Iceland is definitely a must-see!
We spend a few days in Iceland and wanted to share our tips on the best things to do in Iceland for first timers!
We thoroughly enjoyed our time there. It’s so unique and truly its own little world. We found a great flight through WOW Air that was only $350 one-way from LA. We broke up our trip a little by flying to Iceland before making our way to the EU. (Note when booking with WOW air to read the fine print–we booked WOW Plus because otherwise you have to pay extra for even a carry-on bag.)
While the flights were super reasonable, the housing accommodations were on the high side; I couldn’t convince Micah to stay at a hostel, and the only thing I found that was reasonably-priced was the “Stay Apartments,” and even that was about $300 USD a night and a little bare bones.
Our apartment in Iceland was a self-serve type of thing with a code for the entry door, an envelope with your name on it on the bulletin board, and no staff visibly there. The place was a little tight–I had to unpack what we needed on the bed and re-pack the bag since there was not space to put your bag down on the floor. However, it totally served its purpose! Iceland only has so many months of daylight and very long nights in the winter months, so they gotta make their money somehow and capitalizing on the summer months is crucial. Be prepared to spend some change while in Iceland; it’s an expensive place.
Booking Your Accommodations:
When I was booking our place, I remember referencing maps to the “downtown” area and since we were not renting a car I wanted to be close to the action. However, when we first got dropped off from our shuttle, the driver was unable to go on the tiny street that our hotel was located on, so he dropped us off one block up. Boy, were we lost! We had no data on our cell phones and could not find the place for a good 20 minutes… we were walking up and down the street toting our luggage when finally some girls who actually worked at the hotel were able to help us.
After we got settled in our tiny apartment, we ventured out by foot, but we were still really lost and not sure where we were. Luckily, just around the corner was another hotel with a bar, Jorgensen Kitchen, where we stopped in for a beer and a bite, but more importantly, to question the bartender! He gave us the rundown and told us that we were only one block from the start of their “Main Street,” and finally the $300 a night for a shoebox made sense!
For the remainder of our trip, we walked everywhere in Reykjavik, and I had pre-scheduled pickups from shuttle services provided by all our activities. I was not sure how it would be driving in Iceland, so I had avoided renting a car since were were only there for four days and the shuttles were offered. However, next time I would rent a car and venture off on my own a little. There were some other places we would have liked to see but ran out of time. Plus, if you rent a car, you are able to go off the beaten tourist path a little… but if it’s your first time, the shuttles are awesome.
Iceland has a population of 300,000 but had over a million tourists last year and that is expected to grow. I highly recommend getting to Iceland before it becomes too overpopulated with tourists. Since the country thrives on tourists, it’s very easy to get around and everyone is very accommodating.
With all that being said, here is a list of our Best Things To Do in Iceland For First Timers!
1. See Reykjavik: Reykjavik is the capital city of Iceland and by far their largest city. You will fly into Reykjavik. The airport is about a 40 minute shuttle ride to the city center, but the buses are very efficient and always running. Everyone we encountered was super friendly and spoke perfect English. I was a little apprehensive when I was booking our shuttle, but it was really smooth. The food is OUTSTANDING and the beers are amazing. Laugavegur is the main street and is lined with great eateries and bars. One of our favorites was Islenski Barinn or Icelandic Bar. This place had some unique options on the menu like puffin–don’t hate us, but yes we tried it… it was a when-in-Rome kind of decision. Here is the link to the place.
2. See some hot springs: When I was first researching things to do in Iceland, I knew right away I wanted to check out some hot springs. There are lots of options but when I found a Golden Circle tour that ends in a hot spring, I knew that was what we wanted. The tour ends by taking you to the not-so-secret “Secret Lagoon.” I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I had smuggled a towel in my backpack just in case it was like the really natural California spring we were used to. To my surprise, they had a changing area with showers and complementary towels, and they even sold beer and wine! This was one of the major highlights for me! Get the deets.
3. Take a dip in the Blue Lagoon: Initially I thought we would pass on the Blue Lagoon; however, as soon as Micah saw some pictures of it, we had to book it. The Blue Lagoon was one of those things that only needs to done once in a lifetime. The Lagoon is a totally unreal experience but as the day went on, it became a little too crowded for our taste. You can read more in detail about our experience in this post.
4. See the Golden Circle: The Golden Circle is a popular tourist route but totally worth taking the dorky tour. It’s one the best things you can do to see several natural wonders in a day. We learned some super interesting facts about the land and the native vikings from our tour guide–he shared kind of useless fun facts you would never know otherwise. The tour first stops at the Pingveillir National Park where you will see the site of the old parliament, then heads to the Gullfoss Waterfall which is breathtaking! It’s the second largest waterfall in Iceland and all the water comes from a glacier. The last stop of the tour is Haukadalur, where you see some amazing geysers erupting. Totally worth committing an entire day to this tour!
5. Eat some lamb: I am not a huge red meat eater, but the locals all told us that the lamb is a must-have. Iceland is different then most countries in the sense that their sheep run free. They are owned by a farmer but roam as they like out in the open, eating grass. I think I ate lamb four times while were there and it was amazing.
Things I plan to do next time:
Glacier hike, ride an Icelandic horse, explore the South Coast via car, and find more hot springs