Bryan and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary on June 2nd, and decided that to commemorate we would take a big trip to Iceland! After our amazing honeymoon trip to Scotland last October, it was hard to decide where we wanted to go because we felt that nothing would quite measure up. We heard great things about Iceland from friends and family who’ve traveled there over the last couple of years, so we decided to have another little adventure driving through a beautiful country.
Iceland has experienced a huge boom in tourism since 2014 and Iceland Air offers great rates on both direct flights and stopovers, so we bought affordable direct flights from Dulles when we found them even cheaper through Scott’s Cheap Flights (my cousin introduced me to Scott’s emails so if you haven’t signed up and love to travel then you should!). We decided to pack light and brought one carry-on bag and one personal bag each. My biggest packing advice is to just bring one under shirt (t-shirt or long sleeve) for each day you’re there and then pick one or two thick sweaters to switch out and wear with a lighter coat if needed! The temperature changes drastically day to day (especially with high winds!) so layers are key.
I researched a few car rental companies and landed on Lagoon Car Rental, which is local and a lot less “stuffy” than most larger rental companies. They were very relaxed and friendly, and even helped us locate an auto shop when we discovered a huge nail had pierced all the way through one of our rear tires!
Pro Tip: if you have a credit card with travel benefits (Capital One Venture, Chase Sapphire, etc.) call ahead to make sure that they cover your CDW Insurance. We set it all up in advance and declined Lagoon’s insurance, so the nail fiasco only ended up costing us $80 which we expensed back to Capital One!).
Lagoon picked us up at the airport in a shuttle and took us to their office to pick up our car, which was super convenient! I ended up purchasing additional data on my Verizon plan for the trip, but we rented a gps (I found a discount code online which helped!) for the car to have in case I lost phone signal (which I did… a lot). As long as you have your routes planned, have a gps, and are staying at places with wifi you would be fine without phone service (and let’s be honest, it’s nice to be forced to disconnect every so often)!
We loved the Airbnb experiences we had in Scotland, so we decided to book various Airbnb properties in Reykjavík, Vík in the South, and Svalbarðsstrandarhreppur (I wouldn’t even try to pronounce it!) in the North to get a sense of different regions. We decided to do an 8-day trip (6 days with 2 travel days), so we managed to pack a lot in but could have used at least one more day to explore The Snæfellsnes peninsula even more (It’s a 5-hour drive around the entire peninsula and some of the most gorgeous and dramatic scenery you’ve ever seen!). We spent a lot of time in the car, but it was worth it to get to the incredible views and amazing geographical sites across the country.
Because of our tight schedule and limited budget, we decided to do one big night out in Reykjavík for our anniversary and for the rest of our meals we ate at small local places or the food we bought from the grocery store. We ate delicious Icelandic bread every morning with coffee (we brought our portable AeroPress to make it!) and bought cheese, meat, and fruit to eat for snacks and lunch. The best dinners we had were hot bowls of Icelandic soup, which usually come with free refills (like at Icelandic Street Food in downtown Reykjavík!).
We saw a lot of the typical Iceland itinerary hot spots - like the Blue Lagoon spa, black sand beach in Vík, and the major waterfalls - but my favorite moments by far were seeking out the hidden gems (like the secluded Seljavallalaug hot spring in South Iceland), meeting interesting people (and dogs!), and stumbling onto unplanned experiences (like riding Icelandic horses in the Golden Circle). Those are, in my opinion, the best parts of traveling!
Some photos were also taken by my love, Bryan.