Iceland, Iceland, Iceland. Travelling in general requires a basic set of preparations; Every country is specific, and Iceland is no different. Based on my experience of Iceland and of living in Iceland for a few years, and many people asking me similar questions about Iceland, I am putting out my top ten tips that should set you up nicely for a great visit to Iceland. Take heed, save money, do a better job for the planet and have a better time. Yes, you can really achieve all of that!
1. Don’t buy bottled water
There is a really nasty (and growing) industry in Iceland: the bottled water industry. Their only purpose is to sell: sell you something you don’t need.
Nobody needs to buy water in Iceland. In other countries, this is arguably necessary where water supplies are unsafe and unreliable. However, Iceland has some of the safest and most reliable water sources in the water. It is totally safe and totally wonderful to drink tap water in Iceland.
So, you’re in Iceland at the moment and you think the water smells like eggs? yes, it does. The HOT water in Iceland smells like eggs, because it is naturally sulphurous.
The hot water and the cold water in Iceland completely different sources. To drink tap water in Iceland, follow these steps:
- Open the cold tap
- Run the tap until it is cold
- Fill bottle
This last step leads me neatly to my next and related travel tip for Iceland.
2. Do save plastic and buy a reusable bottle
The standard defence of most people when confronted with the fact that they are buying bottled water is that they “needed a bottle”. Guys, please don’t buy a disposable PET plastic bottle, a product that is made for single use, and re use it. If you're buying soda, fine. If you're buying sparkling water, fine. But for pity's sake if its water you want, take it from a tap!
All you have to do before you come to iceland and find a reusable bottle. There are so many to choose from. My favourite is Hydrapak: it takes no space whatsoever and is totally reliable. You will enjoy using it for years to come, and the planet (as well as Iceland) will thank you!
3. Protect Iceland
You never want to go to a place and leave it in a worse state than you found it. And yet, this is increasingly what is happening in Iceland. It is gradually being tainted by irresponsible travellers. Don’t be one of those people.
4. Don’t drive off road
This one is simple and is repeated everywhere, ad nauseam. Many roads in Iceland can only be loosely defined as roads. If you want an off-road experience, you only have to choose one of the many hundreds of Highland roads to get a proper 4x4 experience, more than most people are ready for.
5. Don’t overstep barriers
Iceland is a very sensitive place, and there is a lot of concentrated foot traffic in a few specific locations. For this reason, the Iceland Environment Agency has set up barriers to create pathways to direct and redirect foot traffic to protect worn areas and allow them to recover.
Go somewhere with no barriers if you want to if you want to overstep them. Then, you should also be willing to invest the time and the effort to make your visit to Iceland special rather than just hit the same spots/locations that everyone else is hitting. Always tread lightly, no matter where you go.
6. Leave No Trace.
Take nothing (but photos (and videos)), leave nothing (but footprints)
7. Visit a natural hot spring
Iceland is the land of naturally-heated, easily-accessible hot water. It is one of the greatest luxuries of living in Iceland, and you must experience this first hand.
8. Go into the Highlands
If you want to experience barren, desolate wilderness, stark and inspiring nature, then you must go into the highlands. If you’re wondering where the highlands are, its that bit in the middle, and definitely nowhere near the Ring Road of Iceland.
9. Hike somewhere remote
An excellent tip for iceland in my opinion is to ditch/park the car and go hike somewhere. It doesn’t have to be a very long hike, a day hike would suffice, but choose your trail carefully. Choose a slightly longer, less commonly taken trail and you are pretty sure to see next to nobody.
10. Don’t try to do too much
Iceland isn’t huge, but it isn’t small either. Don’t try to do too much, or you will spread yourself too thinly, and ultimately end of seeing nothing at all. If you have a few days to explore Iceland.
OK, so those are my top ten tips for Iceland, and I really hope you found them useful. May your trip to Iceland be plastic-free and environmentally conscious.