ICELAND: TRAVEL TIPS

Disclaimer: This is a very very condensed list filled with only essential details! The week I spent in Iceland is amazing beyond belief and I feel as if I will have to write a ten volume novel to explain my experiences there!


A quick summary:
Places to go:
Day 1 - Arrival and chilling around Reykjavik
Day 2 -  Exploring Reykjavik (Hallgrimskirkja Church, Whale Bone Sculpture, Harpa Concert Hall, Fishing Harbour, Tjornin Lake) and seeing the Aurora!
Day 3 - Golden Circle (Pingvellir National Park, Gullfoss, Geysir, Kerid)
Day 4 - Solheimasandur, Vik, Dyrholaey
Day 5 - Jokulsarlon
Day 6 - Depart to London
Time of the Year to go:
We went in April (good weather + got to see aurora). But peak season for aurora and ice caving is winter. 
Transportation:
Rent a car. You can either pre book or just walk in to a rental center on Laugavegur Street. 
Accommodation:
We stayed in the city center for convenience (no need to rent a car for a lot of days as our needs were only walking distance)
Halal Food:
A lot of seafood! :D Food can be pretty pricey in Iceland so we packed plenty of noodles and brahim for this trip. 
Min number of days in Iceland:
Never enough days because this is too beautiful but I guess five is minimal.




I'll cut to the chase - Iceland was a last minute trip. Sure, I've always wanted to go, but actually getting there is a whole other story. Basically, I ended up buying a flight ticket about 2 weeks before the trip, and we honestly planned our itinerary while we were there, on the go. We only booked in advance the tours for the Northern Lights and Glacier Hiking (advance = 1 week before flying off haha. But if you know you want to do activities, make sure you book them way before your trip especially during peak season!). This is important because it affects the budget of the whole thing - but more on that later.

We did this trip in April which worked out for us in pros and cons because 1) it wasn't peak tourist season, so places weren't so crowded, and hotel was slightly cheaper. 2) the weather was good - not too cold, and not much rain or ice on the road so it was safe to drive. 3) there was a LOT of sunlight cos it was nearing summer (the sun set at 9pm), meaning we had plenty of time to do our activities in the daylight. 4) It was the last week for a good chance of seeing the aurora before summer. Peak light season is winter.

Another important thing to know - this was a very laid back trip. We mostly did things on our own time, and chilled (a lot of chilling was done, figuratively and literally hehe). And we stayed exclusively in one hotel in Reykjavik. A lot of people travel around the Ring Road i.e. all over Iceland, meaning they slept in places around the island. Our base was in Reykjavik so during this trip we had to do a lot of driving back and forth :)

So, here's the itinerarryyyyyy :D


DAY 1 - ARRIVAL

We arrived pretty late in the evening on our first day. We took a shuttle bus from the airport to our hotel (there are several bus services from Keflavik Airport to Reykjavik Centre). We stayed at a backpacker's hostel right on Laugavegur Street - the main high street. This street is the Icelandic version of Champ Elysees / Oxford Street / Bukit Bintang. Smack dab in the center. If you like to have things at your convenience (food, tourist information centers, bookings, convenience and souvenir stores), I'd suggest staying near here.

We stayed at Von Guesthouse. It had a shared bathroom, a big kitchen and wifi hehe. Most importantly - it was right next to a supermarket ^^


DAY 2 - REYKJAVIK CITY & AURORA

We spent the day walking around Reykjavik. Our route was from Laugavegur to the Hallgrimskirkja Church. Go in this church if you have the chance please, it's absolutely beautiful. And the famous vista of Reykjavik Town is from the Viewing Deck - it is one of the tallest building in town. When you go in, there's a counter on the left and the fee to go up is around ISK 900.



Our next stop that day was down to the water front, starting at that famous Whale Bone Sculpture, then off to Harpa Concert Hall. Harpa is a wonderful piece of architecture, it's completely free to go in and you can have a walk around. We came there on bright day, and to see the sunlight inside the building was wonderful.



After Harpa we walked around the harbour where the boats are dock. If we had more budget I would have definitely jumped on a boat for a trip to see the whales haha. From there we went up to Tjornin Lake. My friends went here in winter and said that the lake was frozen solid enough that they could stand on it :0 Back home for lunch (maggiii! Also, this was when we actually sat down and planned our trip) then out again to book several things for the week (activities and car).

That night, we took a tour to see the aurora. This was one of the few things we had booked in advance. It was with Reykjavik Excursions and costed around ISK6400. The reason we booked this is because it was summer, so we wanted a professional guide to help us find the best spot for the aurora, plus, we hadn't rented a car yet (save budget for day 2). Normally people just drive out at night during peak season :D


And yes - as you know, we were lucky to see the northern lights, and it was f r e e z i n g cold hehe.

DAY 3 - GOLDEN CIRCLE

The golden circle is a famous tourist route - from Pingvellir National Park, to Gullfoss Waterfall, to Geysir, then to Kerid. I need to say in advance - there's a lot of driving involved haha, but the views are so beautiful, so it's an utter pleasure. We booked a car the day before (a toyota Prius! With an attached GPS). Iceland drives on the right side, I was a little awkward at first but I got into the groove like a pro (So pro that we got a speeding ticket haha) Some cars have in built wifi. To be fair, I think having a wifi is a good safety net - just in case an emergency happens while you're out driving.


View from the Geysir mound.

