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The Nordic Explorer

The Nordic Explorer

First time mistakes when planning a trip to Iceland

Learn from and avoid these typical first time mistakes when planning a trip to Iceland. Make sure to consider these aspects that travelers often mis when planning their very first trip to the land of fire and ice. They include everything from where to stay, how long to stay, when to go, what to see, what to bring and more.

Stay longer

There is so much to see in Iceland! Don’t just stay for 3-4 days, but stay at least a week. This allows you to see not only the most popular places such as the South coast, The Golden Circle and The Blue Lagoon, but to plan some adventures that are slightly more of the grid. If in doubt: Add an extra day to you trip. This is one of the classic first time mistakes when planning a trip to Iceland.

Go in off-season

Most first tie visitors go to Iceland during the summer, which is from June to late August. These months are fabulous, but they are also the busiest months for the tourist industry. Thus, prices on accommodation, flights etc. are at the highest.

Consider visiting Iceland in early September instead. The roads to the high lands are still open and the summer activities are still available. Don’t expect there to be a less crowded at sights on popular tours such as The Golden Circle.

Spend less on accommodation

Sure it’s nice to have a hotel spa and fitness available, but when in Iceland chance are that you will be far to busy exploring nature and taking in Icelandic culture in Reykjavik to linger at your hotel.

Replace the hotel spa and fitness facilities with a run along the coast of Reykjavik and go for a swim at one of the local pools for a cultural experience and some exercise combined with relaxation.

Interest in more advise on how to save some money on your trip for Iceland? Check out this article.

Self drive if possible

Rent a 4×4 (four wheel drive) to be sure that you can drive to all sights. There are extremely many day trips by bus to choose from and they are all great. However, self-driving equals more freedom. Make sure to read up on driving in Iceland! It is unlikely that it is like driving in your home town. Also, always stay up to date on the road conditions on a daily basis.

There are both pros and cons to going on a bus tour:

Pros of bus tours: Going with a tour bus gives you access to a lot of information about the sights and country in general. The guides provide at lot of information while on tour. Not just about the specific sights, but about Icelandic culture and geography as well. Also, if you’re traveling alone you’re not that alone when you’re with a group.

Cons of bus tours: Between the stops of your tour there are multiple smaller or less famous waterfalls, black beaches, museums and landscapes that you’d wish you could stop at. However, when traveling by bus with between 8 and 45 other people and a schedule to keep stopping is not an option. Also, at each stop you are given a limited amount of time to go exploring. It is rarely enough time to just enjoy nature and really take it all in.

However, tour busses are a really great alternative to self driving. The guided tours will take you to the sights that you’ve heard of and you can be sure to get a lot of knowledge and a great day out of it.

Visit more remote places

One of the frequent first time mistakes when visiting Iceland is only sticking around in Reykjavík, The Golden Circle area and the South coast. This makes sense as there is so much to see in these areas and there is less distance between the gorgeous sights.

However, it can be highly recommended to go for some of the more remote locations as well. You don’t have to go totally off the grid to get to the less touristy parts of Iceland.

If you are physically capable it can be highly recommended to go hiking in areas such as Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk. These areas are absolutely stunning and there are actually buses from Reykjavík that drop you off at the base camps, which makes it possible to go for a day trip.

Also, instead of only staying in Reykjavík check out Akureyri in North Iceland. It is possible to get there by bus or by flying domestic from Reykjavík. The North is the absolutely best place for whale watching and there are some beautiful landscapes to be explored up there as well. Want an experience similar to The Blue Lagoon, but far less posted on Instagram? Check out Mývatn Nature Baths. In brief, go North – you won’t regret it.

Waterproof, waterproof, waterproof

If it’s not waterproof, it’s not fit for Iceland. Another classic first time mistakes when planning a trip to Iceland is underestimating the weather. You might be lucky and visit Iceland with no rain at all. However, it is unlikely. Better safe than sorry!

