Iceland travel guide

iceland travel guide

Hello from somewhere above Europe, friends! After having such a wonderful time in and getting so many questions from y’all about Iceland, I wanted to take today to do a quick recap while it’s all fresh on my mind! I’m currently on the plane ride to Stockholm, and am so happy to have a bit of downtime to get this all down. Unlike my Spain Itinerary post, I’m going to be breaking down my entire time in Iceland into a handful of categories, like plane travel, food and excursions to name a few. I hope you enjoy, and please feel free to share with any friends wanting to visit Iceland!

Plane ride: 

Let’s start at the very beginning… the plane ride! I wanted to address this after receiving a question on Instagram about the line I booked with, WOW Air. The question was this… “The prices seem too good to be true, what’s the catch?” 

It’s true, the prices are really enticing compared to other European destinations. That’s the main reason I decided on Iceland, actually! And while my experience with WOW Airlines was great, the plane was clean (and pink! ) and the flight attendants gracious (they were quite beautiful, actually, and wore pink suites) there are a few differences from major liners you should be aware of.

  1. Base Price + Additional Fees // One of the reasons tickets are priced so well with Wow Airlines is that you pay for everything “extra” besides the tickets. That means even carry ones and mid-flight coffee have a charge associated if you decide you’d like those “extras.” The prices aren’t crazily exorbitant (I believe a cup of coffee was about $3.50) but should be taken note of.
  2. Tight leg room // To be honest, I was a little nervous to see what the state of the plane would be… I had something dirty and cramped in mind. Luckily, in terms of cleanliness, the plan was fine! The only thing that was a bit uncomfortable was the space between seats. Being 5’2″ this wasn’t a huge bother, but still… when the person in front of me was fully reclined back, I had about a foot and a half of space in front of my face and only a few inches from my knee to the back of the seat. It was hard to get comfortable and sleep, and definitely the tightest quarters plane-wise I’ve ever been in. After that rough first flight, Andrew and I decided to pay for the “WOW Biz” seat upgrade on the flight back, and it made a huge difference.
  3. No entertainment // I suppose it’s silly to expect that on every plane ride, but as in-flight entertainment has started to become the norm these days,  I wanted to go ahead and address it. You won’t find tv screens on the seat in front of you, or anywhere on the plane for that matter! The flight isn’t really that long comparatively (Boston to Reykjavik is 6 hours) so be sure to bring your iPad or a book! (I brought America’s First Daughter and have been loving it!)
  4. Stopover flight // One unique and really fabulous option Wow air offers is a “stopover flight,”  which basically serves as an extended layover in Iceland for no additional fee before jetting off to your final destination! We actually used this to get to Stockholm, and WOWAir has them to destinations over the world, including Paris. I personally found you don’t need more than a couple days to really experience all the beauty of Iceland, so a fun trip idea would be to use this cheap fare to see Iceland for a day or two and then head somewhere else!

All that being said, I really thought the flight was good value for the ticket price. While the trip isn’t the most luxurious and definitely not the most comfortable, don’t let it deter you from this great fare to such a beautiful country! It is absolutely worth it in my opinion.

Reykjavik:

Now that we’ve gotten through the initial plane ride over, let’s talk about the actual city of Reykjavik! Andrew and I both LOVED and were completely wow’d by the scenery and beauty of Iceland, but I want to be completely honest with you… the town of Reykjavik in particular wasn’t necessarily our favorite. I hesitate to say that, because I don’t want that to deter you from going! But I would go with the mindset of seeing the sights and beauty of Iceland over the little town of Reykjavik. I also hesitate to say this because I know I’m comparing it to other large European cities I’ve been to, and that’s not a fair comparison. Iceland is fairly new to the tourism scene, which is actually quite wonderful in many senses, but it felt a bit lacking in others. What exactly did we not like? Let’s go through a few bullet points: 

Didn’t like // The prices! Everything was very, very expensive. Had I really known this ahead of time, it probably wouldn’t have hit quite a sore spot with me, but everything from hotels to meals was unlike anything I’ve seen. For a sit-down meal, expect to pay anywhere from $30-$50 for a normal plate of fish or chicken. I looked into a sushi restaurant, and one roll alone cost between $25-$35. After some extensive TripAdvisor browsing, Andrew and I managed to find a couple of “lower price-point” options, but even those ranged from $17 for a plate of normal pad Thai at a casual, order-at-the-counter restaurant to $30 for a hamburger. 

Didn’t like // Like I said above, the beauty of Iceland is absolutely unmatched, but when it comes to Reykjavik… I found the layout and architecture to be far less-charming than other European countries I’ve been to. While I did stumble across a few cute houses walking through town, the majority of buildings are pretty industrial/standard and modern. Apart from the main street of Laugavegur, the rest of the town is very, very quiet which left a little lacking in ambiance. Furthermore, while there is a harbor in the city, there weren’t many cute places to take in the view. Again, I know much of this has to do with the recent tourism uptick, but all the same, I wanted to be completely honest! The people are LOVELY, but two full days was all I really needed in the city.

