Preparing for Icelandic travels

Preparing for Icelandic travels

Iceland is a small country with so much to see. You could spend years in this island nation and only scratch the surface, so it is essential to spend the time and make an effort to plan your trip.

Fortunately, there is a wealth of resources available today to assist in your planning. This post will provide some idea of the process we followed and the resources we leveraged to plan for our trip to Iceland in September 2019.

Belinda and I started and finished our visit in Reykjavik, and drove the ring road around the island, staying at hotels or guesthouses in Grundarfjörður, Akureyri, Seyðisfjörður, Hofn and Vik, along the way visiting many highlights, including those on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and the Golden Circle.

Glacial Surprise

We had a wonderful trip1, and the success of our trip was built mainly on meticulous planning2, which was critical in allowing us to:

  • Decide on priorities. Although tiny geographically, it offers an incredible array of experiences, which for us resulted in a lengthy initial itinerary. You need to work out what is important to you and assume you may never return so you can pare down that list. For us, diving at Silfra and seeing the magnificent landscapes were vital.
  • Accomodate the weather. Even in-between seasons like Autumn (when we visited) proved insanely variable. Rain, wind and poor visibility will slow your travel, may require you to rearrange your itinerary or entice you to return to a location or remain much longer than you realised.

  • Manage the unexpected. During our trip we experienced a flat tyre on our hire car, found that some roads were not open and we had to take some (rather interesting) detours as well as finding new routes that weren’t on our maps.

  • Take advantage of unplanned opportunities. Around almost every bend and over every crest incredible landscapes would appear and when we could, we would stop and marvel at sites such as a lovely lake with brilliant reflections on the road between Seyðisfjörður and Hofn.

  • Linger longer. We loved Akureyri and Hofn more than we thought. In both cases, our schedule allowed us the chance to stay a bit and take in the location a little longer. This was particularly valuable in Hofn when we checked into our hotel after dark, and awoke the next morning to look out the window and realise we were at the base of a glacier!!

Our planning was for a visit during Autumn, with days of a reasonably standard length, where all roads were open and where the weather was relatively mild. Our next trip will likely be at a different time of year, requiring a whole different level of planning. We will probably go in late Winter/early Spring, meaning much colder weather, shorter days, and many roads that won’t be open.

To achieve all of this, we used a variety of written and online tools to assist in our planning. The following are presented in no particular order but were all important in our pre-trip planning.

Reflections en route

General

  • Jeannie of the Iceland with a View website has a fantastic YouTube channel with plenty of great information on sites, clothing, getting around and many of the beautiful experiences to enjoy.
  • Hrafna is a native Icelander who has a great YouTube channel on the nation from a local’s perspective.
  • Various Lonely Planet guides were useful in our planning. In addition to the Iceland travel guide, we also got a lot of use out of the Best of Iceland travel guide.

Photography

Grjótagjá

I’d have to say that Belinda was initially more intrigued than me on Iceland as a destination, although I was certainly happy to go. When I came to realise the enormous photographic potential of Iceland, I got the bug. Belinda (non-photographer) also found some of the below resources both practically helpful and amazing introductions to places not originally on her must see list

  • One of the first resources that got me thinking about visiting Iceland, photographically, was Elia Locardi’s Photographing The World tutorial series, notably Series 1. These tutorial videos were an epic introduction to how Elia conceived, captured and edited some brilliant images of several outstanding Icelandic landscapes.
  • A companion series to Photographing the World was the Behind the Scenes series released on YouTube. This series was a valuable resource showing the logistics and challenges faced by the weather.
  • Mads Peter Iversen has an excellent YouTube series about Landscape Photography in Iceland, which currently consists of 53 videos. Additionally, Mads Peter has a Google map of Iceland Landscape photography, which proved to be a constant companion for us during our travels.
  • International Photographer’s Iceland map and ebook were brilliant planning tools. The map itself was opened up on our dining table constantly in the months leading up to our travels and helped us in pre-visualising our journey. The ebook was a valuable resource and was where I first learned about Grjótagjá—a cave with a geothermal rock pool that was an easily visited Game of Thrones shooting location.
  • Thomas Heaton is a favourite landscape photographer on YouTube, and also has many outstanding videos. His video about the highlands location of Landmannalaugar opened our eyes to a place to visit that had not been on our radar and was one of our favourite experiences.
  • Brendan van Son is a YouTuber with lots of travel photography videos worth watching, with a particularly useful episode on (recommended photography gear for Iceland) and iconic photo spots
  • James Popsys also had some entertaining videos about his visits to Iceland.

This post provides an overview of some of the main tools and resources we used to plan our Iceland adventures. There are further posts intended to cover clothing, photography equipment, and specific experiences we had along the way.

If you’re planning a trip to Iceland, take the time to plan it out, but leave in plenty of room for the unexpected—whether it is the weather, the sites and scenes or simply the people you meet, Iceland has so much opportunity for adventure.

Visit our Iceland Photo Gallery or our Iceland Photo Album on Flickr.

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  1. We certainly plan to go back again and will visit at a different time of year to get an entirely different experience. 
  2. In particular, Belinda’s research! 

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