I can guarantee around every corner, Iceland will have you saying “Wow, look at that view.” It was the most beautiful country I’ve ever visited and I think I’ll ever visit. Wherever you looked, there were mountains, waterfalls, sheep, and glaciers. Although this all seems dreamy, the trip still came with challenges! So after our 9 day road trip around Iceland, here’s my list to help you with what you should know before you go.
DO make sure you have all of your rental car info and insurance ready and available.
On our third day, we were leaving our Airbnb in Reykjavik to begin our journey along Ring Road around the country. We made it not even 2km away, when we heard something go wrong in the engine and the power steering shut off in the vehicle. My boyfriend took a look at the engine, reached down, and came out with a belt that had completely snapped off. Thankfully we were quick on our feet and didn’t panic. We got out the rental info, called the company, and they had a new vehicle to us within the hour to continue on our journey. What could have been a stressful and long winded situation ended up being only a slightly later start to our day.
DO keep your vehicle filled over half at all times with gas/diesel.
The most common gas station we saw around the country was called N1, which were spread out all over the place quite conveniently. Although gas stations can be frequent along the main highway, it’s hard to know when you’ll want to go off to a site or attraction that is on an F road or other secondary road. For example, to get to Dettifoss we drove an hour without seeing any civilisation, and then you have to turn off of the main highway and take a pothole ridden, gravel road for over a half an hour. We also chose to take highland roads once and a while (no stores or gas stations in sight, just beautiful landscapes), because going up and over mountains and through valleys allowed for some pretty incredible views. When driving in a new country and terrain it’s always better to be safe than sorry, so keep that tank full!
DO opt for the in-car WiFi.
I have navigated my way around cities I’ve never been to by using a paper map, but if the option is there to use my phone maps for navigation, why not take it? For an extra $200 (ended up being $50 per person because there were 4 of us), we opted for the portable WiFi and we were thanking ourselves at the end of the trip. There were only a few spots in the whole country where we didn’t have service, and we had already downloaded the map for the day, so that didn’t cause us any problems. It was very useful when we wanted to go somewhere we hadn’t planned originally and needed to load a new route on the go. We also had spotty WiFi at one of our Airbnb’s, so we just brought this little modem in for the night and everything worked perfectly.
DON’T drive like a maniac.
This country has way too much beauty to just speed by. The Icelandic people also live on island time, so they are never in too much of a hurry. Try to live a bit like them while you’re there, and just slow down, and take in the scenery. There are roads on your route that are switchbacks up mountains, curves on cliff sides, and a multitude of one lane bridges. The last thing you want is to get in an accident because you were going too fast or not paying enough attention.
There is also a lot of wildlife including sheep, birds, and horses mostly, but we also encountered reindeer. Now you probably won’t see this amount of sheep again in your life, they are on the sides of roads, in the middle of the roads, just all over the place! They roam freely and we truly are invading their grazing space, so slow down a bit and be aware.
DON’T go into booking a vehicle without any research.
Iceland is so full of attractions and amazing things to see, and you’ll want to experience it all when you get there. But some of the things you’ll want to do or see will require making your way into tougher terrain. Not only that, but depending on what time of year you visit this wondrous country, you may need a specific type of vehicle. We knew some of the things we wanted to do required either a 4×4 or an SUV, so that’s what we rented. Make sure you know where you’re planning on going, if you know you’ll only need to be on main roads, you can save money by just renting a small car. Also keep in mind, more and more people per year are visiting this country and renting cars, so you need to think about all of this in advance. The last thing you want to do is wait until the last minute and be stuck paying a fortune for a vehicle you didn’t need, or stuck with something that won’t get you where you need to be!
DO stop whenever you feel the need!
It’s so hard to explain how beautiful everything is here. We found ourselves stopping so frequently because around every corner was another picturesque moment with mountains, glaciers, and waterfalls. We stopped once to feed and pet horses, again to help people with their car that was stuck, and again to run and try to catch up with some sheep. This trip is what you make it, and I can guarantee every single stop is worth it.