Hotel:

As I mentioned above, everything in Iceland, including lodging, is on the expensive end. After extensive searching, I found a gem of a place, 105 – A Townhouse Hotel, where each of Andrew and I’s rooms cost about $150 a night. The rooms were incredibly chic and well-decorated, which I loved, but there was one quirk that I didn’t love… my room had a circular window! (You can actually see it in the photo on the page I linked.) At first glance, this doesn’t seem so bad, but you must remember that during the summer, the sun is out 24/7. Since there wasn’t any sort of shade over it, I tossed and turned the first night trying to sleep with what felt like daylight streaming in. The second night, I wised up and stuffed a pillow into the window, which helped but still wasn’t ideal.

In terms of location, this hotel is about a 10 minute walk from Laugavegur, the main street with lots of shopping and restaurants. It wasn’t bad at all for the mild summer weather, but if you’re going in the winter months I’d suggest getting something a bit closer to downtown.

All in all, however, I’d definitely recommend this spot if you’re looking to stay in Reykjavik! The hotel is quiet and clean, the rooms stylish, and the rates very good compared to other hotels in the city.

Getting Around:

Andrew and I decided to rent a car for this trip, and I am SO glad I did! I would 100% recommend doing so, as my very favorite memories from the trip were from road tripping around to the different beautiful sites on the first day. After all, the nature and scenery of Iceland is what I’d recommend spending most of your time on. It’s truly unbelievable! These can be anywhere from 45 minutes -2 hours outside of Reykjavik, and I loved the flexibility of deciding when and were, and for how long we wanted to go. There’s plenty of parking in the city of Reykjavik and the town is pretty easy to drive in, so don’t let that deter you! Furthermore, the airport is about 45 minutes away, so it’s nice being able to hop in and go as opposed to arrange a long taxi ride. We used Enterprise and had a great, easy experience.

Must-See Sights: 

Let me put this out there… I have never experienced anything as stunning, otherworldly and grand as Icelandic scenery. While Andrew and I didn’t do this, we heard repeatedly that taking the time to do the “ring road” is incredible. Apparently it gives you a taste of all of the different topography in the country!  Since we only had two days in the country, Andrew and I spent the first driving to the famous waterfalls and couple of other natural sites in Iceland. I’m still wistful thinking about how incredible it was! Andrew and I landed at 4:30am after getting very little sleep on the plane ride over, and decided to get a jump-start on the day by driving straight to the waterfalls. In hindsight, this was one of our best decisions! We got to all of the sites (especially the major waterfalls) before they started filling up with tourists. Absolutely worth the early morning. 

Sajelandafoss

The first waterfall we visited. This one is a bit smaller than Skogafoss, but has a trail surrounding it so that you can actually walk behind the waterfall when weather permits. We did! And it was wet and cold but so, so worth it.

iceland travel guide

Skogafoss

This was my favorite site in Iceland, friends. Landscape like I’ve never, ever seen before! Not only is the waterfall amazing to look at from the ground, but my favorite part was taking the stairs up to the top of the fall. It’s amazing to see a rather mild river turn into a ferocious waterfall right in front of your very eyes. Take me back!

iceland travel guide

iceland travel guide

Kerid Crater

The color of the dirt, moss and water in this crater were without a doubt the most vibrant colors I have ever seen in nature. This is a pretty quick stop, and definitely worth seeing!

iceland travel guide

Blue Lagoon

So… the Blue Lagoon was on my list, but after hearing mixed reviews and looking up the ticket prices (they were somewhere around $80 for the base package and at that point we were a little over Iceland prices) we decided to skip out on it. But I’m linking it here because I think it’s worth checking out and seeing for yourself! The lagoon is pretty close to the airport, and right after landing and getting into our rental car, we caught a glimpse of the blue water. It was etherial and stunning!

Excursions:

Since we hit most of the must see sites on the first day, we spent the second day in Iceland excursion-ing! What did we do?

Horseback Riding // As a self-proclaimed “weird horse girl,” I was dying to find a fun trail ride. After scouring TripAdvisor, we found The Icelandic Horse tours and were able to book a trail ride the day before. It was so wonderful, friends! I didn’t realize that Icelandic horses are so different from the rest of the world… they’re very small, have no diseases and have 5 gates! We got to experience the “Tolt” which is basically a trot… but incredibly smooth! I know it sounds like an impossible combination, but that’s what makes it so fun. Bregga, who owns the stables, was enthusiastic, kind and fun. I learned so much about Icelandic horses and got to see some Icelandic terrain I hadn’t yet. Would definitely recommend!

