Things to know before traveling to Iceland

Iceland is one of those countries that leaves a lasting impression. Its landscape is as magical as the myths and sagas of the Vikings. We thought we were prepared for Iceland but there are some things you just don’t really learn until you’re there. To help you prepare for any future trips to the stunning country, we’ve made a list of some of our favorite lessons learned while traveling around Iceland.

From sunny to a snowstorm in a matter of minutes.

From sunny to a snowstorm in a matter of minutes.

Iceland’s weather is unpredictable

It’s called the land of fire and ice for a reason. Between its volcanoes, hot springs, and glaciers, the weather can go from hot to cold in an instant. We found ourselves on an epic road trip that was riddled with sunshine, howling rains, a white out, and a storm of sand and ash. If you rent a car, you’ll be asked if you want to buy sand and ash insurance. We would recommend it as you never know when a severe windstorm will come and possibly strip your car of all of its paint.

One of the best pieces of advice we received from our friend, Tiny Iceland was the website This site clearly shows you the conditions of all of Iceland’s roads. Check it out before you embark on your day’s adventure to ensure that you know what kind of weather (and roads) you’ll encounter.

A perfect place to relax after a long flight. Plus, it makes your skin feel AH-MAZING.

A perfect place to relax after a long flight. Plus, it makes your skin feel AH-MAZING.

The Blue Lagoon is amazing for jet lag

It’s true. While some call the Blue Lagoon one big tourist trap, we found it to be just the spot we needed to cure a good bit of jet lag. Our flight got in at 6AM and after getting through customs and acquiring our rental car, we headed straight to the lagoon. A long soak in the Blue Lagoon not only relaxed our muscles but it also kept us awake. We couldn’t give in to jet lag as it would mean falling asleep and probably drowning in the geothermal water. We chalk it up to a win.

Our scrumptious dinner from Mar Restaurant.

Our scrumptious dinner from Mar Restaurant.

Food is expensive

I mean, it makes sense. An island of volcanoes and ice doesn’t exactly scream “fertile earth” for growing, well, anything. That being said, you can find local delicacies but those will also cost you a pretty penny. To enjoy a cheap a delicious snack, head to the BBP (Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur) hotdog stand in Reykjavik. Get a dog with everything on it and it’ll only cost you a mere $3USD. Don’t take our word for it. Both former president Bill Clinton and Anthony Bourdain are fans.

If you want to treat yourself to a delicious dinner by the wharf in Reykjavik than head to MAR Restaurant. This is a restaurant with hip decor and some of the most delicious food we had on the island. We would recommend the wild mushroom and lobster risotto along with the beef tenderloin and truffle glaze. Our fantastic meal was followed by a shot (or five) of Brennivin aka “black death.” This schnapps-like libation is considered to be Iceland’s signature distilled beverage and the name on the label literally translates to “burning wine.” The ominous name aside, we kind of enjoy the taste of Brennivin and even brought back a couple of bottles with us.

The small glimpse we got of the elusive Northern Lights.

The small glimpse we got of the shy Northern Lights.

Contrary to popular belief, the Northern Lights don’t live in the skies

This spectacle can actually be pretty elusive. In our case, the Aurora Borealis appeared in the form of a glowing green cloud. Not exactly the magical ribbon of light that you see in the inflight magazines. Our advice is to not get your hopes up but always be on alert. They can be such a tease.

We recommend asking a local about the northern lights forecast for the night. Tiny Iceland recommended one of the best apps for us but you’ll have to reach out to her to get the deets. It’s a local secret. She also had to give us a thorough tour on how to decipher what the app was telling us. I found myself compulsively checking the app to see what the forecast was for the night. While we might not have witnessed a big spectacle, the app helped us get the best view possible.

The steamy sauna from our first hotel stay with Icelandic Farm Holidays. There was also an outdoor hot tub that we might have soaked in for over three hours.

The steamy sauna from our first hotel stay with Icelandic Farm Holidays. There was also an outdoor hot tub that we might have soaked in for over three hours.

Some of the best accommodation can be found on farms

Homemade bread, geothermal hot springs, and the cutest Icelandic farm dogs we’ve ever seen can all be found on many of Icelandic Farm Holidays numerous properties. We had our choice between cozy bed and breakfasts, cute country hotels, apartment rentals, and-as the name suggests-unique farm stays. Each one of our stays came with a breakfast (sometimes homemade) and comfortable rooms. Our favorite part of each stay was getting to know the people behind each hotel and farm. Everyone was incredibly friendly and willing to dish out their favorite recommendations for the area we were visiting.

While their accommodations are awesome, Icelandic Farm Holidays isn’t solely focused on where you’ll lay your head. The people behind the company are more than happy to plan an intimate road trip catering to what you want to see and experience while traveling Iceland. We strongly recommend checking out their website to help plan your trip to the island.

