After a 2-week road trip around and across Iceland, I can reflect on the things I wish I had prepared for before the trip. Here are a few things to keep in mind before a trip to Iceland, or anywhere else for that matter.
You Don’t Need As Many Clothes As You Think You Do.
A set of thermals, waterproof pants, and sweatpants; top, sweater, wool shirt and a wind/rainproof coat is all you really need to make the most of your time. Also, make sure you’ve got sturdy boots that you have broken in prior to the trip. Alternatively, pack blister bandaids.
Be Weather Proof.
Specially in Iceland, the weather can change in a blink of an eye. Being waterproof is necessary, but also dressing up in layers and warm enough is important. It is always easier to take off layers of clothes than putting on more.
Food Planning is Important.
Even when on the road, I want to keep healthy and eat well. Suddenly, when I am taken away the cornerstones of my usual cookings, ie. spices, fridge, fresh vegetables, it gets a bit challenging. If I had been smarter, I would have though out at least 14 different meals I can make with dry/room temperature ingredients. Pasta and rice get tiring quick, and it is not good to eat nachos every other day.
Free Coffee and Wifi at Petrol Stations.
The free coffee part came as a surprise: Olis petrol stations offer more or less standard bulk coffees for their patrons. We had a discount card for Olis (easy to obtain), so it was a natural choice for petrol and pee pit stops. Free wifi is aplenty in the main petrol stations across the country, but if you wish to do some instagramming/trip planning on the road, it is advisable to invest in a sim card (Siminn or Vodafone with more coverage, but Nova also doable and the cheapest option).
Camping off-season: convenient, but not too comfy.
When traveling out of the summer season (September-April), the campsites are 1) empty and 2) for free! While this is a plus, it means that the toilets and showers are locked. We opted to camp near popular sites like waterfalls, where the toilets were open (win!), since they offered more scenery and made us beat the crowds. Since the sun sets quite early and rises quite late, it is possible to decent amount of sleep on a cloudy night. If the sky is clear, prepare yourself with a lot of coffee and set camp for the auroras.
These things I/we had actually prepared for, and am glad we did:
We had 3 DSLR cameras, a GoPro, 2 smart phones, a drone and 2 laptops with us - only my camera went flat once during 2 weeks, and that was saved with an extra battery. It takes an inverter, some planning and a lot of USB cables to keep your electronics hooked up.
You don’t need cash.
Even the smallest shops have the option to pay with card, so unless you are collecting different currencies, there is no need to exchange money to Icelandic Krona. Despite my doubts, I survived just fine with my MasterCard.
There Will Be Tourists.
Knowing that the country has about 300 000 inhabitants and 1.6 million tourists passing through (with growing numbers), chances are you will bump into more foreign people than locals. Plan your itinerary so that you stay overnight at waterfalls and other major attractions so that you get to the spots before the crowds do. This saved us a lot of headache in terms of better photography and feeling somewhat special, and as a plus side, you get to wake up in pretty epic surroundings.
These will not only clean your body but also your dishes when you are parked on the side of the road and there is no way of washing anything. Some baby wipe action followed by paper towel clean up (to avoid the chemical taste lingering in your next meal), and you’re good to go! Dishes made easy.
BYO Spices and Oil.
I had a stash of sea salt and a small coconut oil container, so I didn’t have to buy them at the shops. I wish I had been smart enough to also pack pepper and chilli! I did also stock up with instant coffee, trail mixes, and snacks, but forgot to take protein powder. Some meal replacement shakes would have also been great, as we were more interested in maximizing our time exploring rather than van cooking.
If you ever get to go to Iceland, I hope you have an amazing adventure; here is a map of points of interests in Iceland we found to be stop and snap-worthy. Hopefully you'll like them!
Also, as a bonus, I wanted to add number 11 to the list: Download and make road trip playlists! You have loooong hours in the car, might just as well be jamming while at it.
The first two pictures of this post were taken by the talented SnapZak.
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