I decided to make an interlude in the story of my trip to give you some practical informations.
Preamble : I travel with a medium budget: I pay attention to the prices but I keep a certain comfort. I plan some expenses in advance in order to worry less about the money on the spot. We can get by for less but traveling is also enjoying. I left early June and even if the peak season arrived I still pay less for the vehicle rental. My prices are approximate, they depend on the course of the Icelandic crown.
How to plan :
I prepared my trip thanks to the Lonely Planet guide but especially thanks to the blogs of Juliette, 1 Carnet 2 Notes, Trip85, Cécile, … There are many more! This allows you to get an idea of the places you want to visit even if there is not much that is not worth the trip and the hardest will be to choose 🙂
For my trip, I had to make choices and including one preventing me from taking the roads F (in the mountains), and finally I was lucky because anyway they were closed (because of the snow)! The organization of my trip cut in 2 made me prefer to do the “same trip” but see other things, rather than hurry to go around the island. I prefer to take my time when traveling and with my photos I can spend several hours in the same place.
If you like me have 5-6 days, I advise you to spend 1 or 2 in Reykjavik and travel south to Jokulsarlon before returning. You will be able to make many stops in and out and see many different things from the basic tourist circuit. And if you have more time, go around and come back to tell me how it was!
There is no point in withdrawing a large sum of money. All shops in Iceland take credit cards without a minimum amount. You may need some change if you want to use the toilets of a gas station without buying anything.
Where to go :
Since last October, Easyjet has been offering a flight to Geneva-Reykjavik*. But by the time I was looking to buy my tickets, they were almost as expensive as those offered by IcelandAir. I was traveling with checked baggage so I preferred IcelandAir’s comfort and luggage included. The return ticket cost me 350€ bought 4 months in advance and with cancellation insurance in case of hospitalization (with a roller derby match a week before, you never know).
How to move :
The first week we rented large motorhomes where 4 to 6 people could sleep. This solution was convenient because we were numerous and the heating allowed us to warm up after spending hours in the cold dressed in light clothes for our photos. However, we were driving much slower because of the wind (and there is a lot of wind in Iceland) and we had some frights on a road supposedly accessible to all vehicles. We drove through Camper Iceland and it cost us about 300€ per person for 5 days. I do not necessarily recommend this solution or this agency. When we gave the keys back, a couple had concerns with the agency about excessive repair costs and we ourselves had to deal with extra charges when we returned the campers. In any case, when you rent a vehicle, film with your mobile the state of it, you may never know.
The second week I was all alone and I chose to rent a utility car. There were two seats in front and back, a mattress and shelves with cooking equipment (see the video tour). I rented this vehicle via Kuku Camper which I highly recommend! The reception is super nice, some of their employees speak French (or other languages), and they are really flexible on schedules (I recovered my vehicle late by a few hours and I was able to bring it back a little after the official closing time). It cost me 700€ for 6 days with the insurance pebbles (absolutely necessary, the roads have lots of pebbles and youre are more likely to have impacts than to escape them). While you can find small 4×4 for less by day and camp in a tent (with this Kuku you can not take the roads F in mountains) but I do not usually set up a tent and I was saving on the nights in hotels. For me it is the most economical solution (especially if you are two) and still comfortable: you are safe from rain and wind (see above) and you do not have to predict your route in advance. Plan a good sleeping bag anyway, mine went to 0° and I still felt a bit cold.
For gasoline, remember to refuel well before arriving on the reserve. There are no gas stations everywhere and it will avoid you frights. With my Kuku, I spent 180€ for gasoline for about 2000km traveled. Good to know: some N1 gas stations offer internet access.
Where to sleep :
In Reykjavik, I spent my first nights at KEX Hostel. You can book individual rooms in this hostel or like me, sleep in dormitory. The decor is stuffed with little details, the breakfast is ok and it’s close to the center (90€ for 2 nights and 1 breakfast). It’s also a bar, so even if you do not sleep there do not hesitate to come and admire the interior.
DUring the other nights, we rented an apartment at the last minute via Airbnb. With 4 people it cost us 50€ per person for 2 nights.
With our campers, the first week we went to campsites. This allowed us to recharge the batteries and fill the water tanks. Nor is it easy to find a space large enough to accommodate 4 campers. The showers were either cold or paid extra.
