For many years, visiting Iceland has been on my bucket list. However, for different reasons, I was not able to go. First, I didn’t have the time. Second, I didn’t have the money. Third, I didn’t know anyone who wanted to go. Weird, right? Anyway, I have spent this past year studying abroad at the University of Manchester and, on one of those Welcome Week events at the beginning of the semester, I met a girl with the same dream. And that’s how it all started.
First, we recruited two other girls to join us in our trip. Then, we decided when we wanted to go and for how long we wanted to stay. To be honest, there was not much choice regarding the dates – Spring Break was the only time of the academic year that we would all be available, so we decided to go at the beginning of April. When it came to deciding how many days we wanted to spend there, we read several traveling blogs and settled for 9 days – short enough if you’re on a budget but long enough to see the main attractions. Finally, we had to choose if we wanted to book our trip with a tour operator or rent a car and visit Iceland on our own. Obviously, we chose the second option – not just because it is way cheaper, but also because it gives you the flexibility to adapt your trip to changing circumstances and to explore one of the most beautiful places on Earth at your own pace.
With these ideas in mind, the planning of our trip started. We decided to rent a 4×4 with Northbound, one of the best 4×4 rental car companies if you’re on a budget. I have to say we were delighted with the service they provided. However, make sure you pay for the Gravel and the Sand and Ash Protection insurance. I cannot stress this enough: you won’t regret it! We decided to drive our car through the Ring Road, which is the main highway in Iceland. We started in Reykjavik and finished there, driving counterclockwise. We stopped in all of the main attractions, like the Blue Lagoon, Geysir, Seljalandsfoss, Reynisfjara, Akureyri, Jökulsárlón, Kirkjufell, and many others. If you’re wondering what the weather is like in April, let me tell you this: it was cold. I know the picture at the top doesn’t give you that impression but, believe me, I have never been colder in my life. It snowed, rained and hailed. One day, the hail storm left my face full of red dots from the impact of the ice on my face. Another day, the road to Dettifoss, on the most beautiful waterfalls, was closed due to weather conditions.
Nevertheless, it is Iceland we are talking about. No matter what the weather is like, the views are going to be breathtaking. In fact, we were very lucky to witness Iceland’s beauty under all weather conditions. Many people ask themselves what is the best time of the year to visit Iceland – maybe in the hope of catching a glimpse of the Northern lights. Well, I agree with what many others say: anytime of the year is a good time to visit Iceland. However, if you want to engage in specific activities, like ice caving, you might want to consider traveling in winter, whereas if you want to do paragliding or kayaking, it is better to travel in the summer. What are the perks of traveling in April? Well, first of all, it’s not high season, which means that the spots of the main attractions are not crammed with tourists and that the prices for flights, cars, and accommodation are quite lower than in the summer months. Second, it’s spring, which means that it is not as cold as it is in winter and it allows you to explore Iceland more comfortably – especially if you are not traveling with a tour operator. Third, you might still catch a glimpse of the Northern lights. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to see them in the 9 days we spent there, since we had mostly cloudy nights. But a friend went to Iceland a week later and he saw them, so it’s all about being at the right place at the right time.
For me, the trip was a first of its kind experience. It was the first time I planned and budgeted such a long trip, the first time I rented a car and was responsible for it, and the first time I drove in an unfamiliar country. The trip itself exceeded my expectations. And, let’s be honest, anyone who travels to Iceland does so with very high expectations. But every place we visited left us in awe. The country is magnificent, ruthless, and diverse. You can find anything from beaches to mountains, from geysers to ice caves, from lava fields to glacial lagoons. And I will tell you this: once you visit it, you will want to go back.
I made this booklet (Iceland Road Trip) to help me plan and budget our road trip, so feel free to check it out if you’re planning your next trip to Iceland. It includes a detailed schedule of every day, with the name of the guesthouses we stayed at, and information about the supermarkets and gas stations that can be found in Iceland.
Finally, though I know pictures cannot do Iceland justice, I made this video of our road trip that will give you a better idea of the places we visited. Hope you like it!
“The problem with driving around Iceland is that you’re basically confronted by a new soul-enriching, breath-taking, life-affirming natural sight every five goddamn minutes. It’s totally exhausting.”
– Stephen Markley