In the past six years, the number of foreign tourists traveling to Iceland has more than doubled. In fact, the average yearly growth rate of tourism has been 21.6% since 2010. So after seeing four different groups of friends make the trip in a matter of two months, I decided to check it out for myself to see what all the hype was about. And if there’s nothing else you get out of this post, get this: it’s well worth it, and you should go ASAP! To make it even easier for you to plan a trip, below are some of my tips for traveling through the country:
- Rent a car. Iceland is tiny, and definitely driveable. There’s one main road that goes around the entire country (the ring road), so it’s extremely hard to get lost. Renting a car gives you the flexibility to go wherever you want and check out some of Iceland’s hidden gems -- things you can’t see from a tour bus!
- Don’t miss the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. The Snaefellsnes Peninsula was one of my favorite parts of Iceland because it shows you the best of the country in one day trip. From glacier walking and exploring a lava tube, to checking out the natural basalt columns and watching the most breathtaking sunsets over Holy Mountain, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula is incredibly diverse and you won’t be disappointed.
- Follow this map to Seljavallalaug. One thing Iceland is known for is its many swimming pools. Seljavallalaug is Iceland’s oldest, naturally-heated swimming pool, and perhaps one of its best kept secrets. Imagine swimming in the middle of a valley!
- The Blue Lagoon is an unreal experience, and it’s totally worth it. Because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to relax in an outdoor, geothermal bath surrounded by a lava field? Not to mention, you get to pamper yourself with silica and green algae face masks that leave your skin feeling silky soft as you float around.
- Make sure to stop at Friðheimar while you’re driving the Golden Circle! The Golden Circle tour is something that almost every visitor does, but one of its lesser known attractions is Friðheimar, a vegetable farm that specializes in growing tomatoes. Stop by and have lunch in their beautiful greenhouse. For a very reasonable price you can get an unlimited amount of the best tomato soup you’ll ever have along with yummy bread! Or, if you’re looking for something more filling, you can order one of the other dishes on their tomato-based menu. It’s all fresh, and everything is grown right on the farm.
- Every once in awhile, make sure to stop and pet the horses. Icelandic horses are incredibly friendly. You see them everywhere, and as soon as you walk up to barbed wire fence that lines the entire country, they walk toward you (mainly because they’re looking for food)! They’re beautiful, and you can get very close to them and capture some incredible photos. And don’t be afraid to feed them grass or carrots! They’ll love you even more. 🙂
- Iheartreykjavik.net will be your best friend. I came across this blog while traveling through Iceland, and it was an incredible resource. It has several maps that you can use to navigate the various trips around the country (the Golden Circle tour, the South Coast and the Snaefellsnes Peninsula), so you never miss an attraction. It also offers a ton of tips on places to eat, hidden gems, and unique activities throughout the country.
- Enjoy every moment! Iceland is a magical place. Make sure you enjoy every moment of it, and don’t forget your camera! You may not see anything like it anywhere else in the world.