At least make sure to have the basics covered: waterproof phone cover, waterproof hiking boots, waterproof jacket, waterproof pants, waterproof backpack.

Looking for more advise on what to pack for your trip to Iceland? Check out the Autumn packing list and the Summer packing list.

Don’t book day trips too soon

… but don’t wait too long either. Depending on which activities you want to do it can be recommended to wait a bit before booking a day trip or booking right away.

Wait for it, if you have your eye on one of the classic trip such as The Golden Circle, The South Shore, a whale watching trip or a glacier hike then it can be advisable that you hold off booking your trip until you have a sense of the weather. Some recommend pre-booking all trips as soon as possible. However, the classic and most popular tours to the south coast areas have a lot of seats and are being operated by multiple providers so you are in no rush to book your trip. You can wait until a few days before.

Book right away, if you have your eye on one of the less frequently offered trips. It is advisable that you book as soon as possible and keep your fingers crossed for good weather conditions. The Glymur hiking trip is a good example of a trip that can be recommended to book right a way. It is offered by fewer tour providers, does not depart every day and is only for smaller groups.

Combine combo adventures with in-depth experiences

Plan an itinerary that includes both days where you cover a variation of sights, but also days where you focus on a single in-depth experience. This way you will prevent your trip to Iceland from becoming a hectic experience traveling from one sight and directly on to the next.

If you plan on booking day trips, try to choose both combo tours, which allow you to see a spectrum of what Icelandic nature has to offer, and trips that are focussed around one aspect. For instance combine a day trip to Snæfellsnes Peninsula with the Inside to Volcano tour another day.

You can easily do the same if you are planning a self-driving trip around Iceland. Take some days where you cover multiple sights and other days where you chose just one location that you want to explore deeper. For instance self-drive around the south coast one day and spend a day hiking in Þórsmörk afterwards.

Daylight hours

Not taking the number of daylight hours into account is on of the typical first time mistakes when planning a trip to Iceland. In Iceland the summer days are long and winter days very short.

If you are going to visit Iceland during winter you will especially want to take the limited hours of day light into account. For exact day light hours check out this website.

If you on the other hand are going to visit Iceland during the summer you should consider bringing a sleeping mask to make sure that you will get some sleep.

Estimated daylight hours in Iceland

January
4-7 hours of daylight
Sunrise (estimated in beginning of month): 11.15
Sunset (estimated in beginning of month): 15.45

February
7-10 hours of daylight
Sunrise (estimated in beginning of month): 10.15
Sunset (estimated in beginning of month): 17.15

March
10-13 hours of daylight
Sunrise (estimated in beginning of month): 08.30
Sunset (estimated in beginning of month): 18.45

April
13-17 hours of daylight
Sunrise (estimated in beginning of month): 06.45
Sunset (estimated in beginning of month): 20.15

May
17-20 hours of daylight
Sunrise (estimated in beginning of month): 05.00
Sunset (estimated in beginning of month): 21.45

June
20-21 hours of daylight
Sunrise (estimated in beginning of month): 03.15
Sunset (estimated in beginning of month): 23.30

July
18-21 hours of daylight
Sunrise (estimated in beginning of month): 03.00
Sunset (estimated in beginning of month): 00.00

August
15-18 hours of daylight
Sunrise (estimated in beginning of month): 04.30
Sunset (estimated in beginning of month): 22.30

September
15-11 hours of daylight
Sunrise (estimated in beginning of month): 06.00
Sunset (estimated in beginning of month): 20.45

October
8-11 hours of daylight
Sunrise (estimated in beginning of month): 07.30
Sunset (estimated in beginning of month): 19.00

November
8-5 hours of daylight
Sunrise (estimated in beginning of month): 09.00
Sunset (estimated in beginning of month): 17.15

December
4-5 hours of daylight
Sunrise (estimated in beginning of month): 10.45
Sunset (estimated in beginning of month): 15.45

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