With my little utility on the other hand I parked anywhere to sleep (in a corner near a road, in the parking lot of a town hall, next to the church of Vik, …). In Iceland apart from the national parks, you can camp wherever you want (it has changed since, and it’s only during off-season)! To do my dishes and a basic toilet I went to gas stations and for showers I went to the municipal pool. There is one in each average town, the entrance is 3-4 € and in addition to being able to wash, I could enjoy the sauna and hot water baths. On the other hand, modest abstain, it is necessary to wash naked in collective showers in Iceland (and a small panel will explain you the zones to wash well).
Where to eat :
In Reykjavik I tested different places. I am a vegetarian so do not count on me to make a comparison of the best mutton soup or the best whale steak. The advantage in Iceland is that almost all restaurants offer vegetarian dishes (yeah!).
Babalu : a small cafe that serves some dishes. The lasagna with vegetables were good, for a fair price (8€ if I remember well). It’s like being at a grandmother’s with its cozy side but kitschy decor. Go to the bathroom, you will be surprised 🙂
The Laudromat Café : our favorite spot. I enjoyed the special dessert with Skyr, blueberries and white chocolate (a dream), the Clean Brunch and a vegetarian burger (not during the same meal, I reassure you). It was delicious! The prices are higher than Babalu but the portions are generous (19 € the burger). Little plus: you can do your laundry in the basement (and I did not miss it between my two trips).
FishMarket : this restaurant is one, see two, classes above on the budget level but it is very famous. My friends feasted with their fish dishes and my veggie makis were very good too. The 6 makis were worth 22€ and they were 2 times cheaper than the rest of the map to get an idea of prices.
Kaffibrennslan : my refuge. This café offers a Chai latte with soy that has become my favorite drink. I was able to test all the cakes it offers and I can not make a choice. Plus: it’s the perfect location on the main pedestrian street but away from the bustle, and it has a small outdoor courtyard.
Sakebarinn : a sushi restaurant and makis. The menu is large and the prices correct (13€) without denying the quality. The names of the dishes made me laugh.
On the road, we had gas plates in the campers and I had a stove in my utility to cook. We did our shopping at the Bonus, the cheapest supermarket chain. I got for 40€ over 2 weeks (the first we all had bought too much and the others kindly left me their surplus, I only had to buy one or two fresh products). Contrary to belief, we ate very well and something other than rice and pasta. Note: in the car rental agencies you will always find a shelf with free food that other travelers have left when leaving.
How to treat yourself :
During my trip I was too busy taking pictures and discovering new places, but there are two excursions I would have liked to do. The first and best known is the glacier walk from Skaftafell. It is not very expensive (about fifty euros). I still went to the edge of the glacier but walking on it and finding myself in the middle must be totally different (Juliette spokes about it on her blog). The second is the snorkeling in the clear water of Silfra, more expensive (a hundred euros) but unforgettable I am sure.
There are many shops in Reykjavik, you will find the classics for tourists (small wooden boats, cups, t-shirts, magnets, scratching wool sweaters, …), the international (same objects as you’ll find in the shops in Paris, Stockhölm, Amsterdam), technical clothes for the mountains and other beautiful objects on which you couldn’t resist. Personally, I do not want to accumulate unnecessary memories, I prefer experiences, but I still brought a poster from an Icelandic artist. The city is not big so you have time to walk around. Here is a small selection of some interesting shops:
– Islandia Shop in Kringlan (the mall but there is one in the center): nice souvenirs at affordable prices. I found a beautiful woolen scarf for my mother.
– Reykjavik crafts (76 Laugavegur): this shop offers items made by local artists. This is where I found the poster.
– Fotografi : located right next to Babalu, this shop sells prints of local photographers at a low price. An original memory that will not take dust.
Also good to know :
Latest tips. There are some useful items to take in your backpack when you visit Iceland:
– an insulated bottle: it will keep your coffee / tea warm for the whole day and during your walks you can enjoy the luxury of a steaming cup.
– a USB charger on cigarette lighter: it is not expensive and you can charge your devices while you’re driving. There is also a converter to conventional outlets but all my devices can be recharged with a USB cable.
– a sleeping mask: half of the year the sun does not go down or not very long and the windows have no shutters, to sleep well the mask is essential (I carry it in all my travels)
– multi-layered clothing: the weather changes quickly in Iceland, it must be practical to be able to remove a layer or to put one back. I was not particularly cold, my windbreaker over a warm jacket was enough for me and I did not use the winter jacket that I had taken (but do not necessarily rely on my feeling, when I photography I forget the cold)
– A swimsuit: there are plenty of opportunities to swim in Iceland and not only at the Blue Lagoon, so be sure to take yours.
I hope these tips will help you. Next week I will tell you the rest of my trip which despite its similar course was very different from the beginning.
* It seems it is not proposed anymore.