The little trooper that got us through numerous snow, rain, and sand storms.

The little trooper that got us through numerous snow, rain, and sand storms.

Renting a car is one of the best ways to see the country

We could have easily spent our entire week exploring Reykjavik alone, but we are so glad that we were able to see more of Iceland on our epic road trip. Our car from Sixt Car Rental made it possible for us to travel around the southern and eastern parts of the island. We reveled in the beauty of Skógafoss waterfall, stood in awe at the Glacier Lagoon, and hunted for sea monsters in Egilsstaðir all thanks to our four-wheeled steed.

Our major piece of road trip advice (aside from springing for the sand and ash insurance) is to make sure you get a car with 4-wheel drive. There’s a strong chance you’ll be experiencing some sort of off-roading while in Iceland, especially when on the search for the hard-to-find US Navy airplane crash site (more on that in another post).

Lola and I are sporting our new, warm lopapeysas.

Miss Lola and I are sporting our new, warm lopapeysas.

Dress in layers

As we mentioned before, Iceland’s weather can be very temperamental. We found that dressing in layers made our lives much easier. On nights that you stay out to catch the northern lights, be sure to dress as warmly as possible. I was decked out with leggings under my snow pants and about five layers on top. Even after all of that I was still pretty cold. Gloves and hats are great additions to your suitcase. As far as footwear goes, bring broken-in boots that are good in the rain and snow. You’ll never know what kind of weather you’ll come across.

If you forget to pack something, never fear! Iceland is home to some of the best cold weather gear out there. Our favorites are 66North and Icewear. If you want to look like a member from Of Monsters and Men while blending in with Icelandic locals, pick up a traditional lopapeysa. These Icelandic styles of sweaters are made from Icelandic sheep wool. While they aren’t the softest sweaters you’ll ever wear, they will probably be the warmest! They even have the reputation of keeping you cozy when wet.

Have you been to Iceland? What are some tips that we should have included? We would love to hear them in the comment section below.

Also, below is a quick video Chris made as a teaser for what’s to come. We can’t wait to share more footage from our trip!

We couldn’t have completed our trip in Iceland without the help from Tiny Iceland, Icelandic Farm Holidays, Trawire MiFi, the Blue Lagoon, Mar Restaurant, and Sixt Rental Car. As always, all opinions are our own. Le duh. 

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  1. Erin at The World Wanderer
    April 9, 2014 at 6:02 pm - Reply

    LOVE this!! Iceland has been on my radar for a while, and following your trip made me so jealous. Looks like you had the most amazing journey. Loved the video too!

  2. @mrsoaroundworld
    April 9, 2014 at 8:48 pm - Reply

    I loved following your trip to Iceland with Lauren and was wondering about a few things! Curious about what you ate too!!
    @mrsoaroundworld recently posted…Finding 12 shades of blue in the MaldivesMy Profile

  3. Jen Seligmann
    April 10, 2014 at 3:12 am - Reply

    Great tips guys! I will be sure to use these when I get there next year. I must say that I have been following along with you guys for a few months and have just now discovered your videos which have been distracting me from working for the past half hour. Every entertaining! Can’t wait for more.
    Jen Seligmann recently posted…Long Weekend Travel: 5 Easy Trips from SydneyMy Profile

  4. Kirsten
    April 10, 2014 at 5:50 am - Reply

    GREAT tips!! Tops on my list of places I want to go this year so it’s always good to know more about Iceland. I sure hope this is my year.
    Kirsten recently posted…Outside the Neon Lights of Vegas in Red Rock CanyonMy Profile

  5. Becky Padmore
    April 10, 2014 at 6:21 am - Reply

    And if you’re a man grow a nordic style beard 😉 I loved Iceland, we went around a year ago and I still miss it. All your tips are spot on by the way!
    Becky Padmore recently posted…10 amazing places to visit in the Galapagos IslandsMy Profile

  6. Muriel
    April 10, 2014 at 9:50 am - Reply

    Great post, guys! I was following your trip through Instagram and I couldn’t wait to hear about it. I’m heading over there in August and would definitely love some tips on the wifi you guys had and stops on your road trip.
    Muriel recently posted…Travel: Japan’s HiroshimaMy Profile

  7. Kae Lani | A Travel Broad
    April 10, 2014 at 1:31 pm - Reply

    Good tips! I had no idea that food would be expensive there 🙁 Better save up because I live to eat… oh yeah and travel… but mostly eat.
    Kae Lani | A Travel Broad recently posted…Travel Porn: Berlin, GermanyMy Profile

  8. Mary Anne
    April 10, 2014 at 1:50 pm - Reply

    Could you all be any more adorable? Love the video and the tips. As I followed your trip on social media, I could not have been more jealous.

