The Nordic Explorer

The Nordic Explorer

Learnings from my first trip to Iceland

You live, you learn. If you are planning a trip to Iceland then you might benefit from my learnings from my first trip to this beautiful destination. Here are some notes on what I’m going to do differently next time:


Stay longer

You can easily spend a whole lot of time in Iceland – there is so much to see! My first trip was 4 days – my next will for sure be 10-14 days.


Go in off-season

I’ve been recommended to go in September. Fewer tourists, cheaper prices on accommodation, still mild weather and even a chance of seeing The Northern Lights. Sign me up!


Spend less on accommodation

Normally I prefer to splurge on accommodation when traveling alone. However, in Iceland I don’t find this necessary. Sure its nice to have a hotel spa and fitness available, but when in Iceland I find myself far to busy exploring nature and taking in Icelandic culture in Reykjavik to linger at the hotel. Next time I’ll go for a run along the coast of Reykjavik and try out one of the local pools instead for a cultural experience. Also, you don’t need a hotel restaurant or bar – all the good once are downtown in Reykjavik. … and you’ll be so busy exploring that you won’t be in your hotel room for anything else than to sleep and shower.


Rent a car

Self-driving equals more freedom. Not rocket science really, but for my first trip I didn’t have a driver’s license. For trip no. 2 I will and I will road trip the ring road taking in all the beautiful sights at my own pace.

Rumor has it that you should rent a 4×4 (four wheel drive) to be sure that you can drive to all sights.

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

Pro: Going with a tour bus gives you access to a lot of information about the sights and country in general. The guides tell you a whole lot about so many aspects. You really learn a lot and knowing about the geography really makes it all the more fun to observe it. Also, if you’re traveling alone you’re not that alone when you’re with a group. I got a lot of great travel recommendations about people’s home countries out of it.

Con: Enroute to the sights of your tour there are so many smaller or just less famous waterfalls, black beaches, museums and landscapes that you’d wish you could stop and explore or just even just for a quick photo. However, you can’t really do that when there are 15-45 other people on the bus and you have a schedule to keep. Also, you’ll only have about 20 minutes to explore each sight. That time really flies when you want to take pictures and explore the sight from various angles. In my opinion it hardly gives you time to just enjoy nature and really take it all in.

However, I’m really happy that I went to Iceland even though I couldn’t rent a car. Tour busses are a really great alternative and the guided tours will take you to the sights that you’ve heard the names of AND extend your knowledge about the land of fire and ice.


My next trip to Iceland

Check out my ongoing Iceland Bucket List 2.0 where I gather all of my notes for my next trip to Iceland.


Bonus info

Extra tip on Icelandic map reading

In the beginning the names of the Icelandic sights all sounded like the same to me, but I learned to pay attention to the last part of the name, because it often reveals whether you are headed for a waterfall, a mountain, a geothermal pool or something else entirely. Here’s what I learned so far:

Foss: Waterfall e.g. Skogafoss, Seljalandsfoss etc.

Fell: Mountain e.g. Kirkjufell

Laug: Pool e.g. Seljavallalaug, Hrunalaug etc.

Jökull: Glacier e.g. Eyjafjallajökull, Solheimajökull, Mýrdalsjökull etc.

Sandur: Sand e.g. Sólheimasandur (the vast area of Black Beach with a plane crash)

Fjara: Beach e.g. Reynisfjara (the Black sand beach)

Fjördur: Fjord e.g. Seyðisfjörður, Ísafjördur, Siglufjörður etc.


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Cover photo by Jonathan Percy on Unsplash

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