Iceland: Where to go, What to do

Photos by Brian Madigan

I am SO excited to share these photos with you today. These are just a few from our trip tromping around Iceland. I figured I would take this opportunity to give some travel tips while they were still fresh on my mind! 

Iceland was absolutely breathtaking. I still can't even believe we went- rather that we even had the opportunity to go! 

Get out of Reykjavik! I highly recommend renting a car with budget from the airport and get their Unlimited WIFI thing. You can take it everywhere with you and use it to access your google maps which you will definitely want! Otherwise internet is sparse when you leave Reykjavik and you will want to always have a road map with you.

Planning your trip. Depending on how much time you have (and budget) will depend on where you can go. If you have unlimited time, definitely do the entire island (ring road). If you have limited time (minimum 5-10 days), head for West Iceland! you will not be disappointed. I geo-tagged our entire journey during our time there on my instagram (@Hippiebythesea) under #madigansdoiceland if you'd like to check out exactly where we stopped! 

Book Ahead of Time! Sadly, our bodies did not make it into the blue lagoon. You have to make a reservation and we couldn't get in! So definitely book that ahead of time. There are a few things in Iceland that are WAY over-touristy (with tons of people on a tour bus) and "The Blue Lagoon" is definitely one of them. Most hosts in Iceland on Air B and B also prefer if you book ahead of time. We were there in the spring so sadly there was no camping open yet.

Iceland is expensive so definitely pack enough to cliff bars/snacks for breakfast and lunch prior to traveling to Iceland so you are prepared. Take a nalgene and try to fill it up every where you go. Sounds funny but bottled water is $3 a pop! Which can add up.

The Ring Road. To do the ring road which is most popular, you need minimum 7 days. The northern region should not be as treacherous as it was supposedly when we were there, so you should be fine. 

Stay in hostels as much as possible! They are so nice in Iceland! We stayed in KEX hostel when we landed in Reykjavik and met a ton of cool peeps traveling around. Go to Bar Ananas too. Trust me. 

If you don't have 7 days, plan to drive up to the West Fjords. That is a nice drive that doesn't require as much time. 

Whale Watching and Conservation Efforts. I'd recommend to get on a boat and go whale watching during your time there. We went with a boat called Laki out of West Iceland and had a really nice experience. Out tour guide was actually a whale biologist and gave us a ton of information based on her research she has been conducting there for years. One piece of information she told us was that traditionally Icelandic people do not eat whale or seals. Whale is a product that is still caught and sold in restaurants for the tourists in Iceland- including seals. The also export it to Japan among other places. Shark fishing is also very common- although that is also a big export item to Asia and for tourists visiting Iceland. The Wildlife Biologist actually told us in the 80's a group of people with Sea Shepard came to Iceland and sank a whaling boat in the Harbor of Reykjavik. Up until that point, there had been a lot of conservation efforts to educate people in Iceland that whaling was not sustainable and was wrong. When that "group of terrorists" as they are known in Iceland sank that ship, that single event set back efforts by environmentalists who had been living and working for years on the Island to educate locals. It was devastating for conservation of whales. The current state as it is now is local environmentalists, fishermen, conservationists, and biologists regularly plead with Sea Shepard to stay out of Iceland. Sea Shepard recently issued a statement that they will for the mean time. Learning this was incredibly interesting. Needless to say it gave me a totally new perspective on this organization I admired up until this point....So moral of my story, don't be one of those tourists who eat whale. You are directly contributing to an industry that is 100% tourist driven. (and if you are wondering, yes, we met tons of Americans who did partake in eating Whale, Seal, and Puffin Birds- incredibly sad....I felt like punching them.)

Northern Lights! Always ask around for northern lights- many hotels will do a wake up call for you if they are out so you don't miss them!

Dress warm and in layers. I wore my (rubber) hunter boots the whole time with thick wool socks and I was fine. It was so wet while we were there as everything was starting to melt. Definitely take a good longer down jacket and scarf and hat. Plan to wear long underwear and dress in layers. Also take a good backpack for day trips and pack as light as possible!

Eat the Gas Station Hot Dogs. Everyone speaks English and every eats hot dogs from the gas stations- funny! They are major hubs for each small community. Definitely eat the fish and chips while you are in Reykjavik too!  And if you make it to west Iceland, eat the scallops! They serve them in a big pot! Lamb is also a delicacy and there is usually a fresh catch of the day from the local fishermen at each little fishing town.

Bird Watching. The best Bird Watching will be listed at the local hubs of each region. Many times boat tour guides will tell you what they have been seeing on their boat trips if you just stop in and ask. There is an incredible Ocean Hike in West Iceland that I highly recommend for bird lovers. It totally reminded me of the Twelve Apostles from our Great Ocean Road Trip in Southern Australia. This is a must see for sure!

Icelandic Horses. They are at every turn and very friendly. We stopped as much as we could but tried to be careful and respectful that we were stepping on private property on our way up to the fence. 

Hands down my favorite part was all of the wonderful people we met while traveling around Iceland. Isn't that always the best part though? If you are planning a trip to Iceland, Get a Lonely Planet Travel Guide, a map, rent a car, spend your first night in Reykjavik talking to locals, and I'd say you're set! Keep your mind open, your heart free, and arrive with no expectations. There is no way you can't have the best time ever! 


**This is not a sponsored post. All content is my own opinion**