  9. World Travel Fiend
    April 10, 2014 at 7:32 pm - Reply

    I loved Iceland, but yeah it can be pricey, especially the food & booze. One tip if you like to drink (as I do) and you’re keen for a big night out with your mates – it helps if you kick the party off wherever you’re staying before heading out. Booze is way less expensive at the bottle store than in the bars, so pick up a bottle of whatever you like & start off at your hostel or hotel before hitting the town. Pre-loading is the name of the game!
    World Travel Fiend recently posted…Whale Watching off the Coast of HusavikMy Profile

  10. Monica
    April 12, 2014 at 7:47 am - Reply

    Brilliant tips! I definitely agree with renting a car, it’s the best way to see Iceland and it’s so easy to drive there.

  11. Chinmoy
    April 12, 2014 at 8:07 am - Reply

    A very useful guide to a very underexplored place.

  12. the lazy travelers
    April 14, 2014 at 1:55 am - Reply

    ahh, we loved following you along on this trip! bummer that the northern lights weren’t cooperating (we’re dying to see them, too), but it’s a good excuse to return, right??

  13. the lazy travelers
    April 14, 2014 at 1:59 am - Reply

    hahaha also just noticed you said “le duh” at the end of your disclaimer. we really set the world on fire with that one, apparently.
    the lazy travelers recently posted…style spotter: springtime in nycMy Profile

  14. lola
    April 14, 2014 at 1:34 pm - Reply

    of course you nailed it with these Icelandic truths! it feels like a million years ago now that we were driving through those impromptu blizzards together! miss you two so much.
    lola recently posted…One Day Stay: Palm Springs, CaliforniaMy Profile

  15. Monica Suma (@MonicaSuma)
    April 15, 2014 at 10:42 am - Reply

    This is so helpful, guys! I’ve been wanting to go to Iceland for some time now, and now that an increasing amount of my friends have gone and loved it, I have to go.

  16. Victoria
    April 22, 2014 at 11:52 pm - Reply

    ‘Love the tips and your photographs. The Northern Region is on everyone’s lips right now and Iceland is certainly beautiful. I look forward to visiting myself sometime soon although, I’m not looking forward to the high-but-what-can-you-do-it’s-Scandinavia-even-though-Iceland-is-an-island-and-isn’t-part-of-Scandinavia-prices! Thanks for sharing guys!

  17. GiselleandCody
    April 30, 2014 at 11:47 pm - Reply

    So excited to head to Iceland. We are planning on heading there in 2015 and can’t wait. It’s always been a destination high on our list and we hear nothing but good things about the place. We are starting to do our research now and you are the first place we came 🙂

  18. Sue
    May 17, 2014 at 9:21 pm - Reply

    I idolised Iceland, however yea it may be dear, particularly the food & booze. I actually have detected horror stories of disabled travelers inbound to their destination to get that elements of their chair ar banged up or maybe missing fully.
    Sue recently posted…Hello world!My Profile

  19. Jeff
    May 22, 2014 at 11:49 pm - Reply

    Amazing tips from you guys. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Shivani
    June 18, 2014 at 8:13 am - Reply

    Wonderful blog!! Iceland is an amazing dream land for an adventurous trip over out there. Really beautiful pictures and an informative blog. I wish to visit the place. Even, We provide information on travel places from Pune, be it beaches, hill stations. Check the link mentioned in the signature for more information.


  21. priti
    August 1, 2014 at 10:39 pm - Reply

    Amazing tips from you guys. Thanks for sharing.Wonderful blog!! Iceland is an amazing dream land for an adventurous trip over out there. Really beautiful pictures and an informative blog. I wish to visit the place. Even, We provide information on travel places from Pune, be it beaches, hill stations.
    priti recently posted…Madeira IslandMy Profile

  22. Mingma Sherpa @ hiking in nepal
    August 27, 2014 at 2:39 am - Reply

    Thanks for giving great ideas to travel island

    October 30, 2014 at 4:01 am - Reply

    Cheers for the very kind words my friend. I agree with you 100% on the blog writing too. There is so much good content out there and am just eagerly waiting for you to post another one on the internet. Here is also some amazing stuff to
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  24. Renata
    November 1, 2015 at 5:14 am - Reply

    I would love to travel to Iceland, I wonder how it would take a bath in the Blue Lagoon, it must be an amazing feeling.
    Renata recently posted…Os Exercícios para emagrecer que já mudou milhares de vidas (Agora é a sua Vez)My Profile

  25. Darren Bush
    January 13, 2016 at 12:39 am - Reply

    Great tips. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

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