 2 hours to find a specific waterfall, just to find ourselves in the middle of what seemed like a snowstorm, I was a bit deflated. We sat in the car for a while to wait for it to ease up before we started driving again and what do you know, 5 minutes later the sun decided to shine and our photos of the colossal waterfall now have a rainbow pouring out of it.
#5 DO go chasing waterfalls
Although you should do so while also singing TLC’s ‘Don’t go Chasing Waterfalls’ at the top of your lungs – much more fun.
With an abundance of cascading falls located all over the country, you’ll find yourself stumbling across more than a few. Venture off the over-crowded Golden Circle route and spend a day or two hunting for them.
#6 DON’T forget to stock up on snacks
You’ll thank me when you’re on a road without a town in site for a couple of hours. When you do have a chance to stop at a gas station though, make sure to indulge in the bacon-wrapped, raw-onion-covered deliciousness that is an iconic Icelandic hot dog. Definitely the best meat-in-a-bun I’ve ever had and I’ve been to New York so…
#7 DO also chase the Northern Lights
As much as I would have loved to spot the lights whilst getting nice and wrinkly in a natural hot spring, wine in hand (this actually happened to someone I met, who must have had a great deal of good karma at her disposal) this is rarely the case. During my trip I was lucky enough to see the elusive lights, but only because I went hunting for them. The natural phenomenon best appears when the sky is dark and clear, so getting away from light pollution is a must.
#8 DON’T be that asshole driver on the road
I get it; Iceland is so incredible you will want to stop every 4 minutes to capture its’ beauty. Remember though, you’re usually not the only person on the road and narrow, Icelandic highways really aren’t designed for you to just stop in the middle of them. You have no idea how many times I saw Icelandic horses that were just begging for me to cuddle them, but it wasn’t always appropriate to stop. There are plenty of areas to pull off and numerous driveways for you to take advantage of.
Have some road trip Do’s and Don’ts of your own? Let us know in the comments below!
Read More: A Guide to Reykjavik, Iceland
Words by the talented Nicola Donovan with special thanks to @journalofcarmen for the spectacular eye candy! Give her a cheeky follow on the gram to see some of her other masterpieces.
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