Whale Watching // The second Andrew and I decided on Iceland, we knew we had to see a whale. And that we did! I simply signed up for a highly-rated whale watching tour found on TripAdvisor, this one, and it was great. We chose the “express” boat tour, because the boat is smaller and faster than the normal, and gets you out to the whales quicker! We saw one humpback whale and a few minke whales from a distance, but close enough to see their tails! (Which was so thrilling to me, for some reason.) Want to know the best tip ever, though? When you fly into or out of Iceland, look down at the ocean and you’ll spot them! Andrew noticed this and we were giddy as we saw numerous whales. You can’t necessarily see their actual bodies, but can see the splash their blow-hole and tail makes!

Clothing:

If you’re traveling to Iceland in the summer, here are a few key pieces I’d recommend:

  • Rain Jacket // Even if there’s no rain in the forecast, you’ll be glad you brought this for all of the windy, wet places you’ll be seeing!
  • Leggings // Because of the constant road tripping and often wet places (like waterfalls) jeans could get very uncomfortable. I wore leggings for all of our expeditions (including horseback riding) and was so happy I packed them!
  • Cozy Lightweight Jacket // You’ll want to stay warm during all of your outdoor adventures, so bring a lightweight, cozy down jacket that’s easily packable!
  • Rain Boots // see below…

I knew the forecast was going to be rainy, and most of the places we were visiting would have some body of water near it, so the choice to bring along rainboots was a no-brainer. The tough part, though? How on earth I was going to fit them into my suitcase! I have a couple pairs of Hunter boots I was dying to bring, but after some online searching found a cute bootie pair from Sam Edelman. But y’al! Guess what happened next! I decided vto stop into Target before heading to the mall, and found an identical pair for half of the price! I wore them the entire time we were in Iceland. They rub a little at the top, but I wore thick socks so it didn’t bother me!

Final Thoughts:

I mean it, friends, I’ve never seen anything so shockingly  beautiful as Iceland, and would absolutely recommend it to anyone and everyone! Keep in mind that prices are higher there, and go into the trip with the mindset of “adventure” over “leisure,” and you’re sure to have a fabulous time. Honestly, I think you could easily do Iceland in a long-weekend! So if you’re looking for a quick bout of travel and exploration, be sure to nab a low-priced fare and get your tail over there!

If you have any personal recommendations for Iceland, or further questions, be sure to leave them in the comments below!

Love from Texas,

Kate
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40 Comments

  1. Maureen said:

    I’m so glad you posted your thoughts on WOW! I love the idea of a stopover flight as a way to see more of your destination. My boyfriend and I have been talking about going to Europe one day so this could definitely be a great way to fly there at a slightly cheaper fare. Can’t wait to see more of your adventures in Europe!

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    Published 6.21.17 · Reply
  2. Laura McDonald said:

    Hi Kate! I always enjoy reading your posts and absolutely love all of your videos. I’m a Texas girl too (I lived in the Greater Dallas area most of my life and now live in East Texas). I have a little sister about your age that you remind me of! I took note of the book you’re reading – America’s First Daughter – which immediately intrigued me. I love all things of early America, our Founding Fathers and the miracle it took for our country to exist. I have visited Monticello several times and Colonial Williamsburg throughout the course of my life – I highly recommend them! I’d like to point you to a book called the Jefferson Lies by David Barton. When reading the synopsis of America’s First Daughter I got my dander up because it talks about the supposed affair that Jefferson had with Sally Hemmings. Just a suggestion for you and your other readers! Thank you for all of the wonderful content you provide on your blog! It’s definitely one of my favorites.

    Published 6.21.17 · Reply
  3. Ray said:

    I love reading travel posts like this. Well documented with amazing pictures.

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    Published 6.21.17 · Reply
  4. kelsey said:

    Your trip looks like it was absolutely amazing, I loved all of your Instagram stories while you were there!
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    Published 6.21.17 · Reply
  5. Kritsida said:

    This is absolutely gorgeous! Iceland has been on the list as well due to the great prices! Thanks for the review, it was definitely helpful!
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    Published 6.21.17 · Reply
  6. Taylor said:

    I highly recommend Gullfoss and Fridheimar farm! It is so neat to see how Icelanders produce food like strawberries and tomatoes! They also have an Icelandic horse show!

    Published 6.21.17 · Reply
  7. Allie said:

    This trip looks amazing!!

    Always,
    Allie

    Published 6.21.17 · Reply
  8. So beautiful!! Loved following along on your Insta stories — they were so well-done!

    Published 6.22.17 · Reply
  9. chichi said:

    iceland is so on my bucket list and after this post i just can’t wait to go!
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    Published 6.22.17 · Reply
  10. Anna said:

    Its my dream to travel here!

    Published 6.24.17 · Reply
  11. Sounds like you had an amazing time! Iceland is on my bucket list.

    Published 6.27.17 · Reply
  12. Sounds and looks beautiful!!!!!!!! You dressed so perfect. Love the black boots.

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    Published 7.12.17 · Reply
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