Gullfoss.

Exploding Geysir! Taken with iphone 5s.

Pingvellir National Park.



Pingvellir National Park is a huge reserved land area that used to be a place where Icelandic people would gather from all over the country for a cultural and political event.

Gullfoss, one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world, will just awe you with its size and beauty. I just gasped out loud when I saw it with my eyes. We stopped for lunch at the tourist center here.

The Geysirs are tricky - they have times when they erupt frequently, or not at all. We were lucky to catch them as they were shooting up every 25 minutes. There's a hill behind the holes that we climbed, which had a wonderful view of the landscape.

I should tell you one thing - we packed some sandwiches and snacks for this day, but it's so easy to get hungry when you're exploring. Somewhere after Pingvellir we stopped at a highway station and bought this weird pancake-egg-cheese sandwich that was so delicious! I need to find/make this again.



From the Geysirs it was a long drive to Kerid. There's a small fee to pay to go up the old volcanic crater, which is about 350 ISK. :)

It was an extremely long day of exploring and we just fell asleep the moment we got home because we had to wake up early the next day!




DAY 4 - GLACIER HIKING

Ahhhh!!! aghhhh! (this is me screaming in excitement) climbing an actual GLACIER? as in a huge mountain made of ICE??? We booked this in advance with Glacier Guides for about ISK 24000. It's a pretty hefty price, but we wanted to do a proper activity (we surveyed a lot - from ice caving, to snow jeep and all. If I had all the money in the world I would have booked a Helicopter Tour i swear)

So this day started out pretty early as we had to gather for the tour van. We had a briefing on our safety and climbing equipment, and this was one of the chances we had talking to the locals who were all so friendly, funny and kind. We also did a bit of vertical ice climbing (I sucked so bad at this guys, it's harder than it looks),





DAY 5 - SOUTH ICELAND

Our South Iceland Map included the waterfalls: Seljalandfoss (where Bieber filmed I'll Show You) Skogafoss (where SRK and Kajol filmed Gerua) haha, the Black Sand Beach in Vik, Solheimasandur for the airplane wreck, and Dyrholaey. Keep in mind that this was summer, so there was abundant daylight to cater to our activities.

One of m favourite pictures of a l l t i m e.

There aren't words to describe the waterfalls in Iceland. They are just - and the rainbows - and the size - mashAllah.

Solheimasandur, where the famous airplane wreck is located, was a venue I had a love-hate relationship with haha. The location is mapped precisely on google. There's a small parking space, and a wooden gate that stops people from driving in. There's also a warning sign of sorts that means enter at your own risk. Here's what you need to know - it's a long walk. A 4 kilometer walk (8km back and forth!) on black pebbles, where there is literally nothing you can see in the horizon. It's a flat, plane (haha) existence. We met a couple who had given up and walked back on our way there. Despite this, we were determined. We followed the wooden markers on the ground, and because this plane is so famous, we had hope that we would find the plane - and we did. It really was remarkable.




The 4km back - I did everything I could to keep my mind occupied. I even berzikir, just to make the walk back seem shorter. It was cold. (o_o)

Somehow the sun came back shining after Solheimasandur and when we arrived at Vik, the black sand beach seemed more happy brown than the moody monochrome we had seen in photos hehe. It was super duper windy and cold (there's a shop here where you can grab a snack too). We attempted to climb the basalt columns and only managed to go up the 2nd level haha  (too terrified to go any higher because the wind might blow us away).

Reality

Dyrholaey wasn't on the initial plan but since we had time and saw turning towards a rocky road, we decided to just go for it  (What's this here? Let's jut check it out! - the spirit). It was a very very steep rocky route uphill (I banged the car on a terrible pothole), but we made it and got to enjoy the sunset from that high mountain on the edge of the sea.





DAY 6 - JOKULSARLON  

This was my on my bucketlist. Jokulsarlon. Hands down. I needed to see floating ice bergs. From Reykjavik, Jokulsarlon is about a five hour drive. That's Brighton to Manchester. That's Johor to Perak ( to go back and forth!) but y e s.

As you know, we were rewarded with one of the most beautiful landscape I had ever laid eyes on. MashaAllah. I wrote about the experience here

On our way back (another five hours), we stopped by some spots that weren't mapped to just enjoy the incredible landscape. This included that empty ice lake and a garden of moss!





DAY 7 - DEPART

Our last day was basically packing, buying last minute tourist stuff, returning our car and flying off back to London. Hands down, inshaAllah I'd step foot on Reykjavik again.

Personal addition: Day 7 was epic in its own way because I arrived London in the evening, dumped my stuff at home then went straight for a Muse Concert. This was honestly one of the most incredible weeks of my life.

If you ever have the chance, I'd honestly suggest doing a round trip all over the country and sleeping at other places in Iceland besides Reykjavik. Visit Fjadrargljufur Canyon and the Blue Lagoon too! :)


On budget, if I were to get really technically specific, I might have to do another post on this. I think overall (flight (back and fro London), hostel, car rental for three days (divided by three people), two tours, food, souvenir) included, I spent about 600 pounds :)



Bonus photo at Seljalandfoss - I'll Show Youuuuuu

1 comments:

  1. Ahhhhh love love love your photos! Making me miss Iceland T.T 600pounds for 7 days is honestly not bad at all, considering you've got two tours in the bag as well!

    ReplyDelete

 

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