Story submitted by traveller Madison!
But how do you see the best of Iceland in a weekend? In 2019, I went there to find out - and now I want to share my best tips with you!
Be careful if you’re renting a car
If you are a confident driver, renting a car in Iceland is straightforward and is the best way to see the country. I am not a confident driver and I didn't visit in the summer, so I was met by blizzards in a few different parts along the way, which caused a lot of panic on my part and longer travel times. But I can definitely say that it improved my driving skills and helped a lot with my confidence back home.
Just be careful. The roads in Iceland can be difficult to navigate in poor weather. It’s something I’ve chatted to with all my friends who’ve asked me for Iceland recommendations. It is easier to get about if you hire a car, but it’s not the same as driving at home.
Stay in Reykjavik
To maximise on exploring time, I would really recommend staying in Reykjavik, the country's capital, for your weekend in Iceland. It's a great hub and is considered one of the best places to stay. With plenty of hotel and restaurant options, it is also close to Keflavik airport. There are also plenty of options for day trips on this side of the island. The north is even more beautiful, but it's a bit ambitious for just a weekend break.
Similar to cities across Europe, it’s also a great place to meet other travellers. I explored Iceland on my own, so headed to some hostel bars to socialise. I’ve actually kept in touch with another solo traveller I met in Reykjavik and we decided to visit the Blue Lagoon together. Introducing yourself to new people can be a nerve wracking experience, but it’s also a way of making new friends in new places. Hostels and hostel bars are a great place to do this.
Visit the Blue Lagoon
Many people think the Blue Lagoon is overrated, but I loved it. It's expensive, sure – everything in Iceland is. It’s so relaxing and cleansing, and I felt so good after. It is famous and touristy, but it's a one-of-a-kind experience and I think it's really worth it.
But if you’re expecting to get one of those amazing photos you see on Instagram, think again. The Blue Lagoon is a lot busier than they make it look. I wasn’t expecting the crowds, as much of Iceland is relatively quiet.
Skogafoss is the most famous waterfall in Iceland and one of the largest. It's another popular sight on Instagram, but nothing really beats seeing it up close. The water is astoundingly powerful as it drops 60 metres into the river below; here’s where you'll get some great photos!
Another famous Iceland waterfall, Seljalandsfoss is unique because you can walk behind it, seeing the waterfall from a completely different perspective. Just don't do what I did and take your non-waterproof camera. The splash there is extreme, and while I managed to save my camera by tucking it into my rain jacket, my nerves meant I couldn't enjoy it as much as I would have otherwise. Iceland is a truly beautiful place and you want to be able to enjoy that.
Located between two volcanoes, Solheimajokull Glacier is one of the highlights of a weekend in Iceland. It's possible to get some epic shots of the viewpoint of the glacier, but it is very dangerous to try to hike it without an experienced guide. It wasn’t something I had time for on my trip unfortunately, but it did come highly recommended by locals so I thought I would pass the tip on.
The Silfra fissure in Thingvellir National Park
Snorkelling or diving between Iceland's tectonic plates is a unique experience – it is literally the geographical gap between two continents. The water is, unsurprisingly, freezing, but full wetsuits are provided, as well as a guide so you can make sense of what you're seeing.
This was one of the main reasons for my visit to Iceland. I’d done my research and knew this was a must-do for me. It’s not for everyone and it is another expensive activity. But if you’re a bit of an adrenaline junkie, you’ll love it. It’s something I’ll remember for some time.
Staying safe in Iceland
With all this talk of tectonic plates, we should mention how to stay safe in Iceland. Earthquakes are common here and natural disasters are estimated to affect up to 160 million people each year. Iceland, in particular, is home to a lot of natural hazards. I briefly mentioned the weather and how it can affect driving. All travellers to Iceland should know the protocol of what to do if they get stuck, and it's crucial to have comprehensive travel insurance to help out with any financial implications that can arise from natural disasters.
Socially wise, Iceland is a remarkably safe destination – in fact, it has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. Many people speak very good English and are helpful with any questions or concerns. My only advice would be to learn from my mistakes, take care on the roads and check the weather forecast for blizzards.
And if you travel for adventure, like me, head to The Silfra fissure or one of the popular waterfalls. Just don’t forget to spend time in the city if you’re up for socialising.
What I learnt from my trip to Iceland
Iceland wasn’t my first solo trip and it certainly won’t be my last. I personally love travelling on my own, as it gives me the freedom to set my own schedule and choose the destinations I want to visit. It’s given me more independence and confidence, and it’s certainly something I recommend everyone try. Iceland is an exceptionally friendly country to try it out, but I quickly learned that you need to be based in the city to meet many people. It can be quite remote elsewhere.
Of course, it’s also absolutely fantastic travelling as a group because it adds a great social element to the adventure (and I always try and meet some new people when I go it alone), but, for me, I love pushing myself. Travelling alone has forced me to do that – going places and trying things I’d maybe otherwise duck out of. I’ve always got some good stories to tell when I get home too!
Iceland is a fantastic place to visit, and I hope that this guide has helped you see some of the best